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CFA Vs MBA Salary Comparison

Choosing between CFA and MBA? Find out what salary can you expect to earn after completing an MBA or Chartered Financial Analyst qualification, or both!

Mon Apr 6 2020

An MBA, or CFA qualification, is a ticket up the corporate ladder. Those who complete either qualification should expect to earn a substantial sum, immediately. The average starting salary for an MBA graduate is $135,000, according to 2018/19 figures from the business school accreditation body AACSB. 

The most comparable figure for someone who completed all three levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams is the $92,600 starting salary for an intermediate portfolio manager in the Americas region, according to the CFA Institute’s 2019 Compensation Study

CFA vs MBA Salary

The salary of each professional will largely depend on the job, years of experience, industry, size of company and job location, making a direct salary comparison difficult. 

For example, the CFA exams are focused on careers in investment, which can pay higher salaries than many career routes followed by MBA graduates.

Stephen Thomas, professor of finance at London’s Cass Business School, says that portfolio managers, for instance, have scope to earn more money through bonuses that are directly linked to an investment firm’s returns. “When I was in hedge funds, the bonus was worth more than the base salary,” he says. 

He adds that, although some MBA graduates also choose to work in buy-side finance, they are often managing these businesses, not investing themselves, because the MBA gives them a broad base of management and leadership skills. 

While they may earn less initially, without fat bonuses, their prospects to move into higher leadership positions with a correspondingly bigger salary are good. CFA holders can reach the top of their investment companies, but the MBA accelerates that progression, says Stephen. 

CFA vs MBA: Cost

Steven Young, professor of accounting at Lancaster University Management School in the UK, says that the MBA and CFA qualifications tend to attract different types of individuals who are pursuing different career paths.

However, the MBA requires a far bigger investment of money than the CFA credential. “Total exam and registration fees for all three levels [of the CFA] don’t exceed $7,000. MBAs, even part-time, from a good business school, are orders of magnitude more expensive,” says Steven. 

Elite full-time, residential MBAs cost as much as $200,000. But the average MBA tuition fee is about $35,000, according to AACSB. 

While the CFA is definitely cheaper, the return on investment varies depending on the business school you attend and the job you seek, and is likely to be highly individualized. 

CFA and MBA are often billed as rival training programs, but in reality they are complementary and not easily comparable. The MBA focuses on business management and leadership, whereas the CFA is a deep specialty program focused in investment analysis. 

CFA + MBA: Benefits of doing both

The smartest financiers may think about acquiring both an MBA and CFA. “The combination of the two can provide excellent benefits,” says Tom Robinson, AACSB’s president and CEO. 

In the CFA Institute’s Compensation Study, respondents that held both an MBA and CFA designation had the highest median compensation of everyone: $195,000.

If getting both qualifications is the best route to the big time, it makes sense to do the CFA first, says Lancaster’s Steven: “CFA is now a requirement for many asset management roles. But having CFA is no guarantee of a job in financial markets,” he notes. 

The MBA tends to attract people already established in their careers who wish to move into senior management, says Lisa Plaxco, senior head of the CFA Program at the CFA Institute. 

“To do so, they require a command of the different aspects of running a business, and the MBA can certainly support that goal,” she says. “Many CFA charter holders earn an MBA later in their career as they look to take on leadership roles within their organizations.” 

Next read: CFA Vs MBA: Here’s How You Can Study Both At The Same Time 

Student Reviews

Bayes Business School




On Campus

Best Journalism school in Europe

When I first stepped onto the campus of City, University of London, I knew I was in for a ride - and not just on the Tube! With its vibrant energy and an impressive repertoire of programs, City U became my home away from home. The Journalism program was kind of a big deal. Rumour was that we were the best in Europe! The lecturers were not just experts in their field; they’re practically journalistic royalty. They were invested, passionate, and had a knack for turning the most flat press release into a riveting news story. With their guidance, I’ve learned to navigate the chaotic world of media like a pro. The campus was a melting pot of every culture, being that we had such a diverse international crowd. Being in the heart of London, I had the world at my fingertips - there was always a new corner to explore, a hidden gem of a cafe to discover, or a street performer! City, University of London wasn't just a university; it was a chapter in my life story that I’ll never forget.




On Campus

Learning environment

The teacher-learner ration is manageable, giving each learner a chance to gain personal attention. It is also easier following up on the progress of a student, as the numbers per class is not large. the conducive environment for learning includes clean classes, standard desks, world class instructional facilities and the opportunity to engage lecturers even after their sessions. The team spirit at City is above board, with learners getting chance to learn both from instructors and colleagues. This is the university of choice; the place to be.




On Campus


I liked that each class had a manageable number of learners, making the professor-learner ratio favor knowledge acquisition. I also liked that study schedules were manageable, and not overwhelming. The focus on talents and gifts even within the learning environment makes it possible for learners to achieve the best of their potential, and this has worked to the advantage of those that have schooled at City, University of London




On Campus


The diversity at City University facilitates interactions and is a direction toward the unity of the world. The classes are well built to match the number and needs of all students regardless of the elements of diversity that set people apart. The use of technology in delivery makes learning even more interesting and achievable. At City University there is no distinction pegged on the issues that make people unique.




On Campus


The team of lecturers at the Uiversity are well experienced. Their level of insight and the methodologies of delivery works for the interes of the leaeners. My learning experience was largely boosted by the level of knowledge of the professors at the institution, and their passion to transfer the same to learners. I appreciate every class I attended because of the level of insight I was able to gather




On Campus

The best university I’ve been to

The campus and the people I've met have made it a wonderful experience. I was reared in a small town with a graduating class of only 88 individuals, so moving to City University was a huge adjustment for me. My dorm has more residents than my whole high school combined! I enjoy the atmosphere here, and everyone is so friendly. Outstanding academic options and a stunning campus. Really great from beginning to end. The educators genuinely love what they do, and the students are ready to learn. On or around college, there is always something to do with friends, and the social scene is particularly warm.




On Campus

Bayes Business School

As a student at City university attending Bayes Business School I would totally recommend choosing this university as the experience is exceptional with great social networking opportunities . Professors are significantly helpful, delivering with excellence and professionalism. Everyone is happy to help and make you feel welcomed in such an esteem university as City, offering exceptional development and guidance through out the course.




On Campus

Economics and Politics

Incredibly amazing university, the way they polish students and help them boost their morale and think intellectually is worthwhile. Many universities have international partnerships to allow exchanges between their students. The most obvious subjects for these opportunities would be those that involve languages, and the study of people and places.




On Campus

Clinical biology

I really like it it’s perfect for me with not too many people and not too few either. All the modules are amazing. I love the toy bar. I love all the societies that I’ma part of. Especially the colour Bollywood society