CA vs. CPA

What's the Difference?

CA (Chartered Accountant) and CPA (Certified Public Accountant) are both professional designations in the field of accounting. While they have some similarities, there are also notable differences between the two. CA is a designation recognized in many countries, including Canada, India, and the United Kingdom, while CPA is primarily recognized in the United States. CA focuses on a broader range of accounting and financial management topics, including auditing, taxation, and financial reporting. On the other hand, CPA primarily focuses on auditing and attestation services, but also covers areas such as taxation and financial accounting. Additionally, the requirements to obtain these designations vary, with CA typically requiring a combination of education, practical experience, and passing a series of exams, while CPA requires a specific educational background, passing the Uniform CPA Exam, and meeting experience requirements.


DesignationChartered AccountantCertified Public Accountant
Professional BodyInstitute of Chartered AccountantsAmerican Institute of Certified Public Accountants
FocusAccounting, Auditing, Taxation, FinanceAccounting, Auditing, Taxation, Business and Financial Advisory
ScopeGlobalPrimarily United States
ExamsCA FinalUniform CPA Exam
Experience Requirement3 years of practical trainingVaries by state, typically 1-2 years
Continuing Professional EducationMandatoryMandatory
SpecializationsVarious specializations availableVarious specializations available
Job OpportunitiesWide range of opportunities in accounting, finance, and consultingWide range of opportunities in accounting, finance, and consulting

Further Detail


When it comes to pursuing a career in accounting, two prominent certifications often come to mind - Chartered Accountant (CA) and Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Both designations hold significant value in the accounting profession, but they differ in various aspects. In this article, we will explore and compare the attributes of CA and CPA, shedding light on their educational requirements, examination processes, scope of practice, and global recognition.

Educational Requirements

Obtaining the CA designation typically requires a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field, followed by completion of a recognized CA program. The program includes a combination of academic coursework and practical training, often referred to as articleship or articling, under the supervision of a qualified CA. The duration of the program varies by country, but it generally ranges from three to five years.

On the other hand, becoming a CPA typically involves completing a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field, meeting specific credit hour requirements in accounting and business courses, and passing the Uniform CPA Examination. The educational requirements for CPA vary by jurisdiction, but most states in the United States require a minimum of 150 credit hours, which is typically achieved through a master's degree or additional coursework beyond the bachelor's degree.

While both CA and CPA require a strong educational foundation in accounting, the specific requirements and pathways to obtain the designations differ based on the country and jurisdiction.

Examination Process

The examination process for CA typically consists of multiple levels or stages, each assessing different areas of accounting and related subjects. These exams are often conducted by professional accounting bodies or institutes. The exams may include written papers, case studies, and practical assessments. Candidates must pass each level to progress to the next and ultimately qualify as a CA.

On the other hand, the CPA examination is a standardized test administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) in the United States. The exam consists of four sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). Candidates must pass all four sections within a designated time frame to earn the CPA designation.

While the examination process for CA focuses on comprehensive assessments across various levels, the CPA examination is a single standardized test covering multiple areas of accounting and business knowledge.

Scope of Practice

The scope of practice for CAs and CPAs can vary based on the jurisdiction and the specific regulations governing the profession. Generally, CAs have a broader scope of practice, often extending beyond traditional accounting and auditing services. CAs may provide services related to taxation, financial planning, business advisory, and even legal matters in some jurisdictions.

CPAs, on the other hand, primarily focus on accounting, auditing, and taxation services. They are often involved in financial reporting, compliance, and providing guidance on tax matters. However, the scope of practice for CPAs has been expanding in recent years, with many CPAs also offering consulting and advisory services to businesses.

It is important to note that the scope of practice for both CAs and CPAs can be influenced by local regulations, professional ethics, and the specific needs of the clients they serve.

Global Recognition

Both the CA and CPA designations hold significant global recognition and are highly regarded in the accounting profession. However, their recognition and acceptance may vary based on the country or region.

The CA designation is widely recognized in countries following the British model of accounting, such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and India. CAs from these countries often have reciprocal agreements, allowing them to practice in each other's jurisdictions with certain conditions and requirements.

The CPA designation, on the other hand, is primarily recognized in the United States. However, due to the global nature of business and the increasing harmonization of accounting standards, CPAs are also gaining recognition in many other countries. Some jurisdictions have established mutual recognition agreements with the AICPA, allowing CPAs from the United States to practice in those countries and vice versa.

Both designations offer opportunities for international mobility and can open doors to global career prospects, but the extent of recognition may vary depending on the specific country and its accounting regulations.


In conclusion, while both the CA and CPA designations are highly respected in the accounting profession, they differ in terms of educational requirements, examination processes, scope of practice, and global recognition. CAs often follow a structured program that combines academic coursework and practical training, while CPAs typically complete a bachelor's degree and pass a standardized examination. The scope of practice for CAs is generally broader, encompassing various areas of accounting, taxation, and advisory services, while CPAs primarily focus on accounting, auditing, and taxation. Both designations hold global recognition, but the extent may vary based on the country or region. Ultimately, the choice between CA and CPA depends on individual career goals, geographical preferences, and the specific requirements of the jurisdiction in which one intends to practice.

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