CPA Vs CFE : Which One is More Suitable For You?

Comparison Summary

Criteria CPA (Certified Public Accountant) CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner)
Focus Area Accounting, auditing, tax preparation, financial reporting Fraud prevention, detection, and investigation
Certifying Body American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE)
Primary Roles Auditing, tax advising, financial analysis, consulting Investigating fraud, conducting forensic accounting, fraud risk assessment
Education Requirements Bachelor’s degree in accounting or related field Bachelor’s degree (any field) or equivalent professional experience
Experience Requirements Varies by state, typically 1-2 years of accounting-related experience Minimum of 2 years of professional experience in a fraud-related field
Examination Uniform CPA Exam (4 sections: AUD, BEC, FAR, REG) CFE Exam (4 sections: Financial Transactions & Fraud Schemes, Law, Investigation, Fraud Prevention & Deterrence)
Ethics Requirement Ethics exam (varies by state) and continuing professional education Adherence to ACFE Code of Professional Ethics
Continuing Education Yes, typically 40 hours annually Yes, 20 hours annually
Global Recognition High, especially in the U.S. Increasingly recognized globally
Career Opportunities Public accounting firms, corporations, government, non-profits Internal audit departments, forensic accounting firms, law enforcement, regulatory agencies
Salary Potential Generally high, varies widely by experience and location Competitive, often varies by industry and location
Key Skills Financial analysis, auditing, tax knowledge, regulatory compliance Fraud detection, investigation techniques, interview and interrogation, legal knowledge
Professional Development CPA license renewal and specialization certifications (e.g., CPA, CIA, CGMA) CFE certification maintenance, specialized fraud-related training
Ethical Standards AICPA Code of Professional Conduct ACFE Code of Professional Ethics
Initial Cost Examination and application fees, preparation courses Examination and application fees, preparation courses
Ongoing Costs License renewal fees, continuing education costs Membership fees, continuing education costs
Prestige More prestigious Less prestigious
Recognition Considered the industry standard Less widely recognized
Course Hours Requires 150 course hours Not mentioned
Exam Difficulty Difficult Easier
Exam Cost Costly Cheaper
Exam Sections Limitations on exam sections per testing window No mentioned limitations
Study Time Significant time commitment (e.g., 7 months with 20-30 hours/week) Less time commitment
Specialization Broad focus More focused on forensics


Job Descriptions

  • Common Competencies: Both CFEs and CPAs possess problem-solving, analyzing, and research skills.
  • Distinct Expertise: CFEs specialize in investigating and detecting fraud, while CPAs focus on financial statement review, assurance services, and tax-related tasks.
Scenario Best Professional to Hire
Suspect corporate fraud CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner)
Require an investigation and calculation of economic damages CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner)
Need to uncover hidden assets in a bankruptcy or divorce CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner)
Review financial statements CPA (Certified Public Accountant)
Provide assurance services CPA (Certified Public Accountant)
Perform tax planning CPA (Certified Public Accountant)
Need tax advice CPA (Certified Public Accountant)


Exam Content and Focus

Exam Content and Focus
CPA – Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)

– Auditing and Attestation (AUD)

– Regulation (REG)

– Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)

CFE – Fraud Prevention and Deterrence

– Financial Transactions and Fraud Schemes

– Investigation

– Law

 Career Opportunities

Certification Potential Career Paths
CPA – Public Accounting (Audit, Tax, Advisory)

– Corporate Accounting

– Financial Analysis

– Controllership

– Financial Planning

CFE – Forensic Accounting

– Fraud Investigation

– Internal Audit

– Litigation Support

– Risk Management


Difficulty and Time Commitment

Factor CPA CFE
Exam Difficulty Generally considered more challenging Slightly less challenging than CPA
Study Hours 300-400 hours on average 200-300 hours on average
Work Experience 1-2 years (varies by state) 2 years in fraud-related field

Review Summary

0.0 out of 5 stars (based on 0 reviews)
Very good0%

User Reviews

There are no reviews yet. Be the first one to write one.

Share Your Experience