CFA® charter vs. MBA vs. CPA vs. CFP
|Career Path||Investment Analyst, Portfolio Manager, Strategist, Consultant, Wealth Manager||Business Manager, Portfolio Manager, Financial Analyst, Strategist, Consultant||Accountant, Comptroller, Financial Manager, CFO||Financial Planner, Financial Advisor, Investment Advisor, Financial Consultant, Wealth Manager|
|Requirements||3 exams and one of the following: bachelor’s degree, be within 23 months of graduation from the date you sit for the Level I exam, combination of 4,000 hours of full-time work experience and university education accrued over a minimum of 36 months||master’s degree (2-3 years)||4 exams, bachelor’s degree, & 150 schooling hours||1 exam, bachelor’s degree with coursework in financial planning, and 4,000–6,000 hours of work experience|
|Cost||min. USD 3,050 - 3,950*||USD 80,000–125,000||USD 800||USD 825|
|Recognition||Preferred by nearly 90% of executive and senior level positions in investment management positions||Not a requirement for most positions||Increasingly becoming more required||Required to become a financial planner|
|Focus||Investment tools & valuing assets||Broad list of business concepts||Auditing, business concepts, financial accounting, regulation||Financial and investment planning|
|Difficulty||38% pass rate for Level I||Pass rate depends on individual university||53 - 64% pass rate||62-66% pass rate|
|Award for Completion||Professional designation||Degree certificate||Professional License||Professional designation|
|Professionals||178,000||More than 100,000 degrees awarded annually||659,000||181,000|
|Key Summary||Focus on investing in large scale corporate situations||Broad field of careers across marketing, finance, management, etc.||Accounting and finance are the main career paths||Focus on helping individual clients achieve their personal financial goals|
*The minimum estimate assumes passing all three exams on first attempt.
All fees shown are net of any local VAT, Goods and Services Tax (GST) or any other sales tax payable by the candidate in their country of residence. Where CFA® Institute is required to add sales tax at the local statutory rate, this will be added to the fees shown during the payment/checkout process.
For information about taxability related to online purchases from CFA Institute, please visit our Tax Policy page.
CFA® Program vs. MBA
The CFA Program and master of business administration (MBA) programs both offer benefits that can help you advance in your career. Although the programs have some similarities, key differences make the CFA Program particularly well suited to investment careers. Traditionally, MBA programs have been the conventional path taken for business management, and the typical program offers a broad business curriculum, which does include financial and investment aspects. The CFA Program curriculum, however, specifically focuses on investment analysis and portfolio management and provides deep knowledge of investment principles and ethics. Although top MBA programs do have wide networks, the CFA Program connects candidates to a global professional network of elite investment professionals. Industry recognition is also different. For example, some industry regulators even allow waivers and exemptions for candidates who successfully complete the CFA Program or certain exam levels.
CFA® Program vs. CPA
The certified public accountant (CPA) credential is well established but is primarily associated with careers in accounting. The CFA Program is designed to advance investment careers and provides deep knowledge of investment analysis and portfolio management as well as professional ethics. In contrast, the curriculum for CPAs concentrates on accounting, taxes, and audits. The CFA Program requires fewer educational prerequisites than the CPA curriculum, and its three exam levels enable candidates to demonstrate mastery.
CFA® Program vs. CFP
The CFA Program is demanding, and the CFA designation is a testament to the knowledge, skills, and determination invested over three exams, professional requirements, references, and more. Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) are also widely respected financial professionals. Although many CFP professionals pursue careers that involve working directly with individual clients for financial planning services, CFA charterholders pursue careers as investment professionals, including private wealth management and financial advisory roles. The CFA charter provides flexible career opportunities to work more with people or with data, depending on your interests.
Learn more about how the CFA Program can help jump start your career in investment management
Register for the CFA® Program
Are you ready to earn a charter and join the ranks of elite investment professionals?
Don't delay; complete your registration to access study materials and candidate resources to begin the CFA Program today.