Updated on May 15, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Edited byAaron Crowe
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Difference Between CPA and CFP

The full form for CPA is Certified Public Accountant and it can be pursued by aspirants who aspire to work in matters pertaining to accounts and taxes whereas the full form of CFP is a certified financial planner and it can be pursued by aspirants who aspire to become financial planners for individual clients.

The financial industry is steering for a nerve-wracking growth and gaining a foothold in the booming industry is more than important for every finance professional. Each one desires unique professional opportunities and in this cat race, the right course will put you right ahead. On one side CPA is all about accounting and auditing, CFP is about Investment and Retirement Planning. Let’s explore these two courses.


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What is CPA?

The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam is conducted by The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) which is recognized across the globe for its competence. Accountant professionals who wish to make a successful career in the US or has to work with US-based clients is required to take the examination held by the AICPA. This certified exams can be conducted in the 55 states in the US who have been granted the license to do so.

There is no centralized body of control and each state has its own licensing requirements and pattern of the exam. A CPA professional is an expert in handling tax law questions or provides tax advice to people. He can choose to practice in his individual capacity or create a small business or work for big firms. A CPA goes through rigorous training and learning to be able to handle financial reports thoroughly and in-depth.

What is CFP?

Financial planners aiming to boost their careers through specialization specialize in the strategic financial planning or advisory role in the financial services industry should opt to take the CFP or Certified Financial Planner exam. CFP is a certificate course for financial planners awarded by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) in the United States and by its affiliated body FPBS in India.

CFP is recognized as a mark of excellence, and is well respected and considered competent by the finance industry worldwide. The course is designed to meet the stringent standards of education, examination, experience, and ethics to ensure that the individuals certified win the trust of employees and have a plethora of opportunities waiting for them after completing the course.

CPA vs CFP Infographics

Let’s see the top differences between CPA vs CFP along with infographics.


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Key Differences


The candidates must fulfill the 4E criteria to be certified as a CFP.

  • Education
  • Examination
  • Ethics
  • Experience

The minimum eligibility criterion for the CFP course is a graduate or bachelor’s degree or higher degree with a working knowledge of the financial planning practices prevalent in the industry.


To be eligible for the CPA examination a candidate is required to have education which is equivalent to up to five years. The candidate must have a 4-year bachelor’s degree and preferably a master’s degree and this should amount to 120 to 150 hours of credit in the business education domain.

CPA vs CFP Comparative Table

SectionCPA CFP
Organizing BodyThe exams are managed and controlled by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), USA. The exams are managed and controlled by the Certified Financial Planner Board (CFP Board) of Standards Inc., USA.
PatternThe course for CPA qualification is divided into 4 assessment exams


  • Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR)
  • Business Environment & Concepts (BEC)
  • Audit & Attestation (AUD)
  • Regulation (REG)
 The course for CFP qualification consists of only one level.
Duration of CourseThe candidates usually pass all four assessment exams and become CPA qualified in a span of 18 months. On average, the candidates complete the course and become CFP qualified in a span of 3 years.
SyllabusThe syllabus of the course covers the following topics


  • Financial Statement Accounts
  • Corporate Governance
  • Entity Federal Taxation
  • Individual Federal Taxation
  • Professional Responsibilities Ethics & General Principles
  • Economic Concepts & Analysis
 The syllabus of the course covers the following topics


  • General Principles of Financial Planning
  • Estate Planning
  • Investment Planning
  • Education Planning
  • Retirement Savings & Income Planning
  • Risk Management & Insurance Planning
  • Tax Planning
  • Professional Conduct & Regulation
Exam FeesThe total cost of the entire course comes to be $1,500 and it includes exam fees, application fees, registration fees, and license fees. The total cost of the entire course lies in the range of $825 to $1,025 based on the time of registration. The fees for early, standard, and late registration are $825, $925, and $1,025 respectively.
JobsSome of the common profiles include


  • Public Accountant
  • Forensic Accountant
  • Financial Analyst
  • Financial Advisor
  • Internal Auditor
 Some of the common profiles include


  • Tax Consultant
  • Retirement Planner
  • Investment Planner
  • Estate Planner
  • Legal Financial Manager
  • Risk Manager
DifficultyThe difficulty level of the exams is moderate, as reflected by the historical pass rate of ~50%. The pass rates for the assessment exams conducted during 2020 were in the range of 55% to 65%. The difficulty level of the exams is moderate, as reflected by the historical pass rate above 60%. The overall pass rate and that of the first-timers for the exams conducted during 2019 were 62% and 66%, respectively.
Exam DateFrom 2021 onwards, the candidates can take the exams throughout the year as the CPA exams shifted to the Continuous Testing model. The upcoming exams for the year 2023 are scheduled to take place during July 11-18, Oct 31-November 07, and March 12-19 in 2024.

Why Pursue CPA?

The CPA is a prestigious qualification, and it commands a great deal of respect from insiders in the industry. The AICPA is the body is known for its strict norms and standards, and therefore the CPA exam is looked upon with high regard. The candidates are required to meet certain criteria to be eligible for the exam, and this ensures the quality of the professionals is maintained.

The CPA is arguably the highest qualification a CA could achieve, and it greatly boosts a professional’s career by availing him opportunities to work in the public accounting department in American MNCs as well as the license to practice in the US.

A CPA license is widely respected as an indicator of quantitative skills and high standards of professionalism, and it is a necessary achievement to qualify for the Big 4 firms that dominate the public accounting sector, PricewaterhouseCoopersDeloitte Touche TohmatsuErnst & Young, and KPMG.

Why Pursue CFP?

CFP is a mark of professional excellence and is considered to be the highest level of certification a professional can aim to achieve in the financial industry. The certification is accepted and appreciated worldwide by professionals as well as consumers. The certificate has been awarded the Gold Standard Award by the Wall Street Journal which speaks volumes of its credibility.

The CFP candidates have been found to benefit leaps and bounds from achieving this course. The professionals are said to have been compensated with attractive salaries in industries such as investments, insurance, tax, retirement & real estate.

Take your right foot forward in your professional journey with the course that meets your career requirements. All the best!

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Reader Interactions


  1. Griffin Bellan says

    Hello Sir. Brilliant comparison between these two certifications. Thanks for bringing this out. I had a question that if I want to consider my career in CFP then what are the important things that I should remember?

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      thanks Griffin! If you are considering a career in CFP, there certain facts that you should remember. You can go this article – CFP Exam Guide to read about the facts about CFP career. Here you will also find all the details related to CFP such as Exam format, exam criteria, pass percentage, fees and many more.

  2. Payton Marshton says

    Thanks for bringing out the differences between CPA and CFP so briefly. I guess now I’ll be able to find the right path for the career growth. Could help me to learn more about CPA exam? Do have any CPA Exam Guide or any other study material related to CPA Exam?

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