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CFA or MBA? 11 Facts to Help You Decide

CFA or MBA? 11 Facts to Help You Decide

After years of financial work, most financial practitioners would schedule a self-improvement plan, especially those who would like to start their own businesses. The common question is that whether one should take a CFA test or get an MBA degree for career development. Indeed this is a big decision.

The MBA, short for Master of Business Administration, covers various areas of business such as accounting, finance, marketing, human resources, and operations in a manner most relevant to management analysis and strategy. On the other hand, CFA, short for Chartered Financial Analyst, covers special, specified skills and concepts in asset management, private wealth management, equity research, and ratings advisories in financial institutions.

An MBA could enlarge your social network and widen career choices, but a CFA gives you accuracy and rigor in financial areas. You may need to spend years of full-time study and finish the graduation thesis for an MBA, but you may spend even more years of hard studying to pass three exams before you could get the CFA charter certificate.

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Below are 11 factors that might help you decide which one you should get.

1. Cost

It should be noted that an MBA degree from any top university is a high-cost and expensive self-enhancement project. The total all-in cost (tuition fees, modest living expenses, forgone salaries, etc.) of a 2-year top MBA program is around $275k to $325k. The cost of a CFA is much lower, at about $1,000 to 1,500 per level, less than $8,500 (on average) for all three level tests if you take part in additional prep classes.

2. Time

If you want to get a MBA certificate, you need to spend two years of full-time study. That means if you’re not brave enough to quit your job and focus on the MBA degree, it would be a dilemma indeed. However, the CFA would cost at least 250 hours of self-guided study before you can sit the six-hour exam. You could make the CFA program study as part-time task.

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3. Content

The purpose of these two certifications is obviously different, therefore the content is of course different. Getting an MBA certificate means you’re going to get comprehensive and all-inclusive training and knowledge in management analysis and strategy. MBA covers various courses like accounting, finance, marketing, and human resources, while CFA program will deliver you special, specified skills, and concepts on asset finance exclusively.

4. Application procedure

To apply for an MBA program, you need to prepare a lot of things, including an online application, recommendation letters, resume, admission essays, university transcripts, GMAT or GRE score reports, English language proficiency, etc. For the CFA, you need an international travel passport. Also, you need to meet one of these 3 requirements for CFA application: four years of professional work experience (does not have to be investment related), a bachelor’s (or equivalent) degree, or be in the final year of your bachelor’s degree program.

5. Teamwork

Task requirements differ from each other. Unlike the MBA requires group tasks, the CFA has no teamwork requirement. It’s totally upon your own schedule. If you can, you could study and finish all CFA programs individually.

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6. Pass rate

Only 37% of CFA test takers passed December 2012’s CFA Level I exam. In June 2012, 38% passed Level I, 42% passed Level II and 52% passed Level III. On an average, 60% would fail in CFA test, with even low pass rate across total 3 levels. On the other hand, 95% of Harvard MBA test takers could pass the MBA test.

7. Job Prospects

With MBA degree, you get broader job prospects and wide career choices. But with a CFA certificate, since it delivers specific, specialized knowledge in finance industry, your career choices are greatly narrowed but financial career could be greatly sharpened and improved to another level. “An MBA can take you into all sorts of industries,” said Skiddy von Stade, CEO of financial recruiting firm OneWire. “A CFA is for a stock picker that really wants to be an analyst. The CFA carries a lot of weight with asset managers. It’s an analytically driven test.” Outside of finance, the CFA is of little use, while the MBA is more widely recognized.

8. Benefit/Compensation

It’s important to know the return of CFA and MBA. According to the calculation from PayScale, a compensation research firm, the compensation differs a lot. Median pays of 0-5 years of experience are $72,000, $87,000, $57,000 and $63,000 respectively for people that hold a CFA and no MBA, CFA and MBA, MBA and no CFA, and an MBA in finance and no CFA. These differences stay constant for CFA and MBA holders of 5-10 years of experience.

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9. Learning

Some CFA certificate holders said that MBA programs teach things they could learn from college class, while CFA programs deliver knowledge that couldn’t be learned from college.

10. Partnering relationships

CFA Institute has started partnering relationships with multiple business schools into their class offerings. Some exam materials are even delivered in these courses. This would surely result in reduction of CFA test difficulty. More students are now expected to take Level I of the CFA exam directly after graduation.

11. Achievement

The founder of the CFA Institute is Benjamin Graham, one of the most legendary and valuable investors. With the profound knowledge gained from CFA tests… who knows? You could become the next Benjamin Graham. In contrast the broad coverage of MBA makes it becomes hard to become a great master.

Featured photo credit: FGV via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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