Why Pursuing CFA After MBA Is A Better Idea

I recently graduated with my Masters in Business Administration.

Finance classes were by and far my favorite, and after gaining work experience as an intern in investor relations, I flirted with the idea of obtaining CFA after MBA graduation.

The CFA society of my region spoke to my class the first semester in, and I was intrigued, but did I need it? What exactly would it do for me? I’m sure you have thought these exact same questions.

After graduating from my MBA, starting my career, and asking around, I decided to finally register for CFA Level 1. I still put in around 300 hours of studying and thankfully passed, although the exam was by no means easy. I cannot imagine how hard it would’ve been if I waited 5 years or so after earning my MBA to do the CFA exams.

So if you’re interested in CFA and MBA, and if you’re wondering if it is better to pursue CFA before or after MBA, here are 5 reasons why I think it is better to study for CFA after MBA, rather than vice versa.

5 reasons why you should pursue CFA after MBA

Undertaking CFA with MBA was definitely the right thing to do for me. I found there were multiple benefits from going from business school directly into the CFA exam curriculum.

1. Overlapping material

done finished stretch

Every MBA program covers the same material to a certain degree. You learn all about financial accounting, basics of finance, economics, and statistics, to name a few.

Speaking from experience, the basics you learn in these classes almost fully prepare you in certain topics such as corporate finance, portfolio management, FRA or quantitative analysis.

Learnings these aspects before entering the CFA program builds a solid foundation of knowledge and application that allows learning the depth of the CFA exam curriculum much easier.

Sure, there might be aspects you will be unfamiliar with, such as fixed income or equity valuation if you did not specialize in finance during your time in graduate studies.

But learning topics such as corporate finance or portfolio management before the crunch time of CFA exam review allows you focus on foreign topics that are much harder. The overlapping material made CFA Level 1 much, much easier.

2. Making the most of your studying techniques

cfa study material shortlist

Earning your MBA is no easy task. Making it through all of the case studies and projects requires serious time management, leaving little time to study for exams.

Just like your time in undergrad, you know how you study and what works for you. Whether it’s making flashcards or Quizlets, or taking notes from the textbook to put the curriculum in terms you understand, you make the experience easier for yourself.

Taking a long time off between your MBA and CFA exam studies risks you losing the techniques that work best for yourself.

3. Discipline

how to focus when studying even when you are tired

Discipline and study techniques go hand and hand. Assuming you’re working full time while studying for the CFA exams, you might find it a little difficult to find the time to crank through study sessions and practice problems.

You will have been in the same spot one time or another while earning your MBA. Pulling late nights and saying no to a night out on the town, you will have developed study discipline that’s invaluable.

By taking the CFA exam plunge directly after the MBA program, you carry this self-discipline with you, and we all know relearning this can take time, especially with so much on the line with the CFA program.

4. Broadening your expertise

cfa after mba

I graduated from a dual-degree program, where I earned my MBA while finishing up my undergraduate engineering degree. This combination was put together to allow me and others to double down on a certain aspect of business, specifically energy.

Because of this, I was not afforded the opportunity to gain heavy exposure to finance, another portion of the MBA program that I loved. My experience is unique, but many others go into a master’s of business program and specialize in something specific that they love, like marketing or entrepreneurship, but are unable to gain the experience or background that comes with finance.

Having the recent education that comes with your MBA and the firm financial foundation obtained through the CFA exam curriculum makes you a well-equipped individual for the field you’re pursuing.

5. Shows commitment

productivity habit

Many people graduating with MBA in finance think that their MBA would be enough for them to know the depth of material that the CFA program covers, or allows them land a career in whichever facet of finance they’d like.

And sometimes they are right; often they are wrong.

CFA exam candidates and charterholders understand how much work and commitment goes into earning the designation. It is widely recognized as one of the hardest exams in the world.

So going from business school directly into the CFA program? That is downright impressive. It shows to your boss or potential employers that you are serious about your commitment to finance and improving yourself to be the best version of you.

I hope the above helps your career and study plans for CFA and MBA. I wish you the very best of luck! I personally found that having an MBA base to kickstart my career in the energy sector helped. If I had chosen to do the CFA exams first, my career may have suffered more with the more uncertain outcome of me being a charterholder to begin with, and I may not have the enthusiasm for MBA after!

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6 thoughts on “Why Pursuing CFA After MBA Is A Better Idea”

  1. MBA should be a degree pursued when you have had several years of work experience. These days many went for an MBA degree with no experience in the real business world. The end result, too many talkers about business school idealistic utopia and but none of them knows what they’re talking about or how they apply what they learned to real business situations. Same as CFA, that’s why CFA requires real finance work experience to get the certificate.

  2. Hello there,

    I am a lil bit confused about what I am going to pursue for my higher education abroad. I graduated Bachelor of Science in Business Administration major in Banking & Finance in the Philippines.

    I need to broaden my knowledge and skills in Finance, thus, I plan to study my master’s in Banking & Finance in Australia. In Macquarie University, I am aspiring to get a Master’s of Finance instead of an MBA. As I wanted to take an exam to be a CFA certified in the future.

    My question is which is better to attain further? An MBA or Master’s in Finance considering my case of huge working experiences in Accounting & Finance sectors.

    • You should go for MBA as it covers the thorough basics of finance, which is extremely important for getting into CFA.

    • Hi Eva,

      Apologies on missing your comment. I am the author of the article, and I would agree with Abhinav but not for the right reason. There will be much overlap with the Master’s in Finance and the CFA. While that will make the CFA easier, you might feel like you’re spending you time doubling up on the same field instead of learning different things. The MBA will help you with networking, soft skills, such as leadership and culture, marketing, and other areas of the corporate world. It will help with the CFA as it lays the basics for economics, accounting, and finance, but obviously as not much as the Master’s in Finance. An MBA with the CFA would expose you to more disciplines and you would learn more. I hope this help.




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