ACCA vs CFA: The Biggest Dilemma

ACCA vs CFA blog cover

ACCA vs CFA :

For ambitious individuals drawn to the intricate world of finance, choosing the right career path can feel like deciphering a complex financial statement. Two prominent qualifications, ACCA and CFA, stand out as gateways to lucrative and fulfilling careers, but deciphering their nuances can be quite the intellectual puzzle. Fear not, intrepid financiers, and this blog is your roadmap to navigating the intricacies of ACCA vs. CFA and choosing the route that aligns perfectly with your financial aspirations.

To know more, check out the video below:

Overview: Charting Your Course

ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) are internationally recognized qualifications, each stepping stone to prestigious careers in finance. However, their focus and target destinations differ, akin to highways leading to distinct financial landscapes.

ACCA

ACCA is a professional qualification focusing on accounting, finance, and business management. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants is a UK-based professional body headquartered in London. ACCA is recognized globally, having 247,000 members and 526,000 students in more than 181 countries.

CFA

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Program, administered by the prestigious CFA Institute, is the global benchmark for investment professionals seeking to elevate their careers. Headquartered in the USA with over 166,000 charterholders across 135 countries, the CFA Institute sets the gold standard for ethical conduct and professional excellence in investment management.

Job Roles: Unveiling the Destinations

ACCA

ACCA’s broad curriculum opens doors to many roles across accounting, finance, and business. You could work in

  • Accounting
  • Financial Analysis
  • Internal Auditing
  • Tax
  • Advisory
  • Management Consulting
  • Risk
  • Investment Banking
  • Corporate Finance
  • ERP
  • ESG Consulting
  • and many more.

The versatility of ACCA empowers you to explore diverse paths, choosing the one that resonates with your unique strengths and interests. The average salary for a fresher ACCA professional is 6 to 7 lacs.

CFA

With its laser focus on investments, CFA paves the way for specialized roles –

  • Investment Banking
  • Private Equity
  • Asset Management
  • Portfolio Management
  • Research Analyst
  • Wealth Management:
  • Financial Advisor
  • Financial Analyst
  • & many more

The prestige associated with the CFA charter makes you a highly sought-after commodity in the competitive world of finance. The average salary for a fresher CFA professional is 6 to 7 lacs.

Eligibility: The First Hurdle

ACCA

ACCA offers flexible entry points –

  • After Grade 10/ 12: Start your journey early with foundation-level courses.
  • Graduation (B.Com/M.Com): Build upon your existing knowledge with exemptions based on your degree.
  • CA Inter/Final: Leverage your CA studies for even more exemptions (up to 9 Exemptions)
  • After CMA: Up to 9 Exemptions

This flexibility makes it accessible to aspiring professionals and career switchers eager to reinvent themselves.

CFA

For CFA, you can start preparation in the first year of graduation and appear for the Level 1 exam in the second year.

ACCA Subjects

Knowledge Level

  1. Business and Technology (BT)
  2. Management Accounting (MA)
  3. Financial Accounting (FA)

Skill Level

  1. Corporate and Business Law (LW)
  2. Performance Management (PM)
  3. Taxation (TX)
  4. Financial Reporting (FR)
  5. Audit and Assurance (AA)
  6. Financial Management (FM)

Professional Level

Essential Papers

  1. Strategic Business Leader (SBL)
  2. Strategic Business Reporting (SBR)

Optional Papers (any 2)

  1. Advanced Financial Management (AFM)
  2. Advanced Performance Management (APM)
  3. Advanced Taxation (ATX)
  4. Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA)

CFA Subjects

Exam Structure: The Test of Mettle

ACCA

The exams are computer-based and consist of 13 exams ( Lesser papers in case you are eligible for exemptions) divided into three levels (as explained above):

  • Applied Knowledge
  • Applied Skills
  • Professional Level

Each level offers flexibility, allowing you to progress at your own pace and conquer sections individually. ACCA exam happens 4 times a year:

  • March
  • June
  • September
  • December

CFA

CFA takes a more streamlined approach, requiring you to conquer three rigorous computer-based exams: Each level tackles diverse financial concepts, ranging from ethical foundations to portfolio management, with increasing complexity as candidates progress through Levels I, II, and III. Key areas tested include financial analysis, investments across asset classes, and derivatives. CFA exams happen multiple times in a year –

  • Level 1: Feb, May, August, and November.
  • Level 2: May, August, and November.
  • Level 3: Feb and August.

Passing Rates for CFA and ACCA:

Both CFA and ACCA are prestigious professional qualifications in the finance field, but their pass rates differ significantly:

ACCA

Overall: The average pass rate for ACCA exams typically ranges from 40% to 50%, depending on the specific paper and level.

Breakdown by level:

  • Knowledge level: 50-60% pass rate
  • Skills level: 40-50% pass rate
  • Professional level: 40-50% pass rate

CFA

Overall: The average pass rate across all three CFA Program levels (Level I, II, and III) is around 40%. This means, on average, only 4 out of 10 candidates who sit for the exams at any given level will pass.

Breakdown by level: The pass rate varies slightly between levels:

  • Level I: 35-39% (most recent November 2023 exam was 35%)
  • Level II: 44-47% (most recent August 2023 exam was 44%)
  • Level III: 47-48% (most recent August 2023 exam was 47%)

Resources:

CFA Institute: https://www.cfainstitute.org/en/programs/cfa/exam/results-info

ACCA Global: https://www.accaglobal.com/gb/en/student/exam-support-resources/pass-rates-for-acca-qualifications.html

Cost

Investing in a professional qualification like ACCA or CFA requires a significant financial commitment due to various associated costs. These include registration and subscription fees, exam fees, study materials, and optional tuition and coaching fees. The estimated cost for pursuing ACCA, including all potential expenses, typically ranges from INR 3.5 to 4 lakhs. Similarly, the cost of pursuing a CFA can vary between INR 3.5 and 4.5 lakhs.

ACCA vs CFA: Right Choice, Right Turn

So, which path should you choose? Like a complex financial model, the answer depends on your aspirations and financial compass. Are you drawn to the breadth and versatility of ACCA, or does the specialized thrill of investment analysis in CFA set your pulse racing?

ACCA might be your perfect partner if you yearn for a holistic business & finance career with diverse options.

If, however, the intricate dance of portfolio management and navigating the ever-shifting investment landscape ignites your passion,

CFA is your true match. Remember, this isn’t a binary choice; some ambitious individuals pursue both qualifications, creating a formidable financial arsenal that opens doors to the most elite positions in the finance world.

ACCA + CFA: Synergy at its Finest

Combining the comprehensive knowledge of ACCA with the specialized expertise of CFA is a power move reserved for the truly dedicated. This potent cocktail of skills makes you a unicorn in the financial jungle, coveted by top firms seeking individuals who can navigate the accounting and investment landscapes equally adeptly.

Conclusion: Your Financial Odyssey Awaits

Choosing between ACCA and CFA is an investment in your future, shaping your financial odyssey. Carefully consider your career goals, interests, and learning style. Dive deep into the details of each qualification, seeking guidance from finance professionals who have already blazed these trails.

Remember, the right choice isn’t a destination but the path you forge with dedication and passion. So, lace up your financial boots, map your journey with wisdom, and embark on your quest to conquer the ever-evolving world of finance, one qualification at a time

Also read our blog on ACCA vs MBA

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