Does the CFA® help you get into Business School?

Does having all 3 levels of the CFA® exam make someone more attractive for an MBA program? I've passed the first 2 exams and thinking about applying to MBA's if I pass the 3rd next year and earn the charter.

Some background on myself:

  • Passed Level 1 and Level 2 on first try, taking Level 3 next summer.
  • 3.3 finance undergrad GPA at non-target
  • Work experience: - Back office Tech/Ops (2yrs at a major pension fund), Semi-Pro soccer, (Australian 2nd division, Sydney, <1yr) Prop Trading (<1yr), Jr. Sales Trader (~1yr), Market Risk at JP Morgan now (1.5yr)
    -If I go around 640-680 on the GMAT could I expect to have a shot at the 10-20 range of US News MBA ranked schools? (UCLA, Darden, UNC Chapel Hill, Cornell, Georgetown, UT Austin, UND Mendoza?

The MBA is a generalist degree that is meant to draw people from all kinds of professional backgrounds. It's not a finance degree nor is it intended to steer people toward or away from finance careers post-MBA (it's just one of many kinds of industries).

Secondly, the programs are designed to be highly collaborative, and they're hoping to train people to be future managers regardless of industry (i.e. bosses, people who manage other people such as execs, partners, etc). As such, they're looking for people with good to strong communication skills, ability to work in teams, and leadership potential -- essentially how well you are able to impact other human beings. The CFA has nothing to do with this.

Finally, when it comes to analytical and academic ability, they look at your GMAT and GPA. The CFA isn't really a substitute because GMAT and GPA averages are factored into the published rankings (FT, US News, etc) whereas the CFA is not, and the GMAT in particular is important for this. Whether the CFA is harder to do compared to the GMAT is not really the point.

Your CFA may be relevant for investment management positions, but not for MBA admissions.

Alex Chu

This is not leadership potential, nor is it drive or being cool under pressure any more than the GMAT is. It's slogging for several months memorising formulas and doing mocks, which is the same as the GMAT, which is a requirement not a differentiator.

The criteria that you are trying to rationalise the CFA with are delusional.

If anything, the CFA tells the AdCom that this candidate wants to be in finance and would need minimal handholding/spoonfeeding during the recruiting cycle so career services resources can be allocated more efficiently.


Edited: I apologise for my comment above. It was rude and uncalled for. The point I was trying to make was that IMO you shouldn't rely on the CFA as a strong pivot for your profile, since a lot of candidates in the applicant pool have this designation. You shouldn't let it cloud your judgement and think that it would be a fitting demonstration of leadership skills/drive should you have other ways to demonstrate them. If this is your only selling point, then by all means use it as your pivot, however do try to find something work- or extracurricular-related that you could use as a profile kicker.

IMO delaying your application just so you can clear the third level and put it on your profile is a bad idea, provided that you have a fitting background for Top-20 schools. A 700+ GMAT would tip the scale in your favour in several multiples greater than a CFA designation would.

Disclaimer: I'm an MBA student with a handful of CFA colleagues in the graduating class, so you're hearing this from first-hand experience. And by the way, I haven't even tried to take the CFA, but I know what slogging for months means as I took the GMAT twice and was rewarded for my effort and persistence.

Best Response

I don't think this captures the full picture.

When admissions committees are looking at candidates, they not only want the academic ability box checked (which can be done via GPA and GMAT, but would also be reinforced by the CFA), they're also looking for people with realistic post-MBA career goals.

It is in the latter regard that the the CFA is most valuable, but ONLY in the case that it ties into an MBA candidate's employment goals. For example if OP is looking to break into investment management post-MBA, then it's well understood that the CFA is required in that field. This would make OP a very attractive candidate to his target firms, and ultimately a good statistic for his school in MBA rankings.

The big criticism in OP's profile is applying with a GMAT in the 640-680 range. It's a ho-hum score that doesn't add any differentiation to an overly saturated pool of pre-MBA finance applicants. Unless OP is a diversity candidate, he'll need a 700+ GMAT to be competitive, especially without top-tier work experience. The Morgan Stanley name is good, but it's a MO/BO position so not the same as FO.

Finally, providing that all of the above is addressed, OP still needs to figure out the "why MBA" question and crush the essays with a story. This is an easily-overlooked component of the applications. OP needs to start figuring out what the post-MBA goal is, how target MBA programs will help him get there, and also do some introspection in terms of what they'll bring to each school.

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." - George Bernard Shaw

sadsoul90 Why do you want an MBA? If you go down that path, fix your gmat score and get an admissions consultant. 700+ is minimum. Soccer is a terribly boring, hyper feminine, low skill, communist friendly sport :) However, being a pro athlete is respectable and will help your app. Like everyone has said, CFA doesn't help with grad school but it will on the Street. Also make Top 5 or don't go. You're going to network with smart people and get a prestigious credential . Don't expect to learn anything meaningful.

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