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MBA, CPA, or CRISC – Which Letters Should Come After Your Name?


womanEarning a college degree often leads to better lifelong earning potential. Although the numbers vary according to the industry and the university, the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) shows that students earning bachelor’s degrees had incomes that increased 13 percent between 1984 and 2009. Students with graduate degrees reported earnings increases of 23 percent. Earnings for workers with no degrees declined during the same 15-year period. Getting a degree, especially a graduate degree, is associated with a measurable economic payoff.

Someone who wants a career in the corporate world has multiple degree options. An MBA from a traditional or online program (click here to learn more) is one popular choice.  Another choice is a professional master’s degree in accounting or finance. Still other students avoid the business side altogether and pursue IT certifications to enhance their careers. Each path offers different career prospects and different earning potential. Read on for explanations of some of the best educational paths for business-minded individuals.

middle manEarning an MBA

According to data from the Graduate Management Admission Council, graduates of two-year MBA programs in the U.S. have an astonishing 95-percent employment rate. Also, 94 percent of MBAs who graduated in 2013 rated their educations as outstanding, excellent or good, and 83 percent agree that they could not have obtained their current jobs without earning an MBA. The average starting salary was $90,000 with additional compensation, including signing bonuses, of $10,000.

Along with an MBA’s earning power, nothing competes with the networking opportunities offered by MBA programs. Before choosing a program, examine the university’s alumni network. Find out what types of jobs other graduates have earned and how they’ve performed in the field. Also, check to see whether the alumni network is global. In today’s economy, future business leaders need connections in many parts of the world.

Becoming a Finance Professional

Some students, in lieu of earning an MBA or as an addition to their MBA degree, choose a degree or certification in financial services. The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential is the most well-known. CPAs earn an average of $73,800 per year with top earners bringing home up to $124,000. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs are expected to grow at a rate of 13 percent through 2020, and most accounting jobs are resistant to economic downturns. For example, back in 2011, when the U.S. had an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent, CPAs had an employment growth rate of 3.5 percent.

Although requirements vary by state, most CPAs must complete 150 credit hours of relevant coursework in addition to passing a rigorous exam. Few people can become CPAs without completing master’s degrees in accounting. Students should look for a school that focuses on technology and on data analytics, which are important for success in today’s business world.

In addition to becoming CPAs, people who want a finance career can earn the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation and the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designations. Both require additional coursework, and both require the student to pass rigorous exams. The CFP helps individuals make investment decisions, and the CFA shows that people are qualified for investment portfolio management.

two guysIT Certifications

Some people who want to work for corporations may enjoy the technology aspects of business more than finance, sales and negotiations. For these people, IT certifications can provide an entry into corporate IT as well as significant earning potential. A professional who has earned the Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) earns an average of $118,253 per year. A Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) earns an average of $114,844, and a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) earns an average of $112,040 per year.

A student who wants to earn an IT certification usually begins with a degree in computer science or information systems. After gaining some work experience, passing an exam and proving adherence to an industry code of ethics, a person can apply for IT credentials. Like a CPA, an IT professional has to fulfill continuing education requirements to maintain credentials. With an MBA degree, no continuing education is required.

Earning an MBA, becoming a finance professional or gaining an IT certification are all good ways to find high-paying jobs in today’s economy. Because each job has comparable earning potential, workers should focus most on which type of work they would find most satisfying.



My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.

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