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Which do you think is harder CPA or CFA

VTBoyVTBoy Posts: 580Registered User Member
edited March 2012 in Business Major
Just wondering which of these two do you think is harder.
Post edited by VTBoy on
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Replies to: Which do you think is harder CPA or CFA

  • vienna manvienna man Posts: 898Registered User Member
    The CPA is more difficult since the Standards change so rapidly and the body of knowledge is ever expanding. Failing to take the CPA right after receiving one's accounting or MBA degree could lead to the worst of all situations-recognizing an issue or problem and utilizing knowledge that is out of date or only partially correct. You can be 100% right based on what you knew perfectly, but because of revisions end up being completely wrong.

    The CFA is grounded more by its finance emphasis and the principles of finance do not have the same rapid degree of change.
  • taxguytaxguy Posts: 6,561Registered User Senior Member
    People that I known that have achieved both designations have told me that the CPA was a much harder test.
  • CITATION XCITATION X Posts: 743. Member
    CPA is w/o any doubt is much more difficult, and keep in mind its also a professional license, as opposed to a mere designation - and the stats generally indicate something like 1 in 5 can never pass it

    The CFA, while easier, in recent years has gotten a bit more difficult and of course is not a license per se.

    I've known approx 7 or 8 CPAs who've taken the CFA, and nearly every single one breezed through the CFA - and I doubt the inverse would be true.
  • VTBoyVTBoy Posts: 580Registered User Member
    Have you heard of FSA and FCAS, personally from people I talked to with this and CFA or CPA, they said FSA/FCAS is much harder than the CFA or CPA. What do you think.
  • Pre-medwannabePre-medwannabe Posts: 809Registered User Member
    CPA is def harder by standards, but in business nothing is too easy.
  • CITATION XCITATION X Posts: 743. Member
    FAS/FCAS are two of the actuarial designations

    Correct, its common knowledge they are harder then EVEN the CPA exam, however they are part of a relatively narrow field
  • monkey2003monkey2003 Posts: 1Registered User New Member
    Actuaries have it way harder than Accountants when it comes to exams. Actuarial exams are harder than CPA exams because there are at least 7 exams you need to take to get your FSA/FCAS title and each exam has passing rate of at most 40% (one exam pasing was less than 20% ) and each exam is taken individually while CPA is taken all at once. Theres no way in hell anyone can take all 7 actuarial exams at one time. However, once a person gets their FSA/FCAS than it is a bit less stress in work than wat CPA have to deal with. Keep in mind all the math you need for the CPA is algebra while Actuarial Exam there is 100 times more math involved.
  • ryanbisryanbis Posts: 836Registered User Member
    Sigh...

    I'm not saying that the actuarial exams are harder, but you guys really need to get your facts straight.

    "Actuarial exams are harder than CPA exams because there are at least 7 exams you need to take to get your FSA/FCAS title and each exam has passing rate of at most 40% (one exam pasing was less than 20% ) each exam is taken individually while CPA is taken all at once"

    There are four parts to the CPA exam and each part currently has a pass rate of 30-40%. The CPA exam is no longer taken over the course of two days--when it was, it had a 10% pass rate.



    "Keep in mind all the math you need for the CPA is algebra while Actuarial Exam there is 100 times more math involved."

    That has nothing to do with anything. The CPA exam is NOT A MATH TEST. The vast majority of the test is based on law, regulation and accounting methods. The number and type of math problems on an exam IS NOT A MEASURE OF DIFFICULTY. That is a very simplistic and base view on exams.

    The two exams are completely different animals for two completely different purposes. The CPA exam is there to help ensure that you are competent enough to serve the public's interest--not to see how good you are at deriving equations.
  • sparlingsparling Posts: 1Registered User New Member
    I laughed when I read the responses above. Talk about needing to get your facts straight.

    I'm an actuary and deciding to get out of Pension Consulting and move over to the investment side. I've passed CFA Level 1 and 2 and will be taking Level 3 next year. I work with 3 people that first were CPAs and now have also passed CFAs. I also have a couple of friends that I took business classes with in college that have switched over.

    First of all, each designation takes time, effort, and some substantial studying. They use a mix of analytical skills (some more then others) and require the test taker to memorize and interpret laws and regulations. Studying for a designation would always be difficult if you don't do it immediately after school (no matter if rules are changing). It just becomes more difficult to study if you been away from it awhile. All three designations use some of the things that you learned it school.

