ACCA vs. CPA: Understanding the Differences in Certification Training

The finance and accounting world is highly competitive, and professionals in this field are constantly looking for ways to differentiate themselves. Two popular certifications that many individuals pursue are the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Certified Public Accountant (CPA). While both certifications can open doors for career growth and advancement, there are some key differences between them.

This blog will discuss the fundamental differences between ACCA and CPA certifications. We will explore the requirements, areas of focus, and career opportunities associated with each certification.

What is ACCA?

ACCA stands for Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. It is a globally recognized accounting qualification focusing on international accounting standards and principles. ACCA is headquartered in London and was founded in 1904. It has over 227,000 members and 544,000 students across the world. ACCA offers a comprehensive curriculum covering various accounting areas, including financial accounting, management accounting, taxation, audit and assurance, corporate law, and ethics.

The program also emphasizes developing critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills. To become an ACCA member, candidates must complete 13 exams, have three years of practical experience, and fulfill the ethics and professional skills requirement.

What is CPA?

CPA stands for Certified Public Accountant. It is a prestigious certification offered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Established in 1887, AICPA has over 431,000 members in the United States. CPA is a state-specific certification, and its requirements vary from state to state. However, most states require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or related fields, complete 150 credit hours of education, and pass the Uniform CPA Exam.

The CPA curriculum covers financial accounting, managerial accounting, auditing, taxation, and law. The program also focuses on developing critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and ethical behavior skills. To maintain the CPA certification, ongoing continuing education is required.


While both ACCA and CPA are highly recognized certifications in the field of accounting, there are some key differences between them.

  • Global recognition: ACCA is a globally recognized certification, while CPA is primarily recognized in the United States. This means an ACCA member can work in any country where the qualification is recognized. At the same time, a CPA may have to go through additional education and examination to practice outside of the US.
  • Education requirements: To become an ACCA member, candidates must complete 13 exams and fulfill the ethics and professional skills requirements. On the other hand, CPA candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or related fields, complete 150 credit hours of education, and pass the Uniform CPA Exam.
  • Exam structure: The ACCA exam is divided into two levels: Fundamentals and Professional. The Fundamentals level has nine exams, while the Professional level has three exams. On the other hand, the CPA exam consists of four sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG). Each section is a standalone exam, but candidates must pass all four sections to become CPA-certified.
  • Areas of focus: While both certifications cover similar topics, such as accounting, auditing, and taxation, the CPA program has a wider range of subjects, including business law and ethics. This makes CPA candidates well-rounded professionals with a broader understanding of the business world.
  • Career opportunities: ACCA members have a global advantage as their qualification is recognized in over 180 countries. They can work in various roles such as financial controller, auditor, and business analyst in different industries like banking, consulting, and government agencies. On the other hand, CPAs are highly sought after for positions such as public accountant, tax consultant, and internal auditor.

In short, both the ACCA and CPA certifications offer excellent career opportunities in the accounting and finance field. Depending on your career goals and interests, you can choose between these two prestigious qualifications to advance your professional growth.

Kaplan Professional ME’s ACCA Training Program

At Kaplan Professional ME, we offer comprehensive training programs for aspiring ACCA professionals. Our program are designed to equip our students with the requisite knowledge to pass their ACCA exams and instill a deep understanding of global and local accounting principles.

Our ACCA-certified trainers, experts in various papers, have guided numerous candidates to regional accolades. With rich training and industry backgrounds, they provide tailored guidance and support. Students can access online learning resources and bite-sized tutor-led videos, and also learn to solve complex exam questions through dedicated sessions.

Learn more.