CFA Vs. MBA Vs. FRM: Top Guide for Best Course

Pursuing the right education to enter the right path is instrumental for long-term success.

Often, students are misguided due to lack of authority and credible information.

People seeking the best guide in finance often find themselves confused between three courses: CFA Vs. MBA? CFA Vs. FRM?


#1. MBA: Master of Business Administration

#2. CFA: Chartered Financial Analyst

#3. FRM: Financial Risk Manager

(Wiki links for general study)

Each course has its benefits and is suitable to a certain career path. This article is designed to help people like you choose the best finance education option. We will discuss the three courses in detail.

#1. Master of Business Administration (MBA)

An internationally-recognized degree, MBA is designed to equip the learner with business and management skills.

The MBA degree works not only in the business sector but in the government, public sector and private business as well.

Pursuing MBA is about learning various core subjects as their applicability is expansive.


Role of MBA in Finance Industry

You can enter the finance industry with an MBA degree.

The degree gives financial and business skills to handle enterprises.

Highly valued internship opportunities equip the learner for the finance jobs.

The functional course teaches leadership, economics, statistics, accounting, strategy, and marketing.

Those who specialize in Finance learn about stock market analysis, global economy, futures and options, financial instruments, financial foundation, market trading, market volatility, bankruptcy, risk management and corporate finance.

In short, an MBA-degree, with or without specialization in Finance gives opening in the finance industry.

Except for two segments – equity research and portfolio management – the MBA degree works with all financial sectors. Even if a person works in a non-financial sector, switching to the finance industry becomes easy with the MBA degree as recruiters value it highly.

Few Pros and Cons

They are:


  • Helps to gain “soft skills” useful in the management
  • Develop better networking skills
  • Widely recognized even outside finance oeuvre
  • Access to consulting firms, banks, and other financial or non-financial companies


  • Requires leaving a full-time job for 2 years
  • Very expensive, leaving learners in debt

MBA Course Requirements

It is a typically 2-year full-time study program; however, in the last couple of years, a lot of institutions started offering part-time study options too. A few years of professional work experience before enrolling in an MBA program is the requirement of few business schools.

Applicants need to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores, reference letters, academic transcripts and statement of purpose during enrollment. Non-native English speakers need to submit IELTS or TOEFL scores additionally, to prove adequate English skills.

Suggested: Read more about CFA Courses

#2. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

CFA is a specialized course offered by The CFA Institute to train graduates in specific finance fields. It is an advanced course pursued after graduation, enabling the learner to acquire niche financial knowledge.

Armed with CFA, one can work in portfolio management and equity research, two areas where the MBA degree does not help much.

Role of CFA in Finance Industry

Someone already working in the finance segment or looking to switch over to a specialized finance segment can opt for CFA charter. The CFA charter helps in areas like financial strategy, research analysis, and asset management roles like private banking, financial advising, relationship management and portfolio management.

The CFA charter is globally recognized. In other words, it is transferable within the market. If you plan to move countries, the CFA charter will still be relevant! Check out this page detailing roles held by CFA charterholders globally. Once you clear the exam, you too become a part of this elite group.

Clearing CFA exam is tough, really tough.

The course structure is extensively intensive, meaning the candidate learn the finance segment thoroughly. Lastly, various research studies show that CFA charterholders are paid higher on an average.

Pros and Cons

They are:


  • Gaining specialized knowledge extremely useful in finance.
  • No need to leave a full-time job to study CFA.
  • Necessary for equity research, portfolio management, and certain hedge funds. All three options are high in demand; thus, a lot of career growth potential.


  • An intense exam system necessitating at least 1000 hours of study to clear all the three levels.
  • CFA has no value outside finance. People interested in private equity, bulge bracket investment bank or venture capital will find CFA to be of little help.
  • No access to recruiters or networking unless you have attended the exam and joined CFA society.

CFA Course Requirements

A highly valued and respected designation in finance, the CFA course can’t be taken lightly. Certain norms and conditions are attached. A Bachelor’s degree is the first step and four-years of professional experience in finance are mandatory.

The CFA exam is a three-step process: Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3.

The exams happen around the world on the first Saturday of June, except for Level 1 exam which also happens in December. Candidates have to pass all the levels sequentially and the medium of instruction is English.

The Level 1 exam tests professional and ethical standards with questions about investment tools, financial concepts and comprehension, and some questions require the use of analytical skills too.

The Level 2 exam tests application of analytical concepts and standards in certain situations. As such, the questions are about assets valuing necessitating complex analytical skills.

The Level 3 exam tests applicability and compliance with standards in portfolio management. The questions synthesize learned concepts and check applicability in wealth planning and portfolio management.

