Before starting a comparison between both the designations, we should understand what CPA and CA mean? Let’s take a look

CPA and CA (My brother from another mother)

 Certified Public Accountant (CPA). It is the highest designation in the field of Accounting and Finance, awarded by AICPA. CPAs are recognized globally as top-ranking accountants and are hired all over the world. American Institute of Certified Public Accounts (AICPA) is the world’s largest association (450,000+ members across 130 countries), representing the accounting profession. AICPA was founded in 1887, giving it a 130+ year old legacy.

The relatively newer body of ICAI (founded in 1949) is India’s largest member organization representing the accounting profession in India. Chartered Accountancy is India’s highest qualification in Accounting and Finance. CAs in India are very well respected and compensated. Cracking the CA exam is very difficult, due to the low pass% and high number of students appearing for the exam. CAs are placed across industries as key members of the accounting profession in India and abroad.

1.CA VS CPA – Course Duration

CA is a degree course so it is quite lengthy and intense. It requires you to do tough preparations for a straight 4 years and studies are interspersed with a 3-year articleship training! So, if you imagine your life in these 3 years of article-ship, your day will basically start with your training/ tuition/ preparation in the morning, followed by the office the whole day and then tuition again in the evening. To sum-up, the duration of being a CA will take 7-8 years of your life.

On the other hand, CPA focuses mainly on providing accounting and taxation knowledge, to be a CPA it requires you to complete 150 credit hours. Of course, one has to do the rigorous study to prepare for the exams, but within 1 year you will complete the CPA course. CPA requires you to have one year of post qualification experience to obtain COP/ license.

2.CA VS CPA – Eligibility

 Now most of the individuals are confused about the eligibility of both CA and CPA. Who can apply? That is the question. The pointers below will answer your query about eligibility:-

  • In India you can start preparing for the CA exam immediately after you have completed your 12th standard.
  • It requires you to put 4 years of your life to prepare for the exams.
  • In terms of Indian system, CPA requires you to have completed your bachelor’s and 1st year of master’s degree.
  • To know more about eligibility, click here …….


To become a CA in India, you need to:

  • have cleared class 12th
  • clear the CPT (Common Proficiency Test) entrance test (except for graduates)
  • be willing to invest 5-7 years
  • complete 16 exams across 4 levels
  • complete 3 years of articleship


To become a CPA:

  • You need 120 credits (equivalent of Graduation in commerce or graduation+1st year of post grad)
  • Clear the 4 sections of the CPA exam.
  • Have 150 Credits (2nd year of post grad)
  • 1 Year of work experience, verified by a CPA
  • Get a CPA License

3.CA VS CPA – Exam Pattern

  • CPA is a single level exam consisting of 4 sections, you can give it online & it consists of 4 testing windows a year. On the other hand CA comprises 2 levels IPCC (intermediate) and Final Level.
  • CA has a subjective type exam pattern. Questions can range from simple to complex and manually writing the answer is required. Primary emphasis is on calculations, memory and content retention.

  • CPA has an objective type exam pattern. It consists of two types of questions, Multiple Choice (MCQs) and Simulations (objective type case studies). Each exam lasts 4 hours. The emphasis is on concept clarity, time management and practical ability to apply the concepts.
  • CPA exams are conducted around the year at a Prometric Center near you (present across all major Indian cities). You can schedule your exam at your convenience. On the other hand, the CA date sheet is issued by ICAI and examinees need to attend the exam as per the schedule provided.

4.CA VS CPA – Time, Money and success %

CA takes 5-7 years of your life to complete, depending on the number of attempts you take. While pursuing CA candidates will spend upwards of 2.5 Lakhs including tuition and exam fee. There is also a 3-year mandatory articleship period.  Overall pass percentage for CA usually lies in single digits.

The complex structure of exams and low success rate can result in high opportunity cost spanning across many years


Comparatively CPA is costlier, students would spend 3.2 lakhs, but the time duration is only 1-1.5 years. The global success rate of US CPA is more than 50%.

5.CA VS CPA – Recognition & Opportunities

CAs are employed across multiple domains in various Indian businesses. There is also a subset of CAs who find employment with major MNCs, while a small portion of CAs are also placed abroad.

All publicly traded companies listed on the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange) or NASDAQ need to be audited by a CPA/firm. This requirement is set by law. Most major corporations across the world either are or want to be listed on the NYSE and thus need CPAs for their Accounting and Finance functions. This means CPAs are employed in almost all countries by the top tier corporations of that country (since only Industry leads would be listed on NYSE and would need CPAs). Adding to the number of jobs available for CPAs is India’s fast growing Outsourcing Industry.

6.CA VS CPA – Return On Investment

Since both CPAs & CAs command the same pay-scales, return on investment in both courses is comparable in monetary terms. Freshers with no experience will find employment at 6-8 Lakhs p.a. for both qualifications.

However, when you factor in the time invested to reach the said pay-scales, you will find CPA is undoubtedly the wiser choice.

What Is Better for Me?

While many factors play a part in deciding one’s career path, most of our decisions usually boil down to instinct and validation of our peers. Depending upon your goals and interests, what is more appropriate for you may vary. However, if we were to compare objectively without any emotion, pursuing the CPA designation seems to be the better time investment, especially given the scope for international opportunities.


We hope this blog has helped you in differentiating between CA and CPA. Please feel free to visit our website or call +91 98210 03784 for more information.


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