Does having the CFA help for MBA admission?

Noobster1's picture
Rank: Baboon | 128

Title pretty much sums it up. Does completing the CFA before applying to b-schools offer any significant advantage? *Note: would take level 1 senior yr of undergrad.

Nontarget -> BB (Complete CFA) -> PE - Top Bschool?

Would a CFA help for the above goal or should focus be placed on other areas instead?

Comments (21)

Jul 2, 2018

Yes, the CFA does help, as it is one factor schools look at when assessing your academic abilities. But, GPA and GMAT/GRE are by far more important for demonstrating those abilities, so I would focus on those areas primarily, and pursue the CFA as a "bonus" if you have time (plus I assume it will help with career prospects).

Kate Richardson
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Jul 2, 2018

It doesn't hurt, but I think a lot depends on who's reviewing your application and/or interviewing you. Most of the admissions committee people I met when considering b-school seemed to know strikingly less than you'd expect in terms of the technical stuff, different roles in the financial industry, etc. I'd passed Level II at the time I applied for b-school and I didn't feel it meant much to them. I interviewed on campus with two of the Ivy's (not Harvard or Wharton). At one school, my interviewer was a lady who didn't seem to have any background in finance, and at the other, my interviewers were two ladies--one admissions committee member and one student-- neither of whom seemed to have any background in finance.

I'm not sure they even realized that the CFA was a bigger deal than me being a CPA. You'll be surprised at how arbitrary and subjective the b-school admissions process is. It made me lose respect for the entire MBA degree in terms of its utility beyond a networking retreat.

The problem is that it's so subjective and there are multiple agendas being pushed to let in legacy students, well-connected or wealthy students (George W. Bush to HBS, for example), URM's and women that there is a HUGE range in the quality of the graduates from any one particular school.

Obviously, most people at HBS are extremely impressive. But I've also met people who went to HBS that did not seem terribly impressive (nepotism/family wealth, diversity admit, etc.) and people who went to UT-Austin who were brilliant (maybe chose a full scholarship at McCombs instead of borrowing money for Tuck or Darden), and everything in between within the Top 20 or so programs.

While I realize that's to be expected to some degree, I was shocked at the wide distribution of candidate quality within programs. That's why I don't put too much faith in an MBA from whichever school without knowing a person's full story. The MBA programs are judging on metrics that help further the program's interests (rankings, future alumni donations, looking progressive, etc.) not necessarily finding the "most qualified" candidates based on each person's story. There's certainly a correlation between the two, but they're not the same idea.

By comparison, when I'm talking to a CFA Charterholder or fellow CPA, I know they didn't get the credential based on any family connections or wealth, their race, gender, etc. They all passed the same test, so I can safely assume certain levels of aptitude and commitment.

"Now you's can't leave." -Sonny LoSpecchio

    • 7
Jul 2, 2018

Thank you all for the insights. I do not believe the CFA will be particularly useful given my future career interests, was just more so interested to pad that resume for top b-schools given the non-target institution I'm attending.

I will have a decent amount of free time senior year. Would like to hear peoples opinions regarding using that time for the GMAT or going the CFA route. Also not sure given the analyst hours in IB if it would be even possible to get past level 1 after undergrad with the minimal free time I will have? I'm a finance & math major - not sure if I will be at an advantage at all for the CFA tests?

Jul 2, 2018

If you're still in undergrad and you want to go P.E. (as opposed to portfolio management or certain hedge funds) you're probably best to focus on crushing the GMAT. If you take the GMAT and get a 750 or better, then move on to the CFA as icing on the cake.

You won't pass all three levels while in investment banking. Level 1, maybe. I passed Level II while working about 70 hours a week in a consulting role, but I was doing practice questions on the train, reading on my phone on the toilet, at lunch, everything. It was not fun.

I pursued the CFA because I know my end goal is to move into a hedge fund, and I've learned that they generally don't care about MBA's much at all. I'm not a PE guy and I advise you to ask a PE guy, but I know that many PE firms do care about top MBA's because re-engineering a company is generally much more of a "relationship" job as opposed to most hedge funds.

"Now you's can't leave." -Sonny LoSpecchio

    • 3
Jul 2, 2018

Agree with other posters. It is helpful, but not a game changer. If you want to get one anyway, go for it, and it'll be a nice credential to have, but make sure not to sacrifice the things they'll actually care about:

  1. GPA/School/Courses
  2. Employment/Recommendations
  3. Involvement/Extracurriculars/World saving
    • 1
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Jul 2, 2018

One additional piece of advice is that if you have a choice, I recommend taking the option to interview off-campus with a working professional who's an alumnus of the program rather than the admissions committee, especially if you're like me and are kind of a blunt, overly masculine type.

The lady who interviewed me for another school in the Top 15-20 range made me feel way more comfortable than my on-campus interviewers at the Ivies, because she was actually in a front office finance role in NYC. She was more candid, business-like, and not only knew far more about the industry and what my professional background meant, but the CFA and CPA as well. Even though she didn't hold those certifications, she was an industry vet. If you've worked in financial services and you're planning to continue working in financial services, you want to interview with someone who actually works in the industry and knows what's going on.

"Now you's can't leave." -Sonny LoSpecchio

    • 2
Jul 2, 2018

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Jul 6, 2018

Um no. You don't need CFA for IB or PE. Unless your goal is buyside other than PE, it won't help with admissions. They will carefully look at your background and your goals. Majority at MBB and BBs don't have it. Adcoms are not stupid

Jul 2, 2018

I'm aware it's not needed. It was more of a way to pad my resume given the non-target institution I attend.

Jul 6, 2018

Which is what I'm saying. They will look at your goals and where you want to be long term. A CFA would surely impress them if your goal was asset management, mutual funds, research or hedge funds

Jul 6, 2018

From a lateral angle, if you can pass the CFA, you're probably at least decent at math, so you'd likely smash the GMAT quant.

Jul 6, 2018

I have not seen any GMAT questions, so forgive the question, but what type of math is on the GMAT?

I just picked up a math minor - will that help with the GMAT?

Jul 6, 2018

Can't hurt. It's mostly high-school level math, but phrased in ways you haven't seen before. The Math percentiles are skewed because so many people get near-perfect scores. The verbal section impacts your score more.

Jul 6, 2018

Funny that you'd need CFA for GMAT Quant. GMAT Quant is the most easiest. Ever liberal arts person can do it. ITs mostly what you studied in high school

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Jul 6, 2018
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