The first two levels have multiple choice questions and the last one is mostly essay-based. Each level is a 6-hour exam.


Choosing between MBA and CFA is a common dilemma. has created an interesting explanatory image highlighting the benefits of CFA.


It is not necessary to choose between MBA and CFA. You can pursue both, anytime!

Think of MBA as an entry-level access giver with acceptance across all finance platforms and CFA as a specialization catering to certain specific segments like equity research.

Ultimately, the choice or a lack of one depends on your personal goals and ambitions.

You may be interested in reading Jobs Training Advice Courses Online for MBA, CA, and CFA

#3. Financial Risk Manager (FRM)

The Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) offers the international professional certification called, Financial Risk Manager (FRM).

A person with FRM certification specializes in financial risk management in global and domestic scenarios.

The FRM certification program follows the four major strategic disciplines of risk management, which are the credit risk, operational risk, investment management and market risk. 

Financial Risk Manager (FRM)

Role of FRM in Finance Industry

The FRM certification targets a niche and in-demand segment, risk management.

It is internationally recognized where the job of the FRM professional is to manage market and non-market related financial risks. It gives knowledge about credit risk, investment risk, operational risk, market risk and quantitative analysis.

The FRM certified professional can work as financial risk consultant, advisor, risk manager, credit manager, asset and liability manager and risk control manager. The FRM gives credibility to the person and his/her skills to handle risk management situations.

The field of risk management is desirable and contains a lot of growth potential because firms and companies are focusing towards the development of stronger and effective risk measures.

Few Pros and Cons

They are:


  • Demonstrating high-value skill set in a niche segment.
  • Ability to display risk management skills to employers.
  • Access to the elite group of risk management professionals around the world.
  • Better salary than other finance professionals.


  • 2-year mandatory work experience requirement for FRM Certification.
  • Difficulty level higher than PRM and CFA exams.

FRM Course Requirements

A graduate degree and 2-years of work experience is the minimum requirement to attempt FRM certification.

The purpose of the FRM certification exam is to assess the ability of the candidate to measure and manage risks in a real-world scenario.

The exam happens twice a year, specifically on the third Saturday of November and May.

Each exam is of 4-hour duration and it consists of two parts. Paper 1 contains questions about the core concepts of risk management such as financial market and products, valuation and risk models, quantitative analysis and risk management foundations.

Part 2 contains questions about measurement, implementation, and management of risk management principles in a practical fashion. Weight is given to market risk measurement and management, credit risk measurement and management, risk management and investment management, operational and integrated risk management and current issues in financial markets.


All the three courses - MBA, CFA, and FRM – offer three different career paths in the finance industry.

Be clear about why and in what position you want to join the finance industry, and your long-term goals. Based on this vision, decide whether an MBA, FRM or CFA will fulfill your goals.

CFA Vs. MBA Vs. FRM: Top Guide for Best Course 1
CFA Vs. MBA Vs. FRM: Top Guide for Best Course 2
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99 thoughts on “CFA Vs. MBA Vs. FRM: Top Guide for Best Course”

  1. hey, I’m a qualified ACCA and have 1.5 years experience with Bank sector finance department and 2.5 years audit firm. now i’m thinking to switch towards Risk and management. what would you suggest me i made my mind for FRM and with that I was planning to switch the field too.. help me out with this .. i’m very confuse ..

  2. Is FRM only Suufficient or MBA+FRM is good Combination

  3. Sir, after my graduation of in 2018,
    can I pursue CFA course?
    Do I have to have a 4 year work experience?

  4. i am working in GOVT sector and have MBA in finance will my job in govt. sector will count as a work experience for CFA

  5. Hello I have my Bachelors and masters in Accounting. I currently work as an accounting analyst for an international medical company. I have learned through out my experience that I prefer the financial aspect of business rather than the accounting side. This is why I have not pursued the CPA. In order to open my possibilities I am considering the FRM certification because of the growing business need for this type of work. I have always enjoyed the financial area of business. Wondering if the FRM or MBA would be a better fit for me. I am in the impression that the FRM along with a masters in accounting will open up a lot more doors in my career. Any thoughts?

  6. Hi

    I am in fund accounting and investor servicing of Alternative Investment Funds (Operations). I am an Engineer and MBA in finance. I am 50+. I would like to take up some course for further career growth. Can you suggest which cosurse would suit for me.


  7. Hello Sir,
    I have done MBA finance and am currently working with PSU bank since 3 years. Before that I was working with a Broking firm for 2 years.
    So if I want to continue with PSU bank or banking industry per say then would FRM be a better option.
    I was also thinking of side by side courses of Treasury or risk management. So would FRM be a better option for a career in Banking industry to be specific..

