Chartered Accountant (CA) vs MBA: Differences & career prospects

CA vs MBAIn today’s competitive world, a post-graduate degree or a professional qualification has become the need of the hour to widen the career scope and improve the job and salary prospects.

We get numerous queries from students pursuing the commerce stream who’re keen to find out whether an MBA or CA would be a better study option.

In this post, we’d cover various aspects of an MBA degree and a CA qualification.
 


CA vs MBA: Comparing courses, salaries & career growth prospects

 
Firstly, let’s get some of the facts right. An MBA is a post-graduate qualification and can be taken up only after you complete your graduation.

It is usually a two-year program whereas the Chartered Accountancy (CA) is a professional degree which can be started after you finish your 12th standard.

For completing your CA, you don’t have to attend any college or be affiliated to any university. Instead, you are required to register yourself with the ICAI (Institute of Chartered Accountants of India).
 

B.Com and CA/MBA:

A majority of students take up CA studies as well as complete their B.Com. The BCom is a graduation degree granted by the University whereas the CA is self-study based (or you may take external help through prep classes) and you can complete it at your own pace.

Considering the low success rate in the CA exams, if you’re unable to clear it, at least you’d be in a position to complete your graduation (B.Com) and later opt for any post-graduation program including an MBA. There are many students who may complete their CA and then also plan for an MBA some time later after a few years of working.

For graduates intending to study in an international MBA program, there are many international business schools accepting candidates with 15 years of college education.

To get the details, check out this post on Amercian colleges that accept Indian degrees like BSc and BCom. However a few years of good work experience would be required before you apply.

 

BU-ICAI joint education program

Bharathiar University along with ICAI are offering joint programs including BCom, MCom. The students who has passes their intermediate exam are exempted from appearing in certain subjects. Details are available here.
 

CA course structure

Here is the step by step process for pursuing your CA after std. XII:
 

1. Common Proficiency Test (CPT)

The process begins with enrolling with the Institute of Common Proficiency Course after passing your std. X exams. Once you give your std. XII exams, you may appear for the (Common Proficiency Test) CPT which is held every year in June and December.
 

2. Intermediate course

Next comes the IPC (Intermediate course). You may register for both group I and group II or one at a time. There are two more requirements to complete: a 35 hour duration week – long orientation course and Information Technology Training (ITT) spanning 100 hours.

You may then appear for the intermediate exams (held in May and November) and after clearing group I or both groups, you can begin with your articleship.
 

3. Articleship

You need to complete three years of articleship under a practising Chartered accountant. The articleship is important as it gives you exposure to vast knowledge and practical experience. The learning derived during this period can be tremendous and will help you in the long run. Some may be lucky enough to land an articleship with a Big 4.

Read this related article on whether Chartered Accountant (CA) articleship is counted in MBA applications.
 

4. GMCS

There are again two 15 day duration Complete general management and communication and communication skills (GMCS-I) and GMCS-II which needs to be completed during the first year and during the 19th to 36th month of your articleship respectively.
 

5. CA Final exams

After clearing the intermediate exams, you have to register for the CA final exam. These exams are held twice a year-in November and May. There are two groups each comprising four papers.

You need to take ‘complete advance information technology training’ during the last year of articleship and then you may appear for the CA finals during the last six months of articleship.

Once you complete your Practical Training or articleship, you need to enrol with the ICAI and you earn the designation of a Chartered Accountant.
 

CA after BCom or graduation

There are those who’d wish to do CA after completing their commerce graduation (B Com) or post-graduation (M Com).

You need to have secured 55% if you’re a commerce graduate/post-graduate or 60% if you’re a graduate/ post-graduate from another stream.
 

CA Process

Here, the CPT is given a skip. You have to get enrolled with the institute (ICAI) straightaway for the intermediate (IPC) course. After completing of the orientation course and the ITT as mentioned before, you may begin with your articleship which will continue for a period of three years.

You have to complete GMCS-I course during the first year of articled training and after working for a period of nine months, you’re eligible to appear for both the groups of the intermediate exams.

You can now register for the CA final exams and then complete GMCS-II course during 19-36 months of practical training. The rest of the procedure would be the same.

