CA Vs CFA Debate [Which One is Better in 2024?]

Choosing a professional certification in the world of finance can be a daunting task, especially when you’re standing at the crossroads of your career. Two highly sought-after credentials in India and globally are Chartered Accountant (CA) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).

In this blog post, we will provide a detailed comparison between CA and CFA, helping you understand which certification aligns with your career goals.

What is Chartered Accountant (CA)?

Chartered Accountant (CA) is a distinguished designation offered by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). This credential has been highly recognized in India and across the world for its intensive focus on accounting, taxation, auditing, and finance.

To become a CA in India, you must:

  1. Pass the CA Foundation Course after Class 12.
  2. Clear the CA Intermediate Examination and complete a three-year Articleship training.
  3. Qualify the CA Final Examination.

What is Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)?

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, offered by the CFA Institute, is globally recognised and largely focuses on investment management, portfolio analysis, and corporate finance.

To earn a CFA charter, you need to:

  1. Pass three levels of exams – Level I, Level II, and Level III.
  2. Gain 48 months of professional work experience in the investment decision-making process.

CA Vs CFA – Curriculum Comparison

While both the CA and CFA courses have roots in finance, their respective curriculums are designed to cater to different facets of this expansive field.

Here’s a breakdown of the significant topics covered in each curriculum:

CA CurriculumCFA Curriculum
Financial AccountingEthical and Professional Standards
Cost AccountingQuantitative Methods
TaxationEconomics
AuditingFinancial Reporting and Analysis
Law (Business and Corporate)Corporate Finance
Strategic Financial ManagementPortfolio Management
Advanced Auditing and Professional EthicsEquity Investments
Fixed Income
Derivatives
Alternative Investments

The CA curriculum, with its intensive focus on Financial Accounting, Taxation, Auditing, and Corporate Laws, serves as an excellent platform for students who wish to delve into the complexities of these areas.

Example – Take the case of Financial Accounting, where a CA learns to record, summarise, and present a business’s financial transactions. This includes preparing balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements that are critical for decision-making within the organization.


On the other hand, the CFA curriculum’s extensive coverage of Investment Management, Equity Research, Portfolio Analysis, and Corporate Finance creates a broad foundation for students who wish to gain a comprehensive understanding of investment analysis and portfolio strategy.

Example – Let’s consider the CFA’s coverage of Equity Investments. This subject equips a CFA with the knowledge to assess a company’s intrinsic value by examining its financials and industry position. This underlines the pivotal role CFAs play in investment decision-making.

In summary, while both the CA and CFA curriculums are comprehensive, the choice between the two should be based on your specific interest and the type of financial expertise you aspire to acquire.

CA Vs CFA – Career Opportunities

The Chartered Accountant (CA) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designations open up different pathways in the realm of finance, each leading to unique roles and industries. Here, we’ll explore the diversity of these opportunities and share some illustrative examples.

RoleChartered Accountant (CA)Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
Financial Consultant
Tax Advisor
Auditor
Investment Banker
Portfolio Manager
Research Analyst

As a Chartered Accountant, you could serve as a Financial Consultant, Tax Advisor, or Auditor. Your skills would be in demand in Taxation Firms, Corporate Finance Departments, and Banks.

Example – On the taxation front, a CAs can leverage their expertise to start own taxation consultancy firm, which helps businesses with their tax planning and compliance.


On the flip side, the CFA certification can lead to roles such as an Investment Banker, Portfolio Manager, or Research Analyst, primarily in Investment Banks, Asset Management Firms, and Mutual Fund Companies.

Example – CFAs can work as an Investment Banker in global investment banks, orchestrating major acquisitions deal for clients by leveraging their understanding of capital markets and corporate finance.

In summary, your choice between CA and CFA should align with your career aspirations. If the realms of accounting, taxation, and auditing intrigue you, then a CA could be your pathway to success. Conversely, if investment analysis, portfolio management, and the dynamics of financial markets excite you, then the CFA course could be your stepping stone to a rewarding career.

