question from a non financial background

Folks, I have a PhD in Engineering and want to move to analyst/equity type positions. I was told that passing the CFA exams would be a benefit more so if I do an MBA later on. I am some what confused from not being of a financial background. My questions are 1. How difficult are the CFA exams for someone far removed from finance/economics training. 2. Any benefit to pass the CFA exams for people with engineering background? Thanks.

i have masters in engineering. i think you will find the cfa material is not difficult. Level I&II i thought were straight forward, level III is subjective and exam was harder for me, although the material seems very easy.

Why don’t you want to stay in engineering? If you are “far-removed” from finance/economics why do you think this is a good switch? I think getting a Ph.D. in engineering then passing the CFA exams then getting an MBA is really a dumb life plan.

I second JDV You should be able to just use the phd to get other jobs. Consulting and quant positions comes to mind. Unless, God forbid, that you didn’t do any internship in school?

I agree that after taking the time to get a PhD, you probably don’t want to be back in school if you can possibly avoid it. The cfa will help build some credibility that you know something about finance and valuation, and it’s probably most helpful just to get past level one in your particular case. The MBA helps on two scores: 1) it inserts you into a network of recruitment designed to get you employed and which your engineering colleagues probably can’t help with. 2) it can help with project management and team skills that engineers and PhDs in general aren’t well trained to handle. Also, some of that marketing stuff is pretty interesting, though you can get a taste of it by reading “the ten day MBA”. Its not a substitute for an MBA, but it gives you a good sense of the stuff that gets covered in an MBA program. I recommend that you look at the bok and then see if you can find some alternative to getting the network other than going to school again for a few years.

…at the same time, industry expertise can be worth large $$ in financial circles. Many very successful equity analysts got their start as practitioners in their respective industries and then transitioned into finance with a Rolodex full of industry contacts and a head full of knowledge that MBA-route analysts will never be able to replicate. See e.g. “Confessions of a Wall Street Analyst”. Then again ER no longer is a paying field; but there may be similar ways to leverage rsh’s experience. I know of a niche IB which is populated primarily with former oil industry engineers.

my bf will be finished w/ his PhD mech engineering program this year. apparently they have HFs and other finance companies come in and talk about what they do, but for quant, not ER positions. he is actually going to a career fair today and there are some finance companies attending. maybe your university’s career services can help you out? i’m not sure how long ago you graduated…

what encouraged you to do a PHD in the first place? the fact you’re willing to do a CFA and an MBA shows that at this point, you’re problably in the mentality that getting more degrees or names after your name is more valuable. the truth is, the PHD should have equipped you with enough knowledge for you NOT to have to do it. but if you like research, why not publish something? you can sit in on finance and economics classes to help you with certains things. the MBA and CFA will not, or should not be close to challenging if you really have a PHD education. the thing is, you’ve invested a lot in a PHD. by not staying in engineering or a related field, you’ve kind of wasted your time.

well frank… i think that engineering IS a related field if you are talking about a quant position. i dont know this from experience and its all 2nd hand info. but it makes sense. why else would they recruit out of engineering programs? he took a look at my CFA materials and recognized some topics right away (monte carlo for example). MFE? you know about this better than i would. anyhow… my bf’s research (for his thesis) includes building models and performing experiments, and writing papers for conferences etc. i imagine its not that much of a change if you take a quant position.

Thanks for your valuable insight. Briefly- Don’t want to stay in engineering as hard core R&D is probably going to be move to another country. Thats not saying a quant/consulting may not. I actually had an offer from top 5 consulting company but due to an infant at home and spouse in med school decided against the same due to the tedious travel issues. Thanks again to all the others who chose to pontificate without answering my question.

my graduate degree is in financial engineering so obviously there is a connection between engineering and finance. Although mathematics degree would probably be better suit, I took the following Engineering undergrad courses: Discrete-event Stochastic Simulation, Linear Programming and Alogrithms, Stochastic Modeling, Special Case LP’s including Newton’s Method. Most if not all are used to program trading/modelling techniques at the largest HF’s and IB’s. Instead of calculation the shortest travel distance for salesmen between multiple cities given numerous constraints, you can program the cheapest way to neutralize delta, gamma, theta for given option positions, or cheapest way to simulate the efficient frontier, etc… I don’t remember or use: Thermodynamics, Statics, Material Science, Electric Circuits, etc… I would advise you figure out what part of finance you want to be a part of. Quant? Equity Research? Trader? PM? Buyside or Sellside?