CPA Vs. Financial Advisor

CPA and financial advisor are two popular careers paths in the world of finance. While CPAs work to save clients money through accounting and tax filing, financial advisors grow the wealth of a client through investing and smart saving.

Comparing CPA to Financial Advisors

Both CPAs and financial advisors work in the finance industry and have the same goal -- to save you money and grow your wealth. The primary difference between the two is that CPAs focus on the taxes of an individual or business, while financial advisors aim to grow your income through investments. Other similarities and differences are discussed below.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
CPA Bachelor's Degree $68,150 (accountants and auditors) 10% (accountants and auditors)
Financial Advisor Bachelor's Degree $90,530 (personal financial advisors) 14% (personal financial advisors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of CPAs vs. Financial Advisors

The main role of certified public accountants (CPAs) is to navigate the tricky world of accounting and taxes for their clients. This can range from advising businesses on potential tax breaks to preparing the taxes of an individual. Financial advisors work with clients to grow the money that they have. This begins by determining the goals of their client and then formulating an investing and savings plan to make it a reality.


CPAs are certified professionals in dealing with accounting, taxes, and audit-related issues for businesses, governments, and individuals. Common responsibilities include preparing financial and tax documents, performing audits for their organization, and supplying financial information to potential investors. To become a CPA, a bachelor's degree with an emphasis on accounting is generally required, and some employers prefer applicants with a master's degree. To become fully certified, a national CPA exam must be passed, as well as any licensing requirements met for the state in which the work is being accomplished. CPAs generally work on computers in an office setting, with longer hours required during tax season.

Responsibilities of a CPA include:

  • Advise businesses on the tax advantages or disadvantages of potential deals
  • Guarantee all documents meet government regulations
  • Determine ways to improve the bookkeeping process
  • Communicate financial findings to management though written reports and face-to-face meetings

Financial Advisor

Financial advisors work with individuals to effectively manage and grow their finances. This may be for overall general financial health or for a specific goal, such as retirement or college expenses. These advisors aid in achieving these goals through suggestions regarding investments, savings, mortgages, and estate planning. Financial advisors work business hours in an office setting, though they may need to travel to client's homes in specific cases. A bachelor's degree in finance or a related field is generally required. Many financial advisors become certified, which requires passing an exam and meeting state requirements.

Responsibilities of a financial advisor include:

  • Communicate with clients to understand their goals and track progress
  • Answer questions effectively for those not as knowledgeable in finance
  • Stay up to date on investment opportunities and financial strategies
  • Promote services through networking and advertisements

Related Careers

There are many potential career paths for those interested in finance. If working with taxes sounds appealing you may be interested in becoming a tax preparer. If working with investments is more your style, becoming an investment broker may be the career for you.

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