A CFA, or Chartered Financial Analyst program, provides you with the quantitative and technical skills necessary to take on top finance roles. Meanwhile, an MBA can help you enhance your business acumen and leadership skills, opening you up to a broader set of MBA jobs.
So, what if you don’t need to choose between these two programs? Integrated programs aim to make this decision between a CFA vs MBA easier by blending the skills and learnings from these two qualifications into one degree.
Here are four things to consider when choosing between a CFA vs MBA:
1. Think carefully about whether a CFA vs MBA would be better for your career
First things first, it’s time to sit down and map out your career aims. Maybe you have an aptitude for crunching numbers, or you prefer to be in a more forward-facing role, or perhaps you want a role that offers a mixture of both.
“A CFA is great if you’re interested in a career in finance, data, or quant—the curriculum covers the entire area of finance, but if you have aspirations beyond the back office and want to move into a managerial role, you’ll need both a CFA and MBA,” says Dr. Rahul Ravi, program director of the MBA in Investment Management at Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business in Montreal, Canada.
The MBA in Investment Management enables students to study both for a CFA and an MBA in one integrated program, allowing grads with an interest in finance to accelerate their path to a front-facing managerial role.
“In finance, we say mathematical models are beautiful, until they get pitted against human unpredictability,” says Rahul, “when you have to work with other people, the MBA training proves very valuable."
While students learn topics from the CFA curriculum, such as financial reporting, corporate finance, portfolio management, they also learn to see the bigger picture that drives finance. Through the MBA, students take courses in topics such as marketing, strategy, and organization behaviour.
2. Costs of studying
It’s important to weigh up the return on investment (ROI) of any business school program.
The John Molson MBA in Investment Management costs $72k for Canadian citizens and permanent residents and $87k for international students.
Since the average cost of MBA tuition fees is around $189k globally, the John Molson MBA in Investment Management is considerably more affordable than many programs.
Although the program doesn’t cover the CFA enrolment fees and membership, the courses in the program are designed to give students a good understanding of the CFA body of knowledge. The CFA + MBA degree also provides CFA exam preparation workshops and access to test practice material.
"The program provides everything necessary to achieve the full CFA qualification," says Rahul.
In Canada, risk analyst roles can attract salaries of around $84k per year, while portfolio managers can attract salaries of around $111k per year. These are just a few of the career opportunities grad can take on after graduating from the CFA and MBA program.
“While in the program, students may start their finance careers as interns and in other entry-level positions. However, their training in the program equips them with the skills and knowledge necessary to quickly rise through the ranks,” says Rahul.
3. Think about whether you’re ready for the rigor of a CFA vs MBA
There are no hard or fast rules for success—only taking the time to dedicate yourself to studies can help you to reach your career dreams.
The MBA in Investment Management, offered by the Goodman Institute of Investment Management at John Molson, is spread out across three years and studied on a part-time basis during evening and weekend classes.
Students in the program usually fit their studies alongside their career, where they are usually working in various areas of finance, such as wealth management, or investment management.
“The CFA and MBA dual program can be demanding, a student should be mentally prepared to put in 8 to 10 hours of study time, per course, per week,” says Rahul.
You’ll need to be prepared for this academic rigor and think about whether the current role you’re in will allow you enough time to study in your free time.
The effort you put in won’t go unnoticed, either.
“A student working full time might be putting thirty-five to forty hours into their job. Add to that thirty hours that they have to put towards the three courses in each term. This student signals to the market that they are capable of both working hard and managing their time effectively,” says Rahul.
The fact that you can apply the skills you’re learning to your role will help you to absorb the CFA and MBA learnings even further.
4. You’ll gain access to a broad network with a CFA and MBA
The John Molson MBA in investment program invites guest speakers to class to talk about trends within the business and finance sphere.
There are also monthly mentorship circles and workshops that connect students with alumni.
The program also works closely with the career team at John Molson to provide access to career fairs and internship positions.
“Our alumni are proud of their association with the program. They are our greatest ambassadors and our greatest resource. They often reach out to us about job postings at their companies before these are publicised,” says Rahul.
There is no simple answer as to whether you should choose a CFA vs MBA—it’s about what would benefit your career the most. If you’re looking to expand your leadership and business insight beyond the financial realms, an integrated program might be the answer you’re looking for.