ACCA or CA? Which one is the better course for you?

Figuring out a career path is tricky. You weigh your options. Make a list of your strengths and skills. And then come to the conclusion that the road ahead leads to a future in the finance and accounting field. Congratulations, you’re done with step one.

Now, you’re at a crossroad. Should you pursue chartered accountancy or work towards an ACCA certification? Both courses have their pros and cons. Both offer viable career paths. But which one is better for you? If you’re confused, you’ve come to the right place to gain some clarity. So let’s get started. Here below are some questions to ask yourself before you make a choice.

What is CA?

Traditionally, Chartered Accountancy has been the dream qualification for many commerce students and also for their parents. Coconuts were cracked open and sweets were widely distributed when CA was completed. The opportunities are huge within India. CA course equips you with tools and knowledge to successfully manage the finances, accounts and taxes of any major organisation in the country.  A qualified CA enjoys an immensely rewarding career. 

What is ACCA?

Formed in 1904, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) institute offers international professional qualification that is globally recognised with more than 500,000 students in 180 countries. While ACCA lacks the glamour and hoopla surrounding the CA course in India, it is by no means inferior as a qualification. In fact, ACCA qualification allows you to work for most multinational companies around the world, whereas a CA could potentially limit you to India.

If you’re still unsure about ACCA vs CA which one is ideal for your career. Here are the pros and cons for each course.

Do you prefer practical application or meticulous theory learning?

If you are the type of person who likes theory, is willing to do a lot of reading and are not intimidated by a large syllabus, then the CA course is for you. This course will require a lot of diligence, single-minded focus and patience. You will have to have the fortitude to stay the course, plough through textbooks and be okay with repeating papers, if needed. The CA course is tough, but it suits students who have a natural affinity for rote learning and are used to the work load.

However, if you would rather learn on the go, prefer practical learning, and have limited time, the ACCA course is best. You also learn a special set of soft skills like decision making, problem solving and effective communication.

Do you have the time to pursue a long term course?

If you decide to do CA course after 12th standard, along with your graduation from regular college, it will take a minimum of 6 to 7 years to receive your certification. If you do it after you get your commerce degree, it will take around 4.5 to 5 years, if you manage to pass all your papers in the first attempt. The CA course has a tremendous work load, so you’ll need to focus on the course alone without compromising your time.

It’s no big secret that the CA course is a tough nut to crack. In fact, this is considered to be one of the toughest exams in India. It is ideal for young students who do not have any serious commitments yet. You also need to be prepared for the possibility that you may not clear the CA exams on your first try. This course is divided into three levels — foundation, intermediate and final, and there is not much flexibility hen it comes to taking the exam papers. You have little choice when appearing for a group or level, and that can make it quite difficult to pass. You need a minimum of 40 per cent in each paper and an average of 50 per cent overall to successfully call yourself a chartered accountant.

For those who are in a hurry to start work, or are of the age where time is a constraint, it might be better to opt for the ACCA certification. The course is divided into three levels – applied knowledge, applied skills, and strategic professional. You can apply for ACCA after 12th standard, along with your graduation. It will take you around 2.5 to 3 years to get certified. After your degree, it might take 1 to 2 years to complete. The ACCA course offers some room for flexibility. A few papers are on demand, while others are held quarterly. A student can appear for 1 to 4 papers of ACCA subjects in a particular quarter. This is valuable as you get adequate time to focus on the tougher papers, and gets reflected in a higher pass rate as well.

Are you’re looking to settle abroad or stay in India?

The CA course is a highly reputed one, and will open up many opportunities for you within India. However, it does not have the same possibilities if you are looking to migrate.

The ACCA course is recognised around the world in several countries including Australia, Dubai, UK and Canada.Even if you choose to stay in India, the ACCA is recognised by many MNCs and corporate firms within the country.

Are you flexible about your career plans?

If you are certain about staying within the field of accounting and auditing, then CA is your course.

With an ACCA qualification, you can get a financial job or pursue consulting with a major company. If you are eventually planning to venture out into other fields or even start your own company, the ACCA course might be a more viable option for you as there is a huge scope for opportunities.

Course details CA ACCA
Eligibility Clear 10th exams with 60 %, with 65 % or more in English and maths Clear 12th school exams with 65% or more in English and mathsCommerce graduates or post graduates with 55 percent overall marks can apply for the intermediate level Clear 12th exams or graduation with a minimum of 65% in 2 subjects and 50% in the others
Work experience Not required 3 years’ work experience is required
Course levels FoundationIntermediate Final Applied knowledgeApplied skillsStrategic professional
Course fees 1 to 2 lakhs 2 to 3 lakhs
Exam papers 20 papers overall 14 papers overall
Pass percentage 40 to 50% pass in the first attempt 85% success rate in the first attempt
Exemptions Commerce graduates or post graduates are exempt from the foundation course Commerce graduates or post graduates can be exempt from 4-5 papers out of 14
Salary expectations Average annual salary is 8 to 9 lakhs, but starting salary is higher for CA than ACCA students Average salary is 8 lakhs, ranging from 4 to 15 lakhs, depending on company and experience 
Government job opportunities CA students qualify for government jobs in India ACCA students do not qualify for government jobs in India
Training requirement 3 years of training experience with a CA firm 3 years of training experience with a CA firm or a corporate company
Scope for migration Only valid in India Globally recognised in over 180 countries

In conclusion

There is no magic lamp at work here. Both qualifications – CA and ACCA – are equipped to provide the necessary skills and knowledge you need to join the workforce. Yet, both have their pros and cons. It is up to you to decide the course best suited for your career. Once the decision is made, focus on obtaining your certification. After that, you are ready to take on the big, lucrative world of accounts & finance and find your place within it.