CFA vs MBA

In this article we compare and contrast the pros and cons of doing a CFA versus an MBA.

Should I do a CFA or MBA?

One of the most common debates among aspiring finance processionals is whether to get an MBA or a CFA.  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.

What are the differences between the CFA and MBA?

 CFA®
MBA
Length of time:
3-4 years
1-2 years
Cost:
~$5,000
$50,000 - $180,000
Prestige:
High (equal)
Low to Ultra-High (variable)
Academic focus:
Portfolio management
Business management
Networking:
CFA societies
Broad student/alumni networks
# of designation holders:
120,000+
Millions+
Pass rate:
~50%
~85%
Career benefit:
Technical knowledge
Connections & recruitment
Career paths:
-Equity research
-Investment management
-FP&A
-Investment banking
-Corporate development
-Private Equity

Which one is right for me?

In summary, it’s really up 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.

MBA programs, on the other hand, 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.