CPA vs MBA: Which one is Better Qualification for your Career?

Let’s explore whether it is better to pursue the CPA or the MBA.

Why MBA could be better First, a more well-rounded education In terms of gaining knowledge, a typical 2-year curriculum offered by MBA programs should be more thorough than a 6 to 12-month self-study required by the CPA exam. An MBA program is generally broader covering not only accounting but also finance, marketing, business and even niches such as venture capital and social enterprises. A better networking hub The MBA program offers a great networking opportunity. For those who take the MBA in a traditional classroom setting, you get to study and interact with fellow students and professors on a daily basis. The training on brainstorming ideas, discussion and teamwork can only be achieved in a classroom setting. Reputable MBA programs arrange information sessions, career guidance and on-campus interviews to help students find a good job. This opportunity does not exist for CPA exam candidates. No maintenance cost after getting the degree Once you get your MBA, the knowledge and title are yours for the rest of your career. For CPA however, after getting licensed you will have to pay licensing fees and fulfil the necessary CPE requirements. The amount isn’t much but it’s something you need to do for the rest of your career. MBA is more versatile The CPA title is not as highly valued in certain jobs, especially those in finance and investment. For example, it is better for aspiring investment bankers to get an MBA than going for the CPA qualification.

For the investment community, the CFA qualification is more applicable. Why CPA could be better Faster and less expensive Some recruiters do suggest getting a CPA instead because it is faster and less expensive to get the credentials. You can take the exam right after getting your accounting degree and get your license after 1 to 2 years of experience. Studying is a lot more flexible. Most CPA exam candidates keep their full-time job and study in their spare time. You can also take the exam anytime during the testing window throughout the year. More relevant for accounting professionals If you are looking for jobs in financial accounting, management accounting and taxation, firms do appreciate the CPA qualification. In fact, the CPA qualification becomes mandatory once you reach a more senior position. For most CPA firms, you need the CPA title if you want to promote beyond the manager level. This means that getting the CPA is a must for medium to long term in CPA firms while getting the MBA is not. CPA is a standard that is globally recognized Candidates must fulfil similar educational and experience requirements, and take the same Uniform CPA exam in order to become a CPA. Therefore, companies, head hunters and recruiters have a good understanding of what a CPA can offer. On the other hand, the quality of MBA programs varies greatly. The fact that you have an MBA does not mean much unless it is from a reputable institution.

Conclusion MBA and CPA are quite different: the MBA is an academic degree while CPA is a professional designation. For MBA, the critical point is where you are getting the MBA from. An MBA from Harvard is quite likely better than the CPA qualification alone, but an MBA from an unknown school or “diploma mill” will be of little use. In terms of which qualification will help you find a better job, it is complicated because an MBA or CPA alone should not be the deciding factor. Your education and work experience count a lot too, so do the performance during the interviews. Having both is certainly a win-win strategy that works for many people, but then, either MBA or CPA requires a significant commitment for one to pursue.

At the end of the day, the school or the license is not what gets you the job – you are!