CPA vs MBA – Which One’s Right For You?

CPA vs MBA – A stitch in time saves nine! A proverb that is engraved in our heads and hearts and yet we fail to incorporate its teachings in our day to day actions. Our hasty decisions are sure to haunt our present and future, so it is advisable that instead of jumping to a foolish conclusion, you make a smart and calculated move. This advice directly applies to our career planning. Today each and every professional is driven by an ambitious zeal and to boost the future prospect candidate do not hesitate to go for certification programs or go back to college to achieve a master’s degree.

Finance students often find themselves in a soup regarding the choice between a CPA certificate program and an MBA degree. The key to finding the correct choice is through a proper evaluation of your career goals and your individual likes and dislikes. Instead of looking up to others for advice, it is preferable that students take time out and think about their future plans and chart them out with all the likely possibilities of hurdles to come to the correct decision. To come to a correct decision, let us help you with the basics of the courses so that you can relax and only think about your future possibilities.

The article will give you information on the following;

  1. CPA vs MBA Infographics
  2. What is CPA?
  3. What is MBA?
  4. CPA vs MBA Eligibility Criteria
  5. Why pursue CPA?
  6. Why pursue MBA?
  7. CPA + MBA

CPA vs MBA Infographics

Reading time : 90 seconds

Lets understand the difference between these two streams with the help of this CPA vs MBA Infographics.

CPA vs MBA infographicsWhat is CPA?

The CPA or the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a financial accreditation awarded by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The AICPA is a world renowned institute of financial excellence and its certification course is recognized as a mark of achievement in finance industry. Professionals who wish to make a career in the financial services in the US will have to compulsorily achieve this certificate to become eligible to work there. The exam conducted by AICPA gives a rigorous training and prepares the candidates to excel professionally in handling the financial reports thoroughly and in depth.

The CPA exam thoroughly prepares a finance professional in the core concepts of accounting and tests their understanding and ability to apply this learning into the field of auditing and accounting. A CPA is considered to be an expert in tax law questions or provide tax advice to people. He has an open choice of practicing in his individual capacity or create a small firm or work for big firms mainly “The Big Four”.

What is MBA?

MBA or the Master of Business Administration is typically a two year degree course offered by Business Schools to prepare candidates in the field of business. An MBA is a generalized study into all the management roles and is best suited for students wish to carve a niche in the field of management, especially marketing. The two year’s course is not limited to being offered in full time. Students are open to pursue the degree course through part time and distance learning process depending upon their area of specialized concentration and significance in the industry.

The different areas of specialization that one can achieve under the umbrella of an MBA program are accounting, finance, marketing, human resources, and operations(in relation with  management analysis and strategy). The study program of the MBA candidates is not restricted to finance and involves subjects like economics, marketing, organizational behavior and quantitative analysis.

CPA vs MBA Eligibility Criteria

Let’s look at the eligibility criteria for sitting for these exams.

The MBA is an undergraduate degree therefore students who have successfully cleared their high school are eligible to sit for the exam and be enrolled for the course.


The decision to admit an entrant is based on a combination of factors which includes the candidate’s GPA, academic records, entrance exam scores, relevant work experience in his resume, essays, letters of recommendation, and how the candidate fares in the personal interviews. Some B-schools also look out for a candidate’s interest in extracurricular activities, their contribution to the community service activities ,volunteer work, and a student’s ability to work in a team and bring new laurels to the school’s name. The Graduate Management Admission Test(GMAT) score is widely accepted entrance  for admissions into MBA programs. Apart from GMAT ,The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is also considered by almost all B-Schools.

The AICPA has a strict eligibility criterion for the exam conducted. A candidate is expected to have education equivalent up to five years and he or she must hold a 4 year bachelor’s degree and preferably a master’s degree which should amount to 120 to 150 hours of credit in the business education domain.

Why Pursue CPA?

