CFA vs. ACCA - What Are the Key Differences?

Here we provide a concise comparison between CFA and ACCA, answering common questions and doubts, and helping you to make a more informed decision.

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Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) are two of the most renowned professional certification programs in the world, especially for people who want to kick-start their careers in the finance and accounting sectors. [1,2]

Many interested in these programs often wonder – what are their key differences? Which is better to pursue? And which course matches global standards?

So below we provide a concise comparison between CFA and ACCA to answer those common doubts and questions, helping you to make a more informed decision.

Overview: CFA vs. ACCA

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Key Differences Between CFA and ACCA

These are two excellent qualifications. Anyone who successfully clears either of these certification programs stands a significantly increased chance of securing high-paying jobs at major companies and instituitions across the public and private sectors. 

But to clear up any potential remaining confusion, here are some more key differences worth considering.

What is Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)?

Image courtesy of CFA Institute

CFA is an internationally reputed certification and is considered the “gold standard” in the Finance sector.

That’s because students of the CFA program undergo rigorous processes to gain in-depth knowledge in finance and eventually pass challenging exams. To earn this certification offered by the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, candidates must pass three levels of exams covering areas including accounting, money management, economics, security analysis, and ethics.

This is the second most preferred credential by top investment banks, the first being an MBA in finance from one of the top institutes.

CFA-certified professionals are highly skilled, allowing them to work in top positions in finance companies. They can also work with investments, portfolio management, and financial markets (debts, derivatives, and equity).

Some claim that CFA is harder than ACCA as only one in five candidates who enroll in the course successfully completes it. [3] Furthermore, it takes 4 years to complete the course vs. the 3 to 4 years more typiucal of the ACCA student. And if you check the syllabus, CFA is indeed a "longer" qualification than ACCA.

Best For: People interested in investment banking or developing their career as a financial analyst; those who aspire to finance leadership roles in the private sector in particular

What is the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)

Image courtesy of ACCA

This is another highly-valued, world renowned credential offered by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, the global body for professional accountants.

This multi-tier certification program mainly focuses on knowledge areas related to taxation, accounting, and auditing.

ACCA-certified professionals find it easy to land a prestigious position as a tax manager, finance manager, finance consultant, internal auditor, or accountant. 

Those who complete their ACCA qualification join a global community of over 200,000 members across 179 countries. It’s truly a global qualification recognized by thousands of employees worldwide.

The ACCA qualification is highly adaptable, being valued and coveted right across both the public and private sectors, in nearly all industries and professional domains.

Best For Accounting professionals who want to advance their career; People who love challenges and have a perseverance attitude as ACCA exams are one of the most difficult exams worldwide to compete in.

People Also Ask: FAQs About CFA and ACCA 

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- Is ACCA or CFA better?

Neither. Both qualifications cater to different finance and accounting roles, so it’s impossible to say one is better.

The ACCA qualification is suited for aspiring accountants or entry- or mid-level professionals who want to expand their career horizons by acquiring useful accounting skills. Meanwhile, the CFA qualification suits experienced finance professionals who want to specialise in certain areas.

- What’s the difference between ACCA and an Accounting degree?

ACCA is a professional accounting qualification offered by an international body, while an accounting degree is an academic degree offered by a university. ACCA is typically cheaper than an accounting degree. The ACCA qualification is the equivalent of a postgraduate/masters level qualification, and sets candidates apart from those who merely have the foundational knowledge conferred by an accounting degree.

One may complete the ACCA qualification after their accounting degree, or even without ever having gone through a university accounting degree.

- Is ACCA more difficult than CFA?

No, the CFA qualification tends to be considered slightly more difficult than ACCA - but this is to some extent a subjective matter, differing from person to person. Many people don’t make it through the three levels of CFA because of the time required to finish the course. However, candidates can increase their chances of completing it by studying for over 300 hours.

- Does CFA give ACCA exemptions?

There are no current exemptions on the CFA exams. However,  there are waivers from other regulatory bodies, professional certifications, and global examinations after passing the CFA level 1 examination.

For instance, CFA charter holders are exempted from taking ACCA’s Financial Accounting (FA) exam. FA is one of the mandatory papers for ACCA at the Applied Knowledge level.

The Verdict: Which Qualification is Best For You?

It depends on your preferences and professional goals.

CFA is the best choice if you wish to develop your skills in financial analysis and equity research. You will also like CFA if you would rather spend your time analysing different companies' operational and financial information and identifying investment opportunities in the global fixed and equity income markets. 

In contrast, ACCA is the best option for you if you want to work in the field of accounting, financial management, auditing, and taxation. It’s also ideal if you enjoy putting internal controls in place, preparing accounts, and running a finance and accounting division or a large corporation.

You may pursue both CFA and ACCA together if you want to enhance your CV. The cost of completing both courses is almost the same.

Overall, both ACCA and CFA are highly renowned professional qualifications in the finance sector broadly construed. We hope we’ve given you helpful insights into each qualification to help you choose which qualification is right for you. All the best with your future endeavours!

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