CFAs are mainly employed in the investment management and advisory sectors whereas CPAs are mostly employed in either corporate accounting departments or public accounting firms. Ultimately, the recommended path comes down to individual career goals, current skills, and ongoing work obligations. Devising a personalized multi-year timeline helps balance preparation demands. With dedication and resilience, finance professionals can achieve the coveted combination of credentials for career success.

CFA credential holders often work at asset management firms, wealth management firms, investment banks, insurance companies, pension funds, endowments, and other financial institutions. The CFA has fewer formal education requirements but mandates more investment-related work experience. By contrast, CPAs require an advanced degree and coursework but have more flexibility in their experience requirements. Both are challenging but evaluate different skill sets for different career paths.

  1. A bachelor’s degree with 150 semester units (or 225 quarter units) is essential for CPA licensing.
  2. Compared to the CPA which focuses on external financial reporting, the CMA homes in on driving business performance with financial intelligence and strategic insight.
  3. In summary, a CPA certification is generally more applicable and important for most CFO roles.
  4. Both offer good opportunities for people looking to break into corporate finance.
  5. Ultimately career advancement depends heavily on performance and ambition in applied job roles.
  6. A CFA is likely to receive and analyze reports produced by a CPA or other accountant.

While both CPAs and CFAs have strong backgrounds in finance, how they work for you are different. When choosing one over the other, ask yourself what goal you’d like to achieve. If you need someone to help you lower your tax bill or increase your return, talk to a CPA. Discover if this is the right career path for you with a free Forage job simulation.

CPA, CFA, or CFP®: Pick Your Abbreviation Wisely

If you have interests spanning both managerial and public accounting realms, consider obtaining both the CMA and CPA. They are offered year-round at test centers with rolling score releases. This section outlines the key exam, education, and experience requirements to earn the CFA and CPA designations. While both are rigorous qualifications, there are some notable differences. The CPA offers greater versatility across accounting and finance roles, while the CFA brings specialized expertise in securities analysis and capital markets.

For salary data, we’ve referred to our own CFA Salary database, as well as data from PayScale. We restricted our analysis to the US market to maintain good comparability between CFA and CPA salaries. As we’ve established when looking at the differences between the CFA and CPA exams, the breadth, depth and length of the CFA exams combined make the CFA exams a lot more challenging to undertake and pass than the CPA exams. The CPA exams are comprised of 4 exams but arguably this is just 4 parts of one ‘level’.

Is a CFA or CPA better for corporate finance?

They must also be skilled in portfolio management, investment consulting, financial research, and risk analysis and management. The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation is the most widely recognized and respected professional credential in global investment management. To earn this designation, you must pass three levels of exams, each focused on a different area of expertise within the industry and satisfy the professional experience requirements. Both offer excellent career paths, so it’s important to know which one is a better fit for you. The CPA is great if you want to rise up the finance department at a corporate business and ultimately become the CFO, or if you want to rise up the ranks at a public accounting firm. The CFA credential, by contrast, is great if you want to work at a bank and, in particular, in investment management or equity research.

The CPA designation is specific to the country in which the exam is taken, though it is a well-known program that is offered in many countries around the world. International equivalency exams are also offered so that CPAs can work in countries other than the one in which they were certified. When someone has completed the requirements set out by the CPA program, they can work in most roles that provide financial services, whether at the personal or business level or in the private or public sector. They may specialize in areas such as financial reporting, auditing, taxation, and of course, accounting. CFA stands for Chartered Financial Analyst and is a professional designation awarded by the CFA Institute. To earn the CFA credential, finance professionals must demonstrate both expertise in wealth management and investment analysis.

CFA: Chartered Financial Analyst

The CFA exam puts more emphasis on investment management, valuation, and decision-making, while the CPA exam is centered around auditing, financial accounting, tax rules, and general business concepts. Pursuing both the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designations can provide professionals seeking careers in accounting and finance with a powerful dual credential. If you seek an executive track in corporate finance, the CMA or CFA may suit you well. For public accounting firms or assurance services, the CPA reigns supreme.

You can overcome the odds with proper studying and preparation, however. In 2020, Becker Exam Day ReadySM students reported passing 94% of the CPA Exam sections they attempted. In total, Becker students passed more than 33,000 sections of the CPA Exam, which represents more than 1/3 of all CPA Exam sections passed in 2020.

CFA Career Paths

Scheduling extensive study time around work and life demands is another hurdle. The cumulative hours spent poring over notes, mock exams, and textbooks is taxing. Staying motivated through both independent and structured learning phases spanning multiple years is crucial.

Understand the difference between a CFA, a CPA and other financial professionals. One of the key responsibilities of a financial analyst is a process called discounting. First, there are three levels of the exam that must be completed in consecutive order. It is important to recognize the level of success the applicant has directly correlates to having the proper study materials and the time spent preparing.

It is a designation earned by taking the three examinations administered by the CFA Institute in addition to completing the required work experience. The CFA focuses more on investment analysis and portfolio management, while the CPA is geared towards general accounting, auditing, and taxation. Earning both the CPA and CFA demonstrates extensive expertise across accounting and investments. It signals versatility within finance, with in-depth capabilities spanning financial reporting, analysis, advisory, and asset management. The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) credential focuses on financial planning, analysis, control, and decision support. It covers areas like budgeting, performance management, cost management, internal controls, and financial statement analysis.

Therefore, they’re mostly suited to work as financial analysts, investment strategists, consultants, and wealth managers. Within the first category, public accounting, there are many different cfa vs cpa types and sizes of firms, with a variety of different client types. Within a given firm, there may also be many options, such as audit, tax and advisory services, or consulting.

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