CPA vs CFA vs CA: A Comprehensive Guide for all!

CPA vs CFA vs CA

The persistent change in the business accounting requirements created an ever-increasing need for qualifications and experience in the accounting field, including the CFA, CA, and US CPA. Accounting experts have recognized the importance of skill enhancement, which has enabled them to reevaluate their professional trajectories. This has given rise to the question of CPA vs CFA vs CA, evaluating which one is better.
Accounting programs and certifications that improve the capabilities required by future financial executives are gaining popularity. Both new and seasoned experts anticipate a bright future for the industry as they use the chance to hone their strategic talents and become important corporate partners during this situation of turmoil and instability.
Accounting schools assist individuals in advancing in their jobs and fulfilling a hunger for continual learning, providing graduate degrees, accreditation, and continuing professional education (CPE). You can select the training provider that best meets your theoretical and practical needs for the certification courses. NorthStar Academy (NSA), a reliable training provider for various courses, provides the best courses for US CPA and CA certification, among many others. Their courses are cost-effective and have international providers' most relevant study material. The students learn from the top mentors and tutors and get guidance. 
Let us now get into the CPA vs CFA and CFA vs. CA discussions.

CMA vs CPA vs CFA vs CA

Full FormCost Management AccountantCertified Public AccountantChartered Financial AnalystChartered Accountant
Authorized OrganizationIMA (Institute of Management Accountants)AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants)CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) InstituteICAI (Institute of Chartered Accountants of India)
Time to complete the Certification12-18 Months8-12 months3+ years3+ years
Exams Parts/LevelsPart 1: Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics Part 2: Strategic Financial Management4 Parts:
AUD- Auditing and Attestation. BEC- Business Environment and Concepts FAR- Financial Accounting and ReportingREG- Regulation
3 Levels:
CFA Level 1CFA Level 2CFA Level 3
Level 1: CA Foundation
Level 2: CA IPCC
Level 3: CA Final


CMA USA is meant to develop fresh brains into future corporate executives, and selecting CMA as a professional path could be a wise decision for interested professionals.
Currently, the CMA USA certification course from top institutes like NorthStar Academy has grown tremendously among commerce learners, particularly students who try hard to succeed in Certified Management Accounting. For its strong professional credibility, CMA USA is an excellent choice for management accounting and finance trainees and experts looking to enhance their careers. As a result, having this sort of certificate on your portfolio is essential because it boosts your reputation and displays earnestness to potential firms.
Employees with CMA USA certification in the United States are in high demand in commercial, MNCs, and private companies. CMA USA certification, accredited by IMA, is also recognized in India as a competent and solid corporate choice.


A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is the top rank of proficiency in the subject of accounting worldwide. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the most influential global accounting group, administers the test. The applicant must have a B.Com with PG to sit for this test. Many jurisdictions in the USA recognize Indian CAs with a B.Com degree. But, the specific requirements will differ extensively. This is very important while engaging in the CPA vs CA debate!
CPAs are not required for all accountants. Those who obtain the CPA certificate demonstrate devotion, knowledge, and expertise. CPAs perform accounting activities such as creating reports that correctly represent the firms' business transactions and the individuals they work with. They also handle tax reporting and filing for consumers and corporations. A CPA may advise individuals and businesses on the best way to minimize taxes and maximize profits. This is a crucial part of the CPA vs CFA comparison.
Applicants must possess 150 hours of study and at least two years of public expertise. An applicant should also clear the Uniform CPA Test to acquire the CPA qualification.


A Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is a worldwide recognized specialized qualification conferred by the CFA Institute (previously the AIMR (Association for Investment Management and Research)) that assesses and validates financial analysts' expertise and authenticity.
It is typically regarded as the gold benchmark in investment analysis and is among the most prestigious distinctions in finance. The CFA Institute, a worldwide nonprofit professional organization, bestows the title. The declared purpose of the organization is to develop and create high academic, moral, and rigorous norms in the investing business.
The applicant should possess a bachelor's degree or be in their last year of the same, 4 years of corporate relevant job expertise, or a mixture of professional experience and training totaling 4 years. While signing up for the Level II test, the bachelor's program should be finished for the undergraduate degree. The applicant should also fulfill the professional conduct admission standards, get an international passport, complete the English language exam, and be a resident of a member country by the academic prerequisite. The applicant must complete all 3 levels of the CFA program to fulfill the enrolment criteria. This criterion is crucial for drawing parallels for CPA vs CFA.


