Difference between ACCA and CPA

Definitions and meanings:

ACCA:

ACCA or Association of Chartered Certified Accountants is an international regulatory and supervisory body that provides chartered certified accountant qualification around the globe. Its main offices are in London and Glasgow.

CPA:

CPA or Certified Public Accountants is a national professional qualification of America, supervised by AICPA or American Institute of Certified Public Accountants which develops the standards for ethics and audit for American companies and supervises the CPA examination system of USA. Its main office is situated in New York.

Difference between ACCA and CPA:

The main points of difference between ACCA and CPA is given below:

1. Qualification:

ACCA provides qualification to its students with the help of approved ACCA tuition providers. ACCA itself do not have any schools, colleges or universities that provide tuition to its students rather ACCA only prepares courses, set rules, supervises and regulates its students, affiliates and members. CPA USA can be pursued from a CPA accredited institutions within USA. The eligibility for entering a CPA program depends upon the individual requirements of different states.

2. Course and particulars:

ACCA has three particulars in terms of its course; 4 entry-level papers, 13 ACCA papers and two online modules on professional ethics. FIA or Foundation in Accounts certificate is an entry level certificate and is comprised of four beginner papers and three initial papers of ACCA. 13 ACCA paper are divided into two main groups; nine fundamental papers (three papers exempt if a student completes FIA) and 4 professional papers. A student has a choice of whether finishing only FIA or further pursuing his or her ACCA qualification. CPA USA usually requires a student to study for at least 150 semester hours (usually a graduate degree) and/or professional experience before entering a CPA program. CPA consists of four papers/portions relating to Audit, business environment, financial reporting and regulations. These papers are tested the same irrespective of the state or institute. The last particular is to pass or get exemption from an ethics paper.

3. Passing Criteria:

Passing criteria for every ACCA paper is 50% while passing criteria for CPA papers is 75%.

4. Designations and professional experience requirements:

A student will be recognized as an ACCA affiliate if he or she has completed all paper of ACCA. At this level the student will only be a certified accountant. When an ACCA student passes all papers and completes the requirement of 36-month professional experience in relevant fields like audit, accounts, finance etc., the student becomes a complete chartered accountant and is recognized as an ACCA Member. A CPA USA is a certified accountant that can perform audit and accounting work but to become a complete chartered accountant who has the authority to carry and sign audit engagements a CPA needs an approved license from the CPA body of relevant state of USA.

5. Qualification status and international recognition:

ACCA is a UK-based professional certificate and is regarded an equivalent to Master’s Degree in UK while CPA USA is a certified professional diploma which requires previous education and experience including bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree and/or auditing or finance experience. ACCA qualification is recognized worldwide because it teaches IAS’s and IFRS’s which are applied by most of the industrial countries while CPA is mostly recognized in USA because its main focus are US companies that use US GAAP.

6. Gate-way for higher qualifications:

ACCA can become gate-way for many higher level study programs. One major gateway to higher level study is the affiliation of ACCA with OXFORD BROOKES University. ACCA and Oxford Brooks provide interchangeable programs to their students. If a student completes all papers of ACCA, he or she can enter Oxford Brookes degree program to get a Bachelor’s degree in applied accounting. Students can also opt. for a M.Sc. from University of London after completing all papers of ACCA. ACCA students can get exemptions from many accountancy bodies worldwide including ICAEW, CPA etc. CPA USA can become gateway for higher education. USA has more than 52 states and recognition of CPA qualification may vary inter-state. Some states may require a Master’s degree to enter the CPA qualification, while others may accept a student based on one’s past professional experience or graduate degree. CPA USA has MRA’s or Mutual Recognition Agreements with different accountancy bodies worldwide like CPA Canada, CPA Australia, CPA New Zealand under which student can shift their status and get exemptions.

7. Tenure for completion:

ACCA body provides a time of 10 years to a student after registration with ACCA Body for passing all the papers but student usually complete this qualification in 3 to 5 years. CPA USA can be passed in 3 semesters or 18 months. However, this time may vary according to the specific route of entry of every student.

ACCA vs CPA
Qualification
Provides opportunities to study with the help of approved tuition providers all around the globe. Can be studied at CPA accredited institutions in USA.
Course and Particulars
Has 13 papers and 2 online modules in total with different types of entry routes offered according to the previous qualification of the student. Has to fulfill previous educational and/or experience requirements, pass a four-part exam and pass an ethics paper.
Passing criteria
50% 75%
Designations and professional experience requirements
A student who passes all the papers of ACCA is called an affiliate and a student who also completes his or her 36 month professional experience is called an ACCA member. A student who passes all four papers and fulfills all criteria becomes a CPA. For Audits and other chartered engagements, an individual needs to get a CPA License.
Qualification status and international recognition
It is a UK based study and is equivalent to a UK master’s degree. It is recognized internationally. It is an American accountancy diploma and equivalence for bachelors or masters may vary from state to state. It is recognized in USA.
Gate-way for higher qualifications
Can become a gateway to higher qualifications including ICAEW, Bachelors, M.Sc. etc. Can become gateway for higher studies or shift to CPA bodies of different countries.
Tenure for completion
Can be completed between 3 to 5 years. Can be passed in 18 months.

Conclusion:

ACCA and CPA are both well-recognized qualifications in the world. As, every country has its own chartered accountancy body, a student can choose between the two qualifications based on their individual study background, future plans, market preferences and/or jurisdiction. In order to move from one qualification to another or to become a member from one accountancy body to the other, requirements mostly vary from case to case.

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