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CFA, MBA, ACA, ACCA or CIMA – which will get you a job that pays?

Which popular finance qualification is most likely to get you a job in financial services now? And more pointedly – which one will get you a job that pays well? The answer appears to be: none of them, for certain, and the odds of getting a job with a particular qualification are declining.

We looked at the number of candidates with a selection of accounting and other qualifications who’ve uploaded CVs to our global database over the past three months. We then compared this to the number of jobs requiring those qualifications on the jobs section of the site, and to the results we got from a similar process seven months ago.

Conclusion: You might want to study the ACA accounting qualification run by the UK’s ICAEW. Globally, there are ‘just’ five candidates with an ACA chasing each accounting job right now. For every qualification, however, the number of live candidates chasing live roles is increasing.

The ACA doesn’t really play in New York – or in Asia – most of the ACA jobs are (unsurprisingly) focused in London.

If you want to work internationally, it still helps to do a CFA or an MBA, although our analysis suggests demand for each qualification varies substantially across top global finance cities, as follows. Moreover, the number of qualified candidates chasing relevant jobs in each city is increasing.

Based upon the average pay for jobs requiring each qualification in London, the MBA looks by far the most lucrative. Then again, an MBA qualification is also the most expensive. – With a top MBA costing $168k in fees and living expenses, you might want to take the CFA (costing around $1k per qualification), instead.

Photo credit:Powered Up by Brian Turner is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Comments (7)

  1. It’s a mystery why MBA’s earn so much more – they know nothing!

  2. This would be 10x more informative if you differentiated between full CFA charterholders and those that just passed Level I/II/III.

    Epicurean efc reader Reply
  3. I have never understood why M&A or Capital Markets interviews involved questions about the financial statements. They are not asking about deferred liabilities or assets or when to expense/capitalise. Those questions actually test your understanding of the financial statements. They are rather asking stupid questions like the WACC (who can’t calculate the WACC?), valuation methods (whatever you use, it isn’t that difficult to value a company because at the end of the day, it’s the interaction between buyers and sellers that determine the prices, so your valuation particularly in M&A is just a guidance), pro forma modelling (just Google the word) and some of those financial statements ratios. Valuation isn’t like forecasting stock or bond prices (which actually involve maths).

    I think they are testing cultural fit by asking these questions. If you want a candidate that can answer these questions perfectly, you should hire an ACA, no question about it. But as your research suggests, some ACAs who make the transition to banking end up working in areas other than M&A or capital markets. That probably explains why answering those questions rightly won’t get you the job. You need a certain attitude, mentality to work in Investment Banking. You can’t be too aggressive (because at the end of the day, it’s a relationship business), can’t be too push-over.

  4. I’m a management consultant, I studied CIMA cause I like the way it’s structured, it’s not only about accounting and tax but also enterprise as such. I couldn’t care less if I earn a couple of grands less or more comparing to an ACA qualified, I just know that I’m not interested in very technical interpretaion of figures and like to work with business people, not finance people.

  5. The CFA is quite useless in Europe

  6. Is level 3 not the same as a full charterholder?


  7. Clearly sour grapes from someone who does not have an MBA. Just to clarify I have an MBA and also ACMA, learnt loads from both qualifications and what is more am lucky enough to be in a position where I can apply this knowledge!

    There are lots of things that I do not know, but nothing, surely not…..!

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