MBA Admissions Myths Destroyed: The CFA is a Liability

The Chartered Financial Analyst designation – a grueling three year, financial self-study program that 200,000 study for each year – covers many of the subjects contained in a “typical” first year MBA curriculum. During a CFA aspirant’s first year, he/she will study basic economics, accounting, finance and quantitative analysis, echoing aspects of many first year core curricula. So, does the CFA program actually harm the MBA applicant by suggesting that he/she already has MBA tools and that additional studies may be superfluous? Instead of our typical response, “In short, no,” we will be even more emphatic: definitely not!

Completion of the CFA is not a negative, but is in fact a positive in that the CFA candidate emphasizes his/her abilities to manage a rigorous MBA curriculum and establishes him/herself as a self-starter and disciplined individual (as CFA study is intense and usually completed over several months). Furthermore, from an admissions perspective, especially amid a tough economy, admissions officers want to know that they are admitting those who are employable; the CFA charter holder has an advantage in the post-MBA recruiting world, as employers can point to the designation as a differentiator among indistinguishable applicants.

Beyond the fact that the CFA can be a useful marketing tool for candidates to help them during the admissions process , it is also important to note that the CFA does not, in fact, usurp the MBA from a practical/educational point of view.  The CFA narrowly focuses on financial tools and does not address a myriad of other subjects that the MBA does address and that are still useful to financial professionals: marketing, operations, international business, human resource management, entrepreneurship and more. The CFA is an independent and largely quantitative program and thus cannot provide the elements that the MBA offers through discussion, debate and measuring qualitative information in decision making.

So, the CFA is hardly a liability and certainly does not render an MBA moot. Together, the designation and degree are a powerful one-two punch that can be advantageous in gaining admissions and finding that coveted post-MBA position.

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