Should you be in the CFA Program? Or is this a waste of your time?

In another thread I guessed that roughly 80 percent of CFA Candidates have no business in the program and are wasting their time hoping that getting the certification would result in them getting a job that they otherwise could not get before they passed all three levels.

Some others suggested that it would be good to have a thread that sort of works through that number and gets a rough idea of where that number actually stands and to address the larger issue of who should bother with “all three levels” of this exam. I would encourage just about anyone in business to take level 1 (or at least read the material), just for the basic info (if they don’t already know it), but really, for whom does it actually make sense to spend 4 years (on average) trying to pass pass all 3 levels? Let’s name positions and companies. Let’s try and be specific as possible.

  1. If less than 80, what is it? 50? 40? Even those numbers would be damning for many of us.

  2. Who should be in this program? Who should not?

I’ll let you guys share your thoughts.

I’ll say it first, so that nobody else needs to say it, THE CFA IS NOT A GUARANTEE OR EVEN CLOSE TO ONE THAT YOU CAN BREAK INTO FINANCE

One caveat: Let’s not use, “I just like learning and am curious” as an excuse. If that is true, then great, go ahead (I enjoy physics journals for the same reason). But we want real economic reasons to be a CFA Candidate in this dicussion.

Maybe it will be easiest to start by saying “who SHOULD definitely be enrolled in this program?” Names of example Companies and Positions please!

E.G. Buy Side Equity Research Analyst @ Fidelity

I started off in an unrelated field to finance (travel), but I now work at a bulge bracket [sat for level 2 once before I made the switch]. I am not where I want to be in the firm, but it’s not horrible and I’m making connections with some good people. I’m also young.

So according to the standards I probably would not have qualified before, but I might now? Does age or potential count for anything? It seems unfair to say a number of people shouldn’t try if they’re not already in industry as long as they’re being realistic about it (under 30, had good grades, can speak english, generally bright/friendly, etc).

Yeah, sure there are certainly gonna be exceptions and outliers that don’t fit the formula. That’s what this thread should discuss. I think the things you mentioned are perfectly valid issues to consider.

Before we ge there though let’s start with slam dunks. Who should DEFINITELY be enrolled?

Well, I disagree with TRH’s basic premise, if only because I believe that pride and the sense of accomplishment do count for something, even if you never actually “use” the CFA initials.

However, I’ll be the first to admit that I probably wasted my time with the program. I could have accomplished (for what I want to do in life) the same thing by taking the ABV or ASA and the CFP. This would have taken less time, less effort, and less money. And it would actually probably be better, because the AICPA recognizes ABV, and the general public recognizes CFP. Nobody in my job field knows what the CFA is.

I should not be. I’m at a Fixed Income HF and will in no way, shape, or form ever use any of the material covered aside from Fixed Income/Deriv. The Fixed Income/Deriv portion was the Fisher-Price of what I do on a daily basis.

(That being said, I have a HELL of a time with FRA… I was a level 2 retaker because i bombed FRA last year.)

I started when I was on PM track at JPM… I started it, so I will finish it. I know two other HF guys who are in the same boat. I guess psychos like us just need closure.

I’m an associate at a large law firm. You would probably drop me into your 80% category. That being said, I negotiated 3 weeks of paid leave and my courses paid for at each level so it’s really a question of do I want to take this exam and study 200 hours for a month with a good sleep every night, or not take it and work 300 hours for a month with very little sleep. I’ll learn something either way but in the long-term, I think forcing myself to get some background finance/accounting knowledge through the CFA will probably help my career prospects (and $ ultimately) more than just working. I don’t think it has to be between getting a new job/a raise and just doing it for the sake of knowledge, there can be real tangible economic benefits from going through the program in other fields. Now do I need the letters (which I may not even get because of work qualification) or to pass every level? Probably not, but I definitely think from a cost/benefit perspective it can make sense for people in my situation, if that’s the question that’s being asked.