    So here is my somewhat experienced strong opinion. Say you took a group of business students with strong analytical skills and they took a wide variety of math, accounting, and finance classes in college and asked to take all the exams for the CPA, CFA, and FSA designations. I strongly believe they would rank them in this manner: Most difficult-FSA, next CFA and then the CPA.

    Also, the actuarial exams are not math exams. The first couple requires some very complicated analytical skills. The latter exams require the understanding of so many different areas: finance, insurance, pensions and even some accounting issues.

    It is funny that I've known several CPAs that failed the CFA Level 2 accounting section because they thought they wouldn't have to study. It is one of the largest and more important sections on CFA Level 2.

    I'm all over the place on this reply but like I said, I was shocked when I read the prior responses. If you have the heart and the dedication, study what you think you will enjoy the most. I just wanted to express a different opinion.
  • Sam LeeSam Lee Posts: 9,449Registered User Senior Member
    I agree with sparling.

    CPA may have the lowest passing rate but I believe the quality of the test takers is also the lowest of the three on average. I'd seen some accountants being very slow in doing simple multiplication/subtraction. My cousin who would fail anything requiring some sort of, let alone anything advanced, analytical skill (e.g. stats/math) is doing great in her accouting classes. She's working as an internal auditor for a small firm. There's no stats involved in CPA, is there?

    CFA covers many different areas and I believe it requires a more well-rounded skill-set than CPA. I think it just depends on the person.

    These two, I believe, are nowhere near the difficulty of FSA/FCAS. The very first exam requires strong understanding of college-level calculus and statistics (including probability) and know how to apply them for insurnance type problems. I was one of the top scorers (including an A+ in Calculus III) in calculus classes at WashU (transferred to Northwestern later); I considered to be an actuary at one point and I found the first exam questions no walk in the park. It's no accident that only 2000+ people carry FSA designation (pass all 9 exams) in the US. The pass rate may look high (30%-40s%) but the candidates are extremely self-selected group of pretty bright people, many of whom were math/stats/applied math majors though the whole sequence of exams is way more than math tests (it even has accouting and regulation). Some insurance firms, the biggest employer of actuaries, list SAT of 1300 as the minimum requirement for internship. I have never seen such requirement in accounting.
  • Bob_WBob_W Posts: 3Registered User New Member
    Hello All!

    I was just wondering out of the three designations (FSA, CFA, CPA):

    1. Which designation has the highest average earning salaries?
    2. Which designation is the most specialized and which designation is most sought after by the general population of companies?
    3. If you do not complete the full designation, such as attain Fellowship for the FSA or Charter for the CFA, is it possible to still have a lucrative career in those fields? (My understanding is that it is extremely difficult to attain a managerial role if fellowship or charter is not attained)
    4. I have read in other discussions that a MBA from a top MBA school is more valuable than a CFA designation however, a CFA designation is more valuable than a MBA from a non-top 20 MBA school. Given that this is true, if we were to compare the average earning of a "lower" MBA, CFA, FSA, and CPA, which one would have the highest average earnings?
    5. This is probably the most important question; Out of the 3 designations (CFA, FSA, CPA) and 1 degree (MBA) which one will be most sought after by employers in the future, say a decade or two down the road?

    Thanks All!

    Questions for posting members.

    SPARLING:
    I am currently pursuing my associateship for the society of actuaries, however, as you can probably see, I am having my doubts. I am currently working for a pension consulting firm directly under a cheif actuary, and from my understanding it is all or nothing (as in attain fellowship) if you want to have a lucrative career in this field. My question to you is:

    1. Why did you decide to move over to the investment side, as in decide to attain a CFA and not pursue the career path of an actuary? If this is too personal and inappropriate, I apoigize.
    2. How would you rate the level of difficulty of attaining the CFA in comparison to the first few exams (probability, financial mathematics, actuarial models) of the FSA?

    Thank you.

    - confused and seeking insight and guidance

    SAM LEE:
    My question to you is similar to SPARLINGs, however it differs slightly in the sense that what did you decide to pursue and why did you decide that becoming a actuary was not in your future career path? Again, if this was too personal and inappropriate, I apoligize. Thank you.

