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MBA VS CA: Know the Differences

A professional degree is now an absolute must for every student aiming for a thriving corporate career. While there are several professional and post-graduate courses available in India and abroad, MBA and CA/CPA are amongst the most popular. As both courses provide access to top-level corporate jobs, the selection between the two can be very confusing.

If you are struggling to make a decision, the details and differences discussed in this post can help


What are CA and CPA? Which is Better?

The credentials CA and CPA are often used interchangeably. While both are accounting-related courses that a candidate earns by completing a defined course and clearing an examination, there are significant differences between the two. Take a look-

Parameter CA CPA
Full-Form Chartered Accountant Certified Public Accountant
Exam Conducting Authority ICAI (Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants)
Course Duration Minimum 4-5 years 7 months to 1 year
Accounting Standards Indian GAAP US GAAP and IFRS
Recognition India and some Middle Eastern countries USA and globally
Work Experience Minimum 3-year articleship in a CA firm Minimum 1 year in Accounting and Finance
Expense $1,000-$1,500 $2,500-$4,000

As for what is better between the two, it depends on what a student would like to do in the future. For example, if you’d like to work in a multinational company in India or plan to move to a foreign country, CPA can be the right choice. But if you’d like to work in India or even set up your own CA firm in the future within the country, you can opt for CA. 

What is MBA?

While CA/CPA is a credential, MBA (Masters in Business Administration) is an academic postgraduate degree. It is an internationally-recognized degree that helps the candidates develop skills needed for business and management careers. Every MBA course has a “core” curriculum along with elective courses. 

Some of the top MBA specializations you can consider are-

  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • HR
  • Business Analytics
  • International Business
  • Banking and Financial Services
  • IT Systems

The top business schools in India require candidates to have an impressive CAT (Common Admission Test) score along with other eligibility requirements. If you are aiming for an international MBA, you will need a decent GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) score. Some of the Indian business schools also accept GMAT scores. 

[READ: How to Prepare for GMAT] 



Now to the main question, what are the biggest differences between CA/CPA and MBA? Here’s what you should know-

  1. Eligibility

The eligibility criteria for CA/CPA and MBA are as follows-

  • CA/CPA

The CA program is divided into four levels in India- CA Foundation, CA Intermediate, 3-Year Articleship Training, and CA Final. A candidate who has completed 10th and 12th exams conducted by a government-recognized board and scored at least 50% is eligible for the CA Foundation course. 

If you are already a post-graduate, there is also a Direct Entry Scheme by the ICAI. After completing the CA Foundation program, candidates can enrol for CA Intermediate, and so on. 

If you’d like to enrol for CPA, you need 150 accounting credits in your academics. For Indian students, it means completing an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree. For instance a candidate can complete + MBA, +, or + CA.   

  • MBA

While you can opt for the CA Foundation course after completing 12th, you need to complete a 3-year graduation course from a recognized institute and score at least 50% aggregate to be eligible for MBA.   

Depending on the business school you select for your MBA, you should also have a valid cut-off score of GMAT/CAT. If you’d like to pursue MBA in one of the top international business schools, you’ll be required to complete IELTS and TOEFL language proficiency tests along with having a decent GMAT/GRE score. Apart from this, you’ll have to prepare an MBA resume and submit it along with your Essay answers (which may vary) and MBA recommendation letter. 

  1. Cost Difference

There’s also a significant difference in the cost of CA/CPA and MBA courses. Take a look-

  • CA/CPA

If you’d like to opt for the CA course, the total cost of the course can be up to Rs. 2 lakhs, including the approximate tuition fee, registration fee, and reference books. If the CPA course is what you are aiming for, the course fee can be between Rs. 2 lakhs to Rs. 3 lakhs. But if you are moving to the USA to complete your CPA, the cost can be considerably higher. 

  • MBA

The MBA fee at B-schools in the USA can go upwards $100,000 and all the way up to $250,000 or more depending on the school you select. While it’s quite easy to get loans for your MBA program, you can also apply for scholarship programs. 

[READ: How to Get Full Ride Scholarship in Top B-School]


  1. Post-graduate Salary

Here’s a quick overview of the average salary you can expect after completing CA/CPA and MBA-

  • CA/CPA

In India, the average salary earned by a CA is around Rs. 6 lakhs per annum. Skills such as Budget Management, Strategic Accounts, Financial Advisor, Financial Analysis, and Management Auditing are in high demand among top employers. Also, your experience will strongly impact the income. 

If you are a CPA professional, you can expect a slightly higher pay package in India. Most of the professionals earn around Rs. 7.5-8 lakhs per annum. Ernst & Young, PwC, Cognizant, Deloitte, Standard Chartered Bank, and KPMG are some of the top CPA recruiters in the country. 

  • MBA

The salary of MBA graduates abundantly depends on the institute from which they have completed the course and even the specialization selected. It is not uncommon for MBA graduates from top business schools to receive a 6-figure salary package. 

[READ: Which MBA Programs Have the Highest Salaries]


Pros and Cons of CA/CPA and MBA

To make the selection clearer, here are some of the top pros and cons of doing CA/CPA and MBA-


Pros Cons
  • Plenty of job opportunities in India and abroad
  • Excellent professional growth potential
  • Highly favourable earning potential
  • Clear career path
  • High entrepreneurial potential
  • CA course can be very challenging
  • Work can be stressful and dull
  • Tax season can be hectic for tax accountants



Pros Cons
  • Excellent personal and professional development
  • Vast networking opportunities
  • MBA professionals are in high demand
  • Impressive salary package after gaining some experience
  • Opportunity to switch careers or build your own business
  • Fees can be costly in IIMs and top business schools
  • Highly competitive


What Should You Choose Between CA/CPA and MBA?

Both CA/CPA and MBA courses can help you build successful careers. The selection between the two depends on what will better match your career aspirations. While CA/CPA only focuses on making you an accounts specialist, MBA is more extensive and ideal for individuals aiming for a managerial position. 

[READ: The ROI of MBA from USA]

If you are planning to opt for MBA, especially from a foreign country, the assistance of a reputed MBA consultant could prove very helpful. Your knowledge, skills, and dedication combined with our expertise in the field can significantly boost your prospects of getting selected by one of the top international universities.  

For over 15+ years as an Entrepreneur, and India’s Top Educationist, Jatin has led a range of initiatives in the Education Industry. In this role, he has created many successful educational services and products geared towards generating success for professionals aspiring to join IVY League and global Top Tier Universities for MBA Programs, Masters Programs, and undergraduate courses. He is the Founder and CEO of PythaGURUS Education, and has been recognized as a thought leader in the Higher education sector. Economic Times, Hindustan Times, Times of India, India Today, Business Today, Tribune, and many other national newspapers have recognized his work, and have given him numerous opportunities to be a regular columnist. He has also served as a panelist for NDTV, and other national news channels.

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