CFA Useful for Corporate Finance?

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on this forum. Here’s my story. In December 2007 I took L1 and failed. I didn’t have any finance or accounting background prior to taking the test and wasn’t sure what the difficulty level was. June 2008 I passed L1 with flying colors. June 2009 I failed L2 despite studying my ass off. June 2010 I passed L2 while studying LESS than I did in 2009. I was just much more cognizant of the gaming and trickery aspect of the questions in the L2 exam. I stopped at this point and never attempted L3.

During this entire time of studying for CFA, I had grand dreams of getting that Wall St job and blasted out my resume during the financial meltdown. I landed 40 interviews over those 4 years at many financial institutions and never got an offer. I do have a top 20 undergrad degree. I finally settled for corporate finance at a manufacturing company. Overall I like the work and really value the work/life balance. I’ve pretty much scrapped the idea that I’ll ever get that Wall St job, and that’s fine with me.

Although I’m close, I want to get to that magical six figure salary at another corporate finance role. I’m wondering if maybe I should finish up the CFA program. I feel that most companies outside of Wall St wouldn’t care for it. I recently had a phone interview with a company that kept harping on the fact that I passed 2 levels and they thought I’d want to leave for an analyst role using the charter. It seems like a double-edged sword - companies may like that I have some sort of advanced certification and others may hold it against me. I don’t really want to do an MBA because of the cost. CFA L3 will require a shitload of work since I haven’t touched this stuff in 3 years. It may just not be worth it.

What do you guys think?

My advice - if your boss ain’t a Charterholder, or if your company doesn’t have a lot of Charterholders, don’t do it. They will never respect it, and they will never pay you for it. Certainly won’t pay your CFAI dues.

If you want to impress your bosses, a CMA would probably be better, because they understand it and know how much work went into it. They’ll pay you for being a CMA before being a CFA.

(That shouldn’t be misconstrued to say that the CMA is “better” or “harder” than the CFA–but in his case it is probably more well known and probably would be valued more.)

You seem to be a mentally balanced guy, you will make the right choice

Very good question.

My answer is “depends”.

Do you work for a public company or at least a large multi-national organization? if there is a sizable treausry department in your company, the chance is the Treasurer is probably a CFA charterholder, and there are probably lots of FX transactions and finance procurement. i’d say that’s probably one of the few departments where CFA can be benefitial.


As far as I know not a single person has a CFA designation in my large, publicly-traded, multinational organization. Remember, I work in manufacturing and many people come from blue collar backgrounds and have worked for the company for 20+ years. Only a very small segment of the company is finance-related and this is the group I’m in. My question was more geared toward finishing up the CFA program for another job. I will say that my group is very intelligent (multiple top 20 MBAs) and good to work with. It looks like my boss is grooming me for his old managerial job since he got promoted. I’m taking on his responsibilities and he’s spent company money on sending me to management training courses. Anyway, I just want to make a salary jump a bit quicker. I just got promoted this year to Sr Analyst and I don’t think the manager position (100k+ salary) is going to happen for another couple of years.

Part of my “impatience” is that my parents are struggling to make ends’ meat and I want to help them if I can. In Asian cultures, you don’t abandon your parents. On the flip side they don’t kick you out of the house once you hit 18. I see that happen a lot in white American families, but that’s a different topic.

Do u need 100k+ to help them?

Hmm… your company must have a treasury department that raises capital for the firm and do some moderate currency hedging though, no?

In any case, i don’t think the CFA program is a “quick fix” for you in your current situation. Honestly, by completing another level, you are not THAT much more employable since your line of work currently does not value CFA and the jobs you’re apply to that do probably get lots of applications from CFA charterholders.

Quite frankly, to switch to a new industry and start a career on something you have no direct experience for, it probably wouldn’t pay you $100K - and i have a feeling that the “6-figure salary” is just a mental block you set for yourself. I highly doubt the living standard of your parents are substantially different whether you make 85K or 100K.

And lastly, if you’re desperate for cash you can always take on a second job. I think that may be more realistic than taking the time to study for CFA praying you will magically get a huge jump in salary in the short-run.

Best of luck!


You would be better off buying your boss a cup of coffee than finishing the CFA, it is too focused on AM/ER, and only a “nice to have” credential in CorpFin. Passing L1/L2, has improved your analytical skills for your job, but taking L3 will not help you at all in your current job. I think a CPA, CMA or PT/MBA would be better.

I say go for it. Finish what you started, but that’s just me. If you ever decide to switch careers the CFA will be very valuable.

Is there a possibility for you to join a bigger organization that would agree to pay for your CFA if you pass and also provide you opportunities to move around given you have the Charter?It may make sense then.

I always use my membership/candicacy as a negiotiation tool in my interviews where, after I receive an offer, I usually cite the benchmark of typical CFA salary ranges with my level of work experience, if nothing else. It does come in handy as it is you that has to create value from it not the employer…its in their interest not to talk about your CFA if you dont use it in your job on a regular basis. However, its only you that has to do the cost/benefit analysis on how much of an increase you would like vs. the amount of work that goes into it.

I, like you, took Level 1 in 2009 and then just took Level 2 after 4 years and I changed jobs in between so I can somewhat speak from experience. In addition, I believe I am now in a country with the highest concentration of Charterholders so it becomes a competitive factor as well.

Good Luck.

Will your work experience count toward getting your charter?

Just for curiosty, what does ER stand for? thanks.

If your next job description requires CFA knowledge or considers it an asset, then you know the CFA charter will be very benefitial. Otherwise it’s difficult to say. I would suggest looking at potential 6-figure-salary jobs that interest you and see what the requirements are. Then set your goal for whatever the study is.

“Corporate Finance” is a misnomer, it should be called Corporate Accounting.

The CFA is of limited benefit for this type of work as others have said. Select another designation or move away from corp fin. The skills you will pick up with the CFA are great and valuable, but not in demand in the corp finance world. Most people come from the accounting side of the business

ER = equity research