CFA vs MBA

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An article on our US site has created a furore over the relative merits of a CFA over an MBA. Here's the potted version.

According to the US commentators/ranters, here are the positives for both qualifications.

The plus points of an MBA

· An MBA is still exclusive: it works in its favour that the CFA designation has been devalued now that more and more people are taking it (including, allegedly, one child's violin teacher).

· The best i-banking and asset management jobs still go to graduates of the top 10 MBA schools.

· An MBA offers contacts and networking; a CFA offers all the networking opportunities of an after-work home study course.

· An MBA from a top 10 school is infinitely better than a CFA, but a CFA has the prestige of an MBA from a top 20 school.

· A good MBA is a bonus for career changers; a CFA is best for someone already in the industry.

· An MBA gives you a prestigious brand name to market yourself with.

The plus points of a CFA

· A CFA is more difficult than an MBA; it's also more relevant and more comprehensive.

· A CFA teaches hard skills and tests you on them; by comparison, an MBA teaches soft skills.

· A CFA is an excellent route into asset management.

· A CFA is already mandatory for most senior equity analysts and is increasingly required for fixed income analysts.

· Each of the three CFA exams requires 250 hours of study in your own time. That shows true commitment.

· MBA courses offer an introduction to financial theory. A CFA provides the tools to develop creative solutions to complex financial problems - and a growing number of top MBA schools are including it in their curriculum.

Conclusion

It helps to have both - MBA for strategy and networking and CFA for financial analysis - but even then you won't be assured of career success (particularly if you plan to use the combination to get a leg-up out of the back office).

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