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MBA or CFA decision

I’m Jason, 28 years old and currently an undergraduate student at Portland State Univeristy. I’m debating about getting a MBA/MSF and perhaps you could help clarify things a little. 

First off, I already have a BS in Biology from Washington State Univeristy but I decided to change routes after graduation. I have been taking business classes here for the past 2 years. I’m only 8 classes away from finishing another bachelors but I have been debating just going for my MBA instead since I already have a bachelors degree. I have been working in food manufacturing as a Quality Assurance Supervisor for the past 3 years but I don’t have any finance experience yet. 
 
My career plan is to start off as a investment, financial or equity analyst in WM/AM after finishing my BA in Finance or an MBA/MSF. Then I’m hoping to advance to a portfolio manager in 10 years. So here’s the debate:
 
1) Finish bachelors degree in finance then find a job in the industry such as analyst, while taking the CFA exams. Then later on I can go back for a MBA/MSF, if needed, and perhaps my company could help with the cost at that time.
 
2) Skip another bachelors and try to apply for MBA/MSF programs. Then take CFA exam post-MBA/MSF. The additional $50,000-$70,000 in student loans scare me, especially since the CFA is gaining traction. 
 
I’m just trying to find the best route for my finance career because I would like to avoid unnecessary debt and get some work experience sooner than later. What do you guys think? 
 
Be Gentle! LOL :)

How about networking?

what are you asking for exactly?

Obviously this forum may be biased, but for what you’re ultimate goals are, I’d suggest the CFA. Even having passed Level 1 will allow you to get your foot in the door to begin gaining experience in the industry. Work towards full CFA charter as you gain your experience - in most cases, if you’re involved someway in the industry your work experience should translate to the CFA material… maybe only 10%, but that helps. Cost for the CFA is much lower than a University based program as well. Plus, depending on where you work, you can start taking MBA courses and get reimbursed along the way. This would likely not be for a top 10 b-school, but if you’re looking for something you can do while you work to get some knowledge and to check the box, it works. 

Hey Jason-

I think it’s a solid plan. I think you are right in prioritizing CFA over MBA for now. CFA obviously has much better ROI than does an MBA for an analyst. My personal opinion is you really don’t need a full time, top 10 MBA, unless you are looking to re-brand and pivot into a new field. If you want to be a portfolio manager you just really need the CFA and a strong work ethic. Even still, I know PM’s without their Charter, but the Charter will help differentiate yourself from other people. From my experience, you can really only plan one year ahead at a time. Once your done with the exams, you may find additional education isn’t needed because your excelling at your position or your networking is solid. Working hard and obtaining the charter are really all you need to be succesful as an equity analyst. Good luck with everything.

Option 1

I’d obtain finance experience prior to getting an MBA. As someone already mentioned, pursuing the CFA should help facilitate this. If you go to a subpar school with no relevant experience in finance, I don’t think an MBA would benefit you in the slightest. You’d probably just end up right where you are now, but facing a mountain of debt (which it sounds like you might already be facing).

And not to be a dick..but if you’re going to get your MBA, you’ve gotta go to a better school than Portland State.

atush wrote:
How about networking?

This for sure! OP, hit me up if you want to grab a coffee/beer sometime in the near future and I’ll try to answer some of the questions you have. 

option 1

I’d brake for all animlas except cougs.

Get out of portland and move to the neighbor up north or south.  take cfa and kill it at your job.

Be yourself. The world worships the original.

MBA is zero value add at this point without any relevant work experience. Try to leverage your experience into something that has to do  finance within your company for a few years first before even thinking about a MBA.

Thanks for your advice everybody!!  I’m really leaning towards option 1-just finishing 2nd bachelors and then doing the CFA exams and maybe persuing an MBA later on, if needed. 

Also, I wouldn’t get my MBA at Portland State. I would get it from some top 25 schools such as Arizona State University, Indiana Univeristy or Georgetown. But that wouldn’t be until later on when i have some finance experience.

Might just be me but persuing the CFA without experience is just as “bad” as persuing an MBA without experiene.

You should be spending the first couple of years out of college establishing yourself as an adult that can function outside of the school system.

Well I mentioned that when I finished my bachelors in finance that I would start working in the industry while also studying for the CFA exams.

Jason7504 wrote:
Well I mentioned that when I finished my bachelors in finance that I would start working in the industry while also studying for the CFA exams.

I believe that is a good strategy although depends how do you execute it? More time for networking? It will work..

I think the question no one has asked you is, what is the job market like in Portland? I have little exposure to Oregon but I feel like the finance industry there is near zero, especially in big money portfolio management. Are you willing to move to a big city? Where are you going to move to get your start? How can you prove you have the skills required at 28 yo, (and 32 at the earliest to get your Charter), to be an analyst? How does your previous experience lend itself to research?

I’m not saying it’s not possible, but there are some really tough questions to answer before you go through with either option, both of which are costly in time and money with very uncertain payoffs. I don’t think corporate finance is out of your realm of possibilities but you will forgive me for thinking investment analysis is a stretch.

