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MBA or MSA?

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Smirns Just gettin' started! Default Avatar
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MBA or MSA? Post Thu May 15, 2008 10:42 am
I am in the current mode of preparing myself for the GMAT's. While I am in preparation for entering business school I have been wrestling between an MBA and a MSA. As a Jewish son my mother has been adamant about me perusing my MSA and eventually getting my CPA. Her theory is that every company wants and needs a CPA and you can have the luxury of opening your own practice. On the other hand I am interested in venturing off into the Financial Services industry and see the MBA more practical for Finance. I dont want to do taxes, general ledgers, or auditing as a career. I would prefer to work for a large Asset Management firm or Investment Banking firm once I have completed my MBA. So I pose the question what is more valuable in terms of my wants and desires as opposed to my mothers? I am open to hearing both sides. Please someone help me formulate my opinions!

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AleksandrM GMAT Destroyer!
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Post Thu May 15, 2008 2:28 pm
I don't think you are torn between an MSA and an MBA. I think you are torn between what you want to do vs. what your mother wants you to do. Your mother certainly has a point in that there is a perennial shortage of good accountants. However, you will have a hard time getting into finance with a degree in accounting. My finance has a BS in accounting and graduated in the top 5 percent of her class. She applied to Vanguard and Charles Schwab, and was not hired by either. They explicitly told her that while her credentials are promising, they are more interested in people with a finance background.

I think you should instead be considering whether you should get an MSF (masters of science in finance) vs. an MBA. An MSF is going to provide with a specialized, intensive training in finance. I have two friends who finished an MSF, and both are very happy with where they are now. An MSF provides with a lot of graduate level finance classes, and takes less time (1 year) than a traditional 2-year MBA. An MBA with a concentration in finance would provide with 4, maybe 5, finance classes. MSF would provide you with 10 to 12, depending on program intensity. An MBA would, on the other hand, provide with a wide variety of classes. Immediately upon graduation, an MSF would not provide with as much flexibility in pursuing a career. In other words, with an MBA, you would be able to move into a wider variety of industries; however, this is still dependent on your previous work experience. An MSF would grant you access to any planet within the finance galaxy. However, you would then have to stay in this industry for a few years before moving on to something else...AND chances are you would be moving into a position that has something to do with finance. No one is going to hire you for a position of a vice president of marketing and waste your credentials in finance. An MSA is more useful for people who want to initially move into either auditing and assurance services or tax services. After about 5 years, a number of people move out of public accounting and on to industry, but they are once again employed for their understanding of the financial structure and dynamics of an organization, not as FINANCE people. With an MSA you will NOT end up at an investment banking or asset management firm.

There are, of course, exceptions to everything I just said, so you would have to base your decision on your own profile.



Last edited by AleksandrM on Fri May 16, 2008 2:10 pm; edited 1 time in total

mwilliams Rising GMAT Star Default Avatar
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Post Thu May 15, 2008 6:15 pm
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Last edited by mwilliams on Mon Jan 31, 2011 12:05 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Lisa Anderson MBA Admissions Consultant
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Post Fri May 16, 2008 6:30 am
Dear Smirns,

I echo the comments provided by AleksandrM and mwilliams. If you truly want to go into banking or asset management, then you need a graduate degree with a finance focus (MBA or MSF). The MSA is for people that want to be accountants for their career.

Based on my experience in MBA career services and working with MBA recruiters from banks and asset management firms, I do think the MBA is the preferred degree in these industries. That is not to say that MSF graduates do not get jobs in these industries, but the firms prefer the MBA degree as they value the general management core curriculum. The general management foundation will serve you well as you progress up the managerial ranks. If you do some research, you will find many MBA programs where you can take 8-10 finance electives in addition to the required core finance course(s).

Best of luck,
Lisa

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VP_Jim GMAT Instructor Default Avatar
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Post Wed Jun 25, 2008 9:28 pm
I know this is a little late, but:

As someone with an MSA and a CPA license, let me warn you: do NOT bother getting either credential if you aren't interested in accounting/auditing/taxation. Basically, an MSA is a specialized degree designed to get you a job at a prestigious accounting firm, where you'll almost certainly be doing auditing or tax. After a few years you might be able to do something else, but the "sexy" finance jobs that you speak of will usually go to the MBA folks, not the CPAs.

Good luck!

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AleksandrM GMAT Destroyer!
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Post Thu Jun 26, 2008 3:08 pm
Woah! Jim, I didn't know you had an MSA. This is the degree I plan to apply for. Perhaps I could direct some specific questions to you about this as I progress further in my application process?

wawatan Really wants to Beat The GMAT! Default Avatar
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Post Fri Jun 27, 2008 12:09 am
"As someone with an MSA and a CPA license, let me warn you: do NOT bother getting either credential if you aren't interested in accounting/auditing/taxation. "

I disagree with VP Jim on this statement. I know a couple of friends who are working in the hedge fund industry as portfolio managers and having a cpa greatly helped them in their career line. CPA proves to people that you can analyze financial statements with no problem. It is a great asset to have no matter which industry you work in.

VP_Jim GMAT Instructor Default Avatar
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Post Sun Jun 29, 2008 11:11 pm
You bet, you can direct any accounting-related questions to me.

And, I still maintain that a CPA license isn't the best choice if you're 100% sure you don't want to work in accounting. Sure, you MAY end up working at a hedge fund.... or you may end up not getting such a position and preparing tax returns for the rest of your career....

