ACA vs CPA – Are They Similar?

Financial Accounting continues to remain one of the most important fields in financial industry and there is an ever growing demand for competent professionals in global financial institutions. To gain accreditation in accounting, it would be advisable for professionals to choose a certification program which fits in with their individual preferences, educational qualifications and work experience among other things. In the course of this article, we would be discussing ACA and CPA as two of the leading certifications in accounting which have made some quality contribution to accounting industry by validating professional capabilities of competent individuals in this field.

The article will give you information on the following;

  1. ACA vs CPA Infographics
  2. What is ACA?
  3. What is CPA?
  4. ACA vs CPA Exam Requirements
  5. Why pursue ACA?
  6. Why pursue CPA?

ACA vs CPA Infographics

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Lets understand the difference between these two streams with the help of this ACA vs CPA Infographics.

ACA vs CPA infographics

What is ACA?

Associate Chartered Accountant (ACA) qualification is offered by Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), a globally recognized UK-based accounting body engaged in promoting and professionally developing more than 144,000 accountants worldwide. This credential is aimed at helping individual acquire advanced professional competencies in accounting, finance and business. Earning this credential requires completing 3 years of technical work experience which makes it one of the most rigorous qualifications in finance and accounting. ACA also introduces professionals to accepted professional and ethical standards for accounting professionals in the global arena.

What is CPA?

Certified Public accountant (CPA) is offered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), a premier accounting body engaged in promotion of globally accepted accounting standards and development of professionals for global accounting industry. CPA is considered nothing less than the black belt in accounting, preparing professionals to work in accordance with US GAAP and IFRS standards. As IFRS continues to emerge as the new global standard for financial reporting, this credential continues to gain greater relevance. With CPA, professionals can promote themselves as experts in accounting, auditing and taxation-related work.

ACA vs CPA Exam Requirements


Candidates can opt for ACA right after leaving school if they have earned two A2 levels and have passed 3 GCSEs or their international equivalents. Graduates with good grades can also be considered by authorized training employers and a minimum UCAS tariff score of 280 or above, including AS and A2 levels. International equivalents of these qualifications and scores might also be acceptable or one might have to look for eligibilities as defined for a specific country or region. Candidates also require at least 450 days of relevant work experience which can take upto 3-5 years to complete.


Candidates who have completed a 4-year bachelor’s degree with at least 120 semester hours are eligible for CPA. This usually includes 24 to 30 semester hours in accounting which might be completed in a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree in some cases. They are also required to have at least 1-2 years of work experience with CPA.

Why Pursue ACA?

ACA qualification offers advanced technical knowledge in accounting and finance, helping professionals take their career graph ahead and explore novel work opportunities in the global arena. There is a lot of post qualification support as well, which works to the advantage of participants. Average salary of ACA qualified professionals is among the most competitive in financial industry, primarily due to the kind of demand for technical accounting and finance skills developed as part of the ACA qualification.

Why Pursue CPA?

CPA designation can be helpful in developing a career in accounting, auditing, tax or management consulting among other areas. CPA license is widely recognized as a standard of a high level of professionalism and expertise in quantitative finance. One can work as an independent auditor after completing CPA and most of the advanced roles in accounting have CPA as a pre-requisite. They can work with some of the largest firms and are particularly well-suited for public accounting roles.

Other comparisons you may like


It would be important to understand that both of these credentials focus on accounting and auditing-related skills, however, there are more subtle differences which set them apart. Where CPA introduces professionals to US GAAP and IFRS as two of the most important reporting standards globally, ACA helps professionals acquire advanced technical accounting skills. Another major difference is that ACA is more focused on practical application of concepts and requires a good deal of work experience, whereas CPA is more focused on advanced concepts including such areas as strategic planning and operations management to build a deeper contextual understanding of accounting.

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