CFA vs ACCA: What’s the Difference and Which Exams Should You Take?

The world of finance is so varied and dynamic that anyone with an analytical mind and solid problem-solving skills can build a successful career. However, in order to get the best chance at finding a decent job as a financial specialist or analyst, you must get the relevant certificates.

And while there are several different courses you can take, the CFA and ACCA are two of the most popular certification programs among beginners in finance. That’s because any of these certifications (or both, why not) have a better chance of getting a high-paying job at some of the best finance companies.

Plus, once you have the right certifications and a bit of experience in the field, you can also turn to entrepreneurship and become a consultant. But how do you get there? Which certification is best for your career goals and how to prepare to be at your best for the exams?

We compared the CFA and ACCA certification programs and found the answers to all these questions and more. So make sure to keep reading!

CFA or ACCA? Differences and Career Paths

CFA stands for Chartered Financial Analyst and is offered by the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, USA, while ACCA stands for Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and is conducted by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, UK.

Both CFA and ACCA are accredited, renowned certification courses that can help boost your career. However, each will set you on a different career path:

  • CFA is great for people who want to focus on financial analysis and equity research;
  • ACCA is perfect if you want to help companies across the globe solve various financial matters (it gives you a broader career horizon).

In a nutshell, the CFA is more rigorous than the ACCA and you have a fewer time span to prepare for and pass the exam (four years vs the 10 years allowed when taking the ACCA). Both certifications require practical experience, which can be obtained by working in the field for which you are preparing.

How to Prepare for Each Certification

Both certifications require dedication and time, so if you decide to take this path, you need to make it one of your most important goals. Even if you have a few years at your disposal, there is a lot to learn and understand so you still have to come up with a well-detailed plan that’s both realistic and time-oriented.

Studying for the CFA Exam

The CFA Institute recommends around 285 hours of study just for level I, but depending on your skills, you can be flexible about the time dedicated to studying. If you build a study plan and spread your work over a longer period of time (say, six months) you will have the time and conviction to keep it going.

Also, when it comes to preparing for the CFA exam, it helps to take a prep course. Since there is so much to learn and do, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and turn to procrastination. That’s why you need a good prep course to keep you grounded and on the task.

Plus, a prep course will also teach you how to take the exam in optimal conditions. In fact, the right course may have a few mock exams so you can get accustomed to the type of questions and the overall atmosphere.

Studying for the ACCA Exam

The ACCA is a multi-tier course that teaches its students finance, taxation skills, accountancy, and auditing. Just like the CFA, the ACCA has thee levels (meaning three exams) that you need to clear in order to be considered certified.

The ACCA levels are applied knowledge, applied skills, and professional strategy. However, unlike the CFA, you will get a broader level of knowledge and the certification opens more career paths.

However, if you only have the minimum requirements when you enrol for the ACCA, you may find accountancy difficult since you dive deep into more advanced terminology. Of course, you can take preparatory courses and work hard to fill in the gap, but you’ll also need a well-designed study plan.

The ACCA recommends around 150h per paper, but you will also be working a full-time job so things can get pretty difficult if you don’t have good management skills.

In Conclusion

Both the ACCA and CFA are important certifications that are recognized worldwide. However, they open different career paths and have different study requirements, so it’s best to know your goals and motivating factors beforehand.