I’m never going to be a financial analyst or portfolio manager and have no delusion that completing all 3 levels will even make me half as proficient as someone without the designation who works for a year doing this stuff on a day to day basis, but my point is that you don’t have to be in finance or even have a specific position within finance to make it worth it, and I don’t think you’ll ever really be able to assign a number for who should and shouldn’t be enrolled because the benefit a particular individual gets from the CFA is rarely immediately recognizable. At the end of the day, I think as long as you understand that it’s not a magic bullet and weigh the time spent against the alternatives, enrolling is justified, and if it helps me get just one institutional client in the future then it will pay for itself. I told myself before I started that I wouldn’t spend more time than my firm gives me to study (plus one week of vacation) and that if I failed any level I would just stop right there. Any more time or effort and I don’t think it would be worth it for me, and I think that threshold is for each person to decide.

Your viewpoint is so shallow about the CFA program and just cant go beyond a 2,00,000 or 5,00,000 salary.

A person who completes the CFA program is well equipped to handle money- Others and more importantly

own money. Then he can generate good returns which a person without a charter may not be able to.

So for each individual CFA program will surely add value .These people wont be taken for a ride by the so called smart I bankers whom bonuses get funded by Fed/other govt by putting the common people at ransom . Printing money has saved these banks and nothing else in the crisis.

Most of I bankers who brag about thir bonus forget the firms they work are virtually bankrupt and saved by common (non cfa citizens). Thank the corrupt Govt for your bonus and not your skills .

Now that I kicked the soap box out from under you, would you mind providing some of your background and adding value to the conversation? Please respond in english.

Who should be a CFA candidate, almost certainly. We can address borderline cases later. Come on?

Lolz this thread is bullhshit and adds no value to the forum itself

We have self proclaimed gods and judges who keep showcasing how worthless is CFA program for most except these few blessed souls , only who could derive value from the CFA program

Ps: As for me i have just cleared L2 and trying to get a break in a equity research firm.

I know i wrote some hard facts about the source of the bonus , but thats the truth. I did kick the soap box under these lavish bonuses given to people who virtally caused financial meltdown. Many I bankers here will get hot , but so be it .

I think he asked you to respond in English.

i hope those equity research reports you write won’t be written in English.

My honest opinion who should go for CFA:

Recent undergrads who want some resume fodder that might make them stand out when trying to get their foot in the door, or people in a finance role whose upward mobility depended on it.

The thousands of recent college undergrads are not only competing with each other, but with all of the laid-off people from the downturn trying to find a job, or the under-employed trying to work back to where they were. In both cases the latter have experience on their side.

Switching fields mid-career is pointless imho. You have no experience in the new field (so are on par with undergrads) but will probably demand a higher salary because of the length of time in the workforce. Not only are you voluntarily starting from the bottom, you are competeing against undergrads who will do the job for less money. To transition to an equivalent role is a pipe dream. This would be the equivalent of me quitting my job, going to law school, passing the bar, and expecting to be not only hired, but immediately made partner.

Agree with villnius above.

I’ll add that it gets interesting for people who have experience in one area of finance, but seek to move to another. For example, should you take the CFA if you work in corporate finance but want to work at a bank? Should you do it if you work at a bank but want to work at a hedge fund? What about an area tangentially related to finance, like consulting? Should you take it if you want to move to/from consulting Those are much more interesting questions. Moving from marketing or IT or some shit to finance and hoping the CFA alone would compensate for the years of mischoices is obviously pretty stupid.

This is NANA’s guess on the breakdown:

  • 50% of all candidates enrolled in the CFA program has no finance experience and probably no work experience at all (students) who just want to break into the industry.

  • 30% of the candidates work in the finance related fields in hope of getting a better job or a promotion within their own firms.

  • 15% of the candidates are “letters collectors” who just want extra letters behind their names - it’s neither what they need or what they want to be.

  • 5% or the reminder of the candidates actually need to complete the CFA program as part of the requirement of their positions and most likely their firms sponsor the program.

What do you guys think? :slight_smile:


I know plenty of people who have a background in a specialized field and THEN got recruited to become an equity analyst.

One of my friends graduated in micro-biology, did her masters but not phd. She was then recruited by a consulting firm specializing in pharmaceuticals… and then she’s inspired to write the CFA exams to learn the business side of things…

My point is, there are many industries where you need experience and expertise in the industry to advance - simply understanding the numbers on the financial statements may not be sufficient.

That’s right, TRH. All CFA Charterholders get better returns that the non-CFA hacksaw losers, like Warren Buffett, Peter Lynch, or John Bogle. It says it right there in the Ethics material.

Nobody has given a decent list yet of the firms and positions where you should be enrolled. There does seem to be some consensus that you should be young preferably.