If you are contemplating pursuing a career in finance and accounting, then you must have come across the two qualifications - CPA and ACCA. CPA stands for Certified Public Accountant and the certification is provided by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). ACCA stands for the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants, which is given by the Association of Chartered Accountants, headquartered in London.

Both ACCA and CPA are highly respected accounting courses for professionals who wish to make a career in accounting, taxation, auditing, and finance.

Here are a few major differences that will help you give a deeper insight into both the courses:

Qualification and Application

For US CPA, a candidate needs to have a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree or any equivalent course to fulfill the required 120-150 credit hours depending on your education. For ACCA, you only need higher secondary education. If you have a Bachelor’s degree in certain subjects, you can apply for an exemption on part or all of the papers at the fundamental level.

Exam Syllabus and Pattern

For US CPA, there are 4 parts of the exam: Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR), Audit & Attestation (AUD), Regulation (REG), and Business Environment & Concepts (BEC). The exam is 100% computerized consisting of multiple-choice questions and task-based simulations. The four parts can be written in any combination during the ‘testing windows’ i.e the first two months of each quarter. You can sit for the exam at any Prometric centers throughout the US, and in Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, and UAE. For ACCA, there are 14 papers divided into Fundamental Level (9 papers) and the Professional Level (5 papers). Some of the papers are computerized. The exam is offered two times a year in most countries around the world.

Duration to Pass the Exam

Most candidates aim to clear the CPA exam within 12 to 18 months. A candidate can also choose to take all exam parts in one go. In such a case, a student can complete the exams within 3 to 6 months. Given the number of papers in ACCA, candidates usually need three to four years to complete all papers and become an ACCA member.


The US CPA is one of the most prestigious global accounting qualifications. There are certain jobs that can only be performed by the CPA. For example, signing an audit report under US GAAP and catering to the financial aspect of international business. As a US CPA, you can work both internationally or locally in Indian MNCs, world-renowned Big4 accounting firms, and wherever American multinational corporations have offices.

For ACCA, the application process is simpler and the entry barrier is lower compared to CPA. However, it takes longer to pass the exam and obtain membership.

Author's Bio: 

Miles Education up-skills students and professionals to help them be future-ready and enable their career progression. Founded by Harvard and Stanford alumni, Miles offers globally recognized certifications in Finance and Accounting ( US CPA & US CMA ) | Business & Data Analytics (IIM Lucknow & Wiley) - | Emerging Technologies.