CPA with CFA, CMA or MBA : Does It Make Sense?

CPA with CFA MBA?“I am now a CPA. Should I go for a CFA or MBA?”

Well, it depends on your choice of career path.

Your Future Career Path…

1. Public Accounting Only

If you plan to join a public accounting firm and work yourself up to partnership, there is no need for CFA, CMA, CIA, MBA or any other qualification.

Instead, focus on your core competency — whether it’s assurance, advisory or tax — and work on your people’s skills and sales skill as they are critical for senior professionals in a client-oriented business.

You can click the link and read about the requirements of public accounting firms and what you can expect in terms of workload and lifestyles.

2. Corporate (Especially Manufacturing Companies)

If you work/plan to work for a company with some manufacturing capacity, then the CMA qualification will give you an edge. It’s a lot about cost accounting and managerial accounting that is especially useful in that sector. Better yet, few professionals have CPA AND CMA together.

3. Accounting, then Investment Banking

Many finance professionals want to break into the exciting world of investment banking at some point of their career.

If this is your ultimate goal, please note that:

For the core investment banking job (i.e. corporate finance and M&A), either CPA or CFA is not important. For MBA, yes definitely, but only if you come from the Top 20-ish MBA schools.

If you are interested in the research department within investment bank (i.e. the research analysts, or security analysts), or fund management in general, a CFA qualification is highly recommended. In fact, most analysts are CFAs. CPA is not that useful but a combination of CPA with CFA is highly regarded. MBA is also good if you graduate from the top schools.

4. Other Career Changes Down the Road

Now,  both CFA and MBA could be helpful if you are looking for career change.

CPA with CFA

The CFA certification is best suited for research department within investment banks, hedge funds, mutual funds and jobs in investment community.

CPA with MBA

Multinational corporations, big businesses with management trainee programs love MBA graduates. Again, try your best to get into the top schools.

Good luck!

P.S. BEC covers about half of the materials in Level 1 and 2 of the CFA exam, as well as Part 1 of CMA exam… another reason to schedule BEC as your last section!

For Your Further Reading

About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites

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  • Maria says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    Do you have an opinion on which is harder? CFA or CPA? I’ve passed CFA levels I and II. I haven’t started studying for the CPA yet and I’m trying to figure out what I’m up against 🙂

    Thank you!

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Maria,
      I didn’t go for the CFA but my husband is CPA + CFA. From what I observe, CFA’s questions are long and tricky and as least back then my husband complained how the exam’s question is so different from what he studied (he used Schewser).

      I think CPA, while also covers a lot of topics, is more manageable because the CPA exam review courses can predict relatively accurately the topics of the exam and since they are primarily in multiple choice format I personally find it easier (this is also the reason why I didn’t try to touch CFA).

      Having said that, you only have one more paper to go for CFA, so why don’t complete it?

      At the end of the day, it all comes down to your study style and what you prefer in terms of exam format. Some people absolutely hate MCQs while I am quite good at it. So it depends.

      More importantly, I think you may want to think about what you would like to get the titles for. For CPA, it’s useful for accounting and tax related jobs in audit firms and corporates; for CFA, it’s more like equity research analyst, investment, hedge fund manager that sort of stuff. So it could be quite different.

      Hope it helps!
      Stephanie

  • Besiki says:

    Hi stephanie,

    I have read your discussion related CFA exam in comparison with CPA exam. You mentioned above thaty BEC covers half of the materials from CFA level 1 and Level 2. Is this really correct? I am waiting for BEC score (It is my last exam) and I failed in BEC on the first attempt. then I tried to prepare for BEC as best as I could and got really good knowledge of Financial Management, Cost and Managerial accounting and Economics. I am planning to sit for CFA level 1 in June 2011 and if it is correct as you said – I should have very good chances on CFA program.

    Thanks,
    BS

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Besiki,
      From what my husband told me, it’s apparently the case in terms of content. But the format is very different so I would think that it’s also quite important that you get a CFA review book as well.
      Stephanie

  • Besiki says:

    Stephanie,

    Thanks for the post.

    I have CFA Level 1 books and also I am gonna buy Schwezer Videos for CFA exam. The thing was that I was told regarding CFA exam that it is the most difficult exam in professional designations (CPA, ACCA, CMA, CIA etc) I also have heard that one of the toppest investment company’s (I will not disclose the name of investment firmbut you may also heard about that) head hs failed 8 or 9 times in CFA level 3.
    What I think generally is that every exam is passable and every exam is created because someone has to pass it. Just this “someone” has to be focused on the exam and be well-prepared.

    My question is – what does your husband say (As I readabove he is both CFA and CPA) Does he agree on the factthat if you get CPA license and after that begin preparation for CFA exam (with hard studying of course) the chances should be pretty good, shouldn’t they?

    Thanks

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Besiki,

      Actually, those senior guys failed the CFA exam multiple times probably because they are too busy or out of school for too long. The CFA exam, according to my husband, is very theoretical so whether a candidate can pass or not is unrelated to his/her ability at work.

      And no, I don’t think he agrees that CFA after CPA is easier because how they test (i.e. the format) in the exam is very different… but in terms of the content, yes it may help a little bit.

      By the way, he said Level 1 was pretty busy for him but Level 2 and esp Level 3 were tough. But if you study hard you will pass. Hope it helps!

      stephanie

  • Besiki says:

    Stephanie,

    Thanks for that!

