CFA vs CA

Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Edited byAshish Kumar Srivastav
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Difference Between CFA and CA

CFA focuses on investment management and covers topics in finance like corporate finance, ethics, equity investments, derivatives, and fixed income while preparing you for careers in investment banking, research, and portfolio management. In contrast, CA focuses on accounting, taxation, and auditing and prepares you for careers in budgeting, accounting & auditing, and management accounting.

Choosing between these two tough career options may be very confusing. But since your entire career depends on this decision, perhaps a little information can help you decide.

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CFA-vs-CA

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What is the Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA®)?

The CFA® program focuses on investment management. The top employers include the most respected financial corporations globally like JPMorgan, Citigroup, Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, UBS, and Wells Fargo.

Many of these are top investment banks, but the CFA® program focuses on the knowledge and skills most relevant to the global investment management profession from a practitioner’s standpoint.

Investment professionals who hold the CFA® designation (or CFA® charter) must meet rigorous educational and work experience and ethical conduct requirements.

Only those who complete three graduate-level examinations, four years of work experience, and the annual membership renewal (including Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct Attestation) are permitted to use the CFA® designation. In addition, complementary codes and standards (such as the Global Investment Performance Standards and Asset Manager Code) help enhance this profession’s distinction.

What is a Chartered Accountant (CA)?

CA is an internationally recognized profession, and a Chartered Accountant can work in all fields of business and finance, for example, taxation, auditing, and general management. In addition, CAs can be employed by government bodies and public and private sectorPrivate SectorThe private sector is a section of the national economy that the government does not own. The business conducted under this sector is carried out by companies or entrepreneurs who focus on profit maximization and customer satisfaction.read more companies. In short, skilled CAs are always in demand in all industries. To become a qualified CA, candidates must qualify for different examinations and a rigorous training process.

A CA can manage financial accounts for an organization, be it tax accountant, management accountant, budget analystBudget AnalystBudget Analyst is a professional data-oriented person. He/she organizes and allocates various financial resources (Income from business/profession, interest income from bank deposits, profits from trading in stocks or shares) by monitoring each spending on an estimation basis and then produces probable surplus/deficit from the said calculations.read more, and of course, the most interesting of all, auditorAuditorAn auditor is a professional appointed by an enterprise for an independent analysis of their accounting records and financial statements. An auditor issues a report about the accuracy and reliability of financial statements based on the country's local operating laws.read more. The international recognition of this degree gives you the ability to even work abroad under this qualification. The Chartered Accountants’ Institute encourages members to undertake a minimum level of continuing professional development to remain professionally competitive.

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CFA vs CA Infographics

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CFA and CA Exam Requirements

#1 – CFA® Requirements

  • You can appear for CPT after clearing your 12th or directly take up the intermediate exam after you complete your graduation to enter a profession.
  • The CFA® program needs to be completed by mastering the latest syllabus and clearing 3 to 6 hourly examinations.
  • It is important to become a member of the CFA® institute, along with registering as a member of your local CFA® member’s society.
  • Most importantly, you need to adhere to the code of ethics and standard of professional conduct of the CFA® institute.

#2 – CA Requirements

  1. To enter a profession, you can appear for CPT after clearing your 12th or directly take up the intermediate exam after you complete your graduation.
  2. The intermediate exam is divided into two groups to be cleared after completing the IPC level’s first group. The candidate needs to undergo training as an article assistant for a minimum of 3 years in a chartered firm.
  3. During the third year of training, the trainee can also work in the industry before appearing for the finals.
  4. Before being articled, the trainee also has to complete a 100 hour IT training and soft skills development orientation program.

Comparative Table

Section CFA CA
Organizing body The CFA Institute, USA, conducts the exams. The exams are controlled by the  Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI)
Pattern The course is divided into three levels.
  • Level I
  • Level II
  • Level III
The course is divided into three levels.
  • Common Proficiency Test (CPT)
  • Integrated Professional Competence Course (IPCC)
  • CA Final
Duration of course If a candidate can clear all the levels in the first attempt, he/she can complete the course in 4 years. A candidate can complete all the levels within 4 to 5 years.
Syllabus The course covers the following topics. The core curriculum includes
  • Fundamentals of Accounting
  • Cost Accounting
  • Mercantile Laws
  • General Economics
  • Auditing & Assurance
  • Cost Accounting & Financial Management
  • Direct Taxes
  • Management Accounting & Financial Analysis
  • Organisation & Management
  • Fundamentals of Electronic Data Processing
Exam fees The cost of the course varies between $2,550 and $3,450. It includes exam fees of $700-$1,000 per level and a one-time registration fee of $450. The exam fee varies depending on the time of registration. The cost for the entire course lies in the range of $900 to $1,100.
Jobs Some of the common profiles include Some of the common profiles include
  • Internal Auditor
  • Management Accountant
  • Public Accountant
  • Government Accountant
Difficulty It is one of the most difficult exams, and only 1 out of every ten candidates clear it. The pass rate in the June 2019 exam for Level I, Level II, and Level III stood at 41%, 44%, and 56%, respectively. It isn’t easy to clear the exams. For example, during November 2019, only 10.2% (old course) and 15.1% (new course) of the candidates cleared both groups of the finals.
Exam Date Upcoming exam schedule for 2021
  • Level I:  Feb 16 – Mar 01, May 18-24, Aug 24-30, Nov 16-22
  • Level II: May 25 – Jun 01, Aug 31 – Sep 04
  • Level III: May 25 – Jun 01, Nov 23-25
The upcoming exams are expected to start on Jan 21, 2021.