Apart from the U. S, numerous other nations worldwide award their accounting experts the worldwide title of Chartered Accountant (CA). A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is the American equivalent of the Indian CA qualification.
A CA certificate often demonstrates that the bearer is qualified to file business tax returns, audit financial statements, and operational procedures, and provide client advisory services.
CAs can manage one component of a firm's operations, collect all of a company's accounting requirements, or operate as independent CAs. The latter addresses accounting concerns for several customers based on their specialty area. Additionally, Chartered accountants work in both the government and commercial domains. The CAs are all in high demand in the manufacturing and financial industries and can practice globally. Individuals are not only employed to serve with excel sheets, computations, statistics, or number crunching, but these professionals can also serve as auditors to boost the organization's revenue.
The primary difference between CPAs & CAs would be that a CPA certification is highly recognized in the USA and other countries; on the other hand, CA is utilized in several other nations. The CPA acronym could involve a variety of accounting experts across the globe. 
A common consensus exists between affiliates of Chartered Accountants Ireland, Chartered Accountants New Zealand & Australia, and Chartered Professional Accountants Canada. If such CA experts complete the course, credentials will shift to the U.s, wherein they will be eligible to function as CPAs.
Indulging more into this CPA vs CFA discussion, CFAs and CPAs typically deal with financial data, interact with customers, and evaluate the sustainability of various firms and organizations; yet, the results of such duties change based on which certification you have. 
CFA Charterholders concentrate on evaluating market circumstances, evaluating firms, and deciding the best method for corporations or individual customers to put their wealth. They generate money for their customers through investing, and some Charterholders purchase stocks, commodities, and other assets in their accounts. CFAs are inclined to work as investment analysts, financial counselors, and portfolio managers, with some eventually rising to the position of chief financial officer (CFOs). 
CPAs, on the other hand, create financial records. They may compute taxes owing or evaluate corporate procedures to discover cost-cutting opportunities. In addition, they must guarantee that all necessary financial requirements are fulfilled. Some CPAs use accounting skills to find evidence of criminal activity or other offenses. These are the differentiating points for the CPA vs CFA comparison.
Applicants have the option of taking both CA and CFA programs. Pupils that enroll in the combo program also have an advantage over other learners. However, learners must solely choose combined programs if they can successfully handle both. One can enroll in the CFA Program after finishing the CA Course.

Comparing the CPA vs CFA Salary

Another point of importance for the CPA vs CFA discussion is the salary. As per statistics, the estimated average income for a CPA in the US is $68,090. 80 % of all CPA incomes vary between $49,000 and $114,000. The specifications would be determined by the expense of residing in your location as well as the phase of the profession. An entry-level CPA, for instance, will make roughly $54,000, advancing to $71,000 mid-career and peaking out at about $96,000 in late-career.
A CFA's estimated average compensation is $92,432, with a pay band of $52,000 to $153,000. But, the income of a CFA requires more time to reach its pinnacle throughout the length of a profession. In the USA, an entry-level CFA may make around $77,000, increasing to $80,000 mid-career and maximum at $101,000 to $143,000 following 15-20 years in the sector.
Outside of the CPA vs CFA comparison discussion, all of this appears that CFAs gain more profit. But, there is substantial fluctuation depending on where you reside, and the type of CPA or CFA accountancy people do. In conclusion, it's not like each CFA is assured to earn $25,000 more annually than each CPA.

Table Depicting Salary for US CPA vs CFA for your Reference.

Average Salary68,090 USD92,432 USD
Freshers Salary54,000 USD77,000 USD
Experienced Professionals142,000 USD153,000 USD

CPA vs CFA: Difficulty

Once it gets to the qualification test, most applicants understandably wonder if CFA or CPA is more complicated. Whereas the truth may be opinionated, analyzing previous exam grades is essential based on your specific skills and shortcomings. The median passing rates for each component of the CPA Test in 2020 varied from 49.98 percent (FAR) to 65.56 percent (FAR) (BEC). In comparison, the most current CFA test results indicate rates of success varying between 49 percent in Level I to 56 percent in Level III.
This gives the impression that the examinations are roughly similar in complexity. But, the success percentages for the 2020 CFA test are relatively strong. CFA passing rates averaged 41 percent for Level I, 44 percent for Level II, and 53 percent for Level III from 2010 to 2019. This might imply that the CFA test has traditionally been much more challenging. Furthermore, although debate continues, numerous individuals who have completed both believe that a present CPA might have a more difficult time clearing the CFA test than vice versa. Examinations play a vital role in the CPA vs CFA discussion as the complexity will determine the preparation and, subsequently, the results.

What is the CPA vs CFA vs. CA exam Prerequisites?