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mikez Just gettin' started! Default Avatar
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Post Mon Jul 21, 2008 3:51 pm
Hi Smirns

Based on what you described, I suggest you look at top MBA programs with excellent Finance electives. Then later consider continuing on by taking a few added finance electives you may need to qualify for an MSF. Also, set your expectations that job requirements and expected qualifications are constantly changing and the financial services industry is cyclical.

Take some of the personality tests that would equate your personality type with specific occupations and the types of activities you prefer, as accounting, finance, analysis, managing an accounting system, an audit team. managing an investment program. managing or not managing people all lend themselves to different activities and ways people prefer to spend their time. Tests as the MBTI and others can help sort this out as well as the Guide for Occupational Exploration which can help fine-tune interests to specific occupations by looking beyond the obvious, such as the type environment you'd like to work in on a daily basis and other factors your mom mentions, as low barriers to entry for starting your own professional practice if you chose to. I mention this because you mentioned financial services. your mom mentioned having your own practice. and one combination of that would be a personal financial services planning firm. Some of the personality tests combined with the occupational guide I mentioned, could provide insight and help you clarify your choices by learning more about yourself and which occupations and work environments are best aligned with your personality and interests.

I'd suggest working in a large company / financial institution early on. where you can do rotations in different functions to find out whether you like or dislike a particular functional area.

Choosing a degree program is a difficult subject. Most MBA programs really don't prepare students to be a specialist. And most jobs are for specialists. The MBA is a general degree that teaches students the fundamentals of all business functions, and how to communicate with functional specialists as a general manager or CEO needs to do.

The reality is that other than going into a family business or starting one, few companies will hire a freshly minted MBA to head a large company. However, many companies hire MBAs for functional positions where they can gain specialized knowledge. I agree with Ms. Anderson's comment, "The general management foundation will serve you well as you progress up the managerial ranks."

For financial services and investment banking, more important than the degree granted, is the reputation of the institution you attend. Your profile said Stamford, and I wasn't sure if that is Stamford, CT or you mis-typed Stanford as in Stanford University. The truth is to obtain a high level job in investment banking out of graduate school, most hires are selected from the most competitive MBA programs. Those hires are usually put through the maze of working infinite hours to weed people out, and a majority then fall out of the system. If you can attend the Wharton School then fine. You will always be in demand. The truth is many cannot attend a top school like that, so have alternative plans in your deck of cards to be played.

My former finance professor and now best friend, regularly sees high numbers of students who want to work in investment banking. Many find they are not qualified and find this out too late. If your goal is to work at an IB, you should shoot for a top university, preferably an ivy school, and make sure you do well in all the quantitative courses and are able to do quantitative analysis using software, advanced math and statistics. You are more likely to get hired as an IB analyst having combined/advanced degrees in math and economics than an accounting degree. The math and computer skills needed to do some finance jobs is more complex and often based more on econometrics than accounting rules, so keep this in mind.

As for the MSA, or accounting in general, it is still considered the language of business. When I finished my MBA, many upper level job posts required Fortune 100 experience and an MBA. Now many require both an MBA and CPA. Because of this, I am looking at ways to sit for the CPA exam. To sit for the exam, I meet the credit hour requirements as I have both engineering and MBA degrees. I meet the general business education requirement by holding an MBA. I do not meet the core accounting requirements to sit for the exam. In my case, that means taking some additional advanced core accounting courses. In doing this I am looking at 1) MSA programs and 2) Just taking the five core courses I need and sitting for the exam. Also, the top accounting firms now offer much more than traditional audit and tax services. They also offer management consulting services, operational audits, merger and acquisition services, due diligence audits for potential acquisitions. and IT services. Again your interests seem to be more with a financial services company so....

The truth of the matter is that in today's world employers want certifications as well as college degrees. Whether its an MBA, MSF, MSA, MSIT, JD or other, employers still would like to see certifications as the CPA, NASAA Series Financial Exams, and or passing the bar exam. Its competitive out there, so I'd try and follow what you want to do most and if you are passionate about pursuing what you like most, there will be work.

Also keep in mind that today's CPA does more than just accounting. CFOs, Treasurers, VPs of Finance, Investment Managers need to be able to understand the implication that certain accounting rules have on valuations to stockholders or the value of an investment or a potential acquisition.

In any case, I do not think you'll go wrong in a top MBA program that also offers strong electives in both finance and accounting. Once in the program, you will be required to take both finance and accounting courses, and at that point you can decide if you prefer to switch to / or supplement your MBA with an MSF or MSA.

Hope this is helpful.

Mike

AlissaL Just gettin' started! Default Avatar
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Post Fri Jun 11, 2010 12:27 pm
If you want to pursue a career in Asset management and get hired by one of the Investment firms, you should get CFA, not CPA. There are two sides to Financial Services Industry. First is the sales side, which includes management of personal/business investment portfolios. The most common position is a Financial Advisor. You will need licenses, such as Series 7, 63, and 66 in order to be able to trade the securities and give advice. No masters degree is required here. As long as you have a BS in Finance or Economics and have great people's skills, you are set. Second side is the Financial analysis and Investment Banking. This side is a bit more complicated. CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) and an MBA are the best way to advance in this career. Personally, I have worked as a Stock Broker at Charles Schwab and as a Financial Advisor at Merrill Lynch. I enjoy working with people very much! However, I realized that there is a lot more stability, especially in this environment, in the Accounting Industry. I am studying for CPA and MSA right now. Also, you need to understand that if you pursue the Finance career of Financial Analyst, Asset/Fund management, or Investment Banker you are also limiting yourself to the location. Most likely you will be in NY or Chicago. If you, however, obtain your CPA and MSA, you can find a job in any state or city. Accountants are needed everywhere! Plus ability to open up your own firm in the future is like an icing on the cake.

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