Why Pursue the CFA® Designation?

The differentiating benefits of earning a CFA® designation include

  • Real-world expertise
  • Career recognition
  • Ethical grounding
  • Global community
  • Employer demand

The sheer demand for the CFA® charter speaks to the difference it makes.

More than 245,000 global candidates registered for the June 2020 CFA® exams scheduled to be held in 193 cities across 95 different countries.

Why Pursue CA?

CA gives you the flexibility to work in all industries as an auditor, accountant, or budget analyst. These candidates can offer their services in the capital marketCapital MarketA capital market is a place where buyers and sellers interact and trade financial securities such as debentures, stocks, debt instruments, bonds, and derivative instruments such as futures, options, swaps, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). There are two kinds of markets: primary markets and secondary markets.read more as well. They can set up their practice and develop their clients; they can also work in a CA firm or join companies that can be government, private, and public sectors. CAs can practice this course internationally and are in demand in the manufacturing and finance industry. They do not necessarily need to work on excel sheets, calculations, numbers, and number crunching. They can also work as auditorsAuditorsAn auditor is a professional appointed by an enterprise for an independent analysis of their accounting records and financial statements. An auditor issues a report about the accuracy and reliability of financial statements based on the country's local operating laws.read more and increase the company’s profitability.

Conclusions

These credentials are of the highest weightage in the accounting and finance industry. Both of which will require dedication and sincere efforts to get through. Whatever you choose, we wish you the very best :-)

If you learned something new or enjoyed the post, please comment below. Let us know what you think. Many thanks, and take care. Happy Learning!

Recommended Articles

This has been a guide to CFA vs. CA. Here we discuss the top differences between CFA and CA professions and their exam requirements. Do we also discuss why to pursue them? You may also have a look at the following articles –

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Radha Darak says

    Sir, I am in class XII and a non math student. Can a CFA be a good option for me in future ? Please reply. And other tips ( if required) I’ll be much obliged thank you.

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hi Radha, yes CFA can be a great option. It’s a bit early for you to consider CFA however. You can only appear for CFA if you are done with your graduation or are in the last year of graduation. You can also look at this CFA guide to learn more about this global certification.

  2. John says

    I am pursuing a B.sc Honours In maths from st stephens college,new delhi, and the course is for three years, so will I be able to register for the cfa exams in my third year?

  3. Sai says

    Sir, Currently I am in the 12th standard and will be appearing for my board exams in March-17.. I have already joined CA-CPT classes. I’m very keen to know more about CFA. So should I go for CA or CFA? I’ve heard passing In CFA is comparatively easier than CA. I just want to earn good money for that I’m ready to work hard.

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hello Sai, you can continue with your CA-CPT prep. CFA will not require a lot of efforts as compared to CFA. In fact, CA + CFA qualification can provide an excellent combination for many Financial Analyst profile.

      Good luck,
      Dheeraj

  4. Himansh says

    Hey Dheeraj
    Nice presentation!!
    I am a CA currently working in a PSU but i am really looking forward to pursue CFA to add to my analytical capabilities & for some growth prospects…cud u just tell me the level of complexity of CFA?? Are there any specific set of skills u shud excel in to do that?
    As far as my view on CA is that its not such a hard nut to crack if right efforts r made.
    Please do tell me what do you think.

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hi Himansh, CA’s usually don’t find CFA to be tough. If you are willing to spend time for preparation, it should be a cake walk. Only some areas you must focus are the quant heavy topics like Quantitative analysis, Fixed Income and Derivatives. Also, ethics is a bit tricky to most of us!

  5. Vishal says

    Hi Dheeraj,

    I must appreciate your efforts for putting these valuable information in a very structured manner. I cleared my graduation in 2004 and started working. However, still not satisfied with my nature of work. I still would like to pursue one out of these two career. Surprisingly, post reading this article I feel the CFA is like a degree which is more relevant to be fit into any job/s. However, if I understand correctly CA is a professional degree which can be used as independent consultant (Freelancer). Also, anyone can continue providing their services till the age he/she would like to. Kindly correct, if you find anything unusual in my understanding. Great thank you in advance.

