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Education is important when it comes to a career in finance. Different jobs in the finance sector will call for different abilities, and different certifications. Any educational pursuit of worth is going to demand a great deal of time and money, so the decision as to which program to pursue is not one to be taken lightly. 

The MBA and CPA are no exception: both are worthwhile educational pursuits that are highly sought after in a professional environment. Having both certifications is ideal, but if you’re forced to choose one, understanding the differences between them will help you make an informed decision.


MBA Education

The MBA, or Master of Business Administration, is a scientifically minded approach to business management. The degree usually takes two years to obtain if you go to school full time, and it requires around 600 hours of graduate work to attain. The MBA curriculum involves business strategy and analytical skills, among other management-related topics of study. Many MBA courses require pursuing an internship or writing a dissertation.


CPA Education

Students who have achieved Certified Public Accountant certification are knowledgeable in the minutiae of accounting work. To become a CPA, the requirements are more lax than for achieving an MBA. With only 150 units of college experience and one year of accounting work experience, the CPA program is not limited to graduate students. However, some additional requirements for achieving CPA certification are continuous, such as Continuing Professional Experience, or CPE. 

Also, the CPA exam is EXTREMELY difficult, as the passing rates hover in the 50 percent range and the test requires a significant amount of studying. Since many people take it while working full time, it becomes even more difficult. 


MBA Skillset

MBA programs are educationally vigorous, requiring several years of schooling. Because of this, the skills acquired through achieving an MBA are vast and complex. With an intimate working knowledge of management and subsequent analytical skills, MBA students gain understanding of such related subjects as economics, human resources, marketing, financial management, and accounting.


CPA Skillset

CPA certified individuals are equipped with a comprehensive knowledge of accounting, and a skillset to match. Whether it’s tax preparation, estate planning, or government work, a CPA will be knowledgeable in it and be able to function professionally in those environments. The skills acquired by CPAs also involve management and consulting. In addition, CPAs are able to represent individual taxpayers in disputes with the IRS.


MBA Careers

As a result of the comprehensive education and skills obtained when pursuing an MBA, a vast assortment of career opportunities are available. Office positions such in human resources, logistics and accounting are viable, from a variety of high-profile employers such as Google and major health care providers. Fundraising, project management and data analysis careers are also attainable, as well as much higher executive positions such as CFO. MBA salaries range quite a bit, with the low end of MBA careers starting around $70,000 a year, and can reach well upward of $125,000 with time.


CPA Careers

As a CPA, several possible careers are available to you. In the realm of accounting, jobs include tax accounting, forensic accounting, and environmental accounting, among a few others. Aside from the field of accounting, career opportunities are available in academics, research, consulting, IT, and even government jobs. Another advantage CPA certification has on your career path is greater increases in salary as time passes, with potential lifetime earnings of $1,000,000. On average, entry level CPA positions have a starting annual salary of $60,000, eventually increasing to $100,000 a year and more.



Both educational programs, the MBA and the CPA, are steps in the right direction if you’re looking for a lucrative, life-long career. Whether you should pursue one or the other varies based on your situation, goals, and abilities. If you have the time, resources and patience to devote more time to schooling, an MBA is very lucrative further down the line. For a more time- compressed individual who cares more about practical experience than theory, a CPA certification will provide the most professional viability in the least amount of schooling. However, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have both.


Gryfin Test Prep is dedicated to making the learning process efficient and enjoyable for those looking to acquire advanced professional certifications. They specialize in preparing individuals for the CIA, CISA, EA, CMA and CPA exams and actively write about industry trends in the world of finance and accounting.