Many of our undergraduate students think they want to be accountants, but very few stick with this subject beyond their sophomore year. It is common to change majors a couple of times throughout your time in college; accounting seems to be one of those subjects that people start because they think it will make them earn plenty of money, only to later realize it simply isn’t the career field for them.
Although it is not a career for everyone, those who want to pursue accounting have many decisions to make. Some of the biggest choices you will have to make are in regards to your certifications.
CPAs in the US
In the United States, the vast amount of accounting majors seek CPA (Certified Public Accountant) licensure. The CPA licensing requirements vary by state, but most require a bachelor’s degree, a specific amount of experience and a passing score on the CPA exam.
To keep the license, CPAs are often required to complete at least 40 hours of professional development each year. It’s a big commitment, but the CPA licensure is expected by most employers and clients in the US.
CA: Chartered Account
If you are looking to work outside the US, you will likely need a different kind of certification and/or licensure. One of the most popular certifications in places like India is “CA” or Chartered Accountancy. CA studies focus on specific fields of accountancy such as taxation, auditing and company law. Their courses require 19 “papers” as exams. Courses last 5-6 years and there are levels for common proficiency, integrated professional competence and a final. Only about 5-10% of candidates pass the rigorous standards. Chartered accountants are preferred in India because of their vast knowledge of taxation and business finance. CA courses require 3 years of apprenticeship, so CAs emerge from college with experience, making them highly employable.
ACCA: International Recognition
The Association of Chartered Accountants, or ACCA, is an internationally recognized body. ACCA curriculum is focused more on taxes and audits than corporate finance, but the certification is more widely recognized than the CA certification. If you plan to work outside of countries where CA certification is the norm, or in a field that focuses on taxes and audits, you might want to opt for ACCA accounting courses. In ACCA courses, you will complete 14 papers during a 2-3 year course of instruction. Exams are about 2-3 hours each. About 30-40% of students pass ACCA courses.
ACCA is globally accepted, but most popular in European countries since the ACCA is located in the United Kingdom. It is probably one of the most flexible certifications available.
Which Certification is Right for Me?
Your location and aspirations are the deciding factors in choosing which accounting certifications are right for you. Since most of our readers are located in the United States, the CPA certification will be the most popular choice. But, if you majored in accounting and you are looking to make your field more exciting, you might opt for ACCA. That way, you can travel to many different countries with your certifications and find a job in various locations.
Whichever certification you choose, make sure it is suitable to your own professional situation.
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