Hi everyone, welcome to the most valuable write-up on Financial Advisor vs CPA.

When you successfully read through this write-up, we guarantee you a better understanding of the difference between a Financial Advisor and a CPA as it relates to their educational requirements, job description, and professionalism processes.

In this article, we shall review:

What it means to be a Financial Advisor vs CPA
The educational requirements for both professionals
The earning potential of a CPA vs FA
The skills & industry outlook for CPAs and FAs

Let’s dig deep to unravel the differences between these two professionals.

Introduction to Financial Advisor vs CPA

If you are like the many Americans who want to manage finances as a career, you might have heard that being a Financial Advisor or a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is amongst your top choices.

Considering that they both offer clients financial soundness, it would appear that these careers are the same.

However, the two professions differ considerably – from educational requirements to earning potential.

Financial Advisor vs CPA: What do they do?

Both CPAs and Financial Advisors provide individuals and organizations with accurate financial information to keep their businesses and personal finances afloat – ultimately reaching goals.

The careers offer eminent rewards for professionals in their industries, including career longevity and high-income potential.

Attaining rewards requires high competitiveness, which stems from the ability of an individual to perform their work task appropriately.

Furthermore, the most successful individuals in the professions usually possess skills such as critical thinking and being smart with numbers.

While both professions require individuals with a seasoned mathematical ability, there are several differences between the two.

Therefore, for the benefit of choosing the right career, or to inform yourself about the differences between the two professions, here are a few contrasting aspects between Financial Advisors and CPAs.

Here is an in-depth look at what each career entails.

Certified Public Accountants (CPAs)

A Certified Public Accountant or CPA is a financial professional who typically works in tax services including, preparing and filing state, local, or federal tax returns.

In other words, a CPAs responsibility is to routinely check an organization’s or individual’s tax situation and ensure the business or individual reduces their annual tax obligation.

CPAs may also provide auditing services, in which professionals examine financial reports to improve the quality of financial decisions.

Finally, CPAs assist with managing a business owner’s or individual’s daily financial services and provide tactical, long-term plans.

Let’s now take a closer look at what a Financial Advisor does.

Financial Advisor

Financial Advisors are different from CPAs in that instead of focusing on reducing your tax liability, they are responsible for providing financial advice to help you grow your wealth.

Financial Advisors evaluate your current state of finances to create a risk-aware plan specifying how to organize your finances to meet your goals.

Some financial planning that Financial Advisors focus on is investment strategies, like the stock market, estate planning, and retirement planning.

In addition, Financial Advisors also spend time interrogating you about your financial and personal information to draw a course of action to help you meet your future needs.

Financial Advisors help clients develop wealth management strategies, assess risk appetite, monitor progress, forecast risks, and analyze the horizon.

Once these have been done, they adjust the course to remain on track and provide general advice on insurance, savings, or emergency funds.

Educational Requirements

While there are no standardized academic requirements to become a Financial Advisor, CPAs, in contrast, require vigorous educational requirements before they are eligible to take a CPA certification exam.

CPA certification candidates need to hold a bachelor’s degree or have completed at least 150 college credit hours (a few states except 120 college credits) to be eligible to take the CPA exam. 

A 150 college credit hours are more than the hours it takes to complete a bachelor’s degree; however, on a brighter note, this does not mean you need to complete your master’s degree.

Instead, applying to take the exam when you have reached the 150-hour threshold, upon continuing your studies post a bachelor’s degree, or enrolling for an integrated five-year accounting school program will do just fine.

In addition, while some states will do with any bachelor’s degree, a few require a degree associated with accounting or any business-related course.

Once candidates complete the necessary educational requirements, they have to verify their eligibility with The National Association State Boards of Accountancy ( NASBA).

While Financial Advisors do not require a rigorous educational background, becoming a Financial Advisor is still not as easy as it may seem.

Foremost, some firms may require that you hold a business-related bachelor’s degree.

If they do not, or if you open your firm, Financial Advisors need to pass requisite exams and obtain specific licensing to sell certain products and conduct business.

Financial Advisors also often undergo internships to gain real-world experience before pursuing certifications and licenses.

As recommended by The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), after meeting the experience requirements, Financial Advisors can choose to obtain certification.

This designation can either be as a Certified financial planner (CFP), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Personal Financial Specialist (PFS), or Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC).

However, the licenses that Financial Advisors attain will depend on the areas the Advisor chooses to specialize in.

For example, Financial Advisors interested in selling life insurance should obtain a license as an accredited Financial Advisor in insurance.

Other Key Differences

Differences between the two careers stem further than just educational requirements.

Though interchangeable, being a Financial Advisor or Accountant requires unique skills, while the two industries usher in different types of earning opportunities, lifestyles, and experiences.

Skills Required

Although CPAs undergo extensive studies before becoming accredited, employers prefer to hire candidates with a wide range of additional competencies.

