In a competitive job market, candidates who can differentiate themselves through a Certification or an MBA stand out from the crowd.

However, when it comes to choosing the right course or a career path, it is often tough to make decisions. This is especially true for anyone trying to rise in the ranks (and make more money) in their department or company.

The following article will help you choose the right career path for you. While all forms of knowledge are valuable, it is essential to understand the pros and cons of each approach and what fits your long-term career goals.

What’s the difference between an MBA and a Certification in terms of knowledge acquired?

Certifications focus on one discipline, while an MBA program gives students a wider breadth of knowledge across multiple business domains. A good MBA program not only provides knowledge on how to run the business but also develops soft skills like communication, mentorship, work ethic, and accountability. 

Most certifications lack the depth of soft skills and leadership knowledge imparted in an MBA program. Still, in specific job sectors like technology and project management, specialized knowledge acquired through certifications increases your chances of getting a higher-paying job

What is the cost of an MBA versus a professional certification?

mba cost

The top business schools are Harvard Business School, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford Graduate School of Business, MIT Sloan School of Management, INSEAD in France, and the London Business School. 

The average cost of an MBA at one of these schools is about $70,000 per year — and that doesn’t include room or boarding. The total price tag can easily exceed $140,000 over two years.

In contrast, top certification courses in Cloud, Cybersecurity, Project Management, CRM, and IT Development cost far less. If you study diligently at your own pace, through an online video course, certifications can be achieved at an average price tag of under $200, including the cost of the certification exam. 

If you decide to go to an institute for the certification program, the cost can vary from $1,000 to $5,000. Keep in mind, in some cases you may need to re-certify periodically, at minimal cost.

Is an MBA program easier than getting a Certification?

Professional Certification programs have fewer prerequisites and often serve professionals seeking a promotion or a salary increase. 

In contrast, MBA programs require a more significant commitment and can launch a new career. Additionally, MBA graduates can command a much higher salary out of the gate. 

Most top-rated universities have a strict intake process. Requirements range from good academic background to solid professional experience. Besides getting a decent score on the GMAT, candidates are often required to get recommendation letters from their current employers. This is followed by a series of interviews by college admissions professionals to evaluate if you are the right fit. So, getting into an MBA is not easier. Most importantly, committing two years is a huge time investment. 

For a professional certification, there is no such lengthy application process and there is less uncertainty. When you decide to pursue a certification, you sign up, you pay, you study, you pass the exam, and you earn the credential you are seeking. A few certification programs have prerequisites, but most are simple to acquire.

How to decide which program to enroll in?

mba or certifications

To help you decide between a Certification and an MBA, ask yourself these questions – 

1. Will I make more money with a Certification or an MBA, and by how much?

2. Would the skills I learn be relevant 2 years from now?

3. Would the new skills make me eligible for a promotion or a job change (if needed or desired)?

4. How much money am I willing to spend out of pocket to gain new knowledge?

All these questions relate to the commonly used jargon, “Return On Investment” or ROI. The goal should be to maximize your ROI. 

This means that if you spend money pursuing a course, it should give you more money, skills, and/or opportunities once you are through with the course. That being said, you should not discount your career goals. 

If getting a higher education is your career goal, you should go for it. Furthermore, ROI on an MBA from a top-rated university can exceed ROI on a certification course.

The Situation Before and After Covid!

Before and After Covid

Post pandemic, as most companies are recovering, we are witnessing a strong job market. Recent college graduates are finding jobs easily after graduation. For the experienced candidates, there is often an intense bidding war around salary and benefits to secure the best talent.

New graduates who find themselves in entry-level MBA jobs are often supplementing their degree with Certifications to meet the fast-paced challenges of employers in a digital age. 

Professional certifications are popular because investment of time and money is not significant. You can learn useful new skills quickly and economically.

Prerequisites for an MBA – What certification courses are beneficial? 

Learning is a lifelong process. Even after acquiring an MBA, it is advisable that you keep your skills up to date. Technology changes at such a rapid pace that even for MBAs, it is important to be familiar with some of the latest and greatest trends. 

Some standard certifications that would help your career regardless of an MBA : 

1. PMP – Project Management Professional (PMP) is a globally recognized certification from PMI. PMP certification requires a professional to have solid work experience, which the Certification then builds upon. 

PMP enhances your project management skills and provides you with all the best practices needed to run a project efficiently. 

Read: Beginner’s Guide on PMP Certification Exam

2. AWS Cloud Practitioner – The cloud market is booming and is not going to stop. Everyone from small startups to big companies needs cloud solutions, and people who can implement and manage these cloud solutions are in huge demand. This Certification is one of the best to start your journey in cloud computing. Even if you don’t hold a degree, you can still get a job in cloud computing after completing and clearing this Certification and acquiring the right skills!

Companies worldwide are moving to the cloud, and according to IDC, the size of the public cloud market by 2022 is expected to reach $370 billion.

Read: AWS Cloud Practitioner – The Complete Guide

3. Azure Fundamentals AZ 900 – Similar to AWS – Azure is a leading cloud service provider and AZ-900 foundational certification and helps you start your cloud career. The exam is intended for aspirants with non-technical backgrounds, such as those involved in selling or purchasing cloud-based solutions & services or who have some involvement with cloud-based solutions and services. Also, for those with a technical background who need to validate their foundation-level knowledge around cloud services.

AZ-900 is designed for aspirants looking to demonstrate foundational level knowledge of cloud services and how these services are provided with Microsoft Azure. 

Read: Get Started with AZ 900

Check out the battle between AWS vs. Azure vs. GCP

4. Salesforce – is one of the 1st global companies to successfully employ cloud-based CRM software and build various applications for businesses to better connect to their customers and give them critical insights into their services through analytics and apps. 

Salesforce Beginners Guide

What Matters More?


It is easy to get blindsided by seeing the salary of top executives who have earned their MBA from leading universities. People often think that completing an MBA will immediately result in high-level management positions such as senior executive, investment banker, management consultant, or marketing manager. 

However, the reality is that an MBA alone will not automatically move you up the chain. Rather, your hard work and getting the job done will help your career trajectory. Just like not all MBA’s get top jobs, not all certification holders end up working for FAANG companies. Certification options are many, and change often. Completing a program is a step forward, but you must truly master the topic in detail through the certification process to get the best ROI. 

If you are not growing in your current career, but you have many specialized skills, perhaps your career has stagnated – it may be time for you to do an MBA. However, keep in mind the ROI, your goals, and your priorities. I hope this helps you decide between pursuing an MBA, a Certification, or some combination of the two. 

Check out: Top 5 certifications in demand

Author: Haman Sharma is the founder of ReviewNPrep, MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler and holds multiple certifications. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Reviewnprep’s mission is to enrich the professional upskilling journey by building a community of experienced professionals who can get help and give help from and to anyone to advance their career.