What is a beginner to do? ( pre-level 1 life decisions)

Beginner here. I am graduating in a few days with a Communications degree (I know, right?) and a minor in business. By the time I knew I liked finance, it was too late to switch to a business major. The money and time necessary to double major didn’t make sense-- it would be better spent on a masters. I have an introductory education in business but have an solid intermediate economics education. This spans micro and macro. I have reviewed level I’s economics section and am comfortable with the majority of it. I’m enrolled in a financial management class this summer. My quant is weak, but i recognize some of the material and will be polishing and growing my math skills this summer. It’s going to be a lot of work but I feel I have the potential. I’m aiming for the December '12 exam…

NOW to my question: what kind of entry level position should I look for?

I think I need to show more of a dedication to finance, for example by passing the level I, before recruiters are convinced that I’m committed. Or should I give up, take my communications degree, and go work at McDonalds?

If I were you and you can tolerate it, try to look for internships, unpaid if necessary over the summer.

You seem humble enough, so I will answer honestly.

The finance hiring market is atrocious, no joke. Graduates of top business schools are having a tough time landing anything. Big shops are laying off every few weeks, and people are fighting for the scraps. I’m guessing you’re not from a top school otherwise you would have mentioned it. GPA probably not so impressive either?

There are also a ton of people who have passed the CFA exams all looking for the same foot in the door you are. passing L1 won’t do much for you at all

Sorry to be such a downer, and I don’t want to crush your dreams, but the odds are heavily against you

I think another factor is what are you wanting to do and where are you wanting to do it? I’m fortunate that I am in a smaller community 125k where there are not a lot of CFA’s running around and the job market has been good. I too have a worthless degree in Sociology and I was forced to start in customer service of an insurance company and finally after 2.5 years and countless tests move over to a support type position in investments where I was able to move up and build a solid base. During that time I was able to complete my CFP® and move on to another company and get some more experience. I’ve since moved on to a large bank and am looking to get into portfolio management on the wealth side so I am focusing on the CFA now. It was a long road… seeing as I started in 2001 in customer service. But in 3 years it will all pay off. Just wish I knew what I know now back then!

Lemme give you some insight from a guy who was in a similar situation as you, and decided to take the CFA 1. I graduated (April) with a bachelors in BA (international business) and was an exchange student in Norway (took finance coursesthere). I got to like finance while doing my Bsc (wrote my thesis on credit default swaps), and bascially wanted to increase my chances of entering the field… Long story short… talked to alot of people, did some research and everything comes close to exactly what intercom wrote… the industry is not only not hiring, but they are currently firing! People told me that the CFA is the least affective thing to enter the industry and 300h spent studying could be done networking… What i tell you is that its worth it. If you work really hard, it will train your mind to think like a analyst, and give you the ability to articulate in finance which is exactly what you need for an interview. My skills from statistics, to economics, equity valuation are all top notch now compared to where i was. Before i started studying for this exam, i was applying to positions in Credit suisse and goldman sach without being able explained to you what interest rates are! If you really want to learn, this is something that will force you to learn and in the right way…I always tell people that the CFA exam is like “6 masters courses condensed into one exam”. If you want to talk about networking, atleast here in finland, ive attended some CFA meetings and events and got introduced to 3 CEO’s and some level 3 candidates… You can join CFA communities and network too! Do the exam, but only if you look at it as a way to progress your thoughts rather than a golden ticket into the industry. Youll enjoy the industry much more once you understand it! cool

Just curious what you thought of the CFP compared to the CFA? I am considering taking the CFP once im done with the CFA (hopefully this June), and was curious to hear from someone who has taken it.


yes, you can go through the CFA program for the purpose of learning a lot, no one will dispute that.

Just don’t do it with the expectation that you’ll land a job when you pass level 1 2 or 3.

You seem to have the right attitude about it. Im in a similar spot as you. I just graduated with a bsba in finance at a state school the other day and Ill second the guys saying that there isnt much hiring going on (Ive been actively searching for a year).

What you said about showing your dedication is key. A lot of my incentive for joining the program was to prove my dedication and a base knowledge of the subject. You can go into interviews telling people you are interested in finance but it is ultimately meaningless if you cannot prove your case to them. I am building a strong resume so when I pass the exam I will be able to ‘stamp’ it with a standardized measure of motivation and knowledge. I have enough background in another field that its actually easier for me to start there so I am looking at how to best leverage the split interest so I can enter finance after working in a totally different field. You might want to consider something along those lines.

What city are you in? if you’re in a finance hub entry level back office jobs are always hiring. Ask your friends who graduated a few years earlier. If your not in a finance hub then you have a few options

  1. You might want to apply to a strong master in finance program or a master in management UofWashington, Northwestern, Duke, Villanova, MIT, there is one more out there in cali but i can’t remember. Get a great GMAT like 750+

  2. Work as many jobs as you can to start saving money to make a move to NYC, CHI, BOS, SF, LA.

  3. Volunteer with a big organization to network and try to land any related job at a finance organization, start with the CFA and pray for something better.

If i were in your shoes I would be doing 3 while preparing for 1 but have 2 as your backup.

Good luck

Okay, my GPA is good, the school I went to is okay–state school in the northeast.

I currently live near Boston but am willing to move anywhere

I wasn’t implying, or hoping, that the level I, II, or III would land me a job (I’ve read the level I doesn’t get you a job threads… many of them lol). I was more hoping it would show some dedication and legitimate interest. I spoke to a small hedge fund manager (5-20 million rounds) and he seemed to think that the most important thing was showing legitimate interest. He noted that many people go to school and get business or finance degrees, but those that go above and beyond after the BA will get noticed. I was more hoping passing the level I would get me some entry level job (after much searching, and possibly moving to the south).

