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Everything You Need To Know About CA Vs CFA : Explained


There has always been a tussle about what is better, CA or CFA. Students looking for a career in finance often need clarification about which Chartered designation to choose. Chartered Accountant (CA) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) are two distinct programs which come with significant differences. Both of these Chartered programs have differences and come with diverse career opportunities. In this article, we will explore the ins and outs of both Chartered Programs in detail. Exploring the Key Differences and Career Paths CA Vs CFA.

The prime difference between CA vs CFA is that a Chartered Accountant (CA) is an individual who has completed the professional accounting exams and has professional working experience. The CA usually has work experience in their chosen field, and their range of services includes taxation advice, auditing and business consulting. Whereas, a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is the one who has completed the CFA program. The program requires rigorous self-study covering the topics of investment analysis, ethics, and portfolio management. Thus, CA vs CFA comes with major differences but are crucial for a successful career in finance. 

Although both Chartered designations are valuable for a career in finance, they offer different opportunities depending on the interests of the professionals. In the CA vs CFA discussion, CA focuses on accounting or audit services, while CFA is best for roles such as investment analyst or portfolio manager. Knowing that various career options are available that involve both credentials is crucial. The credentials include corporate development roles or asset management. So, it is crucial to further explore these options before settling on one’s final decision. 

In this article, let us explore CA vs CFA in-depth and determine the best of each of the two degrees. 

What are the qualifications required for becoming a CA or CFA?

Those interested in the field of Finance and Accounting are well acquainted with the certifications of CA vs CFA. But, choosing either of the two has been a popular debate amongst professionals. For this, it is crucial to make an educated decision by comparing both the certified courses and evaluating what each has to offer. You can make the choice and then figure out which course you want to pursue as a career. 

The CA is a two-year certified qualification in Accounting. Created by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), the CA qualification is tough to pursue and crack without diligent efforts. The course is designed especially for those who want a career as a financial auditor or tax consultant. For the students to pursue these fields of work, they must attain certification, which requires the applicants to pass a series of tests. The series of tests cover financial and management accounting, taxation, auditing, company law, cost accounting and ethics. The tests are usually acclaimed for being challenging to crack, but it opens wide doors of opportunity in the long run. 

The CA qualification is highly recognised internationally for its outstanding career opportunities. The colleges in the UK, US and Canada also offer the chance to pursue the CA qualification. To become a CA, the aspirants must appear for various rounds of exams under the Institute of Chartered Accountants in each country. After cracking the respective exams, they can complete a course of study from an accredited institute. The CAs are held in a high ranking, so obtaining the certification requires following certain procedures, standards and ethical rules set by the Institutes. 

Now, the CFA qualification is a 3-year program. The program developed by the CFA institutes focuses on portfolio management, investment banking and security analysis for individuals in this field of work. CFA covers a wide range of topics. The program covers topics such as quantitative methods, economics, corporate finance and ethical consideration for investment decisions. To gain the CFA certification, the students must qualify for the program’s three exams. 

Though it does not hold any requirement in the employment process, employers often prefer candidates who have gained the CFA designation at a go. To opt for a career as a CFA, one must have 48-month work experience. After this, they can enrol and pass the three levels of exams administered by the CFA Institute. These exams feature theoretical topics such as financial analysis, economics and portfolio management. Hence, completing the three-level exam successfully leads to the CFA charter designation. 

Though CA vs CFA might carry similar recognition amongst employers even internationally, they offer different paths for further pursuing education in accounting or finance. It ultimately comes down to which career path you are choosing and what type of certification will fit your goals. So it is crucial to choose wisely between CA vs CFA. 

Which exam is more difficult (CA Vs CFA)?  

When it comes to CA vs CFA, deciding on choosing between the two can be difficult. But both professional qualifications require hard work, dedication and discipline. These exams are structured carefully to test the candidates’ knowledge, skill set and experience seeking a career in these fields. 

There are several factors to consider to assess the difficulty level of these two exams. The exam structure is of utmost importance. CA exams are of three levels such as written examination, practical training and applied knowledge examination. These are quite time-consuming and challenging for candidates who need to prepare on an intense level. But, the CFA exams have only one level, which features a series of multiple-choice questions to finish within a specific time. It makes preparing for CFA much easier. 

It is hard to evaluate which exam is more difficult as both require discipline and commitment to master the subject matter. Both the CFA and CA exams come with their fair share of challenges. But, the CFA exams involve more theoretical understanding than the CA exams, making the CFA exams overall more difficult. The CFA exams come with time constraints, adding more difficulty and complexity to the exam. 

The Exam Pattern 

The CA program has a three-level qualification process. It consists of Foundation, Intermediate and Final Exams. To qualify for the final exam, one must have at least 50% in their 10+2 or any equivalent examination. The Intermediate paper of the CA exam consists of four papers: Accounting, Corporate Laws & Other Laws, Direct Tax Laws & Indirect Tax Laws or Cost & Management Accounting. The Final paper consists of two Groups 1 and Group 2, each having two papers. 