  • The AICPA is duly respected by the financial world thus a certification course by this prestigious body is widely welcomed and given high regards. The AICPA follows a strict code of standards and regulates the professional body ensuring CPA pass outs are meritorious professionals and arguably the best. The CPA license is an indicator of quantitative skills and high standards of professionalism.
  • The CPA designation definitely betters a professional’s standing in the industry allowing him opportunities to grow and work in the public accounting department of the American MNCs as well it gives him the license to practice in the US.
  • A CPA professional is eligible of advancing his career to higher positions than that of an auditor, giving him better remuneration. He also enjoys the benefit of being considered for a position in the Big 4 firms that dominate the public accounting sector, PricewaterhouseCoopersDeloitte Touche TohmatsuErnst & Young, and KPMG.
  • The industry specifies certain privileges to a CPA, among them are a CPA firm or signing an audit report of a company, making the certificate program a highly valued professional course for a CA.

Flipside of the CPA Program

  • The CPA license requires you to continually update yourself with the new and therefore it demands a continuing education and professional development which varies from state to state to stay current on tax code and financial reporting rules.
  • MBA graduates command a higher package and the industry prefers CPAs to gain a few years of experience before embarking on their private practice. Hence, monetary prospects better with time.

Why Pursue MBA?

  • An MBA is the golden ticket for a professional who is keen on making a fast move on the corporate ladder. The degree equips you with good business acumen and hones your corporate leadership skills allowing you to help your client in boosting his revenue and market share.
  • An MBA is worth pursuing for an IT, Finance or Marketing professional because it boosts their prospects in managerial roles. The course gives you a good accounting and tax background which helps a professional in improving his corporate acumen.
  • The MBA program is a rigorous two year study course and extremely wide in its syllabi touching skimming through various topics to prepare a professional for every diversification in general.
  • The industry demand for any role in the financial capacity is for a candidate who is an all-rounder. The industry expects a finance professional to go beyond the qualifications. Thus skills that allow one to accelerate business such as economics and marketing are a part of the curriculum of the MBA program.
  • For candidates who are interested in carving a career in consulting and management for a financial services firm, the MBA serves their purpose perfectly well. An MBA aspirant is also eligible for roles of securities analysts, investment bankers and venture capitalists.
  • The MBA degree makes you more marketable in the job market with a variety of job openings custom made for the degree holders. An MBA definitely enhances a candidate’s promotability.

Flipside of the MBA Program

  • The cost of the MBA program is a major deterring factor for many as it plays a major role in opting for the course. An MBA costs around $40,000 or $50,000 depending upon the B-school and the area of specialization.
  • The MBA aspirant acquires the degree only after producing a good GPA, test score, strong work ethics and internships, great recommendations by professors as well as industry professionals. Therefore career prospects for each individual vary and depend on his performance throughout the two years, his talent and hard work.
  • B-schools have a strict eligibility criterion for admission. An entrant has to meet the requisite years of experience to be selected for the program. Therefore, MBA is for those individuals who have at least a few years of relevant work experience.
  • The MBA degree though can be achieved through full time, part time and distance learning, the employers give a preference to candidates with full time course. Also for individuals who decide to pursue an MBA while working have to work out the financial resources to continue their education.


The CPA exam requires the candidates to fill a list of eligibility criteria and among them is meeting the requirement of 150 hours of education. And surprisingly to the benefit of a candidate many states consider an MBA and your undergraduate degree toward that total. Thus if you are unclear of your career choices it is advisable to go for an MBA and gain a perspective through some work experience because both of it will be an asset if you wish to pursue CPA in the future.

For those who are holders of the CPA designation and wish to go back to school to pursue an MBA will find the resources to study with the CPA firm. You can achieve an MBA even while working part-time, as well as full-time at the CPA firm.

No one can guide you or spoon feed you in your decision to earn an MBA. You need to introspect and come to a decision by yourself for its your career and therefore your decision. All the best!

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