To develop a finance career, it has become almost a necessity to earn a relevant degree or credential for requisite knowledge and skills, which can be useful in a specialized area of finance. There are some certification programs available for students, entry-level professionals, and experienced professionals, designed to develop and validate specific capabilities for finance professionals’ benefit. CFA and ACCA are two such specialized certification programs of international repute. One one side CFA is all about Investment Management, ACCA is more into detailed accounting and auditing.

What is CFA?

Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) Institute offers one of the most competitive financial credentials, widely considered the “gold standard” of financial analysis and investment management. It is undoubtedly one of the most rigorous certification programs in finance, which covers several key knowledge areas in finance, making it the best fit for those interested in developing a career as a financial analyst or in the field of investment banking.

Although an MBA in Finance from one of the top institutes could be the preferred credentials for top investment banks, CFA Charter comes in a close second.

What is ACCA?

It is a highly valued credential offered by a global body for professional accountants, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), to help build key accounting skills and validate aspiring finance professionals’ capabilities.

This is a multi-tier certification program primarily focused on knowledge areas related to accountancy, taxation, and auditing. Though not on the same level as CFA in terms of reputation, it is a widely recognized credential that can significantly help students or accounting professionals boost their career prospects.

CFA vs. ACCA Infographics


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CFA and ACCA Entry Requirements

  • For CFA You Need: To qualify for CFA, a candidate should have a Bachelor’s Degree (or they should be in the final year of Bachelor’s Degree) or 4 years of professional work experience or 4 years of higher education professional work experience taken together.
  • For ACCA You Need: To qualify for ACCA, one must have completed 10+2 from commerce stream, students pursuing graduation in commerce, and those who have completed BA or B.Sc. with Foundation in Accountancy can qualify.

CFA vs. ACCA Comparative Table

Organizing BodyThe exams are governed by the CFA Institute, USA.The exams are governed by the  Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), UK.
PatternTo become CFA qualified, the candidates have to clear three sequential levels Level I Level II Level IIITo become ACCA qualified, the candidates have to clear three levels of Applied Knowledge Applied Skills Strategic Professional
Duration of CourseIf the candidates can clear all the exams in their first attempt, then they can complete the course in a span of 4 years.The mandatory time limit for the course is 10 years from passing the first exam. However, most candidates take 3-4 years to complete the course.
SyllabusThe syllabus primarily includes the following topics Economics Quantitative Methods Financial Reporting and Analysis Ethics & Professional Standards Corporate Finance Portfolio Management Fixed Income Equity Investments Alternative Investments DerivativesThe syllabus primarily includes the following topics Financial Reporting Financial Management Accounting & Auditing Taxation Ethical & Professional Standards        
Exam FeesThe overall cost of the course comes to be in the range of $2,550 to $3,450, which includes the exam fees along with the enrollment fee. The cost primarily varies based on the time of registration.The overall cost of the course comes to be in the range of £1,200 to £2,000, which includes the exam fees along with the annual subscription and registration fee. The variation in cost is due to the difference in the time of registration.
JobsSome of the common profiles include Strategic Analyst Wealth Manager Portfolio Manager Investment Analyst Financial ConsultantSome of the common profiles include Accountant Internal Auditor Financial Consultant Finance Manager Tax Manager
DifficultyThe level of difficulty is very high as only ~10% of the candidates who start the course are able to qualify as CFA charterholders. The pass rates of Level-I, Level-II, and Level-III exams conducted in June 2019 were 41%, 44%, and 56% respectively.  The level of difficulty is quite high as only ~30% of the candidates passed in some of the subjects. The pass rates for the Applied Knowledge exams conducted in March 2020 were in the range of 65% to 82%, while that for the Strategic Professional (Options) exams were in the range of 32% to 44%.
Exam DateThe upcoming exams for the year 2021 will take place as follows Level I: February 16 – March 01, May 18-24, August 24-30, November 16-22 Level II: May 25 – June 01, August 31 – September 04 Level III: May 25 – June 01, November 23-25The upcoming exams for the year 2021 will take place as follows March 01-05 June 07-11      

Why Pursue CFA?

Finance professionals involved in equity research, financial modeling, investment management, and other areas can benefit greatly by earning CFA Charter. It can help enhance career prospects by equipping them with expert knowledge of complex finance areas and adding to their credibility in the eyes of industry-leading employers.

For non-investment professionals, it can prove to be of great advantage as a valued credential, which brings a lot of respectability and opens up new avenues of growth.

Why Pursue ACCA?

Partnering with more than 8,500 employers worldwide, ACCA opens up global work opportunities for students and professionals. Students and finance professionals interested in acquiring specialized knowledge of finance and accounting can opt for ACCA.

Entry requirements are not as stringent as well. Its course curriculum covers accounting, taxation, auditing, and several other critical areas, including law, business studies, financial management, financial reporting, and professional and ethical standards.


CFA is a highly specialized credential, suited for finance professionals seeking to develop expert capabilities in areas related to financial analysis and equity research. However, ACCA is a broad-based accounting certification and a better fit for students or professionals looking to advance their prospects as accounting or auditing professionals.

Both of the credentials are globally acknowledged, but CFA is miles ahead of ACCA regarding its quality and value as a professional credential. CFA Charter is much more difficult to attain as compared to ACCA Qualification, but it can be worth it.

However, CFA is more suited for experienced finance professionals looking to specialize in a certain area. In contrast, ACCA is best for entry-or mid-level professionals looking to widen their career horizons while acquiring useful accounting and auditing skills.