CA vs CS: An in-depth analysis of similarities and differences (Salary, duration, scope, power)

People might think that a successful business is all about profits. Actually, it mostly is. But with great profits comes great responsibility! Every registered business enterprise will have to deal with financial and tax-related matters. Otherwise, the government will be around its neck. Records! taxes! accounts! You’ve to keep track of everything. And here comes the role of chartered accountants (CA) and company secretaries (CS). They take care of all the accounting and corporate law related matters for a company. These guardian angels are instrumental in a company’s success. 

As both the designations hold a high reputation in society, they are among the most popular career choices made by students after their 12th.  Though the two streams sound similar, they are entirely different professions. So, who are they? Let me help you get to know them a little better.

What is CA?

Keeping accounts of everything is a skill of its own. Business enterprises will need someone who can keep all the accounts and finance related matters in check for the company. Chartered accountants (CA) are trained professionals who do this job for them.

Chartered Accountant (CA) is a globally recognized accounting credential awarded to individuals with adequate skills and knowledge in the field of accounting and finance. A person earns this credential after qualifying through the examination conducted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). 

What does a CA do?

Every successful business has a team of chartered accountants (CA) who minimize losses and maximize gains while remaining in the jurisdictions of the law and following all industry-specific regulations. The role of a chartered accountant can cover many activities, depending on the type and size of the organization they work for. The duties of a CA include preparing financial reports and documents, maintaining records of investments, reviewing potential financial risks as well as providing professional opinions in regard to the fiscal decisions of the firm. 

These experts organize and manage accounts and other finance-related records of individuals and organizations. Therefore, they are an inevitable part of business organizations that intends to thrive in the industry.

What is CS?

Those who run the business will need help when it comes to corporate laws and dealing with government and stakeholders. Company secretaries are the in-house legal experts who manage such situations on behalf of the organization. 

In India, one receives Company secretaryship (CS) accreditation after qualifying through the examination conducted by the Institute of Company Secretaryship of India (ICSI). In order to become a company secretary, one needs to learn everything about the legal aspect of the business.

What does a CS do?

They are people who operate as legal advisors or corporate law experts for a company. The company secretary functions as a bridge between the board of directors, shareholders, government and regulatory authorities. They often hold managerial positions in an organization and their work involves providing guidance regarding corporate laws, managing situations that involve conflict, assisting the preparation of financial reports, developing corporate strategy, and assisting in business planning.

How to become a CA in India?

Trust me, this is not going to be easy. CA is a hard nut to crack and will require you to pull out all the stops to reach the top of the mountain. As I mentioned earlier, you need to take up the course and clear the examination conducted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India to become a CA professional.

The process involves three stages. You need to clear each stage to proceed to the next one.

The first stage starts with a foundation course that lasts for four months. You will be eligible to attempt the first test known as the Competency professional test (CPT) after the successful completion of the course. The syllabus involves subjects such as Accounting, Business laws and correspondence, Business Mathematics & Statistics and Economics. It’s mandatory to clear CPT to move to the next stages unless you’ve a graduate degree in commerce. 

Up next is Integrated Professional Competence Course (IPCC). IPC comprises of two groups of subjects. Each group has 4 papers and you have to clear both the groups to move forward. 

Then comes the Articleship. You’ve to work for 3 years under a practicing Chartered accountant and complete your Articleship to appear for the final stage. CA final examination is the toughest of all. It has 8 papers stacked into two groups. If you clear the exam you will become a member of the ICAI and be designated as “Chartered Accountant”. 

How to become a CS in India?

You need to follow a similar procedure to become CS. You will have three levels here as well.

The first level is the foundation course. This is an 8-month long course conducted by the ICSI. It consists of 4 papers.

The second stage is the Executive stage. It has 8 papers, divided into two modules. This stage covers the legal framework that monitors the functioning of a company. Here, candidates can either apply for one single module or both the modules together.

Then comes the last and final stage. The professional program. Only the candidates who have cleared the executive program can appear for the professional program. It has 9 papers stacked into 3 groups. You will have to climb a mountain to clear this stage and most candidates take multiple attempts before finally receiving the ‘Company secretaryship’ designation. 

CA vs CS: Skills required

Numbers! You will have to deal with a lot of them every day. If you’re someone who is scared of numbers, I won’t recommend CA or CS to you. It’s true that neither of the courses requires Mathematics as a compulsory subject in 12th, but that doesn’t mean you can make them wait outside the door. In fact, your everyday tasks will involve a lot of mathematical functions. Finance! Accounting! Tally! What else do you expect?

