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Dona DeZube, Monster Finance Careers Expert 

The alphabet soup of finance credentials and degrees causes plenty of folks to agonize over pursuing a CPA or MBA. Both the Certified Public Accountant designation and the master of business administration degree may appeal to those who have not yet found their finance niche.

What’s the difference, and which is better to pursue? The answer depends upon your likes and dislikes, your career direction and, of course, whom you ask.

Not surprisingly, Peter Calladine, accreditation services manager at the Association of MBAs, says the MBA is the way to go. Today’s commercial world demands more than an accounting qualification, he argues. “With business accelerating in the global marketplace, accountants need to be more commercially aware than ever,” he says. “And increasingly, they are looking to the MBA qualification to give them this edge.”

Some business schools promote their MBA programs to accountants who wish to widen their understanding of business and specific industries, Calladine adds.

Not everyone agrees. “I think the CPA is a better credential for someone going into finance than almost any credential, including an MBA, because you get to look at so many different businesses,” says Michael Kinsman, PhD, MBA, CPA, a professor at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management. “You really get to see what’s happening in the business and to see the structure. You’re looked at as someone who has a credential when you get a CPA.”