Will the CFA Designation Help You Get a Job in Finance?

I often see questions about whether becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst by getting the CFA designation is worth it: In terms of a career boost for professionals already in finance, and also for those interested in getting a job in the industry. You may be studying in university for a degree and wonder if you should do the CFA on the side. Or perhaps you are looking for a career change altogether and hope to get a foot in the door.

Intelligence, experience, commitment


When employers hire, they look for the following three most important assets in job candidates:

CFA Job Requirements


In order to provide value for any employer, the candidate must possess intelligence, experience, and commitment. Some of these qualities can be demonstrated by attaining the CFA designation, but not all of them. Let’s assume you have passed all three levels of the CFA exam and may now use the designation and the three coveted letters after your name. An employer or recruiter will read this in the following way:

  • Attaining the CFA is not easy, so this job candidate is smart. Probably smarter than equally qualified candidates without a CFA.
  • The Candidate Body of Knowledge (CBOK) of the CFA exam is highly relevant and up to date with portolio management and financial analysis, so this job applicant is up to speed with the latest research in the field.
  • This candidate has spent a lot of time and money to develop additional skills in finance. This shows commitment. This candidate will probably not easily give up on a challenge, and may stay with a firm longer than average.


Here comes the rub: The CFA can’t make up for experience.


A firm always prefers to hire employees with relevant experience in a chosen field. If you can also demonstrate lateral experience, for example managing teams or projects in another industry, engineering or technical skills, or other important management or technical qualities that can be used in the finance industry, this definitely gives you points also.

So if you’re already experienced in finance, having an CFA will definitely raise your value in your career. If you don’t have relevant experience yet, it shows that you’re an intelligent and committed person, but you should get additional experience in finance before you venture into the field.

Rockefeller had a good saying about the ideal career track: “Pick a company you want to work for and take any job they give you; this gets you in the door.” If you’re looking for relevant finance experience, I would suggest you do just as Rockefeller suggested, maybe pick a company in your region where your talents are needed and then move up the corporate ladder bit by bit. The starting point can be an internship, or a position not directly related to what you’re actually planning to do later, but at least it gets you in the door and you can demonstrate your skills to your employer.

I hope this helps you assess whether you want to invest in the CFA designation. I personally think it’s a great professional designation that will definitely help you sooner or later if you’re working in finance. CFA Institute is a professional body for financial analysts and finance professionals recognized worldwide, with an excellent offering of continued education and access to other events, so I think it’s well worth it. I wrote another article about the benefits of the CFA network, you can check it out here: Tapping Into the CFA Network for Fun and Profit.

I hope to see you soon when you prepare for the CFA!

Tapping into the CFA Network for Fun and Profit

Tapping into a worldwide network

I received my CFA charter just recently and felt just as proud as all CFA charter holders do. I had finally acquired the knowledge of the inner circle of finance professionals, but one other thing actually turned out to be just as important: Being part of CFA Institute as a member with access to an international network.

Granted, for most candidates what counts is only the designation itself. The benefit is obvious: To get ahead in our career and acquire the professional designation that signals your boss that we’re worthy of a promotion. But just think about at all the international interaction on Facebook groups and CFA forums that takes place and you notice that the CFA has a huge draw all over the planet. Just as great as the professional cache that comes with the CFA is being part of this worldwide network.

Tapping into the CFA Network


When I went on a recent business trip to Europe I decided to make use of that network and to connect with the local CFA organization in the city I visited. I just wanted to see how valuable the connection would be and if I could attend some local CFA events. The result was excellent: I attended a CFA networking event, had many beers with fellow CFA charter holders, and made some good friends in the  process. The reception was very friendly, and everybody seemed interested to meet someone from a foreign city. I will definitely do this again, even if I just to on holiday somewhere.

To do this yourself, you can go to http://www.cfasociety.org. The page will point you to a long list of international CFA societies, from where you can locate individual chapters in all parts of the world. You can then email or phone the president of the chapter to ask what events are going on. When you’re at the event, just introduce yourself to everybody to maximize exposure, and then take it from there.

It’s really very convenient, especially if you travel for business reasons. I never like to be in my hotel room all by myself in a foreign country, so it’s great to do something that connects you with people in your field. Who knows, there may be even some business coming out of it. I am sure this facility of CFA membership is completely underused. Even as a candidate you can participate in most events of CFA societies. Some of them also have monthly get-togethers to have drinks in a local bar, so all the more a reason to definitely check it out! Why not tap into this facility if it’s already there?

The CFA Designation: Necessity or Vanity?

CFA charter

The CFA certification is often called the “Gold Standard” for investment professionals. Many of us are enrolled to sit for the exam, or at least plan to do so soon in hopes of advancing our careers. The CFA program is extremely demanding, moreso than any other professional designation: An estimated minimum of 250 hours study time per level, which amounts to a whopping 750 hours minimum for all three levels. I must have studied close to 1,000 hours, which equals a masters degree, until the coveted CFA charter was finally mine. So you may wonder: Is the CFA really worth doing? Does it help my career?

Long story short: Yes, it helps you advance in your career.


Let me explain why: A professional designation related to your field always sends a strong signal to your employer. You distinguish youself from less able co-workers and show that you’re serious about your career. If you were in the bosses shoes, wouldn’t you want to promote dedicated employees, rather than slackers? Whether you’re enrolled in the CFA, the CAIA, or the FRM, there is a very high chance that this will be recognized by your boss rather sooner than later.

The CFA is very demanding on your mental ability and endurance compared with other professional designations. The CAIA is also tough, but the CFA is really very close to a second masters degree (minus the thesis). The CFA is also called the “MBA in Finance” from time to time. So it’s not only about what you learn in the program, also that you’re willing to subject yourself to such a stringent program speaks for you. If you’re planning to work in portfolio management or if you’re involved with large private client accounts, you most likely will need a CFA at some point in your career. Most hedge fund analysts and private equity professionals often aren’t even hired if they don’t have the coveted three letters behind their name. Surprisingly, one recruiter recently told me that he even prefers candidates with the CFA over a PhD. Why is that? Because there is a Standard Body of Knowledge with the CFA. A PhD thesis can be about almost anything, and no recruiter will read your PhD thesis before inviting you for an interview. With the CFA, the bar is even for all charter holders.

All that said, I think you learn a great deal about portfolio management with the CFA. It’s actually quite interesting to study for the designation. If you like your job in finance, you will get a kick out of studying the latest research in the field. The CFA syllabus is quite vast, but highly interesting. It’s sufficient to study for each level, but to practice and drill the concepts, I recommend you use practice exams or a review tool (such as the Financial Analyst Study Notes for the CFA Exam) to help you learn what you have read.

In conclusion: Definitely get the CFA while you can.


Study for the designation requires a lot of time, so to attempt it earlier in your career is definitely better. Many universities also offer the CFA alongside with a masters, so look into this with your school. In most cases your employer will pay for the program if you ask nicely.

I wish you all the best on your journey to the CFA designation!