What Is The Difference Between CPA and ACCA?

There can often be confusion about the various classifications which accountants can have and the meaning which they have. There are various terms used from charted to uncharted, CPA, ACCA, CMA and ICAS to general public the world of accounting can be an extremely confusing one. No matter what the qualification you will always get good versions and bad versions of accountants with the same qualification. However to keep things simple the best solution when it comes to choosing an accountant is to base you decision upon personal recommendations or based on the past performance of the account/accountant agency.


The terms CPA and ACCA both involve a qualification for professional accounting. CPA stands for Certified Public Accountant while ACCA is an abbreviation of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. The most obvious difference between these two terms is their origination with CPA originally being established in America and ACCA being based in the UK. CPA started in the 1800’s with all applicant required to pass an entrance exam set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Applicants are also required to have relevant work experience in order to be awarded the CPA certification. This award is generally quite a broad certificate covering everything from taxes to auditing. Holders of these qualification are often found throughout the industry and also in house within organisations. This is opposed to holders of an ACCA certificate who are often found within accountancy agencies.


Even though the ACCA is established in the UK it now holds members worldwide. To become a full member applicants must complete and pass an entrance exam and hold a minimum of 3 years relevant experience in the industry. The entrance exam for these certificates vary widely with the CPA exam covering areas including auditing and attestation, financial reporting, accounting and regulation as well as aspects such as business environment and concepts. In stark opposition the ACCA certification is divided simply into two areas. These are fundamentals and professional with fundamentals covering knowledge and skills required with the professional section covering essentials and options applied in accounting practices. It is obvious that there is a lot of confusion and difference in opinions when it comes to the world of accounting and the terminologies used. As a result additional agencies have been established such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) whose purpose is to find a resolution to the Principles versus Rules debate within international accounting standard setting. As technology improves and businesses expand there are increasing merging of boarders between practices and countries. With this in mind it has now become for all accounts no matter their qualification to grow with the industry and become not only multidisaplined but also increasingly aware of the variations in practices across the world.

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