Should I embark on the CFA journey??

Hi everyone!

I just graduated with a bachelor degree in accountancy in May and would be starting work in general audit in one of the big 4 audit firms in September.

I intend to switch to valuation/advisory after 2/3 years in audit. Hence my interest to take the CFA programme. By then, I think I would have managed to get my CPA as well.

Since I have quite alot of time (now till I start work in the last week of September, I am contemplating taking the level 1 exam in Dec 2013.

What do you guys think about this plan? Should I just go for it? And how do you think the CPA + CFA combo ranks in the market (Particularly in Asia) today?

Thank you! I am looking forward to your replies!

I don’t know anything about the Asia market. I have gone through both programs. If you stay in audit, few see the CFA charter as valuable and some people don’t even know what it is. It is viewed as a negative because your superiors could see it as a sign that you are no longer interested in audit. I wouldn’t broadcast that you are taking Level 1 to your senior or manager as they may see you as not being long on audit and you could find yourself on the bad audits.

That being said, I see a CPA license as an example compliment to the valuation practice as it will help to have an accounting foundation. Long-term I see the value of having a CPA license and CFA charter in something like financial planning where a client would be impressed by such credentials. The combination would also be helpful for a FP&A role at a company and maybe a CFO role down the road.

I STRONGLY encourage you to start working first and see if you have the time to do the CFA exam since it’s not your first priority right now (i am assuming you haven’t started on your CPA yet).

For 2 reasons:

  1. Your workload will be very high once you start working in the fall, PLUS CPA modules, PLUS steep learning curve at a big 4 firm, PLUS long hours in audit…

  2. Your career prospects may change once you are in audit. For now you don’t even know what industry you will be covering so don’t set your career in stone yet, you may enjoy audit more than you think, you may want to get into industry (depending on what firms you audit), there are many variables so i don’t know if valuation is what you will end up doing.

  3. Focus on one thing at a time! Do something well first and then move onto something. Young people have the tendacy to be “bored” of something before mastering it. If you never become expert in anything you will never progress in your career. Try to focus your energy and excel in your job first and perhaps come back to the CFA program in a year or two - don’t bit off more than you can chew!

Congrats on your new job and best of luck!


“All his life has he looked away, into the future. Never his mind on WHERE HE WAS. WHAT HE WAS DOING. Adventure. Ha! Excitement. Ha!”

^+1 to everything Nana said. but I would add to that:

#4 - Auditors work 18 hours a day from January 1 to May 1. That leaves approximately 1 month to study for the CFA exam (since it is given on June 1-ish.)

#5 - ASA is probably easier to get, and is probably better for business valuation than CFA. Of course, ASA will ONLY teach you the business valuation piece, while CFA teaches valuation of other financial instruments, and portfolio management, and other tools, such as stats and corporate finance.

#6 - If you just graduated with your BBA, you’re probably not even eligible for CPA yet. You still have another 30 hours to go. That’s another 2-5 years, just to be eligible for CPA exam. Then you have to take the CPA exam (which is nowhere near the difficulty of the CFA exam, but it’s not a walk in the park, either).

embark. open the doors of pain and sacrifice.

I think it sounds relevant to your career, but CPA could also be good.

Hi Nana.

Thanks for the advice. I will only be studying for my CPA modules in January next year. So I figured that I should not waste time and take the CFA level 1december 2013 exam. Afterall, the time I start work till the exam will only be 8 weeks long.

Any advice on the CPA + CFA combo?

Thank you!

For me, co-workers are impressed with credentials and experience. Bosses don’t care and won’t pay more. They pay for the current position you are in, per “the market.” I’m hoping that it helps me to stand out a little more among other candidates for promotion.

My advice is to stick with auditing now and not worry about CFA until you are ready. You are not ready yet. Greenman above said it right. Also, you can go a long way up in auditing.

Yep, get the CPA exam done and get settled in at work. There is a steep learning curve in audit and you may be stressed out of your mind trying to juggle work and a plethora of exams.

