Why get a CFA?
If you want to get ahead in the competitive financial industry, the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) designation may help give you a leg up, says Kent Moser, a financial consultant who helped develop the curriculum for the University of Phoenix MBA program with a concentration in Finance.
“While the CFA designation has been around since the 1960s, it’s become a lot more sought after in the past 15 years or so,” he says, “especially among early-career people looking for a way to stand out.”
Here are four reasons to consider earning the CFA:
It validates your skills.
“[The CFA] is a specialized credential that focuses on investment-related topics and indicates that the individual has an in-depth knowledge of financial analysis and investment management,” explains Betty Ahmed, who holds a doctorate in business administration and helped prepare courses for the MBA program with a concentration in Finance.
The designation requires a bachelor’s degree, four years of qualifying investment industry experience, membership in the CFA Institute and a pledge to abide by its ethics code, membership in a local CFA Society and successful completion of CFA exams. Applicants must pass three CFA exam levels to earn the designation, and each test lasts six hours.
The CFA process is designed for self-study while applicants work full time in the financial industry, and can take up to four years, notes Ahmed, who advises students in the School of Advanced Studies. When she teaches MBA students, she says, she recommends that they study what they’ll need for the CFA while they’re in school.
Moser points out that only 37 percent of applicants passed the CFA Level I exam in 2012. “You need at least a year to study for each exam, and even that is no guarantee you’ll pass,” he notes. “But the more education and experience you have, the better.”
The MBA with a concentration in Finance program ties some courses to required content on the CFA exam, he says, including capital markets, financial controls and audit/compliance.
Students also may take electives in real estate investing, mergers and acquisitions, and investment banking. While the program is aligned with the general knowledge students will need for the CFA, additional study and experience are required to earn the designation.
Finance isn’t your only option.
CFAs are qualified to do general corporate finance, detailed quantitative analysis, economic modeling and securities analysis — all executive-level work, Moser points out.“CFAs [often] work in the investment management industry,” he adds, “but you’ll also see them in nonfinancial companies doing things like analyzing the time value of money” and looking for ways to improve efficiency.
Top jobs may demand it.
Some financial firms now insist that you possess the CFA to get hired, Ahmed points out. “Even when [it’s] not required, a candidate for a job who holds the CFA credential will probably be selected over someone without the designation,” Ahmed says.Moser agrees. “I frequently see job postings that say, ‘MBA or CFA preferred,’” he says.
CFAs are sought after.
Although more people are getting the CFA, the rigorous coursework and in-depth knowledge required to obtain the designation mean it’s still rare, Ahmed points out. So having the CFA, Moser adds, may help you become a hot commodity: “The CFA shows you’re committed, you’re disciplined and you know your stuff.”
CFA is a registered trademark of the CFA Institute.