In fact, is getting an MBA a good idea at all?
We answered from personal experience, and also reached out to contacts who also have done both CFA and elite MBAs in HBS & INSEAD. If you've got similar thoughts, make sure you read on.
One also touched on CFA Program Partner business schools - schools that incorporate a 'significant' amount of the Candidate Book of Knowledge (CBOK) and emphasise the Ethics & Standards of Professional Conduct in their programs.
What would you say about the MBAs offered by B-schools partnering the CFA Institute? In particular:
- What is the value of such a partnership both on the resume and in the office? Could it be a distinguishing criterion?
- Would it be worth taking out the time from the professional domain to do such a full-time course?
- Would it be complementary or contradictory with the CFA qualification?
- What could be the reasons to opt for such partner B-schools over other prestigious non-partner B-schools?
We would advise strongly against choosing a university solely because it is a partner university with the CFA. This is absolutely not a 2-for-1 qualification - you're still getting an MBA, not a CFA. Being a partner simply means that the finance modules are slightly more compatible with the current CFA syllabus - it doesn't actually give you any credits nor extra qualifications. The main advantage of a partner school is that it would probably be easier to simultaneously pursue the CFA while at b-school (see the next question).
Whether or not it's worth your time is something you have to figure out for yourself. The 300 Hours team is actually divided on this. The MBA camp value the MBA for business & project management, as well as networking, whereas the others find it akin to trying to learn swimming in a classroom. Much better to just jump in.
The full CFA is useful if you want to go into wealth management, asset management or investment related field. Level I is good to do if all you want is an overview and have less interest in the actual accreditation.
The CFA qualification however is no way a substitute for an MBA program, or vice versa.
You get the networking and general (i.e. across industries) brand name from an elite MBA. The CFA on the other hand, offers knowledge and brand value in investment for a very affordable price. They address and enhance separate areas of your career. So doing both doesn't really mean you're being 'inefficient' and studying overlapping subjects. It really depends what you want to achieve.
Decide whether you want an MBA or a CFA, then zero in on it. Or do both. You shouldn't try and do something in between.
Assuming the plan is to do both - what would the ideal order be? There has been contradictory advice and cases here. Many peers pursue MBA and take up CFA by their 2nd year, with the vision of completing it later with a job. On the other hand, some advise to clear the CFA levels while gaining the work experience, and then hammer it in with a niche MBA.
There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer for this one. It depends on your personal circumstances, but obviously you have 2 options:
Option 1 - CFA first. If you are currently in a good role, or have a job lined up, in this economic climate we'd strongly advise you to take that experience and work on your CFA first. CFA pursuits are much more time and cost efficient compared to MBAs. MBAs are also more effective (i.e. you learn more from them) if you've had a few years experience in a professional setting.
Option 2 - MBA first. On the other hand, if you are struggling to land a suitable role, and you've been accepted to a good business school, it is quite efficient to study for your MBA and kick-start your CFA as well when you're finishing up your MBA. Be warned though - it is tough as nails to try and do both at the same time. CFA is enough pain as it is.
If you're not in a role at the moment, and still undecided, then the best option is to try and get work experience first (i.e. Option 1). In the end, nothing beats good working experience, so it makes sense to try to get a role first. If it doesn't work out you can then explore options on the MBA side.
Are you currently considering an MBA and/or a CFA? Check out our 7 reasons to consider the CFA charter, and let us know what your deciding factors or doubts are via the comments below.