Ask DPDULONG he probably has as close an experience to what you’re asking:

I think you should just focus on becoming CPA eligible and taking the CPA exam. Do this and work in Big-4 audit for five years. After that, you should have a really good idea of what you want to do and who you want to do it with.

I’ve known lots of CFO’s. And a lot of them are CPA’s (or former CPA’s.) Very few of them are CFA’s, because it is a very different skill set. CFA is really only useful for portfolio management and stock valuation. If you want to be in corporate finance, you’re in the right spot.

CPA+5 years Big 4 > rookie CFA.

I wouldn’t work 5 years in public accounting if you are not interested, long-term, in accounting. By that time you will be manager eligible and start to focus on technical accounting issues. The longer you stay in public accounting the more likely you are to be seen as an accountant.

CPA+5 years Big 4 = potentially overweight with a crushed soul making an effective $17/hr (if you’re lucky) after all the unpaid overtime.

Yeah, that’s a good point. Because you will never have any opportunities within your Big 4 firm to move into the valuation department or M&A department. SOX compliance is not important to public companies (regardless of what the CFO says), and neither is financial statement presentation.

It must just be a myth that Big 4 companies have a corporate finance department that help their clients prepare for 144A bond offerings and help them do their initial IPO’s and shelf registrations.

Moving into the valuation/transaction services side is tough since there are a lot of people who want to move there from the audit side. I knew a guy who tried (he was bright too) and the firm wouldn’t let him so he said he was going to quit, then the firm magically found a spot for him. He still quit. The people I’ve known from that department usually then jump to IB or equity research after a couple of years. Lets face it, auditing sucks. It’s boring and nobody really appreciates it.

Financial statement audits to prepare for an IPO is the closest you’ll ever get to one if you’re on the audit side of a Big 4 firm. Maybe you’d see something cooler on the advisory side, but at that point the company would probably just hire a real consulting firm.

But the first few months of work is the most important, you don’t want to appear distracted and overly ambitious (like you are only there to land another job) - yes eventhough 90% of associates there will eventually leave the audit firm but they still don’t want you to appear that way!

And to be honest, it will benefit you more if you start studying something more related to your modules? and make sure you don’t fail any of them?

that’s just my 2 cents, you can try the CFA thing right now, but i’d say it doesn’t benefit you in the near future - the smartest thing to do is to stay with the firm until you complete CPA, which is another 3 years at the minimum. I think you can revisit the CFA program in a couple of years.


Hi all

Thanks for all your responses!

I guess the main point discouraging me from embarking on the CFA programme is that it would distract me from my job even though the distraction would last only 7 weeks.

In my country (unlike in North America or elsewhere) , I am already eligible to take the CPA exams and intend to complete them in 2014. (Take 2 in June and 2 in December). So if I pass the 4 exams next year, getting my CPA in 2015 is a sure thing. The thing is that I cannot start studying for these 2 exams yet as there has been a overhaul of the CPA syllabus and the first batch will be taking the first 2 modules in December.

By the way, does anyone know what qualifications are neccessary for a job in compliance in a bank?

Lastly, is there any benefit in terms of knowledge to have both qualifications? In what way do they complement each other?

Thank you!

If you switch to valuation you will reset your career because all you know how to do is audit and will need to prove yourself as a preparer. If the OP really wants to transition to SOX 404 compliance more power to him or her (CFA program not needed in that case). I was merely pointing out to the OP that if he or she is already thinking about the CFA program, maybe he or she doesn’t want to be in accounting long term as the CFA curriculum though helpful, is not essential to success as an auditor. If he or she wants to switch jobs, fine, but that wasn’t the initial question. No one doubts the plethora of options afforded to someone that starts a career in public accounting. However the exit strategy, if any, must be strategic. I’m sorry, but the longer you remain the auditor, the harder it will be to transition to anything else because you either will need to restart your career or only be able to interview for internal audit, G/L accounting or financial reporting type roles.

I have a friend who did exactly this. Couldn’t get a job in finance, so worked at E&Y as an auditor. Switched to corp finance at another audit firm after passing level 3. So yes it can work for you in a roundabout way. But you might be better off just sticking to the career that you are already embarked on. My friend isn’t paid any better now in this new department.