MJ Ahmed CPA

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Why CPA over CA?

In the current market scenario, Chartered Accountancy (CA) could be aptly described as “too much for too less”, given the fact that the quantum of efforts required is not directly proportional to the rewards. Still, we do observe a large stream of students lining up for the course. Why so?? A lot of the reasoning can be attributed to a lack of awareness – Students and professionals, as a matter of fact are unaware about the existence of other career opportunities in the global accounting scenario. Of the many that are aware, some tend to choose the seemingly easier, local option available.However, an in-depth analysis would prove that the US Certified Public Accountant (CPA) course is probably one of the best career options that give a boost to your career in the world of accounting internationally.The underlying fact that both CPA and CA exams are professional accounting courses of two different countries is unbeatable. Also, each course, in its own way is the crown jewel for accounting in the respective country. Hence, a comparison between both the exams is like comparing apples and oranges. However, a time-cost-benefit analysis between the two courses would give one a quint reasons to choose US CPA over Indian CA.

Firstly, CPA enables a candidate to obtain membership of the world’s largest accounting body AICPA i.e. American Institute of Certified Public Accountants whereas CA gives one, a membership to the second largest accounting body ICAI i.e. Institute of Chartered Accountants of India.US CPA has international credibility and is recognized globally as the apex accounting degree. A lot of countries accept US CPA as the highest professional accounting certificate. On the other hand CA’s command a lot of credibility inside India, but outside India, scope and visibility for CA’s is quite minimal.CPA is a one level exam with 4 papers while CA includes 3 levels (CPT, IPCC, Final) comprising of 15-16 papers. To sum up we get a more credible degree in much shorter time. CPA can be completed within 7-8 months whereas a CA certification requires a minimum of 4-4.5 years. The return on time and efforts invested is relatively much larger for CPA, as compared to CA.

Another reason why students prefer CPA to CA is because the exam pattern for CA, as in contrast to that of CPA, lays more stress on mugging up rather than on concept building. In CA curriculum students have to spend long hours slogging with subjects and topics that are redundant and have lost its practicality in the real world. CPA curriculum on the other hand is crisp up-to-date and follows the multiple choice question pattern, which rewards student more on substance than on form.CPA exams test a candidate’s knowledge about IFRS as well as US GAAP whereas CA curriculum deals only with Indian standards. Work experience required for licensing eligibility, in CPA course is flexible as it varies from state to state and several states have even waived the work experience requirement. An Indian CA requires 3 years of rigorous work experience known as Article ship training.

In terms of cost structure, on the face of it, CPA seems more expensive than CA, but if one takes a  closer look and analyses it critically, then one can gather that CPA offers a better cost advantage than CA. CA course requires total expenditure of around 1.5 lacks over a span of 4 years, whereas a CPA course requires an expenditure of 2.75-3 lacks amassed over an year. If we choose CPA over CA, we get a three year head start to our career, undoubtedly. So, to sum up,the present value of the cash flows should be accounted so as to generate a true cost comparison between CPA and CA, which results in CPA providing a greater return.

CPA exams are held more frequently i.e. 8 times a year compared to CA exams which are held twice a year. Hence candidates can have a more flexible schedule for preparation and taking the exam. Only a graduate can take CPA exams whereas CA is open to undergraduates and students starting out graduation.From a job opportunities perspective, practically, there is an overflow of CAs in India. As a result, passing an exam is no assurance of getting a job with fair pay. On the other hand, demand for CPA’s still outweighs their supply. Hence CPA’s enjoy a considerable command over the global job market and have terrific opportunities in various big 4 as well as MNCs. American CPA’s automatically qualify for membership in both Canadian and Australian Chartered Accountant societies and get several exemptions from several other institutes across the world. No such exemptions and qualifications are offered to an Indian Chartered Accountant.

Thus, a variety of reasons can be shown as to how CPA proves beneficial over CA. I hope this brief comparison of the courses has helped.