Choosing the right professional certification in accounting and finance can significantly impact your career. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) are two prestigious certifications that offer distinct advantages. In this article, we will compare ACCA vs. CPA to help you determine which certification aligns best with your career goals and aspirations.

Understanding ACCA and CPA

Before delving into the differences, it’s crucial to understand what each certification entails.


The ACCA is a global professional accounting qualification offered by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, headquartered in the UK. It’s recognized in over 180 countries and focuses on international accounting standards.


The CPA is a designation granted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) in the United States. It’s primarily focused on US accounting standards and is required for practicing public accounting in the US.

ACCA vs. CPA: Key Differences

Scope and Recognition

The ACCA is recognized globally, making it an excellent choice for professionals aiming for international careers. The CPA, on the other hand, is primarily recognized in the US and is ideal for those focused on US-based careers.

Eligibility and Requirements

Both certifications have distinct eligibility requirements. The ACCA is open to students, graduates, and professionals, while the CPA requires a specific number of accounting and business credits, varying by state.

Exam Structure

The ACCA exam consists of 13 papers divided into three levels: Knowledge, Skills, and Professional. The CPA exam has four sections covering Auditing, Business, Financial Accounting, and Regulation.

Cost and Duration

The ACCA typically takes 3 to 4 years to complete and costs around £1,200 to £3,000. The CPA exam can be completed in 1 to 2 years, with costs ranging from $1,500 to $3,000.

Career Opportunities

Both certifications offer excellent career prospects. The ACCA provides opportunities in multinational corporations, financial services, and consulting, while the CPA is ideal for roles in public accounting, auditing, and corporate finance in the US.

Table: Key Differences Between ACCA and CPA

RecognitionGlobalPrimarily US-based
EligibilityOpen to students, graduates, andRequires specific accounting and
professionalsbusiness credits
Exam Structure13 papers in three levelsFour sections
Cost£1,200 to £3,000$1,500 to $3,000
Duration3 to 4 years1 to 2 years
Career OpportunitiesMultinational corporations, financial services, consultingPublic accounting, auditing, corporate finance

Factors to Consider When Choosing

Career Goals

When choosing between ACCA and CPA, consider your career goals. The ACCA is ideal for international careers, while the CPA is best suited for those focused on US-based opportunities.

Geographical Location

Your geographical location and desired place of work are crucial factors. The ACCA is globally recognized, while the CPA is primarily valued in the US.

Exam Structure Preference

Consider your preferred exam structure. The ACCA has more papers, but they can be taken at your own pace. The CPA has fewer sections but requires comprehensive knowledge.

Cost and Time Commitment

The cost and time commitment for each certification vary. The ACCA is generally more time-consuming but offers broader global recognition, while the CPA is quicker but focused on US accounting.

Advantages and Disadvantages of ACCA and CPA

Advantages of ACCA

  1. Global Recognition: Recognized in over 180 countries.
  2. Flexible Exam Schedule: Take exams at your own pace.
  3. Broad Curriculum: Covers international accounting standards.

Disadvantages of ACCA

  1. Longer Duration: Typically takes 3 to 4 years to complete.
  2. Lower Salaries in Some Regions: Salaries vary significantly by region.

Advantages of CPA

  1. US Focus: Ideal for US-based careers.
  2. High Earning Potential: CPAs often command high salaries.
  3. Shorter Duration: Can be completed in 1 to 2 years.

Disadvantages of CPA

  1. Limited Recognition: Primarily recognized in the US.
  2. Strict Eligibility Requirements: Requires specific accounting and business credits.


Which certification is more globally recognized, ACCA or CPA?
The ACCA is more globally recognized, with a presence in over 180 countries, while the CPA is primarily recognized in the US.

How long does it take to complete the ACCA or CPA certification?
The ACCA typically takes 3 to 4 years to complete, while the CPA can be completed in 1 to 2 years.

Which certification offers better career opportunities, ACCA or CPA?
Both certifications offer excellent career opportunities. The ACCA is ideal for international careers, while the CPA is best suited for US-based roles.

What is the cost of pursuing ACCA or CPA?
The ACCA costs around £1,200 to £3,000, while the CPA costs around $1,500 to $3,000.

Which certification is more focused on US accounting standards?
The CPA is more focused on US accounting standards, while the ACCA covers international accounting standards.

Can I pursue both ACCA and CPA certifications?
Yes, it is possible to pursue both certifications, although it requires significant time and financial commitment.


In conclusion, both ACCA and CPA certifications offer unique advantages and are highly respected in the field of accounting and finance. Your choice should depend on your career goals, geographical location, and personal preferences. Whether you choose ACCA or CPA, both certifications can pave the way for a rewarding and successful career.

Suggested Important Links:

  1. Understanding the ACCA Course 2024
  2. ACCA Exam Preparation Tips
  3. ACCA Global
  4. AICPA
  5. CFA Institute

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