    Please guide me on the same.

  8. Hello Sir,

    There’s a mistake in the article related to FRM. You don’t need 2 year experience to attempt the exam, but you do need to submit your 2-year experience in 5 years after you sat and passed FRM Exam Part II to get the certificate.

  9. Hi,

    I am a CA and CS.I am a CA Rank Holder.I am a graduate in from Shri Ram College of Commerce Delhi.I am currently working with Bharat Petroleum in Audit & Analytics profile.

    There are chances of me moving abroad after marriage.I want to do some course which might help me getting job abroad.

    I don’t want to leave job for doing MBA.I want to do a course which increases the probability of getting job abroad.And where in abroad I ll go, is not yet known.

    Please guide me whether should I do CFA or FRM.I ll be getting married next year,so it will be really challenging for me to take Exam,but once I decide about the course I ll manage.

  10. Hello sir,

    I am a 20 years old Finance Bachelor fresh graduate with zero experience in finance working field. I am planning to continue my studies, learn as much as I can and earn as many certificates as I can, as I am still so young. I see myself more in Risk Management and I love the field. I was so excited to do the FRM exam until I read in your article that I can’t take it because I have no experience. What do you think I should do now? Should I study MBA, Masters of Finance or CFA until I get the working experience required for the FRM? It is so hard to get a job with only the bachelor degree here in Dubai.

    Thank you for your amazing article.

  11. Hi I’m 2 years experienced in assurance at Ernest and young for US-FS Asset management will my experience be considered for FRM?

  12. HELLO,
    i am a Banker working with a Nationalized Bank and right now i am Scale 2 Manager. could you please suggest me good certifications so that i will have a good carrier progression.

  13. Dear sir,

    I am Karthick Raja .I did MBA in Finance 3 yr experience in Finance and. Audit but having low package of this .what course Wii I do to get high salary

  14. Hi,

    I have cleared my CA IPCC and completed the article ship. I am now currently pursuing MS Finance from BSchool in USA as I am interested in pursuing a career in Investment Banking. I have an experience of about a year in Project Financing. Can you please suggest me if FRM would help me, if not what should i must do?


  15. Hello sir, I have completed my CA course n I’m a fresher n nw planning to do job in risk management dept but yet I dint got the job so can I apply for frm course or cfa would be better and any experience will b needed for this course in any field or I would be able to apply it?

  16. Hi
    I am currently working in forex dept where I am handeling various type of import transaction whether this can be treated as experiance for FRM.I have 6 yrs of experiance in forex dept of nationalised bank

  17. Hi Sir,

    Indeed a distinguished article clearly highlighting the pros and cons of each of the course.

    I am a Chartered accountant near to completing two years of work experience in an IT sector and I wish to take up FRM for my further studies and pursue my career in the area of risk management from here in onwards..I wish to know from you is it a good idea and my work experience can be counted as relevant two year work experience required for FRM ?

    • Dear Megha,

      If you want to make your career in Risk Management, then go for FRM. I think your experience will be counted. But, still, it’s better to confirm with GARP officials.

  18. I am Finance Manager for one Industrial company with total years of experience of 12 years.
    I have already spent 7 years with banking.
    I am Graduate in B.Com..
    Now looking for good position in terms of Finance head.

    Please guide for FRM course in deep.

  19. I have completed my MBA in finance from a normal collage and joined franklin Templeton as an executive and completed 1 year. I want to increase my knowledge in core finance, (derivatives , hedge funds, etfs……..) An undefeatable knowledge which I could gain by study and experience. which could lead me a promising career. my first requirement would be knowledge than comes salary, can you please guide me which course is better CFA or FRM to take up.

  20. Hello Sir!

    I have recently completed my under graduate degree from distance education with accounts as major. I had a long gap between my 12th and graduation. During this gap i have been working full time. Now i have inclination towards starting my career in finance. However i am not able to comprehend as to where i should start.
    Need some guidance from you.
    I have started taking certification courses by NISM, will be appearing for 1st module.

    Your suggestions will be helpful.
    Thank you.

  21. Hey, i have completed my graduation in bms (finance) …right now m confused to go in which course in MBA or FRM…i dont have any work experiance… i want to make my career in finace…or if i am planning for both MBA and FRM… what should i do first MBA ot FRM ????

  22. Dear Sir,
    I am a graduate currently working in a private bank as a deputy manager having total 3 years of experience. can you suggest me which is better for me among CFA and FRM.

