MBA or CFA decision

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?

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.

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?

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.

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.


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.

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.

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).


I hope you didn’t take on massive student debt to attend. This type of thinking is why so many millenials love Bernie…he’s going to try to fix their flawed perception. A bachelors degree is now attainable even through non-competitive online universities and the value of a bachelors degree alone has been completely diluted. Not everyone has to go to Harvard…but you cant assume that your no-name, non-ranked school bachelors (no offense) is as valuable as someone’s with the same GPA at a better ranked school. Brand matters at every level now. Like we said, it is a tough road for you so network. Also, “someone pursuing CFA level 1” has no value…anyone with a bachelors can pay the fee and open a book.

I was at Blacrock and Russell Investments in Seattle and a retirement consulting firm in Portland. We wouldn’t recruit from Portland State at either and wouldn’t even take a second look at a PSU grad unless they were already done with Level I at a minimum with above a 3.8 GPA unless it was a direct referral so you’ll need to network extensively to get a shot. That’s just reality unfortunately.


I understand what you are saying but i guess i underestimated the value of undergrad brand too. I know Portland State isn’t a ranked school and not widely known but it was alot cheaper so I didn’t take on too much extra debt for it. I meant that i would take the CFA level 1 exam and if I pass level 1, that could look good on my resume too. Maybe a “little” boost.


Well i guess i better start networking then! I do plan to take the CFA level 1 shortly after i finish the bachelors too. Since I only have 8 classes left, do you think i should just transfer back to WSU or University of Portland to get the 2nd bachelors?

Jethrodane, - how was working for Russell in Seattle? Heard lot of good things about them.

I did not have a good experience but was there awhile ago. Hence why I left for Blackrock. From what I understand they have had a lot of turnover over the years particularly the last 3 in with their impending sale causing many to head for the exits. They’ve had a lot of turnover at the executive level over the years. Performance in their funds have been pretty bad over the years as well either benchmarked against other active funds or passive multi-asset exposure. A lot of expensive multi-manager products that haven’t performed. They are supposedly experts in multi-manager, multi-style, multi-manager funds. Their target risk and target date funds which incorporate all they have to offer are typically one star or two star funds which have a negative rating from Morningstar which takes a lot of poor decisions to achieve. What have you heard that is great?

that is too bad to hear…couple of college friends went to work for them. one of them is still there as PM. He said pay, benfits and hours are great. Looking at glassdoor, PM makes around 300k all in. I mean that is equivalent to about 550k-600k in NYC and he works 9 hours a day. Although he told me benefits have gone down and small perks have vanished. But very political over there. I thought about working for them. PM in seattle for Russell sounded pretty awesome.

As someone who came from a non business school undergrad, I would recommend do both MBA and cfa. I’m finishing up the MBA this year and am sitting for level 3 in June. Taking on both has had a drastic impact on my career in just two years.

no matter what you decide, don’t do a second BA, that seems like a complete waste of time and money Imo.

Thanks for your advice! It’s nice to hear from another non-business undergrad. What school are you attending for your MBA? And what are you doing for work currently, if you don’t mind sharing? So you don’t think it’s worth it to finish up a second BA when its only 8 classes away? I was aiming for investment or equity analyst and eventually PM; but after hearing about all of the challanges and low probability of landing a job in that field, I’m leaning towards corporate finance now. Maybe a financial analyst and eventually financial manager. I would also prefer a decent work-life balance.