After finishing the ‘complete advance information technology training’ during the last year of articleship, you may appear for the CA finals during the last six months of your practical training.

 

CA exam passing percentage

The success rate for the May 2015 CA Final exams was a mere 8.26% for candidates who passed both the groups, it was 7.29% for May 2014.

In the November 2013 exams, the success rate was as low as 3.11%, so we can say that the pass percentage has shown a slight rise.

However compared to other exams, the low pass percentage signifies the level of difficulty in getting through in the first attempt. In case you are unsuccessful in clearing any exam, you are allowed multiple attempts.

 

CA fee structure

The breakup for CA fees and the total amount is as follows:

CA Fee Breakup Amount in Rupees (INR)
CPC registration fee 6,000
Intermediate course registration fee (both groups) 9,000
Articled training registration fee 2,000
Final course registration fee 10,000
ITT training 4,000
Orientation 3,000
GMCS-I 5,500
GMCS-II 5,500
Total 45,000

Source: icai.org

In addition, there is an exam fee which totals up to INR 4300 for all the exams.
 

CA career scope and prospects

The Chartered Accountant designation is a highly respectable one, especially if you have cleared it all in the first attempt.

CAs may start their own practice after gathering some experience or opt to work with other reputed Chartered Accountant’s firm.

The choice is yours – whether you are comfortable working in a small or mid-size private practice, auditing and consulting firms, the banking or the corporate sector. You may get a chance to work with the Big-4 or join any multinational organisation (MNC).

Almost every huge organisation has an Accounts or Finance department and it’s up to you to decide where to apply.

In addition to auditing, taxation, financial accounting, compliance with various regulations or cost accounting which you may already be conversant with during your articled training, there is a lot more knowledge and skills you’ll pick while on your job.

You may also be lucky to be offered roles in corporate finance or investment banking.
 

CA Salary

Some of the good companies offer an attractive starting salary for the right candidate.

The average starting salary may range between 6,00,000 to 7,00,000 Rupees.

Though bigger companies may pay a much higher compensation package, smaller firms would not be able to match this range.

 

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Compared to the earlier section on CA basics, we’ll keep this one short as we’ve got plenty of articles on the MBA degre. Check out the relevant links in the sections below, if you need further information or a memory refresher on any particular sub-topic.

The MBA brand value of the business school from where you get the degree counts a lot. There is tough competition to get into a top ranked MBA program.

In India, most of the MBA programs for freshers are two year long. You may need to appear for the CAT or any other exam as per the admission requirement of the business school you wish to attend.

The most sought after IIMs have the two year Post-Graduate Programme in Management (PGP) for students without much experience. Some of the top programs like ISB and Harvard business school have started MBA programs for freshers like the YLP and the HBS 2+2 respectively.

If you choose to wait for a few years and get some work experience, you can apply to the other international MBA programs as well. An international MBA would give you a chance to spend time in the country of your choice and you may get a chance to work there.

These international programs require a good GMAT score. You need to put in sincere effort to create high quality MBA essays, get recommendations and finally crack the MBA interview.

 

Scope of an MBA program

The MBA curriculum combines theory with various practical teaching methods. In addition to the lectures and seminars, there are the case studies and simulations, experiential learning and real world business projects which teach you to analyse and deal with a business situation holistically.

The international exchange programs give you networking opportunities and a chance to spend time at an international campus, get insights about another culture and their business scenario.

The electives are the various specialisations offered by the school. Some of the schools offer a wide range of electives that you can choose from as per your interests.

The internships give you an opportunity to try your hand at some new area you wish to familiarise yourself with. It would be a good idea to check the placement statistics including the recruiting companies of the various schools while you apply.

Get up to speed on the curriculum by reading this series of articles on the MBA syllabus at IIMs and other top bschools in India and abroad.

 

MBA career path

An MBA gives you a wide range of options to choose the career or industry that suits you the best. Some of the various career paths you can opt for include: consulting/strategy, entrepreneurship, finance, technology, operations, human resources and marketing.

Read up on the salary you can get in USA, India and other countries after an MBA.

Now, comes the final question.
 

