I would like some advice. I am considering studying for the CFA program, but I am not sure it is appropriate for me or whether it would actually aid my career prospects. Academically, I have a humanities background (Undergraduate in English Literature, Masters in Journalism) and I currently work in Corporate Public Relations. I am reasonably confident that I can handle the quantitative aspects of the CFA (I have a pretty strong background in math; a few years of calculus and a couple of semesters of statistics). I am interested in Finance and Investing, but I am not sure whether the CFA alone would actually be enough to even get me an entry level position, since I have no previous work experience in that area. My question: Should I pursue the CFA while keeping my current job, and hope that I will be able to get something when I complete the three year process. Or should I go a different route (M.B.A., etc.) and not waste my nights and weekends on studying for something the ultimately won’t help me out. I would appreciate any advice!
Brooklyn - There are several threads that discuss using CFA as leverage for career transition. Use the search function to check them out for more advice than you could hope for. Highlights: - Transition is easy to give advice about, hard to carry out. Possible, but it will take a lot of work and persistence on your part. Talk to as many people as you can, and do lots of research to make sure that you’ll be happy with what you find post-transition. - Education requirements vary with the type of role you’re in - asset management, IB, consulting, private weath mgmt, etc. If you have a definite destination in mind, find out how common the respective designations are in that field. It’s possible to work in some types of investment management with neither credential, while some areas really require both. - For MBA, the hardest part is getting accepted to your target school, and footing the bill. For CFA, the hard part is maintaining individual self-discipline to stay focused and soldiering on through disappointment (very few pass all 3 tests on the first try). IMO, MBA has broad value across many career paths, CFA has deeper value if you’re focused on roles where the charter is highly sought after. - Note that CFA has an applicable work experience requirement (I think the requirement is now 5 years). So you really need to begin the transition as you’re working through the program. Once you have passed all 3 tests and CFAI has reviewed and approved your work experience and recommendations, then you get your charter. Best of luck!
How interested are you in finance and investing? How interested were you in journalism? You apparently changed your mind about that career field, so you should mindfully consider what your comitment level is with regards to an investment career. Going on the CFA track requires diligent studying for several months of the year on top of your ongoing job. You will have to pay hundreds of dollars for testing fees and preparation materials. Given your lack of background, you stand a substantial risk of failure regardless of your work ethic. The “quantitative aspects” of the CFA are not difficult because of mathematics. Calculus is not involved, just some basic stat and probability. The difficulty is knowing how you should be manipulating numbers, not doing the actual manipulation (which is relatively easy). Without experience and background in business, economics, accounting, etc., you should be prepared to study enough to reach a broad level of competance in several areas you likely know very little about. Several hundred hours per year for a few years (at least 3, more likely 4 or 5 since you will probably fail at least one level). From the prospective of an employer, I think your background could be applicable to a junior client-relations role at a buyside shop, and that could be your easiest entry-point into the business while you work on the CFA and build some competancies. If you are committed to making this transition, it will be a great help to get a job in the industry ASAP, even if it is not on the PM or analyst track or whatever you eventually want to do. Your firm will help with the cost, you’ll have some support for pursuing the CFA, likely even some pre-exam days off work to study.
Personally? I’d go for the MBA for this kind of career transition. Assuming you can get into a decent school, I think it offers the most efficient way of successfully transitioning to an investment-related job (with substance). Here’s the problem I see with using the CFA exams as a transition… First, many people get mired in the exams and it still takes three years (or 2.5) minimum to get through them. Not many hiring managers are impressed by the fact that you may have passed level I or even II. Even with the designation, you will likely not be able to move directly into the more substantive job you desire right away. As a prior poster indicated, you would likely have to take an intermediate job, where you might have to sit for 2+ years. And even then, there’s no guarantee that you’d get the job you want. Some people will only see you as the intermediate job kind of person and would never hire you out of, say, client services. No offense to client services, but if you’re looking for an analyst or PM track job, this wouldn’t be the best path, in my opinion. Maybe other workplaces are less rigid than mine, but I kind of doubt it, unless it’s a small shop. I see it all the time… People with zero investment experience go to a good MBA program and hired as analysts (over people with undergrad and several years of applicable experience). The MBA is the best shortcut if you can handle the tuition/debt. But if you go to a good school, you can expect to be making around $100K plus bonus straight away, so the tuition debt gets paid down quickly if you’re thrifty.
I agree that the MBA option sounds like a smoother and less risky way to do the transition, but there is no reason not to do the CFA stuff while you are at it, and you have the advantage that you can pretty much get started right away. Business schools have an advantage that they have career offices that exist to help you find a job and insert you into the right networks. Don’t worry too much about changing your mind about a literary career; you would not be the first person to have found that decisions made at age 20 were not in fact the optimal choice for the rest of ones life. The advice to really get an understanding of how the industry is structured and the roles in the industry so that your efforts arent wasted is good advice. (another reason thatthe Mba is good is that it is a more flexible degree if it turns out that investing isnt for you). Robert Jaeger’s book, “All about hedge funds, the easy way to get started” (terrible title, good book) has an excellent outline of the different parts of the industry - traders, brokers, investment banking, asset managers, hedge funds, prime brokers, etc. - in the first chapter. If you decide you like hedge fund stuff, the rest of the book is good too. One warning, since you have a journalism background. If you leverage your journalism to get into one of the wire services (e.g. Reuters), you will likely stay there and never get to manage money yourself.
