Is it worth taking the L3 exam?

I just passed L2, and now I’m considering if it’s worth the expense and time commitment to continue with L3. I’m trying to figure out what the real worth of the charter is, and whether continuing for the L3 is worth it for me. Eg, at my company (a large sell-side firm) I don’t know of anybody that cares one way or another whether someone is a charterholder or not. I have a wife and daughter, and studying for the exam really takes notable time not only away from them, but also my ability to contribute to household chores, etc. As for taking away my own free time, that I can handle. But taking away family time is a hard ask. Perhaps the charter might be useful if I do eventually change jobs, but again, I don’t know how seriously it’s taken in a move to the sell-side. If anything, I am thinking it might only serve as a slight leg-up over other resumes at the application stage, but that any real hiring decision would clearly be due to candidate skills. Finally, as per the actual syllabus, I was really let down with the L2 exam this year. Even though I passed, I found the questions to be fairly obscure with a preference of testing relatively obtuse parts of the curriculum instead of the primary core topics that I’d expect an analyst to use every day. That makes me wonder if the time spent on the L3, just to obtain the charter and some extra knowledge, is worth the time investment itself. I realize it sounds like I’m just bitching, which I’m honestly not intending, I’m merely trying to objectively analyze the gains/losses of continuing with the path, and at this stage it just seems predominantly negative. So if anybody, either recent L2 or L3 passers, has any advice or even feels similar as me, please let me know. I’m also curious - for any full time analysts that have read this far, do you actually find the L3 material relevent to the job, or did you find the L3 exam more of an annoying hurdle to clear than an actual educational experience? Thanks all.

You might not always be at a company that doesn’t value the CFA…always think of the next possible step. As for the family aspect, I totally hear you on that. My challenge was to still be “SuperDad” while studying, which basically meant no studying from the time I got home until the kids were in bed (between 8 and 9) and THEN hitting the books. It also meant preserving some of the weekend for family. It’s do-able. If you’ve invested in L1 and L2 so far, why not just see it through. The value may not be evident now but it is a strong card to have in your deck for later and it will be a nice accomplishment with all the extra challenges you have cited. Also – L3 is probably the most “practical” body of knowledge of the three exams. There is much more application vs. pure theory. This is probably more the case for me as I am in a portfolio management role and not an analyst role.

i’ve had two bottles of wine, so sorry for any typos. just do it! i’m 40 and have two young kids and a job that requires about 50-55 hrs per wk. the title of cfa means nothing as it relates to my role/compensation. just did it for my own benefit. i found the material at l3 to be much more interesting than l2. it would have been tought for me to do l2 and not see it through to completion (failed l2 once but passed l3 on the first try).

if you’re not in the industry or are too old to do a career change to start an entry level job in the industry, then no.

I can’t remember 90% of the things I studied at uni. But it wasn’t a waste if time. There may b the day when the designation does make the difference. You’re on the home stretch. If u start now it won’t b too time consuming.

If you start next month you can get away with 5 hours a week for a long time and then kick in at the stretch.

Sounds like you’re in the industry, so it might be worth it from that perspective, but if it’s killing family time I’d probably just drop it unless you can do like ATH did and basically only sacrifice sleep. I’m not in investment management at all and questioned going on with L3, but thought I’d give it at least one try since I passed L2

study nights, go with less sleep. I have a wife and daughter too, and it worked for me. Since you have a kid, you know how to function on less sleep. I just passed L3, and i dont think i ever studied during a single weekend afternoon or morning.

Thanks all. As per my role, I’m in the industry in a front office position on a predominantly sales/trading division. (though I’m not personally a trader or in sales). I’m not currently associated with either investment management or analysis, though those are possible future career trajectories. As per the 4 yrs experience, I currently have 3 years relevent experience, so I’d be ready to go by this time next year. I did find the studying for L2 to be useful, eg the intercorporate topics, as division-wide interpretation of the firm’s balance sheet just makes more sense now. I also felt in general that in learning to do the specific FRA topics, my conceptual understanding of BS vs IS started to make more sense. So from that point of view, the L2 was useful. One other question - with only the L3 to go, do you think it would be notably harder to take the L3 in a few years after a break, as opposed to doing it next year? From what I understand, there’s little overlap, so perhaps starting fresh in a few years won’t be all that more difficult. Thanks again for all the comments, they’re useful, and it’s good to know other parents out there have been able to get the charter with their family life fairly intact.