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hi Vishal, you are right. CFA certification is industry standard these days. CFA takes much less time and energy to complete as compared to CA. CA seems to be very difficult in comparison and also, it is focussed on accounting and auditing. Choose CA only if you are interested in accounting. Chosse CFA if you want to broadbase your relevancy for a Corporate Finance job.

  6. Alankrit says

    Sir i want a comparison between ca and cfa regarding the difficulty level and p.a. Average salary earned by a cfa and a ca ?
    Thanks

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hi Alankrit, Between CA and CFA, CA (chartered accountancy) is much more difficult as less number of students pass the exam.

      For the average salary comparsions between CFA and CA, please look at these links –
      Salary of CA
      Salary of CFA

      Thanks,
      Dheeraj

  7. Muskan says

    I am doing BBA and am currently in first year. I wish to pursue either CA or CFA but I’m confused. What should I do? Also should I do it simultaneously with BBA or after graduation? And I’m also learning German..have already done 3 levels from Max Mueller. What are the opportunities for these courses in Germany?

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hi Muskan, for starting CFA you should have completed graduation (or should be in last year). For CA you can start anytime. However, between CFA or CA, first you need to decide whether you want to go into core accounting or Corporate finance kind of roles. If accounting, then CA is the right choice and if you choose corporate finance/investment banking, then you can opt for CFA.

      Also, CFA certification has a global appeal including Germany. CA is more Indian, so not known much in the global arena.

      Hope this helps,
      Dheeraj

  8. mohit says

    Sir I m studying in class XII nd I want to know what is better for me to opt…
    CA OR CFA….

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hi Mohit, Are you prepared to work hard then do both? However, CFA is much easier as compared to CA. You cannot start CFA without starting your graduation.

      Thanks,
      Dheeraj

  9. Sayali says

    Hello sir. Is job guaranteed after completing all levels of CFA?

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hey Sayali,

      I don’t think there is any job guarantee that clearing CFA can give. However, it does maximizes your chances of getting a job.

    • nityajyoti chakraborty says

      if u do not get a job after cfa then no problem u can easily start your own financial or investment firm or company which will lead to ur great wealthy carrier

  10. priya says

    Sir
    Can we do cfa n b com together?

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Which year in B.com are you in? Are you also a CA?

  11. Rosh A Issac says

    First of all, kudos to you for putting up this comprehensive article. It makes a whole lot of sense, when it comes from an Indian who has a clear idea of the perks of both CA and CFA. A lot of my doubts has been cleared through the article. Just a very simple doubt. Im a BCom student. Which among the two is tougher? Considering I am a BCom student with a decent financial as well as accounting base but not indepth knowledge in either finance or accounting, Which among CA and CFA is tougher a)in terms of difficulty in passing the exam b)In terms of the quantum of effort to be put in?

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hi Rosh,

      Strictly comparing between CA and CFA, my guess is that CA is tough due to low passing marks and humongous study material.
      CFA on the other hand is easier to pass due to high pass rates and requires less study hours (compared to CFA).
      Thanks,
      Dheeraj

  12. Vishrutha says

    Is CA recognised globally ? And which of them is paid better ?

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      CA by http://www.icai.org is only recognized in India and a few more countries. Between the two, CFA is globally recognized. Paywise, it depends on the kind of role that you are into. Actually both pay well.

      Thanks,
      Dheeraj

  13. Tshwanelo says

    Hi. Dheeraj,
    I’m Accounting Degree and I have been in the auditing field for 1.5years and currently studying for my CA. But my heart as always been in Finance and investment banking and I’m considering pursing CFA and ACI dealing certificate. What are you thoughts?

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hi Tshwanelo, If you have very keen interest in Finance and Investment Banking, then you should enroll for CFA examination.

  14. ashish goel says

    Hi sir, i’m b.com 3rd year student I want to know what course I should adopt for career benefit. I need some direction because I didn’t understand what I should do

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hi Ashish, Do you want to get into accounting career or Investment Management. If accounting, then go for CA. If you like Investment Management, IB kind of roles, then go for CFA.
      Thanks,
      Dheeraj

  15. Karan Rajesh says

    Hey I Completed my Bcom and now looking for work in banking sector…. Can I do CFA along with my work…. Plus CFA be a better alternative to CA?

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Yes Karan, you can take CFA along with your work. It is not difficult to take along with work. I guess CFA is better alternative to CA if you are considering Investment Management, Portfolio Management, IB kind of roles.
      thanks,
      Dheeraj

  16. Swapnil says

    Liked your article…would like to get in touch to get some more information. I am currently a student ! It would be great if you could email me back..
    Cheers !

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hi Swapnil, thanks for your feedback. Looking forward to interacting with you.

      Best,
      Dheeraj

  17. kaushik says

    sir i am now intrested in doing cfa. I tried ca cpt but i coudnt clear, so what am i supposed to do.?? can i join cfa?

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      yes Kaushik. Ofcourse you can take CFA Examination. CFA exam is much simpler and easier as compared to CA.

      Good luck,
      Dheeraj