Should a Chartered Accountant / CPA Do An MBA? Why Did I Do An MBA From IIM-A?

The Finance Story

  • In this article Abhinav Gadia is sharing with us – Why He Did An MBA After Qualifying as a Chartered Accountant / CPA? 
  • Abhinav is a qualified Chartered Accountant from India and has done his MBA from IIM Ahmedabad in the Class of 2018.
  • A lot of us want to do an MBA but do not know WHY TO GO AHEAD and HOW TO GO AHEAD!  This article by Abhinav will surely help you decide!

Deciding to pursue an MBA after CA 

CA is an excellent course – I think no other course teaches you so many things the way CA does. However, I think it lacks a little in - Peer interaction and classroom learning.

When I say peer interaction and classroom learning, some people may argue that articles and coaching classes provide these as well, but I would not agree completely.

Classroom learning involves more than just sitting in a classroom of students and being lectured.

It involves healthy discussion and debates, presentations and activities, which help one develop more than the theoretical and conceptual knowledge alone.

Peer interaction, however, is relatively good in articles, with discussion on studies and work-related stuff as well as discussions and debates of concepts, ideas, events, etc for those who are interested.

However, it suffers from one drawback – that the time is very limited and hence, the general outlook tends to be limited in width to clearing exams and technical discussions.

A campus program like MBA will help you go a step forward, connect with a diverse set of people with different backgrounds and experiences in life, and hopefully, you will be able to look at different perspectives and facets of a business.

This being said, it makes sense to go for an MBA only if you get into a good institution – a mediocre institution will not add too much value in my opinion.

My Reasons are as follows:

  • My primary motivation to go for further studies (MBA) was the fact that I was not getting jobs with profiles that I found exciting after CA despite having a rank.
  • I wanted to explore various other jobs for which MBA from premier institutions is a requirement.
  • I believed that an MBA would help me broaden my perspective, and give me exposure to a lot of other facets of business apart from Finance like – Marketing, Operations, Strategy, People, etc.
  • I also believed it would open up a lot of career advancement opportunities, and help me connect to a large, strong and diverse alumni base of a premier management institution, and where I can develop personally as well as professionally.
  • After going through IIM-A, I realized that I had missed so much in college life, not just the fun, but also the immense learning which you can get out of a residential programme like that in IIM-A, from an amazing set of peers to professors and the environment there.

Who should consider an MBA 

One going to a Business school for an MBA should NOT BE CLUELESS.

One has to have career plans, one has to be a little specific – Why one wants to do an MBA.

I was also not clear as to what exactly I wanted to pursue from the MBA college, but management consulting intrigued me.

MBA opens up a wide variety of roles and profiles, which includes:

  1. Finance: Investment banking, Capital Markets (Trading in equity, debt and forex markets, etc), Private Equity (lesser number of roles), Corporate Banking and retail banking, etc. The good roles for finance (front-end roles especially) are generally available only in the top 3-4 MBA colleges in my opinion.
  2. Consulting: Management Consulting, Niche Consulting (consultants working in a small niche like only organization turnarounds, etc) – top firms like McKinsey, BCG, Bain hire majorly only from the top colleges in the country
  3. General Management: These include industry roles in conglomerates or companies, like Aditya Birla, Tata Administrative Services, Mahindra Group, RPG Group, etc
  4. Corporate Finance Roles: These are the roles in the finance departments of large companies like HUL, P&G, etc. Some of these would be people who you may have dealt with in your audits (on the client-side)
  5. Marketing
  6. Product Management(usually for engineers)
  7. Miscellaneous roles– strategy roles, executive assistant to CXOs, roles in start-ups, etc which come as and when requirements arise in the industry.

Note: I believe it would be useful to find out more about each of these roles from people working in these domains so that you can take an informed decision

When should Chartered Accountant or CPAs go for an MBA 

  • Professionals who want a wider perspective of the business.
  • When it comes to Chartered Accountants (CA), anyone who wants to move out of Audit/Tax (or the traditional work profiles of a CA) could consider an MBA, if you are not able to make a switch without that.
  • I don’t think an MBA would make much sense for anyone who wants to continue in the same Audit/Tax role or the traditional CA roles, because these are extremely technical professions that require specialized knowledge and skills, none of which will be provided by MBA. The only thing that might help is building a network, which is also not reason enough to go for an MBA according to me.
  • MBA is overkill if one’s objective is to only improve presentation and communication skills. Those can be developed over time as one works (if the profile involves this).
  • If one wants to pursue an MBA only to improve communication skills then one should consider personality development courses instead.

