CA vs ACCA

19 February 2016

I am writing this post because I am getting so many queries, asking for a comparison and also asking to suggest the best one. I had written another post in 2013 with the same title in a burst of anger and again another one in 2015 which was a fairer comparison of the two qualifications. Now posting almost the same thing with couple of additional points.
Please note that the CA I am mentioning here is the one provided by ICAI (Institute of Chartered Accountants of India). I am specifically stating this because my earlier post was shared on many international forums and ICAP and ICAN comparisons were made by the people who commented.
1. Relevance
CA from ICAI is the only one qualification that allows a person to practice as a Chartered Accountant in India, while ACCA is the one qualification that can be called a truly global Chartered Accountancy qualification.
But please note that in India also ACCA students are getting placed easily in Big 4 and MNC’s. But this maybe true only for those in cities and the same employment opportunities might not be available in rural areas.
2. Toughness in passing the exam.
If something is easy to attain, it won’t have much value. So CA being regarded as one of the toughest qualification to pass has its own value and standing. But I will have to add that the group system and controlled pass rates are major factors contributing to the toughness of the same.
ACCA is by no means easy to pass and Indian students will definitely have to switch from the rote learning methods to one based on understanding and application. But the absence of group system will take away the frustration attached to doing CA and make it easier to pass.
3. Cost
Being a UK qualification, ACCA is much more costlier than CA with regard to registration, subscriptions, exam fees and tuition costs.
4. Articleship/Practical Experience
Both qualifications require 3 years practical experience. But the rigid CA articleship rules are meant to provide cheap labour to their members (maynot be meant to, but end up providing). While the flexibility allowed by ACCA means that the students can work in any relevant financial role and earn a salary than a stipend during the 3 years.
5. Flexibility
CA is rigid in its examination and experience structure, while ACCA offers total flexibility in all aspects so much so that most times it is misused by the students. With the switching to on demand Computer Based Exams and quarterly written exams, the level of flexibility is further enhanced.
6. Mutual Exemptions
For those who want to do both the qualifications, ACCA rolls out the red carpet for CA’s wanting to do ACCA by offering them exemptions for 9 papers(the maximum on offer for any qualification in the world) and counting their Articleship experience towards ACCA’s PER (Practical Experience Requirement). They even offer fee waivers for registrations and exemptions. So, if you are an young CA with a long career ahead, I would definitely advise you to pursue ACCA.
On the other hand an ACCA wanting to do CA has to do all the papers and worse, they have to endure the bonded labour of articleship in full and its simply not worth the effort.
7. Earning potential
Any qualification can only open doors for you and how high or how far does one go through that door will depend on the person, the decisions he takes and ultimately to a great extent “luck” or “timing” or whatever you want to call it. So I wouldn’t want to compare the earnings of a CA or an ACCA with 20 years of experience, but I will just say that ACCA trainees are earning much more than the CA counterparts.
Conclusion
Most people want me to suggest which qualification is better, if there was one such answer, only one would have existed. So you have to make that decision based on what you want to do in your life and where you want to be in your future and not depend on anyone else to suggest the best plan.
Manu Kappan



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