I wasn’t so much wondering about if I should get an awesome job or an entry-level/internship as much as I was wondering what internship/entry-level job to look for-- insurance, depository bank work, investment bank work— what is easiest to get into and yet still helpful?

Bostonboy hit my question on the head, and everyone else’s answers were also extremely helpful… thanks for the fast responses guys

@antticfa - I know quite a bit about interest rates, so theres a start!

I have just started working on the CFA but from my former co-worker who did the CFP® then his MBA and then the CFA he said basically LV 1 was on par with the comprehensive CFP, but LV 2 and 3 were much harder then CFP® with LV 2 being the real killer. He said by LV3 he just did whatever he had to to pass and get it done.

He has since moved from relationship management to being an Analyst at the same insurance company. Dealing on the institutional/fund side. Loves it.

Ironically he actually started the CFA about a year after the CFP® and dropped out after about a month of studying and decided to do his MBA first.

Try getting a job at State Street Bank/JPM/Mellon-BoNY as a fund accountant (DO NOT MENTION THE CFA IN YOUR INTERVIEW). They probably hire a hundred or so entry level college grads each year atleast. Ask your friends who graduated a few years earlier and they should know the hiring manager or put in your resume for review.

I am currently doing the CFP Educational requirement courses, because my employer is making me, and I can say that it is worthless. Tee level of knowledge no where near compares to the CFA, MSF, or even an MBA. It takes a high level approach in 5 broad topics (insurance, investment, tax planning, retirement planning, and trust and estates) and only makes you dangerous at each. I would recommend doing your own studying if you want to gain knowledge and save yourself $2K. Leave the subject areas to the professionals: Insurance ==> CLU, Investments ==> CFA & MSF or MBAs, Taxes = CPA, Trust & Estates ==> Estate Planning attorneys.

I wouldn’t say CLU is an expert in Insurance… Especially since there is about an 75% overlap in the classes you take for the education requirement of the CFP® and the CLU.

I also wouldn’t call it worthless. Its great to have if you are working in a broad knowledge position where you are to be the QB for the client and are able to identify what experts you need to bring in to accomplish their goals.

If you are wanting to just be an investment analyst, PM, hedgie etc then yes probably not the best route to go but , heck even to be an effective PM you wouldn’t necessarily need to be a CFA… all our PM’s in our trust departments have the CTFA’s and not the CFA. It all depends on what industry and what your focus is going to be.

Palacio - how long do you think it would take to study for the CFP once done with the CFA? Im hoping to finish the CFA this summer, and I know with the CFA you can skip the modules for the CFP and sit for the final exam. How many mohts/hours do you think I would need? I work in wealth manegemtn and financial planning so I have a good backround in many of the topics covered already (plus hopefully i’ll be done with the CFA…fingers crossed)

Okay, I’m really interested in an answer to a question. I may start another thread if the discussion isn’t deep enough here. Basically, I’ve read several articles and seen several private and public forecasts that say positions for financial analysts (in the broadest sense of the word) will be growing as fast as high demand health and engineering sector jobs. Is this true? and if so, why do so many people on here and other forums claim that this is a lousy field to get into? Is it because there is such a large supply of labor for these positions? I don’t mean want-to-bes. I mean a large and qualified labor pool. It just seems like a career thats growing at 24% a year (world wide) and is relatively difficult to gain skills in, would be a good career to go for. Yet I see many many posters saying to stay away from finance. Many of us are not trying to be the CEO of sachs… that being said, what is wrong with this industry?

Finance is a really wide field, way too wide to categorize the entire industry as a “expansion” or “contraction”

Most people talk about making it in finance as revenue generating positions. Most of the people here want to manage money, or do equity research (not surprising because the CFA charter caters most to these 2 fields)

But just thinking about the various fields (Private equity, investment banking, research, asset management, trading) and from everything I’ve seen: they’re mostly all shrinking.

You have a lot of qualified, experienced people in finance looking for jobs. every few weeks, some company is laying off more, and there are not many open positions. All the government regs are making it even worse.

It’s a very cyclical business, where timing is everything. And we’re in a terrible part of the cycle now.

Right now the industry is not looking too rosy. I’m not sure how much you keep up with financial news but in the past decade, unprecedented events have occured. The whole housing market/CDO fiasco, banks shutting down, financial regulation is becoming tougher…the list goes on. Profit margins are shrinking along with bonuses and jobs.

iteracom is right. The jobs that many of us ultimately want to do are not available right now but that will hopefully change in the future so all we can do is better position ourselves for when that opportunity comes.

I don’t know if this 100% correct, but I believe that the majority of ‘financial analysts’ work for large corporations that have nothing to do with investments. Alot of companies use this title to attract canidates that can use excel, have decent math skills and know the difference between accounts recievable and payroll. These types of positions are expanding, especially for recent college grads. They may not pay much and they often are filled by temp workers, but I know the larger corporations like Sears Holdings and GE look for recent college grads to fill these positions for salaries in the mid 40s.

here is one argument I’ve read…

" Employment of financial analysts is expected to grow 23 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. A growing range of financial products and the need for in-depth knowledge of geographic regions are expected to lead to strong employment growth.

Investment portfolios are becoming more complex, and there are more financial products available for trade. In addition, emerging markets throughout the world are providing new investment opportunities, which require expertise in geographic regions where those markets are. "