CFA or an MBA: the debate has raged on for years. An MBA costs more, but once you’re admitted, your chances of ending up with a diploma are excellent. Taking one of the three levels of a CFA exam costs less than one thousand dollars in the US, but the dropout rates are astounding due to the difficulty of the tests and the time it takes to complete all three levels. Roughly 20% of people who signed up and paid for the last CFA exam didn’t even bother showing up, probably knowing that they were unprepared and had no chance of passing.
Then there is what the certifications and diplomas do for you, both in terms of opening doors and getting you paid. There’s equal debate here too.
But what about the regions? Will one do more for you in terms of getting a job than the other in different parts of the world? Our database says yes. There’s less competition for MBA-specific jobs in New York than there is in London or Singapore, according to our numbers. When it comes to the CFA, there is less competition overall compared to MBA-specific jobs, but no region provides any real advantage.
We looked at the number of jobs posted on our site that include “MBA” or “masters of business administration” and “CFA” or “Chartered Financial Analyst” as required or desired skills in all three cities. We then looked at the number of resumes in our database that include the same verbiage.
In the US, there are 23.6 people with an MBA on their resume for every job that specifies it as a required or desired skill. In London and Singapore, those numbers jump to exactly 42.9 people for every job. That’s nearly double the competition for those jobs.
There is much less disparity among regions when it comes to the CFA. In the US, there are 22.5 people with “CFA” on their resume for every job that includes the certification as part of the description. In London, there are 20. CFA holders appear to have the most competition in Singapore, where there are 28 candidates for every job.
However, it’s worth pointing out that not everyone who has the acronym CFA on their resume is a chartered member. Likely, a large percentage of people are somewhere in the process, so those ratios would drop even lower. The same can be said for MBAs, although the number of people who brag about almost completing their business degree on their resume is likely smaller. Either way, the ratio-dropping effect would likely be similar in each region.
It’s also worth noting that there are roughly double the number of jobs in our system that are looking for a CFA as compared to an MBA. CFAs don’t provide the same gravitas and earning power of MBAs, but when it comes to filling a very specific position, especially on the buy-side, it can certainly be a differentiator.
Banks are also hiring fewer MBAs in Europe, though associates classes are still sizable in the US and in Asia.