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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 May 7, 2021

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

I have been an early-riser for over a year now. Monday through Friday I wake up at 5:00 AM without hitting the snooze button even once. I never take naps and rarely feel tired throughout the day. The following is my advice on how to start your day (everyday) at 5:00 AM.The idea of waking up early and starting the day at or before the sunrise is the desire of many people. Many highly successful people attribute their success, at least in part, to rising early. Early-risers have more productive mornings, get more done, and report less stress on average than “late-risers.” However, for the unaccustomed, the task of waking up at 5:00 AM can seem extremely daunting. This article will present five tips about how to physically wake up at 5:00 AM and how to get yourself mentally ready to have a productive day.

Many people simply “can’t” get up early because they are stuck in a routine. Whether this is getting to bed unnecessarily late, snoozing repetitively, or waiting until the absolute last possible moment before getting out of bed, “sleeping in” can easily consume your entire morning. The following tips will let you break the “sleeping in” routine.

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Relocate your alarm clock.

Having an alarm clock too close to your bed is the number one reason people simply cannot get up in the morning. If your alarm clock is within arms reach of your bed, or if you can turn your alarm clock off without getting out of bed, you are creating an unnecessarily difficult situation for yourself. Before I became an early-riser, there were many times that I would turn off my alarm without even waking up enough to remember turning it off. I recommend moving your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you have to get completely out of bed to turn it off. I keep my alarm clock in the bathroom. This may not be possible for all living arrangements, however, I use my cellphone as an alarm clock and putting it in the bathroom makes perfect sense. In order to turn off my alarm I have to get completely out of bed, and since going to the restroom and taking a shower are the first two things I do everyday, keeping the alarm clock in the bathroom streamlines the start of my morning.

Scrap the snooze.

The snooze feature on all modern alarm clocks serves absolutely no constructive purpose. Don’t even try the “it helps me slowly wake up” lie. I recommend buying an alarm that does not have a snooze button. If you can’t find an alarm without a snooze button, never read the instructions so you will never know how long your snooze button lasts. Not knowing whether it waits 10 minutes or 60 minutes should be enough of a deterrent to get you to stop using it.

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Change up your buzzer

If you use the same buzzer day in and day out, you begin to develop a tolerance to the sound. The alarm clock will slowly become less effective at waking you up over time. Most newer alarm clocks will let you set a different buzzer tone for the different days of the week. If you change your buzzer frequently, you will have an easier time waking up.

Make a puzzle

If you absolutely cannot wake up without repetitive snoozing, try making a puzzle for yourself. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the longer your alarm is going off, the more awake you will become. Try making your alarm very difficult to turn off by putting it under the sink, putting it under the bed, or better yet, by forcing yourself to complete a puzzle to turn it off. Try putting your alarm into a combination-locked box and make yourself put in the combination in order to turn off the alarm — it’s annoying, but extremely effective!

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Get into a routine

Getting up at 5:00 AM is much easier if you are doing it Monday through Friday rather than sporadically during the week. I recommend setting an alarm once that repeats everyday. Also, going to bed at about the same time every night is an important factor to having a productive morning. Learn how much sleep you need to get in order to not feel exhausted the following day. Some people can get by on 4-6 hours while most need 7-8.

Have a reason

Make sure you have a specific reason to get up in the morning. Getting up at 5:00 AM just for the heck of it is a lot more difficult than if you are getting up early to plan your day, pay bills, go for a jog, get an early start on work, etc. I recommend finding something you want to do for yourself in the morning. It will be a lot easier to get up if you are guaranteed to do something fun for yourself — compare this to going on vacation. You probably have no problem waking up very early on vacation or during holidays. My goal every morning is to bring that excitement to the day by doing something fun for myself.

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As I previously mentioned, I have been using these tips for a very long time. Joining the world of early-risers has been a great decision. I feel less stressed, I get more done, and I feel happier than I did when I was a late-riser. If you follow these tips you can become an early-riser, too. Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention? What works best for you? Let us know in the comments.

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