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Should You Get A CFA Or An MBA In Singapore?

Which is better?


If you were thinking of becoming a Master of Business Administration, you might have also come across people mentioning the Chartered Financial Analyst Programme as an alternative. There has been a lot of discussion on which is a better programme to go for.

In this article, we will break it down to you in Singapore’s context, using the NUS MBA as a comparison.


The MBA: The NUS MBA programme will set you back by $62,000. There are also Mandatory Miscellaneous Fees that add up to $523.45 for full-time students and $569.50 for part-time students. However, there are many scholarships available – you might not have to pay for your tuition fees if you can get them.

Not included is the money spent on transportation when you have to attend classes.

The CFA: The enrolment fee is about $606, while the fee for all level I to III tests is $3757. This adds up to a total of $4363.

Entry Requirements

The MBA: According to their website, a good undergraduate degree, a minimum of two years’ work experience, a good GMAT/GRE score, and two referee reports are required. You will then have to pass an interview.

The CFA: One of the following is required: a bachelor’s (or equivalent) degree or be in the final year of your bachelor’s degree programme, or four years of professional work experience (does not have to be investment related), or a combination of professional work experience and education that totals at least four years.

It is more difficult to get into the MBA programme as there are many requirements. Furthermore, there are only about 100 students accepted into the NUS MBA programme each year. Meanwhile, the CFA programme is comparably easier to get into.

Duration of Programme

The MBA: The full-time programme will require 17 months while the part-time programme can be done in 24 or 30 months.

The CFA: Successful candidates take an average of four years to earn their CFA charter.

Commitment Level Required

The MBA: Studying full time will require you to leave your job and concentrate on your studies. Classes can take place in the morning, afternoon, or evening.

Having to hit pause in the middle of your career might not be beneficial if you cannot obtain the MBA.

Meanwhile, if you are studying part-time, you have to go for evening classes after work. This might be taxing on you as you will need to focus despite a long day of work.

The CFA: You have to study during your own free time. While this provides you with more flexibility, if you are not disciplined, you will end up not doing well for your tests.

The CFA Institute recommends that you study for 300 hours before you take one of their tests. If you study for 6 hours every weekend, it will be almost a year before you are ready for an exam.

Read More: 5 Useful Finance-related Courses To Enrol Using SkillsFuture Credit

Difficulty Level of Programme

The MBA: Though rigorous and demanding, you are unlikely to fail unless you drop out due to personal reasons.

The CFA: The June 2016 exam pass rates for Levels I, II, and III, are 43%, 46%, and 54% respectively.

It is not easy to pass, so this means that you will have to be very committed to preparing for your tests.

Job Prospects

The MBA: NUS MBA’s programme will cover Accounting, Decision Sciences, Finance, Management and Organisation, Marketing, Strategy and Policy.

As the content taught is broader, it also means that more job opportunities are opened up for you.

The CFA: The aim of the CFA programme is to develop your skills in investment analysis, portfolio strategy and asset allocation.

The subjects covered are more niche, so there are less job opportunities. However, a big plus is that you will probably enjoy a higher pay.

Based on PayScale’s data, the median pay of CFA charterholders in Singapore with 1-4 years of working experience is $70,659 and those with an MBA get $52,765. That is a difference of almost $20,000 a year.

So Which One Should I Do?

Below is a summary of some of the differences between the MBA and the CFA.

Cost $63,093 $4363
Entry Requirements more requirements less requirements
Duration of Programme 17, 24, or 30 months 4 years
Commitment Required full-time – stop working

part-time – classes after work

on your own time – more flexibility
Difficulty Level of Programme unlikely to fail low exam pass rates
Job Prospects diverse career options more niche


With expensive tuition fees, it is no surprise that the MBA can fall out of favour with many people. However, one thing to remember is that while the CFA is indeed more prestigious, doing an MBA gives you the chance to network and make valuable connections through classes.

The important question to ask yourself is what are your goals? Do you want to break into a different sector or do you want to become an analyst? Only when you know what you want to achieve out of these programmes will you be able to benefit from them.

Read More: 5 Important Steps Towards Planning For Your MBA

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