CFA vs Alternatives for HF

Looking for some advice, any insight would be very much appreciated.


  • Undergrad in CompSci.

  • 1year experience in DS at equity fund.

  • 1.5years experience in AM.

  • 1year experience in quant finance role. 

My goal is to work as a fundamental L/S equity analyst, while utilising my data science skills to enhance my research process. Obviously, I have no formal education or training in finance or equity research, having done my undergrad in CompSci. 

I am currently considering undertaking the CFA Level 1 exam, but not sure if it is the correct option for me. 

  • Reasons I am considering CFA -> Improve level of knowledge across different areas of finance, while also adding value to my CV. Looks good when applying for hedge fund jobs. But, also works as a hedge if I need to consider other options, and indicates that I have a certain level of financial knowledge. Provides value on day-to-day of a lot of finance jobs, allowing me to discuss certain topics, and provides credibility to my views. I passed the ESG CFA around 6 months ago, and while quite high level, this has allowed me to understand more and think more broadly when reading about ESG investing - essentially providing a good platform for me to build my understanding of ESG at a deeper level.

  • Reasons I am considering not doing CFA -> Spend time doing financial modelling courses, trying to build investment theses myself, putting these together and sending to fund managers on a monthly, or bi-monthly basis to prove my interest and potential ability, with the aim of getting hired. As well as read books, and blogs etc. to enhance my knowledge. 

Consideration 1 - The CFA requires me to study intensely and holds me to a tight deadline, which would ensure I work consistently and learn a lot within a short space of time. Whereas the second option requires a lot of self-motivation to consistently do financial modelling and investment theses as there will be no exam date, or date to complete certain tasks (as there would be with CFA). 

Consideration 2 - If the hedge fund career path doesn't work out and I need to go into another area of finance, then the CFA might look better on CV and provide the relevant knowledge, hence opening more doors for me in my career (essentially acting as a hedge). 

Consideration 3 - Could stay in current role, which don't really enjoy/see myself doing long-term for longer, and do CFA Level 1 in May, followed by a few months doing modelling course and stock pitches. Or something along those lines.

Any insight or thoughts on what I should do to give me the best chance of getting a role as a L/S equity analyst, while still providing a hedge to allow for other career options (worst case scenario) would be greatly appreciated, thank you. 

Most Helpful

If you are series about research and working in AM, CFA is the most recognized certificate you can get. I worked at the AM departments of BlackRock and HSBC and most senior people had the CFA, so completing the program is a covenant way to earn their respect.

However, personally I believe it may not be the best use of your time. I received my charter recently, and tbh, I think each level had less added value to my knowledge and career when adjusted for how much time I spent studying. Personally I'm very proud for having completed all three levels, but when applying for jobs, I did not see any real step up in success rate when I only had L1 vs the actual charter - its really a case-by-case, so for some people the experience is definitely very different!

Personally I advise checking out L1 so that you can put it in on your resume/LinkedIn and the HR-bots will pick that up. L2 is mainly valuation, however its rather theoretical. If you want to learn proper financial modeling, I can recommend the FVMA course by CFI. L3 is portfolio management - interesting stuff but if you are young, it's unlikely you will have the chance to apply the knowledge anytime soon as it covers activities done by PMs.

To close up, if you want to use the CFA to boost your career, I think also your age is very important. I passed L1 at the age of 24 and it was a big thing back then. However, because of the Covid delays, I only received my charter at the age of 27. At this point, recruiters cared much more about my work experience than education, so having the charter didn't really make a difference.

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