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CPA Vs. CFA: Salary & Responsibilities

May 31, 2020

Comparing CPAs to CFAs

Although certified public accountants (CPAs) and chartered financial analysts (CFAs) both work with money and financial data, their roles differ significantly. CPAs focus on what assets and money a client has while CFAs help determine how clients can increase their money through investments.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2020)* Job Outlook (2018-2028)**
CPA Bachelor's degree; CPA certification $66,287 6% (accountants and auditors)
CFA Bachelor's degree; CFA certificate $88,436 6% (financial analysts)

Sources: *PayScale; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of CPAs vs. CFAs

CPAs and CFAs are both involved with reviewing financial records, consulting with clients and performing calculations. CPAs also produce financial records. They may calculate taxes owed or assess business practices to identify ways to save money. They must also ensure that applicable financial regulations are followed and some may opt to focus on using their skills to identify evidence of fraud or other crimes. CFAs concentrate on understanding market conditions, assessing businesses and determining the best way for a client to invest their money. Their objective is to use investments to produce investment revenue for their clients and in order to do this they may buy or sell things such as stocks on behalf of their clients.

CPA

A certified public accountant is a professional accountant who has gained relevant work experience and completed certification requirements after earning a bachelor's degree in accounting. They are qualified to perform more tasks than regular accountants are qualified to do. Some CPAs opt to specialize in specific areas of accounting, such as financial analysis. Attention to detail is very important for CPAs since they work with large amounts of data and must ensure it is correct. They also need mathematical skills to perform calculations. Some may opt to pursue roles in management and CPAs are also eligible for executive positions in companies.

Job responsibilities of a CPA include:

  • Reviewing financial data
  • Checking records for accuracy
  • Producing tax returns and other financial documents
  • Identifying ways to increase earnings
  • Attending meetings
  • Documenting their work

CFA

A chartered financial analyst is a highly trained financial analyst who has earned a CFA certificate. They can pursue this certificate after they have earned a bachelor's degree and spent several years working in this field. They may also opt to complete a master's degree to be eligible for advancement opportunities. They work in offices, although they may travel to meet with clients, and it's common for CFAs to work overtime. Their main focus is to help their clients make effective decisions about how to invest their money.

Job responsibilities of a CFA include:

  • Evaluating market conditions
  • Meeting with clients
  • Determining client needs
  • Presenting investment recommendations to clients
  • Handling investment transactions

Related Careers

Since there are some comparable skills and training requirements for CFAs and CPAs, those considering these career fields may also be interested in learning about the work that actuarial analysts and financial advisors do. Information about these careers can be accessed via the links listed here.

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