I think the CFA would def help you break in. You’d be suprised at how many firms look for a people with great writing skills and finance knowledge.
I disagree. Firms may talk about how they want people with writing skills, but they’ll disdain an English major every day of the week. Having writing skills is not a plus, but not having writing skills is a definite minus.
At the very least the process of studying and taking the exams would test how much you actually like finance and investing. I know a few people who thought they did enjoy it then started studying and took Level I and realized they weren’t as passionate as they thought.
“Having writing skills is not a plus, but not having writing skills is a definite minus.” Seriously, you just blew my mind.
In math, you express that much more succinctly: “necessary but not sufficient”. Turkish Wrote: ------------------------------------------------------- > “Having writing skills is not a plus, but not > having writing skills is a definite minus.” > > Seriously, you just blew my mind.
“Having writing skills is not a plus, but not having writing skills is a definite minus.” I think it means that having writing skills is a plus, but it’s hard to sell yourself based on one’s writing skills. I’ll agree that whoever wrote that statement didn’t express themselves all that well doing it. Now, having translated it, I’m not sure that I agree with the statement. I think that a resume that says “I have good writing skills” isn’t really going to help that much, but a writing sample on a financial topic that is clear and understandable would be very helpful. For example, if you could explain some complex security like a CDO to people who are mathematically competent, but perhaps not mathematical gurus… that would be something valuable.
Have you considered being a financial writing? The CFA would provide credibility to a financial writer but I’m not sure how they would go about fufilling the work experience requirement.
cfa2grunt Wrote: Firms may talk about how they want > people with writing skills, but they’ll disdain an > English major every day of the week. Why do you think this is? Finance + CFA is redundant, whereas “other” + CFA is actually an advantage, since you bring in some other skillset. Quant + Finance is useful, just as “Qual” and finance is useful, since liberal artsy people often have really strong qualitative skills (I’m not talking about communication, but rather analyzing arguments and situations that go beyond “crunching the numbers”). It seems like most of what we do in this business is understanding and evaluating situations and arguments, so I would think a liberal arts major who is smart would have an advantage once they got up to speed with the finance (easy)… or at least not be at a disadvantage. I seem to spend 75% of my time at work reading and trying to understand what is going on with a business or an industry – who is going to be able to do that better than an English major (assuming they have some business / finance training). Anyway, I did engineering + Liberal Arts and I find the LA training much more useful than the engineering training, but maybe that is just me. To the original poster, I would say go for it if you think you want a career in investments. You will probably get the most leverage out of an MBA.
I think it was pretty succinct but, then again, I wasn’t an English major But seriously, having writing skills is just expected where I am (even if you think I don’t have any). If you get to the point where you’re writing a sample note or producing a writing sample for a prospective employer, you might win some points for good writing skills. It’s possible that writing skills are more important on the sell-side, where research notes are provided to clients. Where I am on the buy-side, though, they aren’t particularly important. asd-whatever, I agree that CFA+other should be viewed in a more positive light than it typically is (in my experience). However, in practice, many employers don’t seem to give a non-finance background much credit.
cfa2runt, yes, i guess you are right – it’s hard to know what your employer really thinks of you until you join the team. i’ve noticed that a lot of people, even people with relevant backgrounds from top schools, can get stuck at the bottom in a crap job for 3-4 years before moving on to something better. wouldn’t you agree?
cfa2grunt Wrote: ------------------------------------------------------- > I disagree. Firms may talk about how they want > people with writing skills, but they’ll disdain an > English major every day of the week. Having > writing skills is not a plus, but not having > writing skills is a definite minus. why would they desdain an english major?
There is a common misperception that English majors (or history, philosophy, psychology, etc.) lack the necessary quantitative perspective needed to delve into financial statements and cut to the quick of a company’s growth strategy. Just because you majored in English doesn’t mean that you weren’t also a math geek (even though you didn’t minor in math). Your innate quantitative skills may not translate directly onto your transcript. I was a math geek my whole life (I ran out of math classes in high school), I also excelled in science (I took college Bio and Chem classes in high school), but I ended up studying English in undergrad (I also got a 5 on my AP Lit test). Not to toot my own horn, because I’m definitely not the brightest bulb around, but I find myself interested in things, and wanting to learn more about them. A naturally inquisitive mind will get you far when dealing with nearly any facet of life: be it finance, history, relationships, etc. The drive to learn more, find out what makes things tick and how to make them tick faster or farther: this is what people who are hiring are looking for in a person. They need someone who will ask the right questions, one who will look at things and see beyond the surface tension, someone who is going to get to the heart of the matter and unearth something that the rest of the street didn’t notice. Oh, and although I have an English degree, that doesn’t make me the best writer out there. It just gives me an edge. Some people are naturally good writers, who happen to be finance majors. Sorry about my rambling on and on. I would say that to break into the industry, you should: 1) network and meet people who are in the industry, 2) apply for every job you can in the industry (work your way up - most people do), and 3) drown yourself in the markets - read the WSJ, Barron’s, watch business news coverage, try to pick some stocks, learn more about finance (CFA curriculum is the perfect way to do so, though I went the MSF route). I started in the middle office (I guess it would be middle, though I believe at the time the experience qualified for the CFA - barely) as the editor for my firm’s equities research coverage, and proved myself most useful and always at the ready. I moved up to an associate equity analyst position within a year. Use the skills you do have to get your foot in the door. Then maintain your drive to get to where you want to be.