Today, the difference in practice between chartered and certified accountants is negligible and, more often than not, chartered accountant is simply the term used in Australia, England and Wales to describe what Americans would call a certified public accountant or CPA. Indeed, Investopedia.com simply states that a certified public accountant is the United States "equivalent" to a chartered accountant.
The term chartered accountant came into being 150 years ago in England and Scotland and was used to designate accountants who had a royal charter granted to them under Queen Victoria, according to Association of Chartered Accountants in the United States.
The CPA designation came into being as a result of the rigorous certification test Americans take in order to be able to practice accounting. Not being a royal colony any longer, obviously there were no royal charters to be obtained and the CA designation would have been inaccurate.
Both CPAs and CAs have to undergo equivalent undergraduate training and sit for a rigorous exam that allows them to practice accounting. In Australia, one cannot sit for the chartered accountant exam unless he has also had two years of master's education and a year of practical experience.
However, in America, there are many equivalent masters' programs in accounting that have similar requirements for more specific certifications.
Both CAs and CPAs are allowed, through their certifications, to administer public audits, financially manage corporations or individuals and generally conduct basic and complex accounting for large and small businesses alike. More importantly, a CPA or CA designation allows a person to work in international finance and various stock exchanges.
Crossing the Pond
If a chartered accountant wishes to practice accounting in the United States, he may be able to sit for the International Qualification Exam in lieu of the Uniform Certified Public Accounting exam.
Both CPAs and CAs have a number of organisations and professional societies but one of the largest is the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, which is a global organisation of both as the name implies.