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The Portland market is surprisingly decent depending on what you’re looking for.  There are some quality HNW/UHNW shops, retirement plan consulting firms, and even a decent number of hedge funds kicking around (quality varies).  There’s even, I would say, one solid MF in town.

It’s not fantastic by any means, but the jobs are there if you’re looking to get your foot in the door.

I heard there is some decent FA activity in Oregon. I don’t know about other fields though.

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Jason, 

I am a charterholder and I am currently getting my MBA (2nd year). Although you might not learn as much as others in school if you complete the CFA program (especially in finance), the access to peers who have been in the industry and the access to companies looking to hire has made it more than worth it in my situation. I worked in a back office role with fixed income before school, and will be starting as a buy-side equity analyst after graduation. The CFA def helped me break in, but I don’t think I would have had so many great opportunities if I hadn’t gone to get my MBA. Just my two cents (and obvisouly region, school etc will have an impact). 

LETS GO!

Well, I might move out of the Portland area eventually but don’t have any plans to soon. I could possibly move to Seattle but don’t have any desire to move to New York, LA or Chicago. I think with my bachelors in finance and working towards a CFA plus some networking would help land an Analyst or Jr. Analyst job. I would prefer the more investment side such as equity analyst over corporate finance though.

Network your tits off. You’re school unfortunately doesn’t provide much brand so you will have a hard time landing the job you’re looking for…CFA might help but it’s an uphill battle. ASU, Indiana, or Georgetown for MBA will give you negative value-add, you will end up with loads of debt and nothing to show for it. MBA is really only worth it for the brand, so aim top 10 or not at all…it’s possible with the right experience, good story, good GPA, and solid GMAT.

Ramos4rm, CFA, CAIA

So you don’t think i would be able to land an equity analyst or investment analyst position with a Bachelors in Finance from Portland State Univeristy and persuing CFA? 

I’m not nessicarly trying to get into IB or any top firms but more “average” investment firms. So wouldn’t a top 25 school MBA work for that? 

I guess i’m looking for a position with the best possible ROI and pay. I could try the financial analyst route in corporate finance but I would prefer the investment side. 

I think you’re massively underestimating the challenge in front of you. I’m surprised these guys are so nice about it. Don’t take this personally because it’s all probably down to the fact that you have little exposure, but a) you’re not willing to move to financial centres, b) you think a no-name (sorry) bachelors degree and 4 years working in food is going to get you an investment analyst job. Even with level 1 I don’t fancy your chances. You need to do a whole lot of convincing to make someone spend time and money on training you up to the level a fresh business undergrad who has taken advanced accounting and finance courses from good universities. I”m talking legit shops here, not small family offices or chop shops.

Maybe I’m a little jaded from being in an ultra competitive market where being a charterholder won’t get you an investment analyst position… but hopefully the message about will get you more focused and prepared for the times ahead.

Lets put it this way, if you were to rate yourself as a stock right now, what’s your recommendation? Whats your investment thesis?

"Verdict: TRUE" - Fact Check

Thanks for the honesty. Yeah i don’t have much exposure to the finance industry yet but i have been looking at alot of local analyst positiions lately, mostly financial analysts but some investment analysts as well. Portland State might be a small school but it’s reasonably known in the Northwest region, where I might stay for awhile. But i would like to move to the southeastern region as well and I heard the finance industry in the South is growing. 

It does sound like a tough course but I’m ambitious and hard working. I hope after i get some financial experience that I could transition to the investment analyst side. Do you think i could start as a financial or risk analyst in corporate finance and then transition over to equity analyst? I’m looking to get some advice from experienced people in the industry. Or what about starting as an associate?

I see that you are in Canada and from what i have read, has one of the highest populations of CFA chartermembers and would be very competitive. In general, it seems that the Northwest is alot less competitive regarding CFA’s. Many of the analyst job postings just mention a bachelors and some experience. Some do say MBA and/or CFA preferred. 

I have taken alot of advanced accounting and finance classes though. Do you think I should persue a different certfication such as CPA or something similar if i persue corporate finance instead? 

Sorry to be a buzzkill but I think you’re overestimating the value of a degree from Portland State and the competitiveness of jobs in the Pac NW.  Many want to move to the area  for jobs, especially investment analyst jobs, are quite competitive to get.  I lived in Portland and Seattle and recruited for positions at some of the top firms in these markets.  I’d recommend the CFA as the best route for now.  You have many people attending good schools from around the country moving back to the area after college and competing for jobs in those markets.  Further, and I say this with experience in recruiting in those markets and working in the field, Portland State is considered bottom tier on a regional level. UW, WSU, Oregon, Oregon State, University of Portland, Whitman, Seattle Unibersity, Puget Sound, Reed, Gonzaga, Whitworth, etc. are all considers much better schools.  Portlamd State doesn’t even receive a national ranking in most school rankings and has an 85% acceptance rate which is very high for a public university indicating the lack of competitiveness at the school.  And again, I don’t want to come across as a negative ranter but you will have to overcome a lot to achieve an investment job considering the perception of the school.  CFA is a great start but networking will be key for you as well.