Which is better – an MBA degree or the CA certification?

It’s purely based on your interest and the area you wish to work in. The scope of work for a CA is mainly in the field of finance and accounting area whereas MBAs have more diversity to choose from.

There are CAs as well as MBAs who have climbed up the ladder and reached higher positions, though we may say that in certain areas like investment banking, financial consulting or mergers and acquisitions, an MBA would be preferred than a CA.

On the other hand, there are instances of CAs who have picked new skills while on the job and handled greater responsibilities than someone who has an MBA degree.

There are also CA professionals who apply to international MBA programs to have a shot at a global career.

So, we can sum up that a lot depends on the nature of your job, the related responsibilities and the learning involved.

Read this related post: A chartered account who got an MBA after CA.


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Swati //
Swati

After working for over a decade in technical and managerial roles in the corporate world, Swati now works as a freelancer and writes on a variety of topics including education, career guidance and self-improvement.

18 Comments

  1. Ankit Saraya says:

    Hi,

    I have a few queries, would really appreciate if you can provide your views on the same:

    1. I am a Chartered Accountant having more than 2.5 years of Corporate Work Experience. I will be taking CFA Level 1 exam in June 2015, planning to prepare fro GMAT, thereafter. What is your view on my MBA decision ?

    2. Which is the best way to pursue for GMAT – which books ? which coaching center ? how much time does it takes ?

    3. How is London Business School for pursuing 2 years MBA ?

    4. Woudl you suggest doing an MBA or going for Msc in Finance from Esade, Spain ?

    I would really appreciate your quick support.

    Regards,
    Ankit

    • Sameer Kamat says:

      Ankit: With that plan (assuming you’d be applying next year), you’d have around 4 years by the time you put in your MBA applications. That’s just about right, considering the average MBA class experience would be 5 years.

      Here’s a list of the best MBA prep study resources, including books and free online material.

      Start off with the Official Guide and then add material in weak areas (verbal or quant).

      London Business School is a top-notch option. The duration is lesser than 2 years though.

      You can’t compare an MBA degree to other Masters degrees (like MSc). Decide based on your post-graduation goals.

  2. Virat Maheshwari says:

    @ Sameer

    Hi Sameer, I have done My CA in November 2013 and have been currently handling business. I took the break to gain experience as i wanted to pursue MBA. My score in B.com is not good (only 60%) and it affects the GPA. Can you guide me on the part, whether it will be a big hindrance in applying to the good colleges or can CA cover this up.

    Regards
    Virat

    • Sameer Kamat says:

      Virat, the last and most recent / important degree matters more. If you’ve had good achievements to talk about (e.g. clearing the CA in the first attempt), mention them in your application. Also, try to get a high GMAT score. That matters too.

  3. PRASAD says:

    I AM AT FIRST YEAR OF MY CA-ARTICLESHIP. CAN I DO MY THIRD YEAR OF MY CA ARTICLES IN ANY BANK BY DOING JOB IN IT ?

  4. Mobashshar ali ansari says:

    Sir ,,, i have completed my graduation in 2013 with bachlor of commerce in accounts hons,,, i have a 18 months gapped in my career,,, then i wants to join chartered firm for experience ,, because as a freshers no one hire me? Will it help me in future ,, will it be counted my experience ,, pls reply meee

  5. madhu says:

    hi samer
    i’m pursuing CA and simultaneously i have completed B.COM in April-2016. My CA-Final attempt is on NOV-2017 approx i might complete my CA by 2018.
    Even i’m doing CFA level-1
    i’m confident that by end of myCA i will clear CFA level-2.

    later on i would like to do MBA in USA. but i won’t have any work experience….. all of my above QUALIFICATIONS would help me in cracking MBA from top universities of USA…

    plz suggest me

    • ca bijay roy says:

      yes it will give you a very bright future.working in a ca firm gives u experience as well as knowlodge as now gst is coming soon it will be very good for you if you have the full knowledge of gst.If you are atleast experiance of 2 year in ca firm any company can give you 2k to 3k.

  6. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Prasad: Sorry, our awareness of the CA procedures and rules is limited, since we focus on MBA programs. Check with others who are more familiar with the area.