Which college should you consider for an MBA

  • By reputed institution, I would generally recommend only IIMs A, B, C (and L, based on personal preference) if you are someone who has a good profile.
  • There are also some other very good colleges like SP Jain, ISB, XLRI, IIM K and I, FMS, MDI Gurgaon, IIFT(in decreasing order of preference in my opinion).
  • Look at the other options by trying to find out what opportunities they offer– for example, if you want front-end investment banking, no place other than IIM - ABC will be able to give that in my opinion.
  • ISB is another good option (good opportunities are majorly present only in management consulting – if that is what you know you want to do, go for ISB – it takes GMAT to score instead of CAT, for those who find CAT more difficult)
  • Make sure you know what it is that you want from an MBA before you decide to go for one.

MBA with work experience or as a Fresher? 

  • Although I would recommend getting some work experience before going for an MBA.
  • However, if you feel that your articles' experience has been good, in a good and large-sized organization, you can go ahead with MBA immediately too.
  • I appeared for CAT immediately after clearing CA and went to IIM-A immediately.
  • The reason being I had done my articleship from PWC, Mumbai and had that kind of experience of a corporate/MNC life so this worked in my favor.
  • Going for an MBA with some good experience under your belt just helps you to get more from the course - you are able to relate to a lot of things being taught and discussed in class, and you are able to appreciate the different perspectives being brought out in class, having seen how things are actually working in the real world.
  • You are also more capable of contributing more to the class in a lot of areas - especially Organisation Behaviour, HR, etc apart from core job related (like finance, marketing) areas.

How long did I prepare for the CAT Exams 

  • I decided that I was appearing for CAT 2015 quite late – around August 2015.
  • As I still had articles pending for over a month (and a sign off was approaching), I could not start preparations before the end of September, after which I took a 2-month leave from office before joining back. So, in effect, I prepared for CAT for around 2 months.
  • Honestly, I didn’t think I would do too well because I was preparing at the last moment, and people kept telling me that 2 months is not sufficient – but I went ahead and ignored them, and ended up doing much better than even I had expected (I scored 99.8 %ile). So, have faith in yourself, and go for it!
  • CA does not have too much of a role to play in MBA entrances – most of them are about basic maths (requires a little brush up), along with logical reasoning, data interpretation, and verbal skills – the time needed to prepare will vary a lot from person to person as a lot of people are very comfortable with many of these things, while others are not.

Note: If you intend to do an MBA in India one has to give CAT exams. At some MBA Schools, GMAT Score might also be considered.

Did I take coaching for CAT? 

  • As I mentioned, I started preparation only in September 2015, for exams in 2 months from then. All batches in all classes had started/were over. So I chose to self-study.
  • I took a video lecture series to guide me through the broad syllabus and did most of my preparation using that material on my own, practicing through the mock tests.
  • The video lecture series was helpful as it helped me get back in touch with maths which I hadn’t touched for 6-7 years.
  • The mock practice is extremely important to do, and equally important is a proper analysis of the mocks, to see what you are doing wrong, how you can attempt the paper better, etc. For all MBA exam aspirants, please give ample time to MOCK practice!
  • I don’t see any standard formula for CAT preparation – it completely depends on how comfortable you are with what is there in the syllabus (CAT has no defined syllabus, but classes/books are available covering topics usually asked).
  • Preparation is done by different people in different ways

Wrapping up...

  • In terms of CAT studies, it is important to understand that it is not rocket science– very basic stuff where you need to just be a little smart, quick and accurate.
  • I have noticed that the awareness of MBA exams/preparation, etc is very low in the CA/CS community – I would encourage more people to try and get into good institutions.
  • It is not very difficult – If I could do it, so can you.

You could reach him at abhinav.gadia@gmail.com/thecastory@gmail.com

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