Article on CFA or CPA

Rahul Gupta (Project Controller ACA MBA(Fin.))   (8014 Points)

24 July 2010  

CFA or CPA??

CFA or CPA,CFA and CPA CFA after CPA Many combinations,many confusions.What should you do?



Well if I am trying to mention the CPA designation,I am trying to include all the accountancy course which prepares students as mandatory accountants for the industry,lke the CA in India and else where etc. CPA is most probably the designation given in USA,Australia etc. The thing to understand is we are talking about the Accountancy course.


By CFA I only mean the CFA charter given by the CFA Institute USA.


So you have graduated from the college. And now you are thinking of doing some professional course and not just the regular MBA or other regular higher college studies. So CFA,CPA or both???? Well you could use the following logics to make your decisions:


1)At the outset you just cannot do the CPA course if you do not have the requisite accountancy subjects in your college. That is the case with such Chartered course in all the major countries. So this option is ruled out for you if you did not have accountancy in your college. Well if you are in the early stage of your undergrad studies or beginning college and thinking of doing the CPA well then you might check out the local website of your country for eligibility and requirements and then opt for the CPA course.

On the other hand any graduate who has 16 years of education is eligible to do the CFA course.In some cases like in India, if you have 15 years of education, you are still considered eligible for the CFA charter. Why there is so much flexibility for the CFA program. Read this article to understand it better.


2)Now having gone through the above, before you think of anything else, you ought to answer the question to yourself as to WHY you wish to do the CFA or CPA or both. This question is more important than WHAT you want to do.

CPA makes you an accountant and you have to deal with what happened in the past,considering the data of the events that have already occurred.Thus your main job is how good can prepare the financial statements and help the company show better results with your "expertise" within the realms of the law. Talking about law, Accountancy is all about rules and how well you can MANAGE those rules to serve your country better. There are standards and rules set up by US GAAP and IFRS and other such organizations and you have to work according to that. You might also be involved with auditing the financial statements. More so CPA and CA and all depend on the market demand of such professionals as companies are specifically required to recruit them to prepare the financial statements. You know they are like "friction" in Physics, necessary evil.Jokes apart, CPAs too earn handsome salary depending how well you know the rules and the ways to play good within them.

CFA is different. Here the past data is just an input.But your real talent is in making inference from that data and using it to make future decisions regarding investments. I would be not wrong in stating that the job of a CFA starts where the job of a CPA ends. Secondly there are no rules in CFA. You do have to learn Accounting but then that is just for the analytical purpose. Infact you have to make adjustments to the rules in order to find the true worthiness of a company. Thus CFA is a completely different thing.


3) Now if you are a CPA and then you are considering to do CFA then you do have an advantage in the sense that you have a strong Accounts background. But then how well are you able to use that to generate decisions regarding the future decisions regarding a company is beyond your CPA knowledge. Here you would definitely use accounts, but for a different purpose and in a different way. Thus it would not give you a great advantage as compared to people from a no-accounts background,maybe till when you are preparing for the CFA exams. On job well, the rules of the game change.

Thus conclusively, if you are a CPA do CFA if you really wish to get into the investment management/research industry otherwise it would be of no use.  If you are starting your career and choosing between CFA or CPA, think whether you are happy having a safe job preparing financial statements or would you like to do some analytical stuff dealing with "kind of" predicting the future through the past data.

Its your call at the end of the day


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