  23. Hello Avadhut Sir,
    I am a final year engineering student and wish to do both MBA (Finance) and CFA. What should be done initially?
    Also, how do I start preparing for CFA since my background is in electronics engineering?

  24. Hi Mr Avadhut,

    I am a CPA AND HAVE DONE CERTIFICATION IN IFRS(ACCA).Suggest if it is wise to take CFA OR FRM,at this stage,to add to my skills. thks

    • Dear Harinder,

      It depends on your career goal – Risk Management or Financial Analysis/ Equity Research/ Portfolio Management.

  25. Hello Avadhut,
    I am an engineer and now I plan to join an MBA program with specialization in Finance because of the interest I have developed by following the stock market.
    Seeing the long term career prospects I would like an additional certification.
    I need guidance in choosing CFA or FRM or Any good certification you can guide. Which in one is better valued and appreciated by corporates .
    Also since MBA (Finance) is similar to CFA , would that be of better utility than FRM or not?Please guide.

  26. Hi Sir,

    I have 7 years experience with MBA finance, mostly in Investment banks capital market reference data & funds portfolio accounting, currently working as business analyst in one of the service oriented companies and I don’t like my current role as it is deviation from my last work, so decided to quit the job and take FRM level 1 in May 2016. I know FRM toughness , so I think with job clearing exam is quit challenging for me.

    Do you suggest me should I quit job this time and clear FRM level 1 ? and do you think can I able to get a new job after that (before sitting for Leveal 2)

    Note : I dont have specific exp in risk management

      • Sir I m doing job in marketing & complited MBA finance. I m not happy for this job. Plz suggest which course is better for me to build a bright career

  27. Great article sir…..

    I have some queries regarding a finance career in a long run, i had recently completed my MBA in Finance and Marketing from 2 tier b-school and joined finance dept as a Finance trainee in IT based company and got promotion in 3 months and became Accounts executive now, i doing fine for now as per me but when i see my studies i feel whether is it enough for finance job in a long run or not because most of my colleges are either CA qualified or had experience under CA qualified but i dont have anything as such, so i feel i ll face problems in growth not now but in long run as a finance career……whether my thinking is right or MBA is sufficient to stay in finance job and have good career for long run as well ??please guide me that whether i need to do any further studies or MBA is fine ????

      • But sir, my profile right now is purely MIS reporting and controlling, and in future also i would like to be in reporting, variance analysis and controlling function only , so still you would suggest me to do CFA ?? or anything else(which course), which would provide me support for my present profile….which course Sir, it could be which i can do with my full time job in perspective to the above mentioned profile

  28. sir i have done MBA finance and i have 2.5 yrs of experience in retail banking ,so doing FRM will be right for me or not.

  29. Hello Avadhut Sir,

    since past two years i am working as assistant professor of Economics. I wish to advance my carrier in the field of finance. I have couple of questions regarding FRM exam for you
    1) Are there any openings immediately after passing level 1 of FRM exam so that i can enter into the field and start getting experience.
    2) Since i have a some background of finance and Maths will it be possible to clear level one by Self study.
    I would be thank full to receive your valuable advice in this regard.
    thank You!

  30. Hi, I am a fresher. I have done BFIA ( bachelors in finance and investment analysis a ) in my UG from a private institute. I want to make my career in finance and before pursuing MBA, I want sufficient work experience in the finance field. But being a fresher, not a lot of companies hire us for such a profile.
    I have seen most people who have taken this course have prior work experience or a post grad degree hence they will be well placed once they are through with this.
    I want to know whether it would be beneficial for me or shall I pursue MSC in finance without work experience?

  31. HI Sir,

    I have completed my MBA Finance. Now i am working in a company as Credit risk analyst for last 2 years . Actually i am interested to build my career in banking Sector in Credit Department.
    I am confused whether I should take up CFA or FRM ?

  32. Is CFA beneficial in corporate finance roles?

  33. Hi Avadhut,

    Appreciate your idea to share knowledge and precise writing.

    I am an MBA-finance from tier 2 B-school. Completed my 5 years of experience in IT sector as an MIS person. My profile was into financial number analysis, budgeting, cost management.

    These days on reading articles about corporate valuations, restructuring, I wish to pursue my career in those companies and decided it to be my long term career plan.

    Being an MBA finance with MIS experience of 5 yrs in IT filed, is it ok to shift my career and will CFA help me.

  34. Sir,
    I’m in sybcom. Should I start preparing for CFA or MBA finance?
    I want a career in investments.

      • Will completion of all three levels of CFA without MBA get me a good job? I mean, without the CFA charter?

