CPA vs. MBA | Key Difference, Salaries, Career & More to Know

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CPA vs. MBA | Key Difference, Salaries, Career & More to Know


Which course is better to pursue in the accounting domain, “CPA vs. MBA”? It is a burning question for many individuals in the commerce stream. After getting their bachelor’s degree, students often find it difficult to choose between a US CPA or an MBA degree, as both offer lucrative options.

The choice depends on your interests, likes/dislikes, and career direction. US CPA and MBA qualifications may appeal to students who have not yet found their finance niche.

The US CPA license provides you with international recognition as a finance professional, empowering you with the opportunity to work as an accountant in the United States and worldwide in the top MNCs. In contrast, the MBA degree is not limited to the finance sector and prepares the candidate for a broader management and consultancy sector.

Choosing the course to pursue after your bachelor’s degree is an important decision and can greatly impact your upcoming life. Thus, you should take your time analyzing both the options and your career plans.

Let us guide you through the basics of each program and the major differences in the “CPA vs. MBA.” So you can easily decide on the program you want to pursue.

Difference Between CPA and MBA

The major difference between the CPA and MBA is that the CPA is an internationally recognized certification in the field of accounting & finance, while the MBA program is a full-fledged professional academic degree.

Both options can lead to very different career paths. If you are interested in accounting, then the US CPA certification program is for you. Conversely, the MBA degree is better suited for those seeking management jobs.

Let’s give you a better understanding with the below comparative table. 

CPA vs. MBA Comparative Table

Section US CPA MBA
Full Name US Certified Public Accountant Master of Business Administration
About CPA is a professional accounting credential, and it trains candidates to be an Accountant. MBA is a Postgraduate Academic degree. It prepares a candidate for understanding the management of the business world.
The organizing body AICPA, or the “American Institute of Certified Public Accountants,” is the body conducting the CPA exams. MBA programs can be organized by various business schools and colleges. (For example, in India, IIM (Indian Institute of Management)
Duration It can be completed in 18 months or less. Generally, an MBA program can be completed in 2 years as a regular student. 
Job roles A CPA professional can get a job as a:Public AccountantForensic AccountantInternal AuditorFinancial Analyst You can grab the following job roles after completing your MBA program – Financial AnalystFinancial AdvisorOperations ManagerMarketing ManagerHuman Resource Manager
Difficulty to pass Completing a CPA course is comparatively quite difficult, with a passing rate of less than 50% Going through the MBA program is comparatively easier than the CPA. Most of the candidates who join, get their MBA degree.
Examination Pattern CPA exams consist of 4 parts, which are:-
FAR – Financial Accounting & Reporting BEC – Business Environment & Concepts AUD – Audit & AttestationREG – Regulation
The entire tenure of an MBA program is divided into semesters or trimesters. Each semester or trimester covers various subjects in finance as per the specialization chosen.

CPA vs. MBA – Which is Better?

It depends on your interests, likes/dislikes, and career goals. Although US CPA and MBA are both financial qualifications, you have to understand that both qualifications lead to very different career paths.

If you are a “numbers cruncher” and want to work in the top accounting firms, then becoming a CPA seems like the option to go with. However, If you are interested in business consultancy or management roles, you should do an MBA from a business school. 

Thus, the correct answer to this question varies from person to person. You just have to decide which of the two qualifications is the best for you and your career goals. You can take your likes/dislikes, finance, and career aspects into consideration.

Let’s discuss various aspects of these qualifications to find which one suits you best, the CPA credential or the MBA degree.

Skills Obtained via CPA vs. MBA Programs

As the US CPA and the MBA lead to quite different types of jobs, they also help the students develop different skill sets. Certified Public Accountants or CPAs usually have to deal with a large volume of accounting, taxation, & finance. US CPA credential also provides you with authority to practice accountancy and to sign/audit reports in the United States.

On the other hand, the MBA teaches you a better understanding of business operations and makes you employable in more industries. In addition, an MBA degree develops the ability to handle pressure and short turnaround time. The MBA graduates also develop critical strategic thinking, Risk Management, communication, and thought leadership skills.

CPA vs MBA Duration

The time duration for successfully completing the CPA program can vary from person to person. The CPA exams have four parts. A candidate must pass all four parts of the Uniform CPA exam within an 18-month period. Thus, you can pass the CPA program in 18 months or less.

However, the duration of an MBA doesn’t vary drastically. The candidate can complete their MBA course within the stipulated time of 1 to 2 years, depending on the type of program (1 year for executive and two years for regular).

Eligibility or Experience Required for CPA Vs MBA

Both the CPA license and the MBA degree require the candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree in any relevant discipline or equivalent professional credentials.

Cpa Institute In Bangalore

However, CPA candidates must also gain at least two years of relevant professional experience in accounting, preferably under a CPA. In contrast, there is no mandate for MBA candidates to have any work experience. Though, it is better to gain relevant work experience through your MBA program.

