CPA vs CFA | Which is Better?

Updated:December 8, 2018
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A CPA is a Certified Public Accountant while a CFA is a Chartered Financial Analyst. A CPA is known as the highest certification available for accounting and there a few job that can’t be executed without a license. They can earn up to 15% more than an ordinary un-certified accountant immediately. They operate often on behalf of the public but they could also function as an accountant corporately.

For a CPA, there is just the initial license; there aren’t any other distinctions once the license is acquired. By contrast, a CFA has three different levels. A CPAs tasks are more concerned with the business environment in which transactions are being conducted, how finances are reported, audit engagements, and all regulations are taken into account when finances are managed. On the other hand, a CFA focuses on the professional standards, investments, value of assets, and the growth of wealth. Students are about twice as likely to pass a CPA exam as the CFA exams.


Career path difference

A CFA may begin as a portfolio manager, progress to an analyst, from this point some CFAs take the direction be independent and open their own practice as a consultant while some choose to take on corporate analyst positions. After this point some may choose to become advisors or even accept chief executives positions. Very few take the path of strategist, broker, or private banker. A CPA’s career path can veer to taxation or auditing, an entry-level may be a cost accountant or a junior auditor. Next they may be a senior associate or manager; the next step would be partner or senior director in a firm. It takes substantial experience and tactic to obtain the position of partner.


Time requirement difference

A CPA exam is 14 hours in total but each CFA exam is only 6 hours. There are three parts to the CFA exam representing the different levels. For the CFA exams about 6 months of preparations is recommended before each and on average it takes an aspiring CFA about 4 years to complete the process. Four years of work experience and all three graduate examinations must be completed to use the CFA designation. A CPA exam may be taken within the times available on the Notice to Schedule or NTS, after the expiration it will need to be repurchased. Only 2 years of experiences in the field of interest are expected for licensure.


Cost to Apply

Without including the cost of study materials or courses, the CPA exam may cost about $1500 and the CFA exam could amount to $1700 for all 3 exams. Re-testing, re-registration, and re-application will raise the price of these certifications/licenses.


Potential Salaries

A CPAs salary can fall anywhere between $40,00 to $125,000 while a CFAs salary may be from $70,000 to $150,000. The CFAs salary may be higher due to the lower pass rates, the higher cost of certification, and the amount of time that must be dedicated to passing the exams.


Which is better?

It depends on the individual’s interests, how soon they are hoping to being their career, the amount of money they are willing to spending, and their dedication to preparing and studying for an exam.

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