    @Mobashshar: If you are working in the CA firm on a full-time basis, then it would be considered as experience. You haven’t explained the reason for the gap. That would come up in the discussion with any new recruiter.

  7. Rohit says:

    Hi Sameer, I have a question. I have 3 year gap post graduation. During the three years I passed all levels of CFA, FRM & CAIA in one attempt. I took 4 online courses from coursera, managed huge equity portfolio for my relatives, learned a musical instrument & did some volunteering work under a well-known NGO. Will the international b-school panic about such a gap whenever I apply for MBA in the future.

  8. Santosh says:

    Hi , i am business process consultancy specially in finance. I am pursuing advance finance management executive program conducted by XLRI. How much it will help in my career.

  9. arya gupta says:

    I am a 12 pass student. Doing my b.com 1st year from Rajasthan university.
    I may do my father’s business in near future which is of gem stones . I want to become capable before joining that .
    So please tell me which is good for me CA or mba or CFA or any other . I am totally confused I want to make that decision quickly. Please reply asap. Please

  10. ankit pandey says:

    hy! I m bba 4th sem student with 80percent avg. in +2. I m confused whether i should apply for mba or ca,after bba? As i m financially weak to pursue mba from top universities. And is there any chance of scholarship in any course, mba or ca, for Nepali student? I m really worried for my career! I dont wanna die poor!!

  11. Debasish Bid says:

    Hi Friends,Can I do CA ? I am an MBA Graduate and having 4.5 years work experience ?

  12. Yugansh says:

    Sameer,

    This is an interesting topic. Here is my opinion.

    First, the difference between CA and MBA. CA, if pursued properly, can provide a great start to your career. CA course equips you with all the basic and advanced knowledge you need to succeed in the business world. There are plenty of opportunities available after qualification. You could choose to pursue a career in banking, consulting, auditing, taxation, and if you are bold enough, set up your own practice. As regards MBA, I feel it should be pursued after you have 3-4 years of experience. An MBA, from a top B-School, could really teach you how to pitch yourself to reach to the position, which you always dreamt of. An MBA can help you build a strong network of high achieving professionals and can completely change your perspective. Many folks in India use MBA to gain basic academic knowledge, which they should have got in there under graduation. Typical rote learning practise and poor quality of education. I blame our broken Indian education system for this!

    Second, the career prospects. Well, if you are able to relate to what I said above, you won’t compare the career prospects. CA can provide a great start to a rewarding career. Consultancy firms such as BCG, Mckinsey etc. specifically hire CAs every year (Note: Only Rank Holders). Further, pick any top foreign I-Bank (JP Morgan, BAML, Jefferies, Lazard etc.) or even Indian banks (Axis, ICICI, Kotak etc.), you would find at least one or two MD/Director, who is a CA and didn’t opt for an MBA. Needless to talk about the big 4’s. Clearly, this shows the quality of the profession.

    However, recently, there is a growing hypocrisy. Some of the companies that I mentioned above are getting inclined toward MBAs, even at the junior levels. It is sad to see that CAs sitting at high positions in these companies aren’t doing anything. While some senior members go out of their way to help you, others would even bother. The point I am trying to make here is that the alumni network is not very strong as you would expect in top schools like HBS, Wharton etc., where if you reach out to an alumni, he/she would invite you for a cup of coffee.

    Please note: Where I referred MBA, I am referring to only top institutes in India such as IIM A/B/C. US schools are in another league all together.

    • Sameer Kamat says:

      Those are very good points, Yugansh. Thanks for pitching in.

      On your point about companies preferring MBAs over CAs in recent times, I guess it’s also because of the over-supply of MBA grads in the country.

      While the CA degree is still extremely tough to get (due to the low pass rate), that’s not so for an MBA. Which pumps more professionals with the latter degree into the economy.

  13. SHASHWAT GULATI says:

    Sir i have completed my CHARTERED ACCOUNTANCY and also i got 67% in my graduation now i am planning to give gmat exam after 3 yrs. I want to ask whether 3 years of experience would be sufficient? And whether my low percentage in graduation would be a hurdle in my admission in good bschool?

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