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Finance Career – MBA vs CFA vs FRM

You want to give a great start to your finance career and you are trapped in a highly ambiguous dilemma, “CFA or MBA”? Do not worry, you are not alone. There are many potential candidates, like you, who are currently dealing with the exact question – whether to seek some kind of financial certification (CFA/FRM/PRM etc.) or to go for a more traditional MBA.

Well, before jumping into the ‘one correct answer’, let us flip the coin and look at both sides of it. It is important to make a very well informed decision. First, let us gauge, what is it that you want as a career? What is it that you see yourself enjoying the most? Is it a career in financial domains like asset management, equity research, investment research; or would you prefer a Managerial role in finance or even outside finance?

If you think that it is the former that you would like to pursue as a career, you should go for the Financial Certifications which have been designed specifically to cater to the financial needs of the markets. These highly focused programs will help you enhance your core skills needed for high-level, specialized asset-management responsibilities, such as portfolio management, risk management etc.

On the other hand, MBA is a kind of generalist program which greatly enhances one’s business skills and is widely recognized even outside the domain of finance. So, in case you are not sure which industry you should opt for, MBA will help you find one.

Having said that, one should also consider the two very important aspects that one would require to invest, i.e., time and money.

When it comes to Financial Certifications, one can easily say that these are more efficient as they are distance- learning programs. One can actually gain industry experience while working his/her way towards the CFA designation. However, a CFA charter which in an average takes 4 years to complete is a longer course than a regular MBA which one can expect to complete in 2 years. But what about the money that one has to spend? The good news is, all the standardized certifications cost much less than an average MBA course and the bad news is, the content, rigor and reputation of even some of the most expensive MBA courses have run into controversies.