jethrodane wrote:

Sorry to be a buzzkill but I think you’re overestimating the value of a degree from Portland State and the competitiveness of jobs in the Pac NW.  Many want to move to the area  for jobs, especially investment analyst jobs, are quite competitive to get.  I lived in Portland and Seattle and recruited for positions at some of the top firms in these markets.  I’d recommend the CFA as the best route for now.  You have many people attending good schools from around the country moving back to the area after college and competing for jobs in those markets.  Further, and I say this with experience in recruiting in those markets and working in the field, Portland State is considered bottom tier on a regional level. UW, WSU, Oregon, Oregon State, University of Portland, Whitman, Seattle Unibersity, Puget Sound, Reed, Gonzaga, Whitworth, etc. are all considers much better schools.  Portlamd State doesn’t even receive a national ranking in most school rankings and has an 85% acceptance rate which is very high for a public university indicating the lack of competitiveness at the school.  And again, I don’t want to come across as a negative ranter but you will have to overcome a lot to achieve an investment job considering the perception of the school.  CFA is a great start but networking will be key for you as well.

Thanks for the advice and brutal honesty! I know that Portland State isn’t ranked on most lists and isn’t as recognized as UW, WSU, etc but do undegrad degrees also require the same “brand” that MBA’s do? I just figured a bachelors was a bachelors at the undergrad level and didn’t matter as much until MBA. So will the CFA help make up for the lower tier bachelors? 

It’s great that you have alot of experience in the NW. I’am looking for somebody that know’s the finance industry in the NW well. It’s disappointing to hear that it’s going to be a rough path though. I will be done with the bachelors next March at Portland State then I just need to get something in the finance industry to start getting some experience. 

Where did you usually recruit from in the area? and what education/experience levels were you looking for in canidates? 

is portland really a state?

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RIP

Jason, you went to WSU for undergrad. 

Cougs man.  Go to seattle and kick it although seattle is saturated with huskies i think a coug can survice.

Be yourself. The world worships the original.

igor555 wrote:

is portland really a state?

I don’t know if you’re just trying to be funny, but “Portland State” is basically short for “Oregon State Univeristy at Portland”.  It implies that there might be other Oregon State Universities in other cities.

My childhood best friend’s stepdad was a nice guy but not super big in the brains department.  He seemed to think that all Universities were “State”.  I went to Pomona College as an undergrad, and when I came back to visit, he would always ask me.  ”So how are things at Pomona State??”  Had I gone to Harvard, I half expect he would have asked how Harvard State was.

Interestingly, California also has two public university systems.  One is the University of California (UC), and tends to have the more respected universities (Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, etc.).  The other is the California State University sytem, which is less prestigious, but also publicly funded.  I don’t know how things have evolved over the years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the better California State Universities might have better rankings than the lower ranked universities in the UC system.

There are also community colleges, which I believe are organized by municipalities and/or counties, but probably have certain subsidies sent in from the state government.

It’s a strange system, indeed.  But it seems to work.

You want a quote?  Haven’t I written enough already???

Jason7504 wrote:

I see that you are in from Canada

FTFY.

Like I said earlier, feel free to PM me and I’d be more than happy to meet up with you for a coffee/beer and we can chat/discuss any questions you have. I’m not saying that I know all of the answers but I might be able to help a bit. Worst comes to worst you can consider it a decent first step to all the networking you have ahead of you.

bchad wrote:

I don’t know if you’re just trying to be funny, but “Portland State” is basically short for “Oregon State Univeristy at Portland”.  It implies that there might be other Oregon State Universities in other cities.

Huh? Portland State (to my knowledge) has no affiliation to Oregon State. Correct me if I’m wrong here.

Unless I’m totally misunderstanding what you’re saying and what you’re actually saying is that they picked the name Portland State because Oregon State was already taken…

Man up and do both at the same time. It’s not that hard.

M4tt30 wrote:

bchad wrote:

I don’t know if you’re just trying to be funny, but “Portland State” is basically short for “Oregon State Univeristy at Portland”.  It implies that there might be other Oregon State Universities in other cities.

Huh? Portland State (to my knowledge) has no affiliation to Oregon State. Correct me if I’m wrong here.

Unless I’m totally misunderstanding what you’re saying and what you’re actually saying is that they picked the name Portland State because Oregon State was already taken…

OK, it is a public university (i.e. financed by the state of Oregon).  I had assumed that the local public university system was called the Oregon State University system (I extrapolated inappropriately from the California State University system).  But the basic point that “X State” usually signifies that it is a university or college that is publicly funded by the state (state here is the administrative unit, not the political aparatus).

You want a quote?  Haven’t I written enough already???