Every certification exam has some prerequisites to be fulfilled; let's discuss CPA, CFA, and CA certification exams.

CPA Prerequisites

Any of the following requirements must be met by an Indian candidate to be qualified to take the CPA test: Chartered Accountants Institute of India Member; Cost and Works Accountants Institute of India Member; Company Secretaries Institute of India Member; Master of Commerce or MBAs.
The minimum educational requirement for completing the US CPA test is 120 credits for the CPA test and the CPA license. Three years of B.Com. plus 2 years of MBA study represent 90 + 60 credits in India, with one graduation year equivalent to 20 credits.

CFA Prerequisites

  • Students could attempt the CPT following passing the 12th grade or straight attempt the intermediate test following finishing their degree to pursue a career.
  • The CFA program must be fulfilled by studying the most recent material and passing three to six hours of exams.
  • It is critical to be a fellow of the CFA institution and a fellow of the regional CFA member's organization.
  • Most significantly, students must follow the CFA institute's code of ethics and professional behavior standards.

CA Prerequisites

  • To pursue a career, students could undertake the CPT following passing the 12th grade or straight attempt the intermediate test following finishing their degree.
  • The intermediate test is broken up into 2 sections that must be passed following finishing the first group of the IPC level. The applicant must have completed at least three years of article assistant experience in a chartered business.
  • The articleship might also engage in the sector even during the third year of study before taking the finals.
  • The learner must also undergo a 100-hour IT coursework and soft skill-building orientation session before being articled.
Here is the table to clearly depict the Prerequisites for US CPA vs CFA vs CA exams.
Minimum GraduationMinimum GraduationMinimum 12th grade
120 credits or CPENot RequiredNot Required
Not mandatory to be a member/fellow of AICPAMember of CFA InstitutionNot mandatory to be a member/fellow of ICAI

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Is CPA more useful than CFA?

In the finance and accountancy field, the CPA vs CFA debate has been raging for some time now. If someone wants to work in the finance field of accounting, the CPA is a superior certificate. At the same time, CFA suits those engaged in portfolio management or commercial finances.

2. Do I need CFA if I have a CPA?

Learners can choose to take both CA and CFA programs. Furthermore, pupils who take the combo program enjoy an advantage that other pupils do not have. However, individuals must choose combo programs solely if they can manage both. Alternatively, students can enroll in the CFA Course after finishing the CA Program. Instead of comparing CFA vs CA, students could opt for both.

3. How is CPA different from CFA?

The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certificate is well-known, yet it is mainly linked with accounting occupations. The CFA course is intended to promote investment professions by providing an extensive understanding of Financial Planning, Portfolio Management, and ethical standards. There are many other factors to be considered for CPA vs CFA debates.

4. Is CFA better than CA?

It is challenging to decide which program offers the best job chances. Because they both have a broad reach and numerous career prospects, it all relies on personal preferences. If students are interested in financial formulas, they should choose CFA. However, students who are interested in taxation, auditing, or other related fields must apply for CA. Both programs would offer students excellent professional options. For discussions about CPA vs CFA, there are other considerations.

5. Is CFA worth it after CA?

The CFA certification is worthwhile pursuing following obtaining an accounting certification like the CA, or CPA, especially if the individual intends to alter their professional emphasis from pure accounting to investments and portfolio management.

6. Is CFA more difficult than CA?

CA is regarded as the most challenging exam on the planet, with just an average passing rate of 0.5%. Hence in this regard, CA tends to overshadow CFA in the CFA vs. CA debates.

7. Who has more salary, CA or CFA?

The typical CA pay in India is from 6-7 lakhs, increasing based on your employment. The regular CFA pay in India for newcomers is reported to be up to 4 lakhs, rising with expertise and skill. Salary is considered a vital part of any aspirant aim and in any CFA vs CA discussion.


Now that we have examined the US CPA vs CFA vs CA programs in-depth, you are much more informed and possess a precise notion of which job to pursue. All three programs provide several prospects and professional alternatives. One should make an informed professional decision. 
To summarise, it is strongly advised that any student interested in these programs take up CA or CFA or CPA lessons from a reputed institute to have all of your questions addressed.
Enrolling in the NorthStar Academy (NSA) courses can make the entire process of getting certified an easy task. You will be able to follow a well-organized roadmap as per their CPA and CA certification courses. In addition to their comprehensive courses, they also offer bundle discounts making it a cost-effective experience. The study material in association with the international providers is the highly preferred one having the appropriate sections to ease the learning process along with Live sessions and pre-recorded classes from top mentor Mr. M Irfat.
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