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Is CA better than CPA?

The Chartered Accountant (CA) and Certified Public Accountant (CPA) are both credentials earned through passing accountancy exams and relevant on the job training. The CPA credential is issued solely in the U.S. whereas the CA credential is administered and recognised worldwide across different countries. Chartered Accountants London can offer specialist advice with a specific focus on UK based accounting standards such as IFRS.

What is a Chartered Accountant?
A charted accountant is a professional who has passed the CA exam and the required education in his or her country of certification. There are many organizations that provide education and examination for CAs. A few examples include the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) and the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA.) CAs are experts in IFRS and other international accounting standards. Though they may have a good grasp on US GAAP, they aren’t as trained in this area as CPA qualified accountants are.

What is a CPA?

A certified public accountant is a professional who has passed the CPA examination administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and fulfilled all of the education and work experience requirements associated with taking the exam. These professionals are experts in US GAAP, US federal income tax, and several other areas of US accounting and financial law such as auditing. Although this certification is respected around the world, it’s a US designation certifying that the professional is competent in US accounting and able to perform auditing and taxation tasks that other professionals are not allowed to do.

CA vs CPA qualification times

It takes a considerable amount of time to become either a CPA or CA.

CPA

  • Must have completed 150 undergraduate credit hours and some states require that you must also have worked a given number of hours under the direct supervision of a CPA.
  • 18 months to sit and pass the Uniform CPA Examination ® (CPA Exam), which comprises four sections. All candidates must pass: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG).
  • So, it could take about 8 1/2 years to become a CPA (e.g. five years of undergraduate work, two years on the job and 18 months to pass the CPA exam).

CA

The time frame to qualify as a CA depends on what country you plan to practice in and your level of education and professional experience. As an example, the ICAS has four options:

1) Direct entry route for school-leavers, which requires five years of training with an ICAS-approved employer;

2) Graduate entry route for university graduates, which requires three years of training with an ICAS-approved employer;

3) Professional entry route for experienced finance professionals is for established professionals with a university degree (formally recognized as a UK equivalent) or five years of relevant work experience.

There are two pathways; one measures relevant expertise and the other, practical competence. Both pathways require seven years of post-qualification experience.

The chartered accountant exam has three levels of testing:

Certificate level: This level includes six online tests which contain accounting, assurance, business technology, law, management information and principles of taxation.

Professional stage: This level includes six written papers on various accounting topics.

Advanced stage: This level includes two integral papers and a completed case study that explains relevant work experience in the industry.

Continuing education requirements

Many industries require that you stay informed with the latest practices and techniques through continuing education courses. The specific requirements often vary by state, but both certifications request it. Many employers are willing to pay for the costs of continuing education for the accountants they employ.

A CPA must complete 40 hours of continuing education each year. A minimum of four hours must include professional ethics. The requirements for a CA vary depending on the rules established by the board you follow. For example, ICAEW require their members to make a CPD declaration annually confirming they are undertaking continuous development through methods such as:

  • Arrange an informal training session with a colleague
  • Read the ICAEW email alert – it contains updates and news relevant to your role
  • Attend a workshop, conference, seminar or webinar
  • Access technical helpsheets, ethical guidance and practice resources by topic from ICAEW’s Technical Advisory Service.