There is a lot of discussion out there as to why you should take the CFA, why it is shi.t, why it is a waste of time, why it is great, etc... Now I will try to explain why (IMO) you should take it:
I. What it takes to pass your CFA:
1) You need to have been relatively good at University, and you can sit your ass down and study for it.
2) You need to have time; working in M&A and taking the CFA is not advisable. But some people are "crazy, yo"; and can manage it. Brother of my old flatmate, GoldmanM&A group passed it in a year and a half. Another friend of mine same thing, took two weeks off, worked his ass off and passed all 3 on the first attempt. Some people are just better than the normal and manage it...
3) If you are at University, start TAKING IT - you will thank yourself later for it.
4) You will NEED the time, I have spent about 150+ hours I reckon to pass level II; I am not a genius like my friends, and consider myself pretty average when it comes to studying
II. Why people tell you not to take it:
1) An MBA is better - false, an MBA is DIFFERENT not better. The two are mutually exclusive and should not be compared. You use an MBA to network and get another job, I will go later into why you need the CFA
2) People are too lazy to take it themselves so trash it - by far the most valid reason I have found. You will find that people are envious if you take it and will try to bring you down, this usually comes from people in their mid-thirties who are anxious about their own careers and don't like to see a young shark trying to get ahead
3) It does not guarantee you a job or a career advancement ?? No sh.t! Just like an undergraduate degree from HBS does not guarantee you a job. What type of bull shit argument is that?
4) It takes a lot of time, and does not add any real value to your future career prospects. Probably the only argument that is actually valid, but is highly debatable. I will try and explain in the next section how again IMO it adds value.
5) If you are a 35 year old MD, you are probably heading toward the end of your career at this point, and you are so expensive no one will lateral you in any other job, so no point in doing the CFA as that won't help you...
III. My own quest to get the level II:
1) It took me a lot of time to decide to get cracking on it again. I took my level I in dec07 of my MSc, then started work and did not look at it again for a while. I had enough shit to sort out at work to avoid getting fired and getting paid.
2) I decided to go and take it for jun11, I ended up getting poached at another company at the beginning of May, did not have enough time, and mainly ended up on a nice garden leave, and came back for the week end for the level II etc... Needless to say I FAILED it. Took it in jun12, and passed it. Now on to level III for jun13
IV. My reason to take it:
1) I work as a sales person, sales people do not need the CFA to do their jobs. I have clients and they could not care less whether I have the CFA or not. Will I be a sales person my whole life? Look outside for a moment, I started at a top 4 years ago, today 40% of the people I started with were mainly fired, or changed jobs; and that bank is going down faster than a hooker on a $100 bill. Instability, yea that's right... Surprise, banking is not a stable job...
2) In the US - all equity fund managers are more or less required to have the CFA, in
London not all of them have it, so it puts you at a massive advantage. need the CFA etc... There are a LOT of jobs that require or are well known to look very favourably on the CFA in finance, so why not give yourself an edge.
3) In 1 and 2 it points to the CFA giving you an edge - how does it do it? Uni is great it means you've made it out of high school, you have been pre screened to go to a target, but it does not tell your employer how good you actually are at sitting your ass down and working. The CFA proves that to the employer. If you are in the investment
profession, all bankers will show experience on the prospectuses, who they are, where they come from. I can guarantee you that if they have their CFA it will be on there. It adds a credential to the company that has hired you.
4) The CFA is impressive, people know how hard it is, and when you get that interview, if the guy gets along with you, it will help him know that not only you can be a fun guy to have a pint after work, but you can actually do that aforementioned work...
5) It's the highest credential out there in the finance world, might as well get it...
6) You do it for the knowledge. Ok, I don't believe a single person who says that, you might as well just pick up a book or the internet and google what interests you. It's true you will learn a lot, but never in enough depth to actually do any of the related jobs without learning something else.
7) I want to further my career and it will help it. Plenty of things can help it, I network work hard at my job etc... But let's take for example my bosses... Some of them have the CFA, how do you think it's going to look when I pass all III? I'll be member of the CFA network, and it's growing.
V. Concluding remark
I have a good job, I am quite cosy were I am, things are going well (crossing fingers). Yet I am busting my ass after 4+ years in finance doing an accreditation that takes me plenty of hours and money. I could have given up when I failed but kept on going, if anything that should tell you to bust your ass and get cracking! (No matter which sector of finance you are in - be flexible and maleable, improve your employability!!!)
1) Not everyone should take the CFA, but no one should spit on it either. Most of my friends in Corporate banking don't have it, and they are doing just fine. However, you should seriously consider taking it. I am rambling a lot above.
2) If you are an introvert clerk with no social skills etc... The CFA sadly won't help you so much, there were a few of those guys at my old work, and usually they would actually just stop at level I; as one of my point above - the CFA will NOT get you a job in and of itself!
On this note off to bed - waking up at before 6AM (4+ years and loving it!)