Updated on April 8, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Difference Between ACCA and CPA

ACCA is the short form for Association of Certified Chartered Accountant and this course is offered by the Association of Chartered Accountant and the candidates who pass this course will have skills in taxation, auditing, handling accounts, management accounting, etc. while CPA stands for Certified Public Accountants and this course is offered by Royal Charter.

Conversations at the coffee table during my time were all about what did you want to become and perhaps the answer would have stopped at, a journalist, a teacher, a doctor or a chartered accountant. Period! The end of the conversation. And today if you tell someone that you are aiming to become a chartered accountant you will be barraged with a host of questions such as which course are you planning to do further, ACCA certification or CPA exam? Will you be aiming to do both in the future? If you are confused about your plans just take a deep breath and read ahead.


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What is ACCA?

The ACCA or the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants is a body that recognizes the qualification of a CA. ACCA is a global body based in Glasgow UK which works in the interest of the public to ensure that the chartered accountants work according to the principles-based and ensures that the regulations set are properly followed. The ACCA offers the certification in chartered accountancy and the exam known as ACCA is most recognized in the commonwealth countries.

What is CPA?

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) holds the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam which is recognized across the globe for its competence. The AICPA is the largest accounting body in the world and anyone who wishes to work in the US or has to work with US-based clients requires taking the examination held by the AICPA. 55 states in the US have been granted the license to conduct the CPA certified exams. Each state has its own licensing requirements and pattern of the exam as none of them is controlled by any centralized body.

ACCA vs CPA Infographics

ACCA vs CPA Infographics

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ACCA vs CPA – Comparative Table

Organizing BodyThe exams are organized by the  Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), UK.The exams are organized by the   American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), USA.
PatternThe course is divided into 3 levels

  • Applied Knowledge
  • Applied Skills
  • Strategic Professional (Essentials and Options)
The course has only a single level, which is divided into 4 assessments
  • Financial Accounting & Reporting
  • Business Environment & Concepts
  • Audit & Attestation
  • Regulation
Duration of CourseAlthough the course has to be completed within a span of 10 years from passing the first exam, most candidates complete the course in 3 to 4 years.The candidates can complete all four assessments within a span of 18 months.
SyllabusSome of the main topics that are covered during the entire course are

  • Ethical & Professional Standards
  • Financial Management
  • Taxation
  • Financial Reporting
  • Accounting & Auditing
Some of the main topics that are covered during the entire course are

  • Ethical & Professional Standards
  • Financial Management
  • Taxation
  • Financial Reporting
  • Accounting & Auditing
Exam FeesThe overall cost of the course lies in the range of £1,200 to £2,000, which includes a registration fee of £89, an annual subscription of £112, and exam fees that vary depending on the time of registration.The overall cost of the course is around $1,500, which includes application fees (that vary across states), registration fees, exam fees, and license fees.
JobsSome of the common profiles include

  • Accountant
  • Tax Manager
  • Financial Consultant
  • Internal Auditor
  • Finance Manager
Some of the common profiles include

  • Forensic Accountant
  • Financial Analyst
  • Public Accountant
  • Internal Auditor
DifficultyIt is quite difficult as in some of the subjects, only ~30% of the candidates are able to clear the exams. During March 2020, the pass rates for the Strategic Professional (Options) exams were in the range of 32% to 44%, while that for  Applied Knowledge exams were high in the range of 65% to 82%.The exams are moderately difficult as ~50% of the candidates are able to clear the exams. During 2020, the pass rates for all the exams remained in the range of 55% to 65%.
Exam dateThe schedule for the upcoming exams for the year 2021

  • Mar 01-05
  • Jun 07-11
The upcoming exams for the year 2021 will be conducted as part of the Continuous Testing model, wherein the candidates can take the exams throughout the year.

