CA vs CPA: Which is Better, Salary in India and Abroad
The abbreviation CA stands for Chartered Accountant, and its associated exams are conducted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). On the other hand, the full form of CPA is Certified Public Accountant, and the exams linked are conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
While both the qualifications hold their authority and credibility in several countries and domains, it is often difficult to choose between the two to ensure a fit with an individual’s long-term goals.
This article aims to understand CPA and CA a little closer in terms of eligibility, fees, course duration, recognition, opportunities, and exam levels to help all aspirants make a better and more informed choice.
What is the CPA Examination?
The CPA exam is conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), a globally recognized designation for which aspirants need to take the Uniform CPA Examination.
CPA is a single 4-hour long exam (for each section) that is divided into four sections, as described in the “Other major comparative factors” table ahead.
What are the Eligibility Criteria for CPA Examination?
Individual state boards set CPA Exam requirements and, thus, may vary. However, there are some standard eligibility criteria:
- Graduation or equivalent degree
- 150 semester hours of college course
- 1-2 years of experience under any CPA
What is the Fee Structure for CPA Examination?
CPA Exam fees vary by state, including when and how you pay them. While some state boards use different terms to refer to the various CPA Exam fees, they generally fall within these major categories:
- Application Fee: USD 20 – USD 200
- Examination Fee: USD 225/section
- Registration Fee: USD 60 – USD 340
Understanding the Difference in Job Responsibilities
A CA typically advises about financial records and audits accounts and gives other trustworthy information to key stakeholders about the company’s finances. This also includes reviewing the company’s system and analysing risks, advice on tax planning and business transactions, managing the financial systems and budgets, preparing financial statements and liaising with internal or external auditors, and dealing with financial irregularities, if any.
As a CPA, you will majorly function under one of these 3 areas – tax, audit/assurance, and management. Tax services include:
- Filing tax returns
- Working with the organisation to minimise taxes
- Representing the client in case of any tax concerns
Auditing services improve the quality of information available to decision-makers, while audit services deal with ensuring that all recorded information is correct and as required by the regulations.
Management services are more strategic and include cash management, budgeting, financial planning, preparing financial statements, and risk management.
Understanding the Difference in Salary Structure
While the compensation for both CA and CPA varies widely based on the overall rank, company, total experience, and geography, here are some basic numbers to help set a benchmark:
Average Salary Based on Experience:
|Experience (Years)||Average Salary pa in INR (Lakhs)|
Average Salary Based on Profiles in India
|Profile||Average Salary pa in INR (Lakhs)|
|Account Executive or Accountant||25|
|Assistant Account Manager||5|
Average Salary Based on Cities in India
|City||Average Salary per annum in INR (Lakhs)|
Average Salary Based on Countries
|Country||Average Salary per annum (Lakhs) – Freshers|
Top 5 highest paying companies in India for CPAs are:
- Reliance Industries
- Aditya Birla Sun Rise
Average Salary numbers for US CPAs:
Since the CPA is a US Accounting Certification, we will discuss the average salary specifically in the US and India, for both freshers and experienced professionals, in generic buckets (with all numbers averaged):
- CPA Fresher salary in the US: USD 66K pa
- CPA Fresher salary in India: INR 950K pa
- CPA Experienced salary in the US: USD 160K pa
- CPA Experienced salary in India: INR 6000K pa
In terms of known and good-to-work-for companies hiring for the role of a CPA in India – All major accounting firms and brands are a good target to have (especially when they also operate in the U.S.). Examples include banks like J.P. Morgan Chase and Deutsche Bank as also firms like Accenture, KPMG and Deloitte.
What is the CA Examination?
The exam for CA certification is conducted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, the national professional accounting body of India, to issue a certification about who is eligible to be a professional auditor in India.
It is also known as the ICAI exam and requires an individual to clear 3 levels of examinations (Foundation, Intermediate, and Final Course) to be certified.
What are the Eligibility Criteria for CA Examination?
All CA aspirants need to fulfil specific eligibility criteria at each level. A brief of the same is summarized in the table below:
Note: Criteria for exemption from Foundation Course:
What is the Fee Structure for CA Examination?
