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Many of us have heard of the US CPA (Certified Public Accountant) designation but few of us are aware that we too can be a part of this elite group having the highest accounting qualification in the US. It does take hard work to pass the CPA exams, but that effort lasts less than 1000 hours of smart study over less than 12 months and only 4 exam parts!

Indian Chartered Accountants - CA(which is an intensive course with 16 papers over 3 levels and taking 5+ years to achieve).

Why CPAs are required in India?

CPAs are Certified Public Accountant who after having passed a four part exam administered by AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) and met work experience requirement, earn their title and license to practice from one of the 50 states of United States of America. CPA is accountants and trusted financial advisers for individuals and businesses that help them plan and achieve their financial goals. Additionally one of the primary functions of a CPA is to provide assurance services, such as financial audit services whereby a CPA would attest that the financials adhere to US GAAP and are reasonably free from material misstatements.

While functioning or role of CPA is the same as an Indian CA, CPA is a profession that is recognized on a global platform. Initially when companies from the US and other global economies were established in India, they hired Indian CAs to meet the compliance requirements of SEC (Securities Exchange Commission of US) and security regulations of other countries. Even Indian companies with a global presence depended on the Indian CAs to meet their global compliance requirements. Even though the Indian CAs received on the job training to produce financials as per US GAAP and IFRS standards, it was challenging for them to meet and keep up with the complex and changing requirements set by SEC.

Additionally any financial reports or SEC documents in US GAAP prepared by them lacked credibility which only delayed proceedings and caused a lot of frustration among companies. This is where CPAs came into the picture. Qualified CPAs not only had the knowledge of US GAAP and IFRS but also have the ability to lend credibility to the prepared financial statements and in meeting the requirements set by SEC. With the increase in F&A outsourcing (Finance and Accounting) to India in the recent times, the need for qualified CPAs has increased multi-fold. Currently CPAs are required in US Consulting firms that have set-ups in India (called the big 4: Deloitte, WC, E&Y and KPMG).and Price water house Coopers, Ernst & Young, CPAs are also required in product and service industries outsourced by multi-nationals such as Amazon. Last but not the least Indian companies with US presence such as Wipro, Infosys and Reliance, GE Capital, JP Morgan, Ford Motors, General Motors, Microsoft, Oracle, Coke, Pepsi have set up shop in India also need CPAs to prepare financials and provide assurance services according to US GAAP and SEC requirements.

The above trend is an opportunity for Indian accounting graduates to pursue a certification that gives global recognition and with it a lucrative salary base. Indian CAs are at a unique advantageous position to pursue CPA because they already have the knowledge that a CPA has and all they require is the credibility which they can achieve by writing the 4 part exam and getting the license.

The demand for CPA has considerably grown in recent times with the considerable growth in MNCs and Big4s in India. This shift in the trend is because of the requirement of knowledge and credibility about US GAAP, IFRS & US Compliance & Taxation by these multinational companies. Indian CA on the other hand has limited geographical recognition and does not cover the topics like IFRS & US GAAP.

This increases the demand for the CPA candidates in India. The demand has increased than the supply and that forced the MNC's and Big 4s to train their CAs as CPAs, In other words they give an extensive training on US GAAP & IFRS reporting and compliance, US Taxation to their existing employees. Now, these CAs who are trained have the knowledge but NOT the CREDIBILITY of a CPA [it's like a B.Com graduate who can do accounting as good as a CA, he's got the knowledge, but NOT the credibility of a CA] Naturally, these MNCs and Big 4 are on the constant look-out for CPAs. Many of them even sponsor their professionals to pursue the CPA course.

CPA (US) is equivalent to CA (India) with lesser papers and exams. Students can earn the same level of knowledge and credibility by pursuing CPA with fewer exams and lesser studies.

CPA exams are conducted by AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountant) whereas CA exams are conducted by ICAI (Institute of Chartered Accountants of India).

CPA gives broader recognition compared to CA. CPA is recognized in USA, India & around the world compared to CA, which is recognized only in India. With the global presence CPA has more job opportunities compared to CA.

CPA covers US GAAP & IFRS, while CA covers Indian GAAP. The primary motive for developing IFRS by IASB is to develop a single set of high quality, understandable, enforceable and globally accepted financial standards based upon clearly articulated principles. CPA syllabus covers IFRS extensively and gives a very good comparison between US GAAP and IFRS. It also gives guidance as how to convert financial statements from US GAAP to IFRS. CA syllabus has very few insights on IFRS and students had to go through a separate course on IFRS and conversion of financial statements from Indian GAAP to IFRS. With increase in numbers of multinational companies there is a lesser supply of CPAs as required by them. With more demand for CPAs and lesser supply, these companies are forced to train CAs and make them work like CPAs. At the end of the day CA's are doing the same job as CPA, even after studying for 4 years.

Passing percentage of CPA is quite high compared to CA so it is a motivation for the students to approach for the CPA course.


American Institute of Certified Public Accountant (AICPA), US

Institute of Chartered Accountant of India (ICAI), India

Course Duration

1 year

4-5 years

Accounting Standards


Indian GAAP


US, India & Global



4 Papers, Single-Level Exam

16 Papers, 3-Level Exam


1 Year in Accounting/Finance

3 Years Article ship under CA

Passing %

40-45% approx.

5-6% approx.

