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This has been the question in most of the students' minds especially those who are looking at CPA as an alternative when they have found it difficult to clear their CA. Before I get to answer this, one needs to understand the following:

1) Structure of the CPA program including the eligibility and duration for completion
2) Different functional roles a professional accountant is expected to perform.

Structure of the CPA Program - While the exams are conducted by the AICPA across the globe, each candidate has to affiliate himself to a particular State which awards the certification based on their own rules and regulations. The eligibility requirements play an important role in determining whether a candidate can do his CPA or not and if yes in which State would he be eligible. It is not very relevant to get into the details at this stage but all one needs to know is one must have some basic credentials before one can do his CPA. Once someone is eligible, there is a strong possibility that he can complete the CPA in about 12 months time if he stays focused.

With only 4 papers to pass, the option to write them paper by paper, the exams conducted for around 280 days in a year, CPA offers a lot of flexibility to a candidate pursuing the same.

On the other hand, to become a qualified CA, a candidate will have to spend a minimum of 58 months (in the new syllabus) after completing his Class XII. In this period there is a very crucial 36 months period when he does his Articles which enables him get hands-on experience which is very critical from an employment perspective. Thus we need to understand very clearly that it is not just the qualification that adds value to a CA but the articles experience also plays a vital role in the same.

Different functional roles performed - While there is no limitation on the scope of work a professional accountant can do we can broadly classify them as under for analysis purposes.

The list while indicative is definitely not exhaustive.

1) Finance related
2) Accounting related
3) Tax (both Direct and Indirect) related
4) Corporate Legal requirements and compliance related
5) MIS / Management Accounting related
6) Audit-related

Thus a professional accountant can be employed across industries in any of the roles mentioned above and more. While the idea is not to provide an exhaustive list of roles that can be played, the focus is more on item nos. 3 & 4 which is more specialized and India centric in terms of the requirements. Thus a CA will definitely have an edge over a CPA in these two roles since a CPA curriculum does not cover these two areas. However one also needs to understand that with the Tax and Corporate Laws getting complicated the role demands specialists and not generalists anymore at least in big and medium-size companies.

Hence it is true that a CPA will not be able to fill in the shoes for these roles. However, the role of a professional accountant is not confined to these two areas alone. In the areas relating to Finance, Accounting, MIS / Management Accounting and Auditing they can play a very important role on account of their specialization. In addition with India being a favoured destination for many MNCs for running their backend operations, a CPA will be definitely seen as a better value add considering the international operations in mind.

To sum it up a CPA can be a very good option in the following circumstances :

1) Opportunities in MNCs since they can speak their language in Accounting & Finance.
2) Suitable for back-end requirements for MNCs involving their Global operations.
3) It would also make sense for them to recruit a CPA since they could be potential candidates for them for their global operations at a later date.

The only caveat as the author sees is a qualified CPA lacks the audit/articles experience of a CA besides the Tax / Corporate Laws background as discussed earlier. If a CPA is prepared to take minor compromises in the initial part of his career, he can definitely look forward to an exciting career ahead in the India scenario also. After all its for nothing do they say Its worth losing a few Battles to win the War.


 

Published by

Ganesh Vaideeswaran
(Director, Grey Matter Academics Pvt. Ltd)
Category Students   Report

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