Should You Be Both A CPA And CFA?

Should You Be Both A CPA And CFA?

It can seem very exciting to start putting acronyms behind your name. I mean, Megan Bierwirth, CPA, CFA, CFP, MBA sounds pretty good, right? To me, it actually looks a little horrifying but that’s neither here nor there.

I’m going to give you some advice right off the bat: don’t just get designations to get designations. These letters actually mean something to your career and you shouldn’t take attaining them lightly. I personally believe there is no reason to be a CPA and CFA unless you make a career change. And even then, you may not need both.


A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is essentially an accountant who is held to the highest standards in the industry. They have to meet minimum education standards, pass the four-part CPA exam, agree to abide by a code of ethics, and continue to work and gain continuing education in the field. They key to a CPA is that they are, at a base level, an accountant.

A Chartered Financial Analyst relates more to finance and investments and is considered the highest standard in the investment industry. They have to pass the rigorous CFA exam, have four years of qualified work experience, agree to follow ethics standards, and be a regular member of a CFA institute. The key to a CFA is that they are in finance and investments.

What Do You Want To Do?

If you’re deciding whether to get your CPA or CFA, I would guess you haven’t completely settled on a career path. While both relate to the financial world, the CPA is much more focused on accounting related matters, while the CFA is focused on financial analysis and investments.

The first thing you need to do before making this decision is decide on a career path. Do you want to work in public accounting, management accounting, auditing, or at all help prepare, evaluate, and confirm financial information? If so, the CPA is for you.

If, on the other hand, you’re more interested in portfolio management, financial analysis, being a consultant, or someday becoming CEO of a company, it would be a much better option to get your CFA.

So Should You Be Both A CPA And CFA?

Say you decide to go for the CPA, and 5 or so years in, you’re bored with accounting (what?! the horror!). Maybe you’re really intrigued by the investment world. Then you would go ahead and consider becoming a CFA (or get those three little letters that employers seem to love: MBA).

I don’t recommend getting both designations right out of college because a) they are meant for different things and b) they are both very time consuming and expensive. If you happen to get one of them now and, in the future, decide to get the other, that’s great. But I wouldn’t go for both of them now. There really is no upside this early in your career, especially since both are so very different.


I know my advice sounds harsh, but I promise wasting time and money on both just to have those six letters won’t be worth it. Pick three letters and go! And, as always, good luck my CPA (or CFA) friends!

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