 Though numbers won’t bug you all the time if you choose CS, they will still come to haunt you often. So, numerical skills are very necessary if you wish to be a CA or CS. 

And that’s not it. Both programs will test your analytical skills as well. As a CA or CS, you occupy top-level positions in a company. So, you will have to make a lot of important decisions that will test your analytical and problem-solving skills.

CA vs CS: CS course duration vs CA course duration

CA takes a lot of time. It will eat up at least 5 years of your life. With three stages of exams and compulsory Articleship of 3 years, it’s the minimum time required to receive a CA credential. That’s only if you pass all the exams in your first attempt. 

You will save a few years if you go for CS. In India, it takes only 2-3 years to clear all the three levels of CS. The CS Articleship is not compulsory. You can do it even after appearing for the professional program. Yeah, that saves a lot of time.

Company secretary syllabus vs Chartered accountant syllabus: Which is harder?

CS or CA, nothing is easy. You have a mountain to climb. But CA is comparatively tougher than CS. Most candidates take multiple attempts to clear CA. The pass percentage is very low. The syllabus for CS used to be comparatively easier than that of CA. But this has changed in the last few years. CS is not that easy anymore.

Company secretary (CS) syllabus includes papers such as Jurisprudence, Interpretation & General Laws, Governance, Risk Management, Compliances and Ethics, Company Law, Advanced Tax Laws, Drafting, Pleadings and Appearances, Tax Laws, etc.

Chartered accountant syllabus includes papers such as Fundamentals of accounting, mercantile law, general economics, Financial reporting, strategic Financial Management, Taxation, Advanced Auditing, and Professional Ethics, Direct Tax Laws, etc.

CA vs CS: Cost of study

Let’s say you don’t have to pour money down the drain to become a CA or CS in India. Compared to the salary you will get after clearing all the levels, the cost of doing either CA or CS is just peanuts.

For CA, the total fee to appear for all three levels will come up to Rs 50000. The courses for CA are done as correspondence programs in private institutes. The tuition fees in such institutes will differ. Anyway, CA will cost you around 1.5 lakhs on an average, including the tuition fee. 

The course fee for CS is comparatively lower. The total cost including the tuition fee for all three levels of CA will come up to Rs 50000. 

CA vs CS: Salary

A CA makes a lot of money. You knew this, right? In India, a CA’s salary ranges from 7 lakhs to 30 lakhs. Now, that’s a lot of money! You will get paid much more if you work in Europe or US. The average annual package for Chartered Accountants in those countries is around $44,000. 

CS salary in India is a bit lower than that of CA. The average starting salary is between 5 to 10 lakhs. It’s still a lot of money. But outside India, their packages are on par with that of CA.

CA vs CS: Scope and job opportunities in India

CA has limitless opportunities. The accreditation adds credibility to your resume. You can either choose to start independent practice or get hired by a company. In India, Chartered accountants are of high demand and are considered experts in the field of finance and accounting. They’ve a lot of opportunities in private as well as public companies. 

Chartered accountants will find jobs in Banks, Public Limited Companies, Auditing Firms, Finance Companies, Mutual Funds, Portfolio Management Companies, Investment Houses, Stock Broking Firms, Legal firms, Patent Firms, attorneys, TradeMark and Copyright Registers, etc.

Just like CA, CS professionals can either choose to start an independent practice or work in an organization. They take up key managerial positions in private as well as public organizations. They will find jobs in government financial institutions, stock exchanges, bureau of public enterprise, law services in nationalized Banks, Department of Company Affairs, etc.

CA vs CS: Power and recognition

When it comes to power and recognition CA has an edge over CS. It’s a highly reputed profession. Moreover, they have the authority to sign the financial statements of a company. They can also represent the company in case of financial disputes. 

Though CS professionals don’t have that authority, they hold great power inside a company. They occupy key managerial positions in a company and holds the authority to advise the board of directors regarding diverse matters. As they are the in-house legal experts, it’s their task to ensure that the company functions within the legal framework and avoid legal disputes. 

But with great power comes great responsibility. Their work is not easy and even a small error can have a huge impact on the company.

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Both CA and CS are highly sought after professions. If you have the right skill set, these paths can lead to glory. The choice between CA and CS depends on an individual’s potential and career goals. Always remember that you make your own destiny. Make sure that you invest time and thought before making your life-changing decisions. I hope the illustrated analysis have powered up your insights and have widened your perspectives.

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2 comments found

    comments user

    bruce banner

    Thankful bunch for sharing the blog. It contains valuable information regarding ca exams


    comments user


    CA and CS both are not difficult course with moderate efforts and consisitency you can easily pass any exam in the world


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