Exam Requirements of ACCA and CPA

You need to be a high school pass-out to appear for the examination. In case of a higher degree, you can request yourself to be exempted from papers you have already studied for at the fundamental level.Education which is equivalent to up to five years is required to be eligible for this examination. The criteria set for the candidate require a 4-year bachelor’s degree and preferably a master’s degree, which should amount to 120 to 150 hours of credit in the business education domain.
The ACCA provides study material in the form of guidebooks and sample papers for the students to follow. The organization is involved in the preparation process and provides a list of ACCA-approved Learning Partners to ensure you come out with flying colors in the exam.The CPA does not provide a set syllabus to be followed by the candidate.  There are no books or set a program for a student to follow. The students need to completely rely on commercial review courses to guide them to crack the exam.
You need to give 14 papers which are divided in the following format. 9 papers at the Fundamental Level and 5 papers at the Professional Level.  The question papers are divided into three patterns of questions, objective type, longer type, and case studies.The exam is divided into 4parts Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR CPA Exam), Audit & Attestation (AUD CPA Exam), Regulation (REG CPA Exam) and Business Environment & Concepts (BEC CPA Exam). Multiple choice questions are asked in the exam with task-based stimulation to check a candidate’s common sense and IQ. Furthermore, written communication is given importance in exam papers.

Why Pursue ACCA?

ACCA certificate holders are recognized all around the world, unlike the CPA, which is US-specific in terms of practice. ACCA exams can be attempted twice in a year with 400+ locations to choose from around the world, making it easy for a candidate to give the exam from a nearby location. An ACCA holder is not required to be practically trained under experienced accountants and is ready to start his career after the completion of his course. Thus he does not lose out on time on internships and jumps the practical grinding from the very beginning.

As far as the process of registration and cost, of course, is concerned, both ACCA and CPA are more or less similar. ACCA prepares you for both financial and management roles, making it easier for you to choose careers in different sectors and industries. ACCA’s qualification is recognized by employers, and students who have passed out ACCA are known for their quality and excellence, making it easy for employers to rely on their ability and knowledge while hiring them.

Why Pursue CPA?

The AICPA is a prestigious body, and an exam conducted by it is looked upon with high regard since it is arguably the highest qualification a CA could achieve. The candidates have to meet specific criteria to be eligible for the exam, and that ensures that the quality of the professionals is maintained. The CPA qualification holder enjoys the advantage of getting employment in the public accounting department in American MNCs as well as the license to practice in the US.

There are certain jobs that the industry restricts for a CPA-qualified professional, such as launching a CPA firm or signing an audit report of a company, thus making it a valued professional degree for a CA. A CPA certificate holder is required to undergo practical training for a year or two under a licensed CPA and this ensures that the candidate has enough practice and creates a great no of contacts in this field before he is on his own in this industry.


To decide which course to crack, I believe it depends on your choice of career roles and in which country you decide to work. As far as my job is concerned, I have told you the two options that exist, A and B. Now which one to go for…I wish you all the luck!

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Reader Interactions


  1. Moefai says

    Firstly, in my opinion both the bodies are respectable in the field and hold a high prestige.

    I have Both the qualifications and am a member of one of the two and I personally do not agree to this comparison at all as it gives a wrong impression and compares it based on information that adds little value to a person making a career choice.

    In terms of difficulty For example ACCA’s Professional level exams have not been mentioned at all. Let me tell you these exams are not easy and certainly not easier than the CPA exams.

    When it comes to the topic coverage, ACCA provides expert knowledge in more areas than the CPA qualification does i.e. Advanced Financial Management (P4) or Advanced Management Accounting (p5) along with Ethic, Financial Reporting, Business Analysis, Taxation, and Auditing.

    Secondly, I would also recommend ACCA because of the greater number of affiliations and mutual agreements with other bodies around the world (i.e. CPA Australia, ICAEW, and CPA Canada etc) and not to forget partnerships with some good Universities that help you gain an additional bachelors and a masters degree along the way.

    In the end it all boils down to The question of where do you want to work? for example CPA Financial reporting (FASB) and Taxation (USA) will be of little use if you want to work outside the USA (i.e Middle east)
    This is because the CPA qualification is based on FASB and local rules within the USA, where as ACCA is more of an international qualification based on IASB & IFRSs which caters a wide range of countries.

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Thanks Moefae for your valuable inputs. I am sure the audience here will appreciate the same.


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