CFA vs MBA? Here’s Why You Should Do Both

Find out how CFA-holders can benefit from doing an MBA, and why MBA-holders can benefit from taking CFA exams too


It is one of the most hotly-debated questions in financial training circles: should you get an MBA degree or become a CFA charter-holder by passing all three levels of the “Chartered Financial Analyst” exams?

There is some overlap between the two qualifications, but they serve different markets. Traditionally, an MBA was viewed as a stepping stone to a wide array of senior management roles, as it teaches broad leadership skills. In contrast, the CFA exams are more technical than MBAs, making them more relevant to specialist finance roles, such as asset management.

Why should CFA holders do an MBA?

The two credentials are not mutually exclusive however, according to Stephen Thomas, professor of finance at London’s Cass Business School. He says charter-holders can use an MBA to develop leadership skills. That could help them move into senior investment management positions.  “The CFA is the gold standard for careers in investment management and analysis, giving one tool to analyze securities and construct investment solutions,” says Stephen, who sits on the examinations committee of CFA Institute, the investment professionals’ association that awards CFA charters.  “The MBA offers a much broader church of general management. An MBA can be a wonderful complement to CFA for those wanting to manage investment businesses.”

Steven Young, professor of finance at Lancaster University Management School, argues that CFA tests are much more valuable for entry-level finance roles. “Most financial services employers place greater emphasis on technical training and regulatory knowledge for these roles,” he says.  It makes sense to take CFA exams early in a career because a good quality MBA usually requires several years of work experience, he adds.  Stephen Horan, the CFA Institute’s managing director of credentialing, agrees. “If you want to work in the investment field and ultimately want to end up in management; start with CFA, work for a few years, and then do the MBA.”

Should MBAs do the CFA too?

However, a CFA charter could still be valuable for MBA alumni who wish to develop specialist technical skills, according to Lancaster’s Steven Young.


This article written by Seb Murray is shared from the BusinessBecause site.

By Seb Murray
Seb Murray