Is the CFA worth the bother?
May 22, 2011 3:14 AM   Subscribe

Is the CFA actually worth the time, money and effort?

I've got a background in maths and economics, and I'm keen on entering the financial sector. I've been googling around about people's experiences with the CFA, because I'm thinking of possibly doing it this December. However, a lot of what I've read seems pretty ambivalent as to it's value (taking this thread for example).

It's hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars, and I'm just thinking about the opportunity cost. Just how valuable is it?
posted by moorooka to Work & Money (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The short answer is yes. Sign up for part 1 and put it on your CV. I scan all incoming CVs for my firm and you don't even get past me unless you have the CFA or at least have signed up for it. Between us, I fear that the CFA programme is somewhat being devalued by the 10,000 that have signed up for it in the emerging economies; for example I see a lot of CVs from Chinese scientists that have passed up to stage 3 in their spare time and have never worked in finance.
posted by priorpark17 at 3:37 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pursuing a CFA is absolutely worthwhile for advancement in money management and the sell-side research that faces money management, especially if you lack other applicable graduate credentials (MBA, JD, relevant PhD). Value is much less for investment banking and other fields removed from money management. The CFA Institute has responded to the surge of people taking Part I by making Part II and Part III significantly more difficult -- I don't see any reduction in the quality of CFAs and all-three-parts passers.

Note that I said "advancement." For getting your foot in the door, more modest. When I see "Part II Candidate" on a resume I am basically indifferent; when I see "Part III Candidate" or "passed all three parts" that does make a meaningful difference. (When I see "Part I Candidate" I am actively put-off; says to me that this candidate has achieved so little that he will waste precious resume space on something that says only that he has access to a valid credit card number.) However, every little thing helps, and you'll have a head start on the process assuming that other credentials will get you the job, and get you through and done with Part III faster, which, together with a good job history, means something significant.
posted by MattD at 6:30 AM on May 22, 2011

I agree with the above responders. I've moved on from the industry but when I was in it, the CFA was a big deal. Don't underestimate the amount of studying required.
posted by dfriedman at 7:09 AM on May 22, 2011

The Country Fire Authority?
posted by wilful at 9:35 PM on May 22, 2011

In this case, CFA = the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.

Anyway, its value depends on what you want to do and where you are now. Like MattD said, the designation is extremely valuable for those in investment management or sell-side research. In fact, it's unusual to find a portfolio manager or senior sell-side analyst that isn't a CFA charterholder. You might as well consider it a requirement for those fields.

But you wouldn't be committing to all three levels right now. Many people take Levels 2 & 3 after they've got a job. Taking Level 1 now will help you in your job search, but if you end up going a different direction you don't have to do the rest.

Any more advice would require more information about your goals and where you are now. Feel free to memail me if you want.
posted by mullacc at 3:49 AM on May 23, 2011

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