CA Vs CFA – Difficulty Level

The level of difficulty in achieving the CA or CFA designation is subjective and depends on an individual’s aptitude, study habits, and commitment to the course. However, there are several key aspects that can provide a comparative view of the challenges associated with each of these certifications.

Here’s a table summarizing such aspects:

ParameterChartered Accountant (CA)Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
Exam Pass Rate (%)Foundation: 25-30%
Intermediate: 15-20%
Final: 10-15%
Level I: 35-40%
Level II: 40-45%
Level III: 40-50%
Minimum Duration4-5 years2.5-3 years
Volume and Complexity of SyllabusWide range of subjects like Accounting, Taxation, Law, Audit. A notably challenging aspect is the ‘Indirect Tax Laws’ paper in the Final exam due to the vastness of the syllabus and constant changes in tax laws.Includes topics like Financial Reporting and Analysis, Quantitative Methods, Portfolio Management. The ‘Fixed Income’ section in Level II is often considered challenging due to its focus on complex concepts like derivative pricing and risk management.
Practical Training/Work Experience3 years of practical training (known as articleship) is required. The demanding work schedule during the articleship can be challenging alongside exam preparations.4 years of professional work experience are required, not necessarily concurrent with studying. This is a requirement before obtaining the charter.

These aspects reflect the challenging nature of both the CA and CFA courses. Each requires significant preparation, study time, and practical experience, adding to their level of difficulty.

In conclusion, both the CA and CFA are challenging in their own right, requiring significant effort, commitment, and perseverance from candidates.

Also Read: Is the CFA Exam Difficult?

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CA Vs CFA – Salary Prospects

Salaries for both CA and CFA professionals can vary significantly depending on the industry, the specific role, level of experience, and the geographical location. However, both certifications can lead to lucrative career opportunities. Here’s a general comparison of the average salaries in India:

CertificationEntry-Level Average Salary (per annum)Mid-Career Average Salary (per annum)Experienced-Level Average Salary (per annum)
CAINR 7-9 lakhsINR 12-20 lakhsINR 25 lakhs and above
CFAINR 6-8 lakhsINR 10-15 lakhsINR 20 lakhs and above

As a Chartered Accountant, you can often command a high salary, especially in roles that require extensive knowledge of taxation and auditing.

For example, a CA working as a Tax Consultant in a large corporation can earn significantly above the average range.


On the other hand, a CFA can earn a substantial salary, particularly in the fields of investment banking and portfolio management.

For Example, a CFA working as a Portfolio Manager at a prominent asset management firm can get remuneration which surpasses the average salary.

While salary is an important factor, it should not be the only determinant in your decision to pursue either CA or CFA. Both qualifications offer ample opportunities for career advancement and personal growth.

Also Read: CFA Jobs in India – Scope, Salary, and Recruiters

CA Vs CFA – Cost Comparison

The total cost of pursuing a CA or CFA certification can be a deciding factor for many students. These costs can vary depending on factors like the number of attempts, additional preparation materials, and living expenses, among others. Here’s a general comparison:

CertificationRegistration & Exam FeesAdditional Costs
CAApproximately INR 50,000 to 60,000Additional costs can include coaching fees [which can vary depending on the reputation of the coaching institute & Mode of learning]. On an average, the coaching fees for all the subjects of CFA from foundation to final comes around INR 2 Lakh.
CFAApproximately INR 2.5 to 3 lakhs (for all three levels)Costs for study materials and mock exams can add to the expense [Depending on the resources & Prep Provider chosen]. On an Average, the coaching fees for CFA for all the 3 Levels comes to be around INR 1 Lakh.

While the cost of these programs can be substantial, both the CA and CFA offer significant returns on investment through enhanced career opportunities and salary prospects. Therefore, you should view these costs as an investment in your future rather than a mere expense.

CFA Vs CA – Which one to choose?

Choosing between the Chartered Accountant (CA) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) qualifications can be a challenging decision. Both these courses offer excellent career prospects, but they cater to different aspects within the vast field of finance. To simplify your decision-making process, we’ve created an easy-to-understand matrix below.