  35. Hello,
    Can CFA be done after MBA in Finance?

  36. Thank u for your valuable opinion. I am a Credit research analyst in one of the top Global financial research firms. This is my first job. I have completed my MBA and got placed in campus. I am yet to decide if I have to pursue CFA/FRM for further studies. At time even CA gets into my portfolio of confusion since I am yet to foresee my best suited career option. Whats your advice.

  37. Hiiii…. it’s very well written article…

    I wanted to know which one will be good for my career growth. .

    I have an experience of a year as a equity dealer in a brokerage firm and now I am currently working as a fund administrator with a firm which operates/administrators foreign mutual funds.

    I am confused whether I should take up CFA or FRM…

    could you please help me out with this….

    Thank you

  38. Thanks for writing up such useful article, I am CA having 3 years of experience n working in Accounting dept. of one the Top IT company, I would like to know which of the above course will suit to me most as i have no experience in core finance such as equity research n portfolio.

    • Hi Rahul,

      If your long-term career goal is equity research and portfolio management, then you should’ve skills and knowledge both. You can think of CFA for this. For core finance jobs, you need to have practical skills. For this purpose, I suggest you to join our 6-week program in Delhi.

      • Hello sir I want to enter into financial services.. I am doing bcom honors. .
        I want to ask is doing CFA a good option for me to work in top business firms??

  39. Hi sir
    I have done PGP in finance and MBA in marketing
    After that I was working in mutual fund sales for 2 years. Now from last 1 year I am working in US bank as analyst In security operation team(KPO).
    Please tell me few things
    1. Which is good for me CFA or FRM.
    2.I have good offer from mutual fund sales should I change my role again even I am comfortable in operation and sales both.Please advise which sector is good in coming time and what should I do.

    • Hi Ashutosh,

      1. Depends on your long-term career goal. Read this for CFA or FRM.

      2. Please don’t hop too often. It will have serious impact on your future opportunities. First, decide which role you love the most and stick to it.
      Any sector is good, scope lies in YOU.

  40. HI Sir,

    Now i am in CA & CS Final. i am working in a company as well.Actually i am interested to build my carrier in Finance Sector after getting
    qualified,but i am little confused what course will be helpful for my carrier.Shall i do CWM or FRM or CFP .Please suggest me regarding this. Thanks in advance.

  41. hi sir,
    i am 24 years old and i have almost 3 years of experience in marketing and operations in a logistics firm
    i really want to make a career in finance and i am also giving various mba entrances but only able to convert tier two colleges
    i want to ask that if i take admission in a tier 2 college and do mba in finance and cfa together and crack atleast two levels before completion of my mba will i be able to get a good start after mba in finance field
    please help

    • Hi Deepak,

      MBA+ CFA is a good combination education-wise. However, you need to acquire practical skills too to perform a core finance job.

      • sir,
        actually i wanna say some of the tier 2 b school charging in a range of 10 lakhs and above if i go in a decent b school and invest my money in cfa and your 6 week program in delhi will i be able to land a good job money wise despite not doing mba from the elite b schools and how should i prepare for cfa that i can clear the exam in one go
        please guide

  42. Hi Sir,

    Really nice article.

    I am interested in wealth management and investment research because i feel these skills will help me in managing my own money as well.

    So will CFA be a good call for me. Thinking to give it in june 2015.

    I have done Bcom(H) and currently working in BPO as jr process associate.
    My current role does not compliment my area of interest.

    This is my first job Its been 8 months ive been working here.

    Should i leave my job and prepare wholly and solely for CFA level 1???

    But i do believe that if i manage to clear my exam along with my current job it would give a better impression on my resume.
    Plus i will have financial support as well.

    Please advice ??????

    Also i completed my graduation in 2012 after that i lost 1.5 yrs in CA intermediate level.
    Joined this co. in 2014.

    Main reason why i want to do CFA is because it would at least keep me in job vs CA.
    I am 23yr old and i think i don have much time for CA now

    I did not enroll for the MBA thinking it would be waste if not done from good institute.

    I know its a long post but it would be of great help if you could advice me on it.

    • Hi Ankit,

      Your thinking is right 🙂 Prepare for CFA with your job. Switch to financial KPOs as soon as possible as it will add finance experience to your resume.

      Read this KPO guide to prepare yourself for KPO jobs.

      Please let me know if you’ve any queries.

      • Thanks a ton 🙂

        Jus one more thing ive enrolled for financial modelling course as well

        So should i switch to financial kpo based on
        Financial modelling certification or should i
        Wait till i clear my CFA level 1

  43. Excellent write up on the three courses. Would be interesting to read how you stack Actuarial Sciences and Certified Actuarial Analyst courses against these three.

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