In addition to being updated with their tax knowledge, such as tax laws, CPAs should take continuing education courses in state taxation.

Having business acumen as a skill is favorable, especially for CPAs looking to climb career ladders in the workplace.

CPAs also need to have good public speaking skills to present information in a way that is concise and understandable to an audience that may not necessarily be from an accountancy or any financial industry-related background.

Other skills key to CPAs includes detailed oriented and mathematical competence.

On the other hand, Financial Advisors need to demonstrate a solid grasp of their people skills and sales skills to gain loyal clients.

Financial Advisors should be adept with wealth management to help clients manage their money and develop investment portfolios.

Additionally, Financial advisors with proficient research skills, analytical abilities, and risk management skills are likely to have a competitive edge.

Considering much of the time, Financial Advisors need to evaluate clients’ financial statuses, develop strategies to manage their wealth, and evaluate risks that might hinder their success.

However, Advisors who have mastered top skills find themselves rewarded.

Skills required in CPAs that also hold value amongst Financial Advisors include communication skills, detail-orientation, and business development skills.

Industry Outlook

The need to make sound financial decisions brought about from the recession associated with the pandemic has attracted more business potential into the industry.

This is especially true for Millenials, who increasingly want to make better financial choices, and an aging population in the US looking to attain advice on financial products such as retirement planning.

However, it is vital to note that the growth is not just an occurrence of the past year but has been a trend for the past five years.

The Financial Planning and Advice industry experienced growth due to equity markets, fit fixed-income yields, and growing assets under management (AUM).

Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted a 15% growth for Financial Advisors between 2016 and 2026.

So, if you are planning to become a Financial Advisor or are already in the industry, the current and near-future projections attest to the benefits your decision may reap.

On the other hand, even though the Financial industry plummeted recently, the Accounting industry has also displayed strong job outlooks.

The accounting services industry has expanded steadily over the last five years to 2021 due to continued growth and a strong economy for most of the five years.

Another contribution to the industry’s growth has been the growing need for audit and assurance services.

Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted a 10% growth during the 2016-2026 period (less than Financial Advisors), CPAs remain a growing career.

Additionally, CPAs threaten Financial Advisors since they have expanded their services to include financial planning, potentially claiming the market that prefers a one-stop-shop for all their financial needs.

It is worth stating that a common threat to the two industries is digital interventions.

While Financial Advisors have feared the growing Robo-advisor trend, CPAs have for a while had to battle the existence of Robo tax preparation software.

Work-life balance

Both Financial Advisors and Accountants put in long hours of work, especially during the first few years of their careers.

Financial Advisors spend a lot of time acquiring many clients and need to put in extra effort and time to develop term relationships.

Due to this, Financial Advisors tend to work more than the 40-hour standard.

However, they can reinstate a decent work-life balance after a few years put into creating brand awareness and utilizing an effective marketing campaign to help them reach more prospects.

Accountants experience their busiest seasons from January to April, especially for those dealing with taxes.

During their engrossed seasons, Accountants could work up to 60 hours per week.

But with a couple of time management strategies put in place, it’s nothing CPAs can’t handle.

In addition, the remainder of the year presents a better work-life balance for CPA professionals with a 40 hour week standard.

Earning an income

A significant difference exists in the pay structure between Financial Advisors and CPAs.

While Financial Advisors could earn an income through commission, CPAs earn a straight salary.

With CPAs being in demand in several industries, their salaries generally range towards the higher side from five figures annually with senior CPAs reaching up to six figures annually.

In quantifiable terms, the median salary of a CPA as recorded in January 2021 was $71 550.

In addition to earning an income through a straight salary, Financial Advisors may also earn money through commissions and client fees.

With Client fees, Financial advisors earn directly from clients through management fees calculated as a percentage extracted from the value of assets the advisor manages on the client’s behalf.

For instance, if a Financial Advisor oversees $500 000 worth of management for a client and charges a 2% quarterly managing fee, the client would pay the advisor $10 000 every quarter.

Commission, contrarily, is usually deployed when Advisors sell financial products such as mutual funds.

For reference, a Financial Advisor who recommends a client to invest $10 000 in a mutual fund might ask for a 2% commission fee earning them $200.

As the funds accumulate due to perhaps interest, so will the value of commission to the Advisor.

The earning potential of a Financial Advisor who earns money through commission or client fees is vast, but an entry-level advisor at a firm typically earns between $25000 and $40000.


Ultimately, choosing whether to be a Financial Advisor or Certified Public Accountant will boil down to your interests and personality type.

While both careers heavily involve working with numbers, building deeper relationships with people instead of working in an office and excluding interaction makes a world of difference.

Taking a look back at the characteristics of each job mentioned in this article is the starting point to investigate the kind of environment you’d be putting yourself in or the direction your career might take.

Good luck!








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