Breaking Into Finance

I read somewhere in the forum that if you have to take CFA to help you find a job, you won’t find a job, is this generally true? I currently work for the federal government and do not have any finance related experience. What is the best way to obtain a financial analyst/equity analyst position? Should I just study for the CFA while trying to find a financial analyst/equity analyst type of job or should I go for a top 10 MBA and hopefully do an internship at the end of first year which might lead to a full time offer? How realistic is it to be able to find a FA/ER type of job by just passing the CFA exams without work experience? Really appreciate any thoughts/suggestions you might have! Thanks in advance!

Go for the MBA over CFA in your case… and try to narrow down what it is you want to do in finance… the terms “financial analyst” and “equity analyst” can mean very different things.

Thanks, I understand that financial analysts are more for corporate finance types and equity analysts work in asset management/investment banking. Is it correct to say that if you want to get into corporate finance, a CPA would be the better option and if you want to go into asset management/investment banking, then a CFA is the way to go?

Jeff - check out the vault career guides. They give a decent overview of the nuanced differences between asset management, i-banking, and corpfin. If you’re feeling very adventuresome, order Fabozzi’s “The Foundations of Financial Markets and Institutions.” That book helped me a lot. Re your question on CFA / CPA - it depends on what area of corp. finance you want to get into. CPA would help probably for AR / AP or most other parts on the upper left of the balance sheet. If you want to move to the right side of the balance sheet, CFA might be more useful.

if you have no finance experience, having a CFA will not do anything for getting you into finance related job. i’m sorry, but that’s the truth. am i going to trust your recommendation to initiate a position just because you took 3 tests? doubt it. MBA would be the best route for you, i agree.

for equity analyst jobs, you need 3 things 1. MBA 2. CFA 3. industry experience (by that I mean Wall St or you worked in an industry for a while – ex: chips – and then used a contact to get into research and you sold the DOR on the idea that b/c of your industry background and rolodex of contacts, you will make a good analyst) most people have the first 2. if you have # 3 and #2, you can skip the MBA bottom line: it is hard, so good luck. I can tell you from personal experience… sell side is not hiring in droves, lots of taent trying to geta limited amt of buy side jobs, and more and more people are getting the charter, thus diluting it. shi%% happens

Thanks guys for the advice. I guess without the necessary specific industry experience & prior finance experience, MBA would be the way to go. But how risky is the MBA in terms of investment vs reward? If I am not able to land a finance-related summer internship, then the chances of getting a full time offer when graduation time comes would be slim?

I would agree with the opinions given so far. Jeff, I think that you need to get a clear vision of what you think a equity analysis position entails. Is your goal to work for one of the big name investment banks, brokerage service firms focused on retail, institutional investment consulting, or research providing groups. Or are you more interested in working with a small, niche firm? Do you care where you live: New York city, London, etc. or do you want to be away from big cities. If you want to go for one of the big firms it is going to be a challenge no matter what your background is; certainly a top 10 MBA program is going to help more than self-studying for the CFA. But remember that there is large, global pool of highly talented folks competing for these positions and the current economic landscape has placed more strain on this situation. Of course, by the time you are into your MBA things may have changed. Yes, the internship can be an important step in moving into full-time. If you go the MBA route, it is crucial to work the school’s network of alumni and career recruiters. Good Luck

Something to consider also…I interned a few summers ago at the Census Bureau (and I can understand why you’re wanting to get away from the gummint!). There are certain agencies that will pay for you to get a masters in statistics or economics. Depending on what you want to do, the MA in economics could be something worthwhile. The nice thing is, since the statistical agencies are in DC, the people taking advantage of that all went to either GWU or Hopkins, which are pretty decent schools. But even though they’ll pay for it, you’ll owe them I think 2 additional years of service once you’re done. All in all, not bad though - get paid to cook the inflation/GDP #s and get a subsidized masters. Dunno if this applies to you, thought I’d share. Good luck with your career change!

remember that there are a lot of people looking to go to business school over the next several years due to weakness in the economy (low opportunity costs / weak job market), especially in financial services. Admissions stands to be very tough. If you can stick it out a year or two and apply when things cool off, you may have a better shot at a top school. I think its actually gub-mint. :wink:

Believe me on this … only MBA from some top B-School is going to help you out. I dont want to spread negatives vibes and never love to beat around the bush. Even passing CFA-L3 is not going to do any good and under such sever market conditions I don’t know if getting into an MBA would be a easy thing.

Find your niche and develop as deep a knowledge of that niche as possible. It’s probably the best method in a tough market like this. People aren’t hiring that much, but they are hiring for skills that they need right this moment. Just make sure it’s not a niche that will disappear in a few years, and make sure you have enough general knowledge skills that you can switch niches if you make a bad choice first time around.