CPA vs MBA Career Opportunity:

The career opportunities for both a CPA professional and an MBA graduate are immense. However, opportunities available to a CPA are usually quite restricted to that of a public accountant, internal auditor, financial analyst/advisor, etc. 

On the other hand, an MBA degree can open up the gates to quite a diverse range of career opportunities. As an MBA graduate, you can join any organization as a financial analyst, financial advisor, operations manager, human resource manager, marketing manager, etc.

CPA vs MBA Salary:

It is no secret that obtaining any of the two qualifications can greatly increase your income potential. The average salary for a US CPA-certified accounting professional in the United States is around $60,000 per year. The bottom 10% were making around $50,000, and the top 10% were making over $ 100,000.

On the other hand, the salary of an MBA graduate can vary quite a lot. The business school or college that you have attended plays an important role in deciding how much you make as an MBA graduate. However, the average salary that an MBA graduate can get in the United States hovers around $50,000 per annum. Note that the salary of an MBA graduate can significantly increase with some work experience. Thus, it is recommended to do some internships, along with your MBA degree, to gain some work experience.

Course Fees for US CPA vs. MBA

The total cost of the CPA and MBA programs can vary greatly depending on the type of institute, location, and mode of course chosen. The CPA exam consists of 4 parts. The cost to sit for all four sections is around $1500. However, there are also additional costs associated with any prep courses you might take to prepare for the CPA exam, study material, exam retakes, and also CPA license costs. After considering everything, the total cost of completing the CPA can reach up to $3500. Also note that to maintain your CPA license, you may have to attend a CPE course, which may also add additional costs.

On the Other hand, the cost of gaining an MBA degree can vary depending on geographic location, private versus public institution, etc. Doing your MBA degree from one of the top Business schools in the US can cost up to $30,000. 

CPA vs. MBA – How to Enroll?

For the CPA certification, the candidates can visit the website of AICPA and follow the registration process there. Alternatively, the candidate can contact NorthStar Academy to get the much-needed guidance for US CPA certification.

While for the MBA degree, candidates must first choose the business schools from where they want to pursue their MBA degree. There are various competitive exams for the top B-schools for MBA. After passing such competitive exams, you can get admission to those top business schools.


1. What can I do with a CPA plus MBA?

You can do nearly any job in the finance world if you have a CPA license and an MBA degree. After earning both a CPA license and an MBA degree, you can also demand a higher salary from your employer.

With good enough work experience, this combination could help you serve as a Chief Financial Officer (CFO), financial director, financial analyst, or business consultant at top levels.

2. What is more valuable in the US, a CPA or an MBA?

Both qualifications are quite valuable and should not be compared. However, an MBA degree is more valuable than a CPA credential if you have done it from prestigious business schools or universities and you have a keen interest in the business management sector or consultancy services.

But in all other scenarios, the CPA license is considered much more valuable than an MBA degree. In the United States, the average salary of a CPA is 10% more than that of a non-CPA professional.

3. What’s better for a career, an MBA or a CPA? Why?

It is no secret that an MBA or a CPA can lead to rich and high-paying career paths. As a CPA, you can work as a Public Accountant in the United States, Auditor, tax advisor, or forensic accountant, or you can even get a job as a Chief financial officer (CFO).

However, If you get an MBA degree, you may have a wider range of career opportunities, depending on your area of specialization. As an MBA graduate, you can work as a Management consultant, operation manager, marketing manager, investment banker, financial advisor, or Chief information officer.

4. Can I do a CPA after an MBA in India? Will it be worth doing so?

Yes, you can do a CPA after completing your MBA degree in India. Many students first complete their MBA degree in India and only then register for the CPA license. If you have an MBA degree in Accounting and want to advance your career and specialize in corporate finance or taxes, then it is a good idea to gain a CPA license.

5. Who earns more, US CPA or MBA?

In the United States, a fresher with a CPA license can usually earn more than an MBA fresher. However, If you gain enough work experience, then you can easily fetch a higher salary than a CPA professional as an MBA graduate. You can also expect a very high salary if you have gained your MBA degree from some of the most prominent business universities out there.


No qualification is better than the other; it is just a matter of preference. The US CPA certification and MBA degree can help you get a high-paying job in the finance world. You must decide which certification is better for you according to your financial goals, CPA vs. MBA.

If you somehow lean towards the US CPA, then you can entirely rely on the NorthStar Academy for the all-inclusive preparation. NSA is the leading CPA coaching institute with years of experience. Our well-organized and most-preferred study material from Becker in the CPA USA course covers all the corners of the syllabus. Moreover, guidance from the top mentors in this field will help you at every stage of the journey to becoming a successful CPA.

Hopefully, the above article has helped you decide which certification you want to pursue. If you have any queries, feel free to contact us

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