Both ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and CFA (Chartered Financial Analysts) are globally recognized qualifications, ACCA is geared more towards accountancy and finance while CFA is more or less all about portfolio management and the processes surrounding it (equity research, fixed income research, economics etc).
Your choice in my opinion should be based on your professional goals in the long run. Would you enjoy preparing accounts, putting in place internal controls and running a finance and accounting division of a large corporate or would you rather spend your time analyzing financial and operational information of different companies, trying to identify investment opportunities in the global equity and fixed income markets? Or to put it simply, would you rather be a CFO or a Fund manager? If its the former ACCA would suit you better while if its the latter CFA should be your choice.
Let me help clear the confusion.
- BOTH the courses are brilliant in their own stand
- BOTH have international recognition and exposure
- BOTH are similar in duration (24–36 months)
- BOTH are similar in their cost/ fee structure (2–4 lacs, depending on number of attempts)
What is DIFFERENT about the courses are the following:
- ACCA teaches us essentially what CFAs learn - accounting, financial management, costing, auditing, tax and has a very powerful business paper now. Most candidates pursue ACCA due to its flexibility in duration and the high value its garnering around the world.
- CFA teaches us everything to do with investments, financial markets - equity, debt, derivatives, etc., portfolio management, wealth management, hedging and trading techniques.
- As an ACCA, you can see your future in fields such as Accounting Advisory (IFRS), Risk Advisory, Mergers & Acquisitions, Valuations, Internal Audit, Assurance, International Taxation, Transfer Pricing, Forensic Auditing, Financial Reporting, etc.
- As a CFA, you can see yourself as a Portfolio Manager, Wealth Manager, Investment Banker (may need an MBA for this as well), Equity Research Analyst, Trader/ Dealer in Derivates and Currency Markets, etc.
- You can appear for ACCA almost as soon as you’re out of school! We have students pursuing it in their 11th grade and every grade from thereon! No eligibility criteria as such in terms of accounting background, marks, age, etc.
To summarize, if you’re confused between the two, I suggest you ask for people around you who would be working in the profiles I mentioned earlier, and speak to them. Take a call based on that.
If you’re still confused, and you have the energy and focus, like a lot of students, you can complete ACCA and then pursue CFA, especially if you’re still in college!