Why are asians so obsessed with obtaining as many certificates as they can?

Before I get many angry responses, I would like to remind everyone that I am of asian descent myself. Furthermore, I myself have an obsession with obtaining certificates. I have passed the FRM exams and am currenly in the pursuit of the CFA and CMT designations, and wish to go after the ERP, PRM and CAIA designations upon completion of the CFA and CMT examination. I can even top that with the following: I currently possess a BA and an MA, and will be starting my MSc in September and my Ph.D next year. So my question may seem out of place. BUT hear me out:

I am aware that:

  • This is nothing to be proud of (unlike some of my Chinese or Indian friends who think a person’s value and competency is based on the number of certificates they have)

  • I should hide some of my designations when applying to potential employers (at least in the UK, they would not take you seriously and think you are more about the certificates than gaining valuable experience)

  • There are more competent people than myself, despite not having any of the above (which brings me back to some of the point I outlined in my post called “Don’t blow this CFA thing out of proportion”)

In the UK you may only have obtained a Bachelors degree and your value is merely based on your hard work and level of competency. They simply don’t value someone who has so many certificates. For instance, in their opinion (and I entirely agree with this) that time studying is better spent networking or looking for good investment opportunities.

TL;DR -> My asian friends are all about getting as many certificates as they can and this is valued in their countries instead of networking or actually paying attention on doing a good job. Eventhough I sound like a hypocrite myself for pursuing so many degrees and certificates, I only do it for personal interest and will probably only mention 3 designations on my CV to sound more professional. There are many competent people here in the UK who only possess a Bachelors degree and call the CFA “certified financial analyst”. Why not time spent on networking instead and why is it that in countries such as China and India people with so many certificates are sought after?

Great question. In Hong Kong, I see so many people taking CFA exams with the hope they will become investment bankers, hedge fund portfolio managers or private equity superstars. The problem is, most of them are currently accountants, back or middle office or in internal finance roles and will never move into the coveted front office role. However, having an international designation does give you some credibility when one’s university is not universally recognized. I went to a small school for my MBA and had a Chinese classmate who, after moving back to China, found out that some recruiters didn’t believe the school even existed. In this case, being a CFA Charterholder gave her some credibility.

To answer your question more directly: I don’t know. Maybe they think networking will come out of their designations?

Well, that makes sense. But it still does not answer my question of why they think “the more is better”? Yes, surely possessing the CFA when you are not from a recognized university is a huge bonus. But then why do you also need CAIA, CMT, FRM, etc? A great friend of mine from Beijing has this “the more is better” mentality and frankly this is something I only see in asian communities.In Europe the majority at most have the CFA and that is it!


Why are people so obsessed with obtaining as much money as they can?(Given the fact that money has decreasing utility after a point)

Ah, yes I forgot about the population there :D! But still in London they had done a statistics that for each available job in the city there are 160 candidates. This might seem puny compare to what you have going on in your country. But the only way you can set yourself apart is by:

a) Graduating from a target school

b) Your degree class

c) extracurricular activities, volunteer work and intenships

d) Language SKILLS

While having a (and I would like to put emphasize on this word) “relevant” designation is a plus, it only gives you a tiny amount of competitive advantage compare to a guy with the above who doesn’t have any designations (e.g. if you are applying for M&A CFA is almost of no value). But then again maybe employers in those countries have different criteria.


You have absolutely no idea about enormous competition among worlds most populous nations Pakistan, India or China. Lets talk about Pakistan which is far smaller than India or China, say you will find 1 million people with MBA for scarce 100,000 only job opportunities there. For survival, you have to stand out. Either you go to top schools or you go for qualifications. Otherwise nobody wants to rub a** for few letters.

