CPA vs CFA vs CFP vs MBA : Salary, Job Prospects and More

If you are trying to decide which pays more – CPA, CFA, CFP or MBA – you might want to know that a MBA from the top 5 business schools will typically earn the most, followed by CFAs, CPAs and CFPs – in that order.. You could say that’s a kind of thumb rule.

MBAs from top schools may earn anywhere from $250k to $500k or more a year. CFAs may earn anywhere from $70k to $150k or more. CPAs earn anywhere from $40k to $120k or more. CFPs may earn around $100k a year.

But then, thumb rules aren’t always applicable in every situation. There are a lot of factors involved, least of which is individual ability. There’s also the degree of difficulty involved in making the cut in each of these professions.

CPAs need to be licensed by state boards of accountancy, and need to pass the CPA exam. You need to have at least 150 college credits to even be eligible for the exam. And then you need to meet the continuation education requirements . The CPA profession is governed by state laws, and the objective here is to serve the public in roles such as filing tax returns, auditing, consulting and so on. Unless you are really passionate about accounting, chances are you will not be able to keep up with all of this.

CFAs or Chartered Financial Analysts also do not tread a easy path. Earning the CFA charter is a grueling process, to say the least. While anyone with a bachelor’s degree can apply to become a CFA, you will still need to pass three very hard to crack exams and have at least four years of work experience related to the financial field. The hardest part of earning the charter is passing the 3 exams. Levels I, II and III need to be passed before you can become a CFA. It is estimated that each level requires a minimum of 250 to 300 hours of preparation. Not to mention the costs associated with books, fees and study materials.

The main advantage of getting a CFA charter is that employers trust you to have a high IQ, a very good work ethic, dedication, commitment and what it takes to succeed at any assignment you may be required to handle. This can make a lot of difference to you career.

CFPs usually work as financial advisers to individual investors, helping them create sound financial plans. The focus of CFPs is primarily investing. estate and financial planning. To get certified as a CFP, you will need to have a bachelor’s degree, complete a prescribed set of about six courses related to financial planning, work in the financial planning industry for at least 3 years – and pass a 10 hour exam.

If you have a degree in law or a CPA or a CFA certification it is possible that the course work requirement may be waived and you may be allowed to take the exam.

Dual Qualifications – The Real Advantage

That said, people who have dual qualifications like CPA + MBA, CFA + MBA or CPA + CFA might be able to market themselves a lot better because they are experts in more than one area. They will be able to handle projects that are very complex. Businesses – especially large businesses – want people who are experts in multiple related areas.

A MBA degree from a Ivy League school can open doors for you. While the additional qualification will help you do your job a lot better.


While generalizations may be helpful at times, they may not always be accurate or a true depiction of things as they are. It does help to know what the median salaries are for each profession, what are the factors driving job growth and so on. But there are things that matter more than where you graduated from, what was your GPA, your GMAT score and how many credentials you have.

The biggest variable is individual abilities. Things like political savvy, business acumen, drive, foresight, work ethic and the like. Qualities that are impossible to quantify, impossible to learn at school or at any work place. Nevertheless, these are the what differentiate one person from another.

These are the qualities that set people apart.

So regardless of what your credentials currently are, you might want to work on developing these traits. Traits that lead one to success in just about any endeavor.

Here’s a nice video that explains the advantage of having multiple areas of expertise and how they can all come together to help you be a lot more effective at what you do.

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