Pros and cons of doing a CFA versus an MBA

Should I do a CFA vs MBA?

One of the most common debates among aspiring finance professionals is whether to get a CFA vs MBA.  Both are highly sought after, and both have a long list of successful alumni.  There are, however, some very important differences to consider depending on what your goals are.

Both are highly regarded finance accreditations that require a lot of hard work and can produce excellent career mobility.  In order to easily summarize the trade-offs between the two designations, we have created a table that online the most important points for each one.


CFA vs MBA decision


What are the differences between the CFA and MBA?

Length of time:
3-4 years
1-2 years
$50,000 - $180,000
High (equal)
Low to Ultra-High (variable)
Academic focus:
Portfolio management
Business management
CFA societies
Broad student/alumni networks
# of designation holders:
Pass rate:
Career benefit:
Technical knowledge
Connections & recruitment
Career paths:
-Equity research
-Investment management
-Investment banking
-Corporate development
-Private Equity


Which one is right for you?

In summary, it’s really up to you and what your personal goals are.


The CFA program costs less, is more specific and technically focused.  It’s most suitable for people who are interested in equity research, portfolio management or FP&A.  The prestige of having a CFA charter is completely homogeneous as there is only one standard.  The CFA program focuses more on technical skils and has little to no networking involved.


On the other hand, MBA programs have a high degree of variability, and their prestige is measured in the school you obtained it from.  It’s not really fair to ask, “is a CFA better than an MBA?”, when really it has to be, “is a Harvard MBA, or Michigan MBA better than a CFA?”.  Of course, the answer is still subjective.

The MBA is better for people who are more interested in a management and leadership.  MBA paths tend to be more popular for people in investment banking, private equity, and corporate development.

MBA programs typically include a lot of networking, which is one of their main benefits.


Additional resources

This has been a quick guide to the CFA vs MBA.  To compare more designations and degrees, explore our additional guides below: