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, CPA stands for 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 CA and CPA 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 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:

Exam Level   Eligibility
Foundation Course
  1. Should have appeared for the 10+2 or equivalent examination.
  2. Registered for foundation course or converted from CPT to Foundation course before set timelines.

Note: Criteria for exemption from Foundation Course:

  1. Graduates or Post Graduates in Commerce (min 55% of total marks) or non-commerce (min 60% of total marks)
  2. Individuals who have passed the Intermediate Examination of the Institute of Cost Accountants of India or the Institute of Company Secretary of India
Intermediate Course
  1. Registered for erstwhile Intermediate Examination as per syllabus under paragraph 2 or 2A of Schedule B or Professional Education (Course-II) or Professional Competence Course or Intermediate (IPC), and converted into Intermediate Course/Accounting Technician Course (ATC).
  2. Registered for Intermediate course after clearing Foundation course or equivalent exam and eligible as per exemptions stated under Foundation course.
Final Course
  1. Should have passed the Intermediate Examination or Professional Education Examination-II/PCE/IPCE/Intermediate (IPC) Examination.
  2. Should have completed the Advanced Integrated Course on Information Technology and Soft Skills (Advanced ICITSS) successfully.
  3. Should have a valid registration number on the date of application to the exam (registration to the Final Course is valid for five years).
  4. Should fulfil one of the below requirements:
    1. Completed prescribed period of 3 years or 3.5 years, as the case may be, of articled training as on the date of filling the exam application form.
    2. Must be in service as of the 1st of the month in which the examination is scheduled. Additionally, must be serving the last 6 or 12 months of this articled training with completion of the 3 years in the current year or 3.5 years in the next year, based on the type of candidature (Example: PE-II stream student, PE-II stream students converted to IPCC/IIPCC, PCC stream student, or candidates who have taken termination).

What is the Fee Structure for CA Examination?

The examination fee for different levels and regions is summarized in the table below:

Foundation Course
For Indian Centre(s) INR 1,500
For Overseas Centre(s) – Excluding Kathmandu Centre USD 325
For Kathmandu Centre (Nepal) INR 2,200
Intermediate Course 
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
Final Course
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

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:

  1. Graduation or equivalent degree
  2. 150 semester hours of college course
  3. 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:

  1.     Application Fee: USD 20 – USD 200
  2.     Examination Fee: USD 225/section
  3.     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)
0-5  7
5-10 12
10-20 20
>20 50-70

Average Salary Based on Profiles in India  

Profile Average Salary pa in INR (Lakhs)
Finance Officer 35
Account Executive or Accountant 25
Finance Manager 10
CA 7.25
Financial Analyst 6
Assistant Account Manager 5
Business Analyst 4
Account Assistant 2

Average Salary Based on Cities in India  

City Average Salary per annum in INR (Lakhs)
Gurgaon 9.5
Chennai 8.5
Mumbai 7.5
Delhi 7
Pune/Ahmedabad/Punjab 6
Jaipur 5

Average Salary Based on Countries 

Country Average Salary per annum (Lakhs) – Freshers
India INR 700K
Dubai AED 100K
USA USD 51.1K
Australia AUD 74.1K
UK Pound 28.4K

Top 5 highest paying companies in India for CAs are: 

  • Reliance Industries
  • HUL
  • Deloitte
  • KPMG
  • 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):

  1. CPA Fresher salary in the US: USD 66K pa
  2. CPA Fresher salary in India: INR 950K pa
  3. CPA Experienced salary in the US: USD 160K pa
  4. 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. 

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:

  1. Financial Accounting & Reporting
  2. Auditing & Attestation
  3. Regulation
  4. Business Environment & Concepts

The exam includes MCQs, written and short task-based simulations.

3 levels to be cleared:

  1. Level 1 – Common Proficiency Test (CPT)
  2. Level 2 – Integrated Professional Competence Course
  3. Level 3 – CA Final

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
Compensation

(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.
Official Website

(Refer for Important Dates)

https://www.aicpa.org/home https://www.icai.org/

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 reachus@zelleducation.com.

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.

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