With CFA pass rates hitting all time lows in the pandemic, the debate over which designation (MBA or CFA) is better to snag a Wall street job has been reignited. Only 1 in 4 test takers passed May's CFA Level I exam, which is the lowest since testing began in 1963. Meanwhile at top MBA programs, graduations rates are above 90%.
It calls into question if the positive attributes of the CFA program — the meritocracy, the accessibility, the affordability — are outweighed by the strains on candidates’ time and effort. Especially when the majority are told they’ve failed, sometimes many times over.
Time: CFA candidates on average take four to five years to get their charter, spending more than 300 hours studying for each level, while a typical full-time MBA program is 2 years. Winner: MBA
Cost: The difference in cost between the two is pretty great. You can pass all 3 exams and earn the CFA charter for $3k, and also do it while having another job. Tuition for an MBA degree is upwards of $140k, including room & board can be $200k+ (Current HBS cost incl. room & board is $224k). Most candidates also pursue an MBA full time so lost wages for two years. Winner: CFA
Network: Another pitch for MBA is that a path to a successful finance career isn’t entirely through textbooks. One of the main benefits of business school is the connections with professors and fellow aspiring executives. Winner: MBA
Short Squeez Takeaway: While a CFA shows a potential employer that you are committed to a career in finance and can help you get your foot in the door, it doesn't have many benefits after. We are #TeamMBA if you can afford to do one. No one really remembers what they learned in school after a few years. It's more about the people you met there. As you get older, its more about who you know than what you know. The CEO of Behaving Wealthy, puts it perfectly: "Credentials help you open the door, but soft skills help you close the door."