stratus, I think for pure research job, Level 1 should be mandatory (even for Finance masters degree holders) and Level 2 is a great supplement that any serious analyst must have passed otherwise I would have little respect for him. There are exceptions like Jim Cramer, David Gardener, etc, but as a rule, without a Level2, an analyst is not going to add value. Or he would take 5-10 years to learn something that a Level 2 passer already knows, and even then, the L2 passer would know more. L3 is totally different beast. L3 is more related to portfolio management and financial planning. In my opinion, it does not add much value if you are targeting a pure research job. But then again, once you move onto buy-side research, L3 knowledge becomes ultra helpful. I don’t know what you exactly do, you are neither a trader nor in sales but call yourself front office. That only leaves compliance or some other role I am not totally familiar with. Also finally, the question becomes, if you have already passed 2 levels, what would stop you from passing level 3. And regarding your opinion about who cares whether someone is a charterholder, I think I have to disagree. For the relevant job, one would greatly care if you are a charterholder. For e.g. a portfolio manager, research analyst, portfolio analyst or even a financial planner would be more “credible” in my opinion if he was a charterholder. I am not suggesting you cannot get the same knowledge by doing a PhD in finance, but CFA is kind of a standardized exam. Almost like the US Medical exam for doctors or Bar exam for lawyers, it kind of is a stamp or guarantee that this professional definitely knows what he is doing. Of course, that does not mean, a non-charterholder does not know his job, but with so many analysts in this industry, how do you separate good from bad? It’s the same difference between a used BMW and certified used BMW. The former might be just as good, but as rule, the latter holds upto a minimum standard. Thanks.

I’m 42 have 3 kids 8,7,5 and I have so little personal time when I get home I have to ask my wife for time to take a crap and I got through. You will kick yourself if you drop out. Level III ties everything together buy the time May rolls around you start to think and sound like a charter holder (sounds crazy but it’s true). Crazy things happen if you ever get let go the charter goes a long way to getting a new job.

Stratus, I am 40 have an 8 and 10 year old plus a 60 hours per week job. I basically studied from 9:30-midnight, no weekends, sometimes studied 6-8am on week-ends. I only started going caveman in May. Failed L2 twice but passed L3 first time. I decided not to sacrifice family time and functionned on less sleep. My wife was understanding (most of the time). You can do it. SLAY THE DRAGON!!!

Listen here Stratus - you’re taking it. I just failed level 3 and I’m retaking it. Not knowing your situation 100%, here’s mine - 2 kids, I’m 33, job where the CFA is prized but hardly supported (oxymoron, I know, but true). I’m registering to retake it tomorrow. Retaking is going to suck big time. You’ve probably heard that Level 3 is “easy” - the easiest of them all - wipe that away. Ten, twenty years ago that was true. Those people don’t count anymore. It’s a different ballgame now. Ignore them, they don’t get it. You’ve found the time to make it this far, keep going. You’ll be worth more (self pride) to your children saying you accomplished this than you will by quitting. No doubt it’s tough but you can do it. Seriously, you’ve made it this far - keep going. Don’t quit. Find the time. Time is something you have right now. Capitalize on it and make this opportunity a worthwhile endeavor. I wish the best for you.

Cons: - No career upside potential in your current job w/CFA - Time away from family - Cost of exam out of pocket - Boss might think you are trying to leave to buy-side - No use for any material on level 3 @ work Pros: - Maybe gain some additional investment knowledge (useless) - Potential to jump to the buy-side - Sense of closure The time u spent for level 1 & 2 is sunken cost, it should not impact your future choices. So the real question is if you ever want to move to the buy-side, if so, you should take it, if not, just quit.

wow, for those of you that passed with families and busy jobs, you guys are my heroes. i’m new to the forum, here’s my situation. i failed level 3 for the 3rd time yesterday (band 10 each time), i’ve got 2 girls, one is 2 and other was born last August and a job that requires 55-60hrs. i tried my best this last time and really gave it as much as i could given the circumstances (newborn, etc), but still wasn’t able to pass. it’s taken alot of time away from my family and alot to ask from my wife to continue to be supportive and sacrifice family time together. i’m contemplating retaking the exam but can’t imagine going thru all of the preparation again and feeling guilty that I can’t be ‘Superdad’. But hearing some of your stories and knowing that you’ve been in a similar situation, gives me some hope. for those of you with families and who managed to get studying time into your busy schedules, how did you prepare? what the heck am i doing wrong here? i’m crushed.

Stratus, I think there’s no harm to keep plodding through…since you still have the momentum. There is no harm to keep the doors open especially when you have L3 in your back pocket. I know its easy for singles (like myself) to say this when there’s not much family commitment etc. but I feel L3 would give you a lot of practical knowledge even for your own personal benefit. Keep the ball rolling!