Financial certificates like Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) are requirements to get licensed. Each certificate prepares you for a different set of tasks depending on your desired career trajectory.

Comparing CPA to CISA is like comparing apples to oranges. It’s because each of them focuses on a different aspect of accounting. CPA is a generalist certificate for people who want to become accountants, while CISA is for people who want to work as auditors. It’s possible to take both.

By putting CPA and CISA in a side-by-side comparison, you can see the commonalities and contrasts. Perhaps, this comparison will help you decide which path to take. So, if you’re interested in accounting and becoming a recognized accountant or auditor, you’ll gain lots of insights when you read this article.

What Is The CPA And Who Should Take It?

The CPA is a certificate for accountants who can earn it when they meet their state requirements for CPA. Think of someone with a CPA as a superstar accountant prepared to solve complex accounting problems for organizations and individuals.

CPA teaches you how to create and analyze financial records. Earning as a CPA as an accountant is the first to become a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or lead the finance department for small organizations.

CPAs are also able to work with private persons on tax filing and other accounting tasks. Someone with a CPA designation has received the training to work with companies of all sizes in the public and private sectors. You can also work independently for your own accounting firm, an accounting consultant, or a freelancer for for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

Through earning a CPA, you can learn how to run the financial side of any business with accuracy. You train to use the tools to create detailed reports that describe the financial situation of organizations and individuals.

You can work as an accountant with an accounting degree. However, to advance in your career, you’ll need to become a CPA. So, if you’ve just finished an undergraduate course, the next logical step is earning a CPA.

However, the requirements of earning your CPA will depend on the regulations in your state. Usually, the Board of Accountancy in your state will determine the license requirements.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants founded the CPA in 1887. And the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination is the body responsible for granting it. As for every career, there’s a primary professional certification. CPA is the top certificate in the accounting industry.

What Is The CISA And Who Should Take It?

The Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) founded CISA in 1978.

It’s a certificate for accountants who want to become auditors focusing on Information Technology (IT) and Information Systems (IS). As an auditor, your job is to verify financial records and make sure that the math adds up.

The CISA prepares you to analyze financial statements that the accountants create. You’ll become proficient in forensic and investigative accounting to help employers with their financial records.

Auditors work with public companies in creating annual financial reports. They also make sure that the finance of a company follows fiscal laws and regulations. As an accountant with auditing training, you can work in-house for any company or a third party. You can also join public accounting firms for auditing all types of business.

The CISA also prepares you to work in the government entities such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), tax agencies, and other federal agencies.

The Difference Between CPA And CISA

Both CPA and CISA teach the same skills. However, they part ways when it comes to details. While CPAs are proficient at painting the big picture, auditors are more concerned about the fine details that make that big picture.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise as the slightest error can cost millions and even billions for banks, accounting firms, and finance organizations.

Furthermore, auditors also hunt for fraud, money laundering, bribery and corruption, and a host of financial crimes. The CISA also focuses more on the financial information security aspect. If CPAs are the police for the financial industry, auditors are the homicide detectives.

In most states, you’ll need a little more than a bachelor’s degree to apply for the CPA. To earn the CISA, you’ll need at least five years of industry experience. You’ll find that prominent accounting firms require the CPA to consider hiring you.

Both CPA and CISA will teach you to work with numbers. You need to be a ‘natural’ with numbers, though. You should be comfortable using calculators and spreadsheets because they do most of the numbers work for you, and that’s what you’ll learn through a CPA or CISA.

Which Is Best For You?

For a would-be accountant who finished his or her degree, you can’t go wrong with the CPA. Even if you like auditing, you can get the CISA after the CPA. If you already have a CPA and want to break into auditing, the CISA is your best choice.

If making sense of numbers and telling stories through graphs is your thing, you’ll enjoy studying the CPA. As you learn, you’ll discover your favorite path. Whether it’s working for a government agency to serve the public, starting your own accounting business to work with celebrities on their taxes, CPA is best.

As for those who like to analyze numbers and hunt for errors, auditing will be the right path for them. An auditing career will expose you to the hidden aspects of the financial world beyond appearance.

Notably, a career in finance is secure, stable, and lucrative. Whether it’s accounting or auditing, you can be safe and sure with your future. Even when you want to switch careers, accounting is so vast that you can move between lanes while staying in the same industry.

This flexibility isn’t available in other professions. In the end, it’s all about your goals, personality type, and the world around you.

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