Hi, I am a CFA level-1 candidate, registered to write in Dec 2020. I was working as an associate equity analyst specializing in mining companies in Vancouver (BC) and lost my job recently. I want to change the industry and I am thinking of doing CPA on the side while I am doing CFA. Would anyone have any thoughts?

Many thanks!

CPA will help you greatly, especially if you’re looking to pursue a career in accounting. The rewards are really generous. How you are going to manage both the exams and of course the post qualification experience is something you should figure out.

This is a very good idea. CPA is straightforward, you test on computer, and you can retake immediately if you fail. Four exams. Make sure you also meet the educational qualifications in your state, without which you will not be allowed to test. A bachelor’s degree alone is not enough. Unless you have a master’s degree, you will have to make up units. And you need specific units in accounting and business related subjects. Arguably the barriers to being able to test are tougher than the tests themselves. You can make up units so that you can sit the exams using the University of North Alabama online courses and the College Board (CLEP) exam (pass the College Board accounting exam and transfer the credit for that to UNA, then submit the UNA transcript to your state).

As well as passing the four exams, you will have to meet the experience qualifications in your state in order to practice. Typically this is one or two years of accounting practice signed off by your supervisor (who, depending on the state, may need to be a licenced CPA). There are usually specific additional requirements for you to be able to “attest” (i.e., sign off an audit opinion for a client’s accounts).

CPA is in some ways more useful because it is a licence. Without the CPA, you cannot legally practice as an accountant. CFA is not a licence. It’s a gong, albeit a highly respected one. But, like an MBA, CFA does not, in and of itself, qualify you to do anything (at least in a legal sense).

The additional time demand of CPA on top of CFA is not significant and the great advantages are the computer based testing system and the immediate re-test option, which CFAI sadly declines to offer.

If you work hard, you can clear CPA in 6 - 12 months once you reach the bar that permits you to test. CPA is also relatively inexpensive. The exams cost about $200 a time. So, you could pay for all your exam entries for the cost of a single exam level of the CFA.