This matrix breaks down the decision into four fundamental questions you should consider. By comparing your answers with the descriptions in the CA and CFA columns, you can assess which course aligns better with your interests, career aspirations, financial and time commitment, and future work location preferences.

Remember, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ answer – the right choice depends on your individual preferences and goals.

Here’s the decision matrix:

Questions to ConsiderChartered Accountant (CA)Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
What topics interest you more?I like learning about taxes, auditing (checking financial accounts), and managing company finances.I am more interested in studying financial markets, managing investments, and making investment strategies.
What’s your dream job?I want to be the person who manages finances in a company, helps businesses with their financial strategies, or even starts your own finance consultancy.I dream of working in a big investment bank, managing other people’s investments, or making investment strategies.
How much time and money can you spend on this course?I want to spend 4-5 years studying for a course that generally costs less.I am okay with a shorter study time (2.5-3 years) but a course that generally costs more.
Where do you want to work in the future?I am planning to work in India or the Middle East, where CA is a well-recognized qualification.I am considering working outside India, especially in countries like the USA or UK, where the CFA qualification is known and respected.

As you go through each question, try to determine whether the CA or CFA column resonates more with your interests and future plans. This should provide a clearer perspective and assist you in making an informed decision between the two paths.

The CFA + CA Combo: Worth Considering?

In the world of finance, diversifying one’s skill set can provide a competitive edge, and that’s where the combination of CA and CFA can come into play. By completing both the CA and CFA, one can master a broad spectrum of financial knowledge and skills. Here’s a list of the benefits –

Expanded Knowledge and Skill Set

The CA and CFA certifications, when pursued together, offer a broad understanding of corporate finance, taxation, auditing, as well as investment management and financial markets.

For example, imagine a professional who holds both CA and CFA designations. As a CA, he can use his skills to ensure the financial integrity of his organization through accurate financial reporting and tax planning. As a CFA, he can leverage his knowledge to make strategic investment decisions, thereby contributing to the company’s financial growth.

Increased Job Opportunities

Having both certifications can open doors to a wide range of job opportunities. Positions that were previously exclusive to either CAs or CFAs may become accessible to those who hold both qualifications.

For instance, investment banks may prefer a candidate who, in addition to understanding financial markets and investment strategies (CFA skills), also has a strong grasp of taxation and financial reporting (CA skills).

Higher Earning Potential

The CA plus CFA combo can lead to higher earning potential. Employers are likely to value the diverse skill set and may offer a higher salary package.

According to a survey by ICAI and CFA Institute, professionals holding both qualifications earn, on average, 20% more than their peers who hold just one of the qualifications.

Enhanced Professional Credibility

Holding both CA and CFA titles can significantly enhance professional credibility. This combo shows that the professional has a deep and diverse understanding of finance, which can lead to career advancement and more significant responsibilities.

Despite these benefits, keep in mind that pursuing both CA and CFA is a considerable commitment in terms of time, effort, and financial investment. Thus, this decision should be considered carefully, taking into account your career aspirations, your interests, and your readiness to devote the necessary resources.

Conclusion

Whether you choose CA or CFA, each certification carves out a unique path in the vast finance landscape. Your choice should resonate with your career aspirations, commitment, financial considerations, and most importantly, your love for the subject. The journeys of both CA and CFA are challenging yet rewarding, demanding significant effort and determination.

Did this detailed comparison shed light on your path? Feel free to share your thoughts or questions in the comments. If you found this comparison helpful, please share it within your network. Your journey towards a prosperous career in finance starts with the first step. Make it a confident one!

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the main difference between a CA and a CFA?

The CA Qualification is focused on accounting, taxation, auditing, and business laws, whereas the CFA certification is centered around investment management, portfolio strategy, and financial analysis.

Can I do both CA and CFA?

Yes, many finance professionals choose to do both to broaden their skills and knowledge. However, doing both requires a significant time, effort, and financial investment.

Bain & Co.
5000+ Students Trained in the field of Investment Banking, FRM & CFA

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