CPA exams have four papers, single-level exam which consist of:

  • FAR - Financial Accounting & Reporting
  • AUD - Auditing
  • REG - Regulation
  • BEC - Business Environment & Concepts

This four subjects, covers pretty much all the areas required to enter into the professional field. CPA covers wide range of topics but not in depth, which actually helps candidates to finish its course on time and practically apply the concepts in real world.

On the other hand CA has around 16 papers, divided in three levels i.e.

  • Common Proficiency Test (CPT)
  • Intermediate (Integrated Professional Competence) Course
  • Final Course

Each level covers each topic in depth. By the time you start working you forget half of the concepts, which you studied in your previous levels. This in depth knowledge is good from education perspective, but the question lies here is, do we apply all the knowledge in the true practical sense? Do we apply all the concepts learnt in the CA exam?

If the answer is no, then we have to start focusing our energy in the course, which gives us the broad knowledge of the subject and areas and prepare us for the industry.

Big4s like Deloitte, PWC, EY, KPMG and Price water house Coopers, Ernst & Young, or multinational companies like GE Capital, JP Morgan, Ford Motors, General Motors, Microsoft, Oracle, Coke, Pepsi Ranbaxy, Nestle, have set up shop in India Citibank or the banks like ICICI, HDFC who raise money from USA capital markets and are registered with SEC are required to present their financial statements as per US GAAP for which they need a CPA.

These companies can only hear CPA even if you shout both CA and CPA. CA candidates, often feels the need to enhance their qualification and finish their CPA just to fit into the role required by this foreign multinationals.

They end up doing CPA anyways, so it's like 16 papers for CA and then additional 4 papers for CPA. Why to use this long route, if we can attain same level of credibility by just clearing 4 CPA papers. Most of the CA candidates can't believe that they can attain same level of credibility, recognition and career growth by just clearing 4 papers of CPA exam.

Globalization had brought lot of opportunities for the CPA candidates to work anywhere in the world but this is not possible in the case of CA candidates as they have restricted geographic recognition i.e. recognized only in India.

Besides, the accuracy requirement is pretty high on CPA with 75 as the passing score. Nevertheless, the pass rate on the CPA exams is still 45%-50% (way higher than CA). Although the cost incurred of pursuing this course from the US is higher than the cost incurred in pursuing CA from India, a candidate can complete CPA course in a much lesser time. It normally takes 7-12 months in completing the CPA Course whereas it takes a minimum of 3 years to complete CA.

Candidates who have cleared both CPA & CA have revealed that clearing CPA is much easier than clearing CA. Not only is this Course easier than the Indian CA Course but the presence of good coaching centres which are now present in India for this course has also lead to Indians scoring good marks in the CPA Exams. Of all the Students who appear for the *US CPA Exam *from across the Globe, approximately 50% are able to clear these exams.

To be eligible for CPA foundation examination which is first level examination in CPA curriculum, the student must have any of the below qualification.

  • Members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India.
  • Members of the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants in India.
  • Members of the Company Secretaries in India.
  • Master of Commerce
  • MBAs

Generally, most Indian B.Com graduates are eligible to take the CPA exams. Minimum education requirements for US CPA exams and license:

  • CPA Exam - 120 Credits
  • CPA License - 150 Credits

Every year of university education in India is equivalent to 30 semester credits of US education.

  • Using 1 year = 30 credits,
  • B.Com = 3 years x 30 credits = 90 credits

Exception: If B.Com is completed in 1st division from a NAAC 'A' university, the 3-year B.Com would be treated as 4 years of US education, i.e., 120 credits for B.Com alone.

  • B.Com + M.Com/MBA = 90/120 credits + 60 credits = 150/180 credits
  • B.Com + CA/CS/CWA = 90/120 credits + 60 credits = 150/180 credits
  • CA/CS/CWA recognized by few states as 2 years of US education

If Not Eligible candidate may go through the 1-year Post Graduate Diploma in accounting i.e for the candidate with

  • B.Com from non-NAAC A university and/or without 1st division
  • Non-B.Com graduates - Generally, not eligible due to lack of adequate accounting credits. However, few courses like BBA, BBM, etc. may be eligible and are reviewed on a case-to-case basis

Just like CPA examination even the licensing requirements vary state to state. As a general rule, to apply for the CPA license, one has to meet the four "E" parameters.

  • E - Examination
  • E - Education
  • E - Experience
  • E - Ethics

Examination: Successfully pass all the four parts of uniform CPA examination conducted by the AICPA

Education: One requires minimum 150 semester credit hours to be eligible for the CPA license

Experience: Most state requires at least two years of public accounting experience. There are many states who also accept non-public accounting experience to be eligible for the CPA license. However there are some states that have more specific requirements such as specified amount of auditing work experience.

Ethics: Ethics is a short offline course which needs to be completed either before or after the CPA examination. Normally once the ethics course is purchased, you have a year to complete it. Ethics exams can be taken at your convenience from home.

International Candidate: Candidates who takes the CPA exam in a location outside of the US, their exam credit lapse unless the candidate is able to get the CPA license within 3 years of clearing the CPA examination.

"ONLY" Miles helps you get there: To apply for the license, you must have work experience under a CPA or verified by a CPA. This is one of the most critical requirements for international candidates because of the 3 years rule and "Miles" is the only review course provider in India with licensed CPA's who can authorize your work experience. Based on the four "E" parameters, Miles guide you in the selection of state board, credits to be obtained and end to end service to obtain license & achieve CPA designation.

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