Difference Between CFA vs. CPA – Latest


CFA vs. CPA: The Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) and Certified Public Accountant (CPA) are two prestigious designations in the finance and accounting fields, each with its unique focus, career path, and body of knowledge. The primary difference lies in their specialization: CFA focuses on investment management and financial analysis. While CPA centers on accounting, tax, and audit. Here’s a detailed breakdown:

1. Focus and Specialization

  • CFA: The CFA designation is offered by the CFA Institute and is globally recognized in the investment management profession. It emphasizes portfolio management, investment analysis, economics, and professional and ethical standards. Candidates often pursue careers in asset management, equity research, and investment banking.
  • CPA: The CPA credential is granted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) in the U.S. and focuses on accounting, audit, tax, and regulatory compliance. CPAs often work in public accounting firms, corporate accounting, taxation, and auditing.

2. Exam Structure and Content

  • CFA: The CFA Program consists of three levels, each requiring a six-hour examination. The curriculum includes topics like ethical and professional standards, quantitative methods, economics, financial reporting and analysis, corporate finance, equity investments, fixed income, derivatives, alternative investments, and portfolio management.
  • CPA: The CPA Exam is divided into four sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD). Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). Each section is tested in a four-hour exam covering topics in auditing. Business concepts, financial accounting, and regulation including tax.

3. Eligibility and Requirements

  • CFA: To enroll in the CFA Program, candidates need a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) or be in the final year of their bachelor’s degree program at the time of registration. Additionally, four years of professional work experience is required to obtain the charter.
  • CPA: CPA candidates must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Typically 150 semester hours of college coursework, which is more than a standard four-year degree. The specific requirements vary by state in the U.S.

4. Career Paths

  • CFA: CFAs often find roles in investment banks, hedge funds, mutual funds, private equity, and financial advisory firms. They are typically involved in investment analysis. Portfolio management, risk management, and consultancy.
  • CPA: CPAs have a wide range of career opportunities in public accounting firms, corporations, government agencies, and non-profits. They work as auditors, tax consultants, forensic accountants, compliance officers, and chief financial officers.

5. Global Recognition

  • CFA: The CFA charter is globally recognized in more than 165 countries. Making it a gold standard in the field of investment and financial analysis.
  • CPA: The CPA license is highly recognized in the United States. Through various reciprocity agreements, in other countries as well. However, its primary focus remains on U.S. accounting and tax regulations.

6. Commitment and Time

  • CFA: The CFA Program is rigorous, requiring an average of 300 hours of study per level. Most candidates take between 2 to 4 years to complete all three levels.
  • CPA: Preparing for the CPA Exam also demands a significant investment of time. With candidates spending hundreds of hours studying for the four sections. Most states require candidates to pass all four sections of the exam within 18 months.


Choosing between the CFA and CPA designations depends on your career goals, interests, and the specific financial sector you wish to enter. Both credentials can significantly enhance your career prospects, salary potential, and professional credibility. But cater to different niches within the broad fields of finance and accounting.

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