The examination fee for different levels and regions is summarized in the table below:
|For Indian Centre(s)||INR 1,500|
|For Overseas Centre(s) – Excluding Kathmandu Centre||USD 325|
|For Kathmandu Centre (Nepal)||INR 2,200|
|For Indian Centre(s)|
|Single Group/Unit 4A to 10 (except Unit 8A and 9A)||INR 1,500|
|Both Groups/Unit 8A/Unit 9A||INR 2,700|
|For Overseas Centre(s) – Excluding Kathmandu Centre|
|Single Group/Unit 4A to 10 (except Unit 8A and 9A)||USD 325|
|Both Groups/Unit 8A/Unit 9A||USD 500|
|For Kathmandu Center (Nepal)|
|Single Group/Unit 4A to 10 (except Unit 8A and 9A)||INR 2,200|
|Both Groups/Unit 8A/Unit 9A||INR 3,400|
|For Indian Centre(s)|
|Single Group||INR 1,800|
|Both Groups||INR 3,300|
|For Overseas Centre(s) – Excluding Kathmandu Center|
|Single Group||USD 325|
|Both Groups||USD 550|
|For Kathmandu Centre (Nepal)|
|Single Group||INR 2,200|
|Both Groups||INR 4,000|
Other Comparative Factors:
|Differentiators||CPA (USA) – Certified Public Accountant||CA (India) – Chartered Accountant|
|Accounting Standards Followed||The US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (US GAAP) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS)||Indian Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (Indian GAAP)|
|Recognition||The USA and all other countries included||India and a few other countries like Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Djibouti, Dubai, Ireland, and the UK|
|Examination||4 exams of 4 hours each:
The exam includes MCQs, written and short task-based simulations.
|3 levels to be cleared:
Level 1 is an objective test on Fundamentals of Accounting, Mercantile Laws, General Economics, and Quantitative Aptitude.
Level 2 includes 7 papers divided into 2 groups based on theory and practical.
Level 3 includes 8 papers arranged in a way similar to Level 2 on more advanced topics.
|Average Passing Percentage||45%||5%|
|Costs||Much higher compared to the CA exams.||On average, 3-4 times less costly than CPA|
|Level of Difficulty||Hard||Very Hard|
|Average Duration||1 year||4 to 5 years minimum|
(Note: This largely depends on the geography and the total experience)
|For a fresher:
INR 8-10 lakhs per year
|For a fresher:
INR 7-8 lakhs per year
|Opportunities||Relates to roles as a Strategic Business Advisor.||Relates to roles in specialised areas of Accounting such as Auditing, Taxation, Corporate Finance, and Corporate Laws.|
|When should you opt for it?||Working in the US or US corporations/companies publicly traded in the United States.||For plans of working in India or non-US corporations or companies that are not publicly traded in the United States.|
(Refer for Important Dates)
Neither qualification is better than the other, and the choice should always be based on your future aspirations and current and projected skill sets while pursuing the certification.
The US CPA qualification is recognised worldwide and can open doors to opportunities in Europe, Asia and North America. If you are an accounting professional looking to boost your career or just curious to learn about the course, we suggest you check out our Certified Public Accountant (CPA) course to learn more. To advance your portfolio and build professional skills, try Zell Education’s interactive courses that offer flexible training timings. Get in touch at +91 7208885600 or email us at [email protected].
Which one is a better choice, CA or CPA?
While both the certifications require an intense investment of time, effort, and money, making the right choice in selecting the certification that best suits your long term goals would be a balance of all parameters that make a difference to you – job opportunities, time investment, costs, and convenience.
Can I pursue CA and CPA both certifications at same time?
A choice to do both certifications is completely personal as well. However, if you plan on a professional trajectory that largely is across firms operating in India, doing a CA certification alone should suffice. Similarly, if you plan on working on the US linked accounting side of firms, a CPA alone would be sufficient.
What is the difference between a CA and a CPA professional?
As a quick reference, a CA, in their daily work, might be more detail-oriented and would love to solve complicated financial issues. On the other hand, a CPA completion is a move into management and driving an organisation’s overall financial success in its professional responsibilities.