What about networking? Does it not work there? What about spending the time to learn a new language to give yourself a competitive advantage? With the case of my current job, I was chosen because my MSc will be studied at a top 5 UK university + Language skills ( Russian, Italian, Persian and English)! My CFA or FRM was not even once brought up during the interview. And guess what? I got my interview through networking. Does not the same work in your country? Won’t learning Spanish instead of getting 10 designations be a better use of your time?

btw, I am not trying to prove anyone wrong. I am genuinely interested in your perspectives. I may not have a clue how things work out there.

wish i wasin usa/canada :frowning:

life sucks here in india

lost in the crowd be it traffic, jobs etc :frowning:

Maybe bcoz everyone here have bookish and Google knowledge…and not much innovation and ideas…so I guess u could figure out that gaining more and more bookish knowledge without any practical application kinda makes u a bookworm (increases ur cramming power) and kills ur imagination…and in the end all u need is a very good mugging power to get those certificates…“people here find it easier to get a certificate in say a programming language than putting an effort to learn and apply that language on their own” …plus in order to bridge that gap of real job experience people here go for lots of certifications…I know it’s difficult to admit but its true idk wats the trend in other parts of the world.

Cheer up Vicky. Consistency is the key. Keep shuffling and results will ensue. Patience is definitely a virtue.

kahveh_nobari: Maybe you just enjoy studying and taking tests - and that’s all there is to it.

Actually here in the US it does make a difference -

(1) It may not get you a front office job but it will help get you in - from there you can network if you have the social skills and you prove your worth.

(2) It does earn respect from you peers everyone knows how hard the CFA is to get - so even trying earns a some level of respect respect - it also gives you a reason to talk to others with the designation so it helps you net work.

(3) It gives you a level of confidence which helps in all aspects of your life, once you have it everyone tends to play it down - but you can’t play it down if you don’t have it.

(4) What it will not do is make you better at you job - although it doesn’t hurt either if you know nothing going in it does at least teach you the basics - most jobs have a myopic view of the world things like the CFA or FRM give you some perspective.

So don’t pooh pooh it and don’t expect a free lunch either - if you don’t have social skills no amount of qualifications are going to help you.

Actually there’s something you people are missing.

As with the CFA, I bet there’s a fair amount of people following the herd mentality, thinking they will be at a disadvantage if they don’t go for it. And consider that it’s best to get it out of the way asap before family kicks in and the pass rate seems to keep going down.

WRONG…money has a decreasing marginal utility. More is always better.

It’s something nice to have and can also compensate if you did not go to an IVY. Perception is reality that’s just the sad truth we have to deal with. Also asians face much tougher competition in finance so more designation could potentially set you apart from hundreds of other applicants.

After interviewing many people who are taking the CFA I’ve met so many candiates who still have no idea what the hell they are taking about, even basic accounting/finance questions.

WRONG… Only when the marginal utility exceeds the marginal cost. This becomes less likely as wealth increases. Many rich folks foolishly sacrifice health and family for money they can never possibly enjoy in their lifetime. Irrational, yes, but common.

Nailed it.

What do you get when there are 1000 people or even more competing for the same job?

No, and who would we talk to in Spanish even if we learn it? It might make sense to learn Spanish in US, as there are so many Mexicans and Spanish speaking people living there, but not in this part of the world.

Also, it’s all about demand/supply. Employers demand CFA and other designations, they don’t care whether you know Spanish or not.

There is an explanation for this in the CFA level 2 curriculum (Economics) that developed countries are better off by engaging in new technology development (R&D) and developing countries should copy those technologies and use it on mass scale, so that better returns/productivity can be realized.

Other than that, the developing countries were poor until recently and did not have the resources to develop technologies. India is an example of this but now they are allocating huge amounts to technological development and becoming a super power in technology. They are the largest exporter of Science/Engineering talent to Silicon Valley. If it were not for brain drain and political/adminstrative mismanagement, they could have surpassed even China.

Imo, this is also a reason for why so many Asians go for certifications. Most Asians live with their families unlike the Western world so peer/family pressure is HUGE here.

Parents don’t get satisfied with an A+. They want a perfect 100 in EVERY f’kin subject. It’s like a sense of pride for them. The problem is, not every kid can get those scores and we poor souls are supposed to chase these futile dreams forever.

Spanish was merely an example. As a person in the industry language skills in AM, ER and particularly M&A beats the CFA designation any day of the week. You clearly are not working in the industry…