Certified Public Accountant) CPA Salary in India & How to become one in 2022?

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation, the crown of accounting excellence awarded by the associations of International Certified Public Accountant. Yes its like the Olympics of accounting career, that will turn eyes when your resumes travel through HR’s. 

I am going to be the sherlock homes today, to investigate the CPA course and its use in India in terms of salary.

What we cover:

CPA designation: How valuable is it?

It’s a English version of chartered accountant and the name CPA, is not just in U.S but 50 other countries. Hence there is CPA U.S, Australia, Canada. We are talking about CPA (U.S) and why not CPA Australia? Well for a simple reason, most of the accounting work in India is done for the U.S.

Lets look at some statistics on the various qualifications of accounting across the world and their popularity

  • CPA U.S-0.6 Million Licensed in 130 countries
  • ACCA-0.2 Million qualified ACCA’s across the world
  • CPA Australia :0.168 Million qualified CPA Australia members across 130 countries
  • CA(ICAI):0.03 Mn or 3 Lac chartered accountants in India from ICIA

The numbers do prove some serious following for this qualification, also considering the qualification started in 1896. Woosh! That’s old.  

Along with that recently it merged with CIMA( Chartered Institute of Management Accountants), also a biggie in the field of costing. That makes CPA indeed a pretty strong body to back your credentials.

What is the salary of US CPA in India?

As per glass door and Pay scale the median salary of CPA’s in India is  INR 6,94 Lacs. That sounds too low but please understand, it’s the median salary and it says nothing about work experience. If you dig deeper, you see the real picture.

Entry level salary of CPA

ExperienceEntry Level1-4 Years5-9 Years10-19 Years
Compensation6.12 Lacs6.44 Lacs10 Lacs20 Lacs and above

Well that sounds good but lets see how does the average salary differ across roles:

  • Financial Reporting -INR 7.07 Lacs
  • Taxation: INR 7.14 Lacs
  • Consulting: INR 7.74 Lacs
  • Auditing: INR 8.23 Lacs
  • Financial analysis: INR 7.25 Lacs

Hence the highest value of a CPA at entry level would be in audit and assurance, which is expected because CPA’s are majorly known for auditing.

CA vs CPA-Who earns more?

That’s a tough one! Its like fight between Muhammad Ali and mike Tyson. CA is enacted by law in India and CPA in U.S. 

Neck to Neck is the answer: Chartered accountants in India have an average salary of INR 7 Lacs P.A with very similar profiles of growth with experience. That is understandable because most of these MNC’s would prefer CPA’s but equally settle with CA’s because of their quality.

However interestingly, CA’s earn higher salaries not in the same fashion as CPA’s

  • Reporting: INR 7.02 Lacs
  • Accounting Management:7.10 Lacs
  • Financial Analysis: 7.31 Lacs
  • Taxation: 6.61 Lacs
  • Auditing:7.03 Lacs

The data suggests that CA’s earn the highest in financial analysis, unlike auditing for CPA’s. So plain answer is both earn respectable salaries in their own worlds.

Job opportunities After CPA

CPA is like a master key, for many doors it can open in finance and accounting. Its interesting to see that CPA’s actually, get more wide variety and diversity in terms of their profiles.

  • Tax services
  • Audit assurance
  • Tax accountant
  • Compliance analyst
  • Financial analyst
  • Business analyst
  • Data analyst
  • Internal auditor
  • IT Auditor
  • Financial reporting
  • Financial systems project manager
  • Forensic accountant

Now that’s a lot of functions that a CPA can get into at least when we look at the roles CPA holders. You can validate my statements here on the CPA website

In between there is a famous saying by AICPA- “ All CPA’s are accountants but not all accountants are not CPA’s

” Whatever that means. I think that’s the case with any qualification.

 Its like saying “ All Indian team members in the national ODI team are cricketers but not all crickets are Indian ODI team member” .

Now lets try to see the actual roles from experience perspective.

Entry Level

  • Staff Auditor: Performs small audit under the supervision of senior auditors
  • Tax staff: Performs financial audit under senior supervision
  • Management services and consulting: Reviews integrity of financial systems, provides advisory services

Senior Level

  • Senior Auditor: Works under the supervision of audit manage. Responsibilities include overseeing audit work, assignment of work to staff level and review of working paper. They also prepare financial statements, file corporate tax returns etc.
  • Tax senior staff: Prepares tax returns of individuals and organisations. Consulting for tax planning. Researching on new tax saving strategies.
  • Financial controller: Also known as the chief of accounting is a senior position in corporate accounting. He/she is responsible for the work of accounting professionals in the firm, interpreting financial data. Since a controller is the data centre, he/she is involving in developing forecasts for the companies and their projects.

Partner Level

  • Usually 2% of the CPA’s usually make it this ivory tower. The rewards at this level is significant, and they also purchase equity in the firm. Partner level executives are involved in developing company policies, planning activities, and involve in day to day management  activities

How difficult is the CPA Exam

The CPA exam has 4 sections

  • Auditing and Attestation ( AUD)
  • Business Environment and Concepts(BEC)
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting( FAR)
  • Regulation( REG)

I actually have to admit how simple division the CPA program is, just clear 4 sections and fly off. Compared to any other designation in the world, some has levels and almost all have parts.

The passing score is 75 ( on 0-99 scale), which is a tall expectation. All the four subjects have to be cleared withing 18 months. These both requirements I think make the CPA exam difficult indeed.

What makes the CPA exam so difficult?

  • The four subjects covered have quite a lot of content and diverse topics to be covered, along with the 4 hour exams for each subject.
  • A lot of students have reported that FAR to be the most difficult subject

Lets look at the pass rate as per subjects

CPA SubjectsPass rate %
AUD52%
BEC60%
FAR48%
REG56%

Conclusion

CPA is no doubt one of the most difficult  professional credentials in the world of accounting , at the same time rewarding. It is also true that it is rewarding in India too, due to the sheer increase in the number of U.S based companies. Our review of the CPA program as a career option is 5/5  in the world of accounting and fares equally compared to ICAI(CA).

If you are a CA already in India, then it won’t hurt to take up CPA too. If you are not a CA, or you are too late in the game of CA then CPA can be your redemption.

Best of luck.

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ALLEN ARAVINDAN,CFA

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