What can CFA exam do for career

Hello friends,

I beginning to start the journey on CFA examination and wondering the benefits all of you have come across. I am background in statistics and engineering and currently 25 years of age.I hear a lot of very good things from several people. Aside from a lot of study hours I know that it is a much difficult process. Since I am new to CFA world I am wondering and curious to know the kind of jobs you may get and how much money people with CFA make. I read financial people around 30 years age without CFA in US make average around 80 thousand annual with 15-20% additional income. How does CFA affect this information?

Thank you for much needed input.

CFA won’t do much for your career besides maybe increase your interview-call rate by a small %. You’re more likely to pass the initial screening. Other Charterholders and candidates will value your efforts. That’s about it. It depends on how you apply what you learnt from the curriculum in your work. For example, if passing level II improves your valuation skills (maybe you have a better understanding of different discount rates and risk premiums), you’ll become a stronger analyst and thereby good things can happen in your career. If you pass level II by memorizing the formulas but do nothing to apply the knowledge in real life, that’s about as useful as a golf club in a football game.

You’ll find a lot of people say it doesn’t open doors - tell them thanks for the feedback and then write them off (for good).

Here’s my story:

I worked at a front desk at a gym, and also was a delivery driver out of college (pizza delivery). I was just chilling not trying to do anything more. I had a great life, but my parents wouldn’t help me get a job of any sort. I loved trading though (traded FX since I was a freshman in college - wasn’t making enough money to quit and just flip everyone off). So, I decided that finance is probably where I could follow at least what seemed like a passion. I stumbled across the CFA program literally by chance, and interested in how “hard” it’s supposed to be, I was ready for a challenge and enrolled.

I passed level 1, and then took the first job that I could get my hands on. Again, I will double down on the fact that people who say passing the CFA exams don’t open doors are full of shit - it 100% opened a door for me. I took my measly trading/re-balancing job and performed so god damn sickening well at it, that the very moment I passed level 2, all eyes were on me from my company’s internal asset management division (I work in fintech). And sure enough, a couple months later, I found myself in the seat I wanted to sit in (I had to interview for my job twice. Once in 2017, and again last October).

My boss is absolutely in love with the CFA program and everything it entails. So, that would be my best advice to you, is go take the exams, and then find someone who is also highly passionate about the CFA program. It took me a lot of work, but if you don’t get discouraged, and keep working your dick off, you can make it. I literally sit in the seat I am today, because I passed these exams.

Last bit of advice for you: If you meet people along the way who tell you the CFA program won’t help you, ignore them. It hasn’t helped them, and they want you to experience life the way they experienced it.

I have worked in investment management for the last 6 years in a pseudo-legal role. When I got started here, I had never heard of the CFA. I came from a legal background and have a math degree and business degree. I noticed a lot of the folks I supported at the office had the CFA designation after their names (whatever that meant!). So I dove in these CFA waters head first and, without really knowing what it entailed, studied my ass off for L1 and, out of fear of failure, passed. Brush, rinse, repeat for L2 and L3. I realize now, however, that I was so bored with my job, the CFA studying and preparation was the great big, festering neon distraction I needed (kudos to anyone who gets the reference). But did it help me land a better job?

So far, it has not. I passed L3 in 2018, got my work experience approved in October and have relentlessly applied to all types of jobs. Entry-level jobs, experienced jobs, jobs in NYC, jobs in San Francisco, a few in Europe, hell one was in Hong Kong. Probably north of 500 or 600 resumes total. And I have absolutely zero to show for it save for those shiny letters after my name, yay! But hope springs eternal, I’m going to continue to be as disciplined with my job search as I was with my studies. Do I regret anything? Only the foolish decision to go to law school way back when. You have a lot of myopic people who serve as the gatekeepers for jobs that think that just because one hasn’t done something before, they can’t. Well, I never mopped floors for a living. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be damn good at it if I wanted to!

I think it will become more of a requirement rather than good to have in the future. specially for investment management jobs


CFA designation is becoming a requirement. At my firm you must have the designation or show progress towards it if you (ever) want to get promoted. It it pretty competitive => CFA (MBA has “lower” value) + personal skills (clients must like you) + experience.