    - confused and seeking insight and guidance
  • tetrisheadtetrishead Posts: 502Registered User Member
    1. Which designation has the highest average earning salaries?
    Impossible to say. Intuition might tell most people that a CFA would have the higher starting salary, but the reality is that it totally depends where you are in your career. People could be getting the CPA so they can open a boutique firm with clients already lined up or to pad their resume for a consulting gig, while the CFA could be just out of college making cold calls working for commissions they're not getting. Alternatively, the CPA could be doing menial work for one of the big four and getting it just to make a minor advancement in the corporate ladder, while the CFA could already be an established stock broker doing well. Actuaries tend to do well in general, but from everything I've seen they have a ceiling that CFA's and CPA's don't.
    2. Which designation is the most specialized and which designation is most sought after by the general population of companies?
    They're different topics, they're both specialized. The CFA is more difficult than the CPA, the FAS is probably more difficult than the CFA. The CPA is more sought after because a CPA can do pretty much anything, but a lot of that is dependent on work experience.
    3. If you do not complete the full designation, such as attain Fellowship for the FSA or Charter for the CFA, is it possible to still have a lucrative career in those fields? (My understanding is that it is extremely difficult to attain a managerial role if fellowship or charter is not attained)
    Eh. If you're sitting for a CFA then you probably want to work in the front office, and without a CFA it's pretty much impossible to advance or get some of the access you want. It's conceivable that you could advance in accounting without a CPA, but it's difficult. You can work in the financial 'arena' easier without a CFA than you can in accounting without a CPA if just because you can become a CFP. I'm not that familiar with actuary work, but I'd imagine that an FAS is a requirement.
    4. I have read in other discussions that a MBA from a top MBA school is more valuable than a CFA designation however, a CFA designation is more valuable than a MBA from a non-top 20 MBA school. Given that this is true, if we were to compare the average earning of a "lower" MBA, CFA, FSA, and CPA, which one would have the highest average earnings?
    Apples and oranges. An MBA is a degree, a CFA is a professional certification. You can't draw any real quanitative comparisons between them.
    5. This is probably the most important question; Out of the 3 designations (CFA, FSA, CPA) and 1 degree (MBA) which one will be most sought after by employers in the future, say a decade or two down the road?
    Probably the CPA or FSA, with the MBA being the least sought after because of supply and demand.
  • Bob_WBob_W Posts: 3Registered User New Member
    Hello All!

    I was just wondering out of the three designations (FSA, CFA, CPA):

    1. Which designation has the highest average earning salaries?
    2. Which designation is the most specialized and which designation is most sought after by the general population of companies?
    3. If you do not complete the full designation, such as attain Fellowship for the FSA or Charter for the CFA, is it possible to still have a lucrative career in those fields? (My understanding is that it is extremely difficult to attain a managerial role if fellowship or charter is not attained)
    4. I have read in other discussions that a MBA from a top MBA school is more valuable than a CFA designation however, a CFA designation is more valuable than a MBA from a non-top 20 MBA school. Given that this is true, if we were to compare the average earning of a "lower" MBA, CFA, FSA, and CPA, which one would have the highest average earnings?
    5. This is probably the most important question; Out of the 3 designations (CFA, FSA, CPA) and 1 degree (MBA) which one will be most sought after by employers in the future, say a decade or two down the road?

    Thanks All!

    - still seeking other opinions and insight
  • Malishka31Malishka31 Posts: 2,971Registered User Senior Member
    5. FSA- there are only 18k actuaries in the US- not FSA but just actuaries in general- the expected job growth rate is 24% . There is like 1.3m accountants. Out of those clearly more have CPA designation that those that have FSA designation. Also to obtain FSA it is a longer process than the other two . Just on those factors i would deem FSA more valuable to employers. Also actuaries are sought after for top management positions , if you want a job like CEO one day being an FSA would be a big plus. You have lots of management options with FSA designation. Also, based on what i looked regarding the exams, couldnt an FSA quite easily obtain CFA without excessive effort?
  • Sam LeeSam Lee Posts: 9,449Registered User Senior Member
    monkey, you need 9 exams to reach FSA, not 7.
    Also, based on what i looked regarding the exams, couldnt an FSA quite easily obtain CFA without excessive effort

    Yes, I think so too, especially after looking at 20 pages of equations for this single exam!!! http://www.soa.org/files/pdf/edu-2007-11-exam-fet-pm.pdf

    As for CFA vs CPA, I think it just depends. My good friend who just got his CPA can't handle the math in CFA (not that it's that complicated but math is my friend's weakness). But apparently, some people with CFA designation have trouble passing CPA exams.
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