Unlike the CA exams, the CFA exam follows a modular format with three levels comprising six modules. The first level of the CFA exam is Financial Reporting and Analysis, including topics such as financial statements, financial markets and instruments, budgeting principles and accounting standards. The Quantitative Method includes topics like linear algebraic equations; Economics is divided into two components microeconomics and macroeconomics, Financial Statement Analysis and Corporate Finance. Finally, Enquiry Investments Analysis covers topics such as equity valuation, management and portfolio construction. 

The Course Duration 

The CA vs CFA course duration is quite varied. Both programs come with their advantages leaving it to the aspirants to decide which certification suits their career. When deciding on one, looking into the time investment and the course structure is crucial as it is helpful. 

The CA or Chartered Accountant course is a three-year program with five stages, each with its own examinations. Completing Stage I and Stage II makes the candidate an Associate Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in India. But to become a CA, one must complete the five stages and appear for practical training for three years. 

The Chartered Financial Analyst or CFA program offered by the CFA Institute also features levels with examinations. To ultimately become a CFA charter means completing all the levels, including Level 1: 10 months, Level 2: 9 months and Level 3: 6 months. 

So, compared to the CA course duration, which spans over three years, CFA certification takes about two years. It depends on your pace of completing the required studies of each level regarding the CFA certification. Both courses demand considerable time and effort with strong commitments towards studies. It requires the candidate’s in-depth self-study, which helps evaluate the best of the course. So, with focused determination, one can successfully complete these courses within the given time. 

The Course Fees In India

Chartered Accountant (CA) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) are very sought-after qualifications in India, where students even end up pursuing both. As deciding on one might be tough, knowing the fee structure might ease the process. 

The CA degree costs about Rs. 16000 for registration and goes up to Rs. 3 lakhs, including the exam fees and tuition. The fee of the course also depends on the number of attempts the candidate is taking at clearing the exam. The candidates often have to bear additional charges for endless studying material, course books, transportation, lodging and incidental costs. 

The CFA course fees start at Rs. 1 lakh for all three exam levels. The program includes registration fees, exam fees with added study notes, practice questions and mock exams. Even for CFA, the cost depends on the number of times the candidate is appearing to clear the exam. There are also additional charges for late registrations and re-exams.  

Both courses require the candidates to commit to spending a considerable amount of money and investing time. But out of the two courses, the CFA candidates enjoy certain advantages over the CA candidates as they have to bear a lower course fee with more flexible enrolment options and features of self-paced learning. 

Significant Career Opportunities and the Potential of Earning 

Becoming a CA or CFA comes with rewarding opportunities. To experience the best of these courses, one must understand the basic difference between these courses to make the right career choice. Certified CAs and CFAs are highly respected industry professionals as they bring significant skill sets and benefits. Knowing the job potential of these courses will also help finalise the decision of which course to pursue an ideal career in Finance. 

Job Scope 

The job scope for a CA focuses on auditing, financial statement preparation and assurance services. They get to work with individuals and business clients alike, where the roles of the CAs involve assisting managers with investment decisions, monitoring the financial health of organisations, tax preparation & filing and financial planning. 

But, the CFAs hold more specialised roles as they act as investment advisors offering portfolio management services to institutional investors and high net-worth individuals or families. CFAs advise on investments such as bonds, stocks and other securities to maximise the return for clients looking for long-term or short-term investments. 

Industry Recognition 

Both CAs and CFAs are highly respected in their respective fields. Successfully passing the exams will help the candidates to gain more prestigious positions. Having cleared the exams at a go, the candidate gets recognised by the employer for their commitment and development within the industry they are working for. 

An employer is always inclined towards hiring an individual who has undertaken rigorous exams and qualified independently, which applies equally to CAs and CFAs. Hence, both courses hold great recognition from the employees, which further boosts their careers. 

Which Is Best: CA or CFA? 

CAs and CFAs come with unique benefits that will help boost your career in finance or accounting. These certified courses are in high demand and have gained significant recognition among employers. The basic difference between a CA and CFA is that a CA provides advice and guidance on financial matters and taxation, while CFA focuses on investment analysis and portfolio management.

The candidate must take out at least five years to complete the CA degree. But for CFA, you will have to pass the three intensive exams over a span of two years. When it comes to professional salary packages it is quite competitive. But, it is the CFAs who usually make much higher packages depending on experience and expertise compared to the CAs. 

Thus, both CA and CFA are highly sought-after courses in India. The debate of CA vs CFA comes with various facets, each offering unique advantages. But, it depends on the candidates and what they want to explore professionally, which will help them decide on what course to pursue. Both courses hold high value in the Indian and international industries, further boosting their popularity as a top career choice. 

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