    Regards,
    BS

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Besiki, you are most welcome! If you have more thoughts on this after your own experience later on, please do share with me and my readers. Thanks! Stephanie

  • Shishir says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I passed my CPA exam in the Apr-May 10 window from Delaware and have still been waiting for my congratulatory letter (which I have been told will be sent somewhere in Oct). I have a few questions regarding the ethics exam.
    1) Is the text material good or the CD.
    2) Whats the time frame allowed for completing the exam (eg 1 hr, 2hr)
    3) I have been directed to a site http://cpegrading.aicpa.org/ wherein I need to log in and appear for the exam. There I have a option of selecting 5 states. Of the entire lot which states can be favorable for me (Delaware board)
    4) How many attempts do we get to complete the ethics exam (Its an open book exam right).

    Thanks
    Shishir

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Shishir,
      First of all, congratulations! For your questions:
      (1) It is the same, just different format. If you prefer to do the exam online, get the CD (for CD, you have a choice of online test or mail in the answer if preferred).
      (2) I actually can’t recall but I don’t think there is a time limit. It’s open book and time is never an issue it seems for candidates.
      (3) Yes you should state Delaware since it’s the state you have registered for the exam
      (4) You get 3 attempts online. If in case candidates fail 3 times, you can still call up AICPA for the 4th. So shouldn’t be a problem at all.

      In general it’s much, much easier than the CPA exam itself. Don’t worry and all the best!

      You can also check out this page on CPA Ethics Exam here.

      Cheers, Stephanie

  • Shishir says:

    Thanks for the help Stephanie. However I do have one last question. On the website for ethics exam http://cpegrading.aicpa.org/ there is a choice for 5 states. So can I opt for any other states including Delaware for the 4 empty slots. If yes which state boards might be the best considering Delaware state.

    Thanks
    Shishir

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Shishir,
      Hm…. for me I just filled out 1 state and it worked fine. Is there any reason why you need to consider multiple states? I don’t think it is necessary unless you plan to transfer your credits to the other states.
      Regards,
      Stephanie

  • Besiki says:

    Hello Stephanie,

    I have a question and could you advise please?

    I passed uniform CPA exams and now I am in the process of submitting my application for CPA license.

    My state board requires minimum 2 years of public accounting experience and I have 2 years and 1 month of experience, but there is also another requirement which states that 2 years of experience with 3,000 chargeable hours.

    I am satisfying first requirement but not the second. My chargeable hours are about 2,500. (others are like CPE hours and kind of stuff)

    Could you advise please whether should I submit the application now (because 2 years of experience is met) or wait until I gain 3,000 chargeable hours?

    Thanks in advance.

    Regards,
    BS

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Besiki,
      I would think that you’ll need to wait until the number of chargeable hours is fulfilled… it shouldn’t be a problem right? But if you are thinking of switching job or something that may prevent you from getting 3000 hours, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

      Cheers, Stephanie

  • Tony says:

    Hello Stephanie,

    I actually had a question about having both the CFA and CPA designations. I was wondering what benefits the two have, since they have very different focuses.

    From what I’ve heard myself, it’s helpful in business valuation and M&A departments in a Big 4 or large public accounting firm.

    Could you ask your husband if he thinks getting the CFA was worth it in the long run? I’ll be interning with a Big 4 in audit, and thought the CFA sounded interesting. But I don’t want to waste time on something that a PA firm won’t value.

    Thanks

    -Tony

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Tony,
      Just asked my husband J. He thinks if you plan to stay in audit (which you probably can’t tell yet), then CFA is not useful. But let’s say if you want to venture out to investment esp hedge funds, equity research, asset management this sort of stuff, then it’s definitely helpful. M&A department… well, CFA is a nice-to-have but not mandatory.

      He did mention that if you do want to get the CFA, it’s much better to do it as early as possible, because as a recent grad your brain is trained to do CFA type of exam; but once you get in the “real world” for long, it’s tough… This is his personal experience anyway.

      Hope it helps! stephanie

  • Besiki says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    That might be the case (what you describedabove). if I change the job than I need to wait another 2 years – as you know requirement is that letter must be signed by the CPA who supervised you directly for 2 years.

    So could you investigate it please?

    I have 133 educational credit (so it is 13 credit higher than reuirement) and had 5 sittings and 4 passes for CPA exams. WHat you think, will accountancy board consider those facts while determining granting the license?

  • Tony O. says:

    Thanks for the response Stephanie!

    It seems like business valuation and modeling is what I’m shooting for. CFA+CPA+ASA should be more than enough to get me there. So maybe two years in audit then see if I can transfer departments or join a valuation shop.

  • Financial Slacker says:

    Stephanie:

    I have over 20 years of experience primarily in corporate finance, FP&A, M&A, and treasury. I also ran a good size business unit overseeing 150+ employees for the past 6 years. I earned my CFA about 15 years ago.

    I am in the midst of a career change and looking to sit for the CPA. I only had 9 hours of accounting with my MBA (’95) so I assume I’ll need another 21 to get the 30 required for my state (New Mexico). I did work for E&Y in Financial Advisory Services for a CPA so I think I have the work experience requirements met.

    I do not believe there are any “shortcuts” or ways to bypass my shortfall in accounting credits and as such, I’ll need to go back to school. (If you know another option, please let me know).

    My recommendation to those earlier in their careers is to get your CPA if you’re going to work in finance. It won’t hurt and you might find you need it some day. The CFA is certainly not an easy certification to get, but it doesn’t have the same outside requirements (the specific education credits needed, the specific work experience needed, etc.).

    Just my thoughts.

    Thanks.

  • Tammy says:

    I have recently completed the Cma exam . I want to know whether the combination with cpa would be good ?

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