Breaking In With a CFA

I just finished my freshman year at a total non-target with a 3.7 GPA and hope to transfer into Baruch for the spring semester of next year, which is a CFA partner school (not sure if that really means anything). From what I have been able to gather from my research, it appears that essentially all job postings that prefer a CFA, also want people with prior experience in research. I guess I'm a little confused as to how many different types of research jobs are out there and where companies recruit for those positions. In the event that I don't get a FO research position right out of college, where would be the best place to start a career, that I can later combine with a CFA to break my way into the industry? Would other jobs in financial services that aren't research oriented, provide me with anything worth putting on a resume?

On a side note, my parents live within commuting distance of NYC, so I have the privilege of working for free, if I find an opportunity that will benefit my career in the long run.

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Comments (10)

May 20, 2011 - 5:13pm

Getting the designation can't hurt you, particularly in the research or AM side of things. Also, being at a CFA partner school is beneficial in that the curriculum is geared towards helping you actually pass the exam when you sit for it. (My MBA program was at a CFA Partner school and I can attest that it really is super helpful for the exams.) Unfortunately, Level I can't be taken until you are in your senior year of school. Until then, work hard on getting some good summer experiences, do what you can at school to learn, and immerse yourself in the type of work you'd like to be doing to see if it really is a passion for you. See if there are any good stock-picking clubs or anything like that in your school, and do what you can to learn.

Hope this helps.

May 20, 2011 - 5:14pm

In fact, you never want to be John Smith, CFA. John Smith, CFA is a dick, the same way John Smith, MD is a dick, John Smith, MBA is a dick, and John Smith, JD is a dick.

As for your question, it has been asked ad infinitum. Learn to use the search function.

May 20, 2011 - 5:18pm

What does that make John Smith, CPA? Oh well, sounds kinda harsh coming from someone who claims you need to sell yourself in business using people skills.

Gotta love how the CFA devotes about 2% of the material in the exam to appropriate use of the CFA designation. (For the record, I am not a CFA and do not care that much- just following proper convention, painfully drilled into my head).

May 20, 2011 - 5:34pm
IlliniProgrammer:
What does that make John Smith, CPA? Oh well, sounds kinda harsh coming from someone who claims you need to sell yourself in business using people skills.

Gotta love how the CFA devotes about 2% of the material in the exam to appropriate use of the CFA designation. (For the record, I am not a CFA and do not care that much- just following proper convention, painfully drilled into my head).

I don't have anything against the CFA (well, I do actually, it's a retarded designation), but it's simply de classe to add a degree after your name, whatever it is. And if you want to talk about people skills, calling yourself John Smith, CFA would seem to show the lack of any.

And I didn't actually say you "need to sell yourself using people skills." I said "sitting in front of a client, or doing anything that actually adds value, ... certainly turns much more on interpersonal skills than ruthlessness," and "Relationships are the most durable form of human capital there is." There's a difference between saying you can do something and saying you need to do something.

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May 20, 2011 - 5:42pm

Yes, but here's the thing- it is an ethics violation for someone with the CFA designation to say "I am a CFA", even though everyone does. You must either put on your resume, John Smith, CFA. Or "Received Chartered Financial Analyst designation from the CFA institute", but the difference between that and "passed level three" would have been pretty darned subtle for me when I was a college student.

Back to the OP's point- a job that requires the CFA designation is one that requires four years of experience, anyways. Hence why they are demanding a few years of experience in research.

May 20, 2011 - 5:52pm
IlliniProgrammer:

Back to the OP's point- a job that requires the CFA designation is one that requires four years of experience, anyways. Hence why they are demanding a few years of experience in research.

I heard the CFA is very broad in their definition of suitable work experience. For example, would experience in commercial banking, back office, middle office, or any of the other positions a lot of non-targets and semi-targets get stuck with, combined with a CFA make it possible to make the transition later in your career?

May 20, 2011 - 5:56pm

Sure. One of the categories was "quantitative financial analysis." Bam, my two years in middle office analytics- working largely as a programmer- would have qualified as suitable experience for me and a couple of the CFAs I worked with.

It is fairly broad, but nothing prior to receiving your undergraduate diploma counts as suitable work experience.

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