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CFA Is Breaking Into Business School Finance Degrees — This Is How

CFA and MBA are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they can be very complementary

Wed Jul 20 2016

Should you get an MBA or CFA?

That question has perplexed financiers across the investment spectrum. There are valid cases for each credential. But ultimately, both three-letter acronyms are not mutually exclusive.

Business schools and the CFA Institute are increasingly teaming up to provide both the technical expertise and analytical mastery provided by the CFA curriculum, and the broad management nous you’ll get on an MBA program.

Stephen Horan, managing director of credentialing at the CFA Institute, estimates the curriculum is incorporated into more than 300 business school programs globally.

This may become more important to business schools, as CFA is accepted as the global standard qualification in some areas of investment.

“The CFA charter is often listed by hiring firms as a prerequisite for employment,” says Stephen.

IE Business School was the first in Spain to partner with the CFA Institute. Today, around 20% of current finance masters students have passed different levels of the CFA exams, says Viet Ha Tran, director of finance admissions.  

But Viet sees degree programs as having an advantage in some areas. She says: “The case study methodology, the IE Trading Room, the class interaction with professors and peers, and the participation in finance conferences on campus, are some of the many values that only a masters program can offer.”

But the two are “very complementary”.

“CFA exams complement MSc exams nicely, with the latter providing the theoretical and conceptual basis for understanding how and when to apply the techniques addressed in CFA exams,” says Steven Young, head of finance at Lancaster University Management School.

Now, entire degrees are being developed with CFA in mind.

LUMS last year, for instance, began offering the CFA Level II qualification through a new degree, the MSc in Advanced Financial Analysis.

Based in the City of London, the program prepares students to take Level II of the CFA upon completion of the degree. It’s open to all graduates who have already passed Level I.

In future, such tie-ups may be more common, as students are increasingly attracted by what CFA offers, says Dr Julia Knobbe, director of the masters in finance at Frankfurt School of Finance & Management.

“Many of them sit for CFA exams while pursuing their degrees in Frankfurt,” she says.

Alex Stremme, assistant dean for the MSc in Finance at Warwick Business School, adds: “We are working closely with the CFA Institute on curriculum development.”

Student Reviews

Frankfurt School of Finance & Management




Modern and global

Frankfurt School provided me with one of the best experiences of my life. I was an Erasmus student for a semester and could learn a lot. I took some mainstream courses like marketing and supply chain management, but also some innovative courses like applied persuasion and event planning. The professors are not only germans but from different parts of the world, mostly with international experience. The student life is great, the FS Bulls are a great community that is definitely worth being a part of. The best part is the campus, newly built with ultra modern architecture located in on the of the best neighbourhoods in Frankfurt am Main. You can find accomodation right next to it, many student residences at a fair price.




Career Oriented

I am a first year at the Frankfurt School and have been a prt of it for only a month; however, I can say for sure that the university provides its students with all the opportunities to grow professionally and personally. The majority of the professors are or have been successful professionals who easily relate the course material with real life and make lectures enjoyable. The extra curricular activities provided by the university are also a great step to life after graduation and give a head start for the students career.




University giving its students education of high quality and career prospects.

This university has helped me gain knowledge and experiences, that I lacked in my home country. Being in a great international surrounding, I have the opportunity to prosper and learn every day. The study program is very engaging, and the lecturers help you grow.





I’m a bachelor student at Frankfurt School of Finance and Management and my overall experience was better than I expected. The classes have a small number of students, which makes the relationship with the professor better because they become easier to approach. During my years of study, I had both practical and theoretical classes, like innovation management, big data & analytics, econometrics. But the theories and concepts are directly applied to real-life problems due to many professors working in banks or consultancies, which is really good. FS supports students in finding internships and semesters abroad, but when it comes to housing not so much because it’s not that easy in Frankfurt. FS offers dorms, but it is only to a limited amount of students and the facilities aren’t the best. In terms of student organizations, there are a lot of different sport clubs for almost every kind of sport, also student consulting, student investment club, student politics club, music, arts, etc. Living in Frankfurt is good, it is very multicultural in Germany, with lots of cultural actives, museums, parks, etc. The nightlife is also nice with proper nightclubs compared to the size of the city, Gibson, Velvet, Adlib to name a few, and there also is a bar district in Alt-Sachsenhausend and a lot of bars where bankers go in the city center. The campus is not really comparable to an actual campus like the American universities, but it’s a big modern building that was built 2 years ago. I would definitely recommend it to a friend if you're willing to pay that much for uni, because there are still a lot of public unis in Germany that are comparably good (Mannheim, Goethe, LMU Munich...).