As far as money - this is finance so sky is the limit. Value = money. You never want to be on the cost side (back office) and always want to be generating revenue (trading, sales/client facing).

I should have added above that - yes, the CFA is cool, and impressive, but there is no substitute for a charismatic personality.


+1. Maybe if you have a masters/MBA/PHD it isn’t a requirement but I think it would be very challenging to progress in investment management now if you just have a bachelors degree (unless your personality is something else or you just cant stop making money for your firm)

Some may benefit from CFA designation for complete career change, some may not; its luck but at least CFA designation opens doors for you to strive with more confidence in the desired direction. Nonetheless, chances of career progression will substantially increase because you start thinking and talking same language as others in the field of Investment Management, Investment Banking, Equity Research etc. whether you are Ivy grad or some middle tier university. In short, CFA designation minimizes such differentiation for professionals already working in the mentioned fields and also provides opportunity to individuals who desires to switch to the career in the mentioned fields.

Im just getting it for bragging rights. I am a financial advisor & wealth manager with about 2000 colleagues, of which about 500 gave CFP and about 5 have CFA… soon i can brag about being the 6th…

Agree. It opens a lot of doors.

I often met people who say CFA is not valuable/worthwhile or it is overrated are the ones who couldn’t complete it or never enrolled in the program for whatever reason. My personal experience is CFA makes lot of change in the professional life. Your colleagues take you seriously in the discussions. Overall I see there is sufficient respect for CFA designation in the industry

At my firm, the investment people often have CFA but insist it isn’t valuable and that all that matters is their experience. It might be the case that people forget how they got the job in first place. On the sales side it is a must, because without it the investment guys, investment consultants, and some clients think you’re an idiot.

^these folks covered it pretty well, I just want to add that whether you receive recognition really depends on how much your supervisor values the charter.

I had two bosses that really value it and believes that I take initiatives and can add more value than other colleagues; then I have another boss who at times can’t even remember the acronym and uses this as an excuse to say that I can resolve tasks independently that our department head handed down since i ‘must have learned that from the program’.

Fyi I work in corporate treasury :slightly_smiling_face:

Many charter holders seem to discount the benefit as well as the difficulty of the exam after finishing the program. I would take it with a grain of salt every time a charter holder claims that there has been no benefit of getting the charter or that the exams were a breeze. (probably a case of a serious self-attribution bias)

First things first; If you’re an asshole and people dislike you, they will dislike you even when you are a Charterholder (bummer, I know!). No one…ABSOLUTE NO ONE…wants to spend 40h+ in an office with a dickhead. So, more important than any degree or charter, is to be a good person. Genuinely.

Secondly, being a Charterholder is just a proof that you went through a gauntlet and that you know the basic stuff about finance.

Thirdly, salary is relative. 80k in NYC is not a lot…but the same amount in Alabama/Estonia/Ukraine allows you to be very comfortable.

Lastly; I’m no wise man with wise words. But here is my story: I started studying for my Charter in march 2016. It has taken WAY MORE time and hours and sacrifice than I anticipated. I heavily doubted myself in the beginning even today, I’m not sure if I’ll pass the LVL3 exam. Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll see in 2 months (However, today I know I’ll anything necessary to have my Charter one day) But so far, starting to study for CFA has been one of the best decisions I have made. I got a job that I love (without CFA I would have never ever passed the interview questions), I have learned tremendously about finance. As stupid as it sounds, I realize how little I know about finance but…at the same time I realize that I know A LOT. But I recommend it 100%. It’s worth it. But then again, I belong to the 20% who will end up passing the program and not in the 80% group who will fail. Your life…your choice. Whatever you choose, it won’t change how happy you are!


Obtaining the CFA charter does not automatically win you a new job in the world of high finance. It should never be assumed to be the magic key that unlocks a whole new world for any individual. In numerous instances, the CFA reputation has really provided some credibility to the charter holder, especially when you speak to Corporate Finance and Accounting professionals. In a practical sense, the lessons on the curriculum provide each candidate almost all the tools necessary to do a decent job, which will ultimately buoy the professional’s potential to go higher up the corporate ladder.

Just got a new job, they emphasized Cfa in JD. Employer also likes the emphasis on ethics.