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?

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Comments (79)

Aug 22, 2017

bump, interested as well for top 10.

Aug 22, 2017

Interested as well. I'm wondering in particular if clearing all 3 levels of the CFA can be the last push needed for splitters (low GPA, high GMAT) to get into M7 schools.

Aug 22, 2017

Interested as well

Aug 22, 2017

In short, no.

Sep 2, 2017

Care to elaborate?

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Aug 22, 2017

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.

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Aug 23, 2017

TL;DR

No.

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Sep 2, 2017

Passing 3 tough finance exams displays:

-Initiative/Drive
-Intellectual Capability
-Cool under pressure

I would think these count towards "leadership potential" at least a little bit.

The criteria you mention MBA's are looking for are impossible to verify given just GMAT, GPA and jobs held.

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Aug 24, 2017

You two just agree on a definition for leadership, then reconvene

Hope this helps!

Aug 24, 2017

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.

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Sep 2, 2017

Sounds to me like someone "slogged it out for several months memorising formulas and doing mocks" only to fail the exam.

I have a lot of hard working, bright friends who failed CFA exams at some point, you know what they did? sack up and go at it again and pass. Not go on some forum and promote negativity and hating on other people anonymously.

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Aug 24, 2017

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.

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Sep 2, 2017

thanks for your response.

Best Response
Aug 24, 2017

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.

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Sep 2, 2017

Great reply thanks for the input. I do have alot of looking in the mirror to do.

Curious about "diversity candidate" ? I have citizenship with the UK and Israel, which is a differentiation but why would this make a difference for me? I also have red hair, which is a differentiation. I'm not really seeing how this contributes to the real strength of candidacy in any way.

Aug 24, 2017

Diversity candidate = LGBTQ, woman, or some under-represented ethnicity.

If you're a white male with a finance background, you're expected to crush the GMAT.

Sep 1, 2017

Technically vets are included, but that also doesn't help a lot because most B-schools have a rough idea how many they want and the field for vets is typically dominated by service academy grads.

Aug 24, 2017

I think what is meant by diversity would be an underprivileged minority or some other group that the college is trying to get more of i.e. gay, transgendered, refugee, etc.

This can help a person overcome an otherwise weaker profile.

Sep 1, 2017

LeveragedTiger's response is excellent and spot-on. Background on me.. I just started at CBS. Similar to OP, I went to a non-target undergrad w/ a 3.4 GPA, worked at large insurance company in back office role, but I do have CFA and CPA. I ended up w/ a 760 on GMAT, and I think given that the OP passed CFA Level 2, unless he/she is a non-native English speaker, the GMAT target of 640-680 is very pessimistic. Shoot for at least a 720.

There are plenty of applicants with the CFA charter. However, I think the CFA adds to your "story" and career trajectory. If I applied w/ a post-MBA goal of IM and didn't have CFA, it would be like.. okay, did you just choose this goal out of a hat? What about your background is setting you up for this? I think the CFA is what tied my prior career my post-MBA goal pf IM.

The most important part of the application is your story.. tie your prior career, personal background, interests, values, and the specifics of the MBA program to your post-MBA goals. I tied mine together really well, and it fortunately worked out. From what I can tell so far, my classmates at CBS are smart, extroverted, and very Type A.. they're always willing to jump on opportunities, go out of their comfort zones, and take a risk. They're all "grab life by the horns" types of people, I would say.

Anyways, good luck! DM me w/ any other questions

Aug 24, 2017

You're presumably Australian and therefore speak English as a first language, and you've got enough of a quant-y background that you should have a decent handle on math, so you should be aiming for >700 on the GMAT. Hit that, and you should have a good shot at the top 20.

Aug 24, 2017

@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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Sep 2, 2017

"Top 5 or don't go" never understood this. Depending on the candidate it might certainly be worthwhile going to the best school they get in even if its 10-20.

Aug 24, 2017

Not when you have a CFA and want to do AM / HF / ER.

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Aug 25, 2017

The way I see it is, the CFA will make you a somewhat more attractive candidate but it won't sway the decision regarding your admission. The reason being as others mentioned, the requirements that are common to all candidates are the GMAT and GPA. Those will be the focus of determining your academic profile. The CFA is only relevant of a designation for AM/ ER type roles (for the most part). As such, when evaluating you in the pool of finance candidates, the CFA charter might give you an edge against candidates with a very similar profile to you. The CFA or CPA etc are great to have as they do emphasize hardwork and commitment and adcoms will take notice but that will likely be the extent of it's value.

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Sep 2, 2017

truth, thanks for your input.

Aug 25, 2017

It certainly won't hurt. You still need to be a well rounded candidate with the requisite GMAT/GPA/WE profile.

Not sure how much it's weighed or whether there's a substantive correlation, but you'll find a fair number of CFAs in any program, and it's certainly a plus for Asset Management recruitment at these schools. So TCR would be: depends on how attractive you are everywhere else.

Sep 2, 2017

nice response, thanks for your input.

Aug 26, 2017

As far as I've heard CFA can compensate for poor GPA (shows that you are able to succeed in class) and in general shows that you are comitted to financial industry (may help career changers). But I doubt it has any extra value apart from that, I don't consider it to be something really outstanding, I mean I have a 3rd lvl cfa dude in my msc now (the dude is not really sucessfull lol).

Aug 28, 2017

Cost-benefit analysis. Obviously having the CFA would be better than not having it but your time would be much better spent improving that GMAT to the 700+ range and/or adding some EC's to round out your profile.

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Sep 1, 2017

I dont understand- if you already have CFA 1&2, already at JPM, why do you want to go to MBA? Where did you go for undergrad?

Sep 2, 2017

@baconhater93 First of all who on earth hates bacon? haha

Secondly, to answer your question, I went to a small engineering school (Stevens Institute of Technology) with almost no reputation or alum network in finance. I want the MBA to gain an awesome network in the industry and improve my chances of moving into a FO role at JPM, either in IM, WM, or S&T.

Sep 4, 2017

It may interest you that the CFA is well recognized at some schools and if you are a Charterholder, you may actually be exempt from some of their finance and accounting classes and even be exempt from the GMAT. More information can be found on the CFA Institute website.

I'm in the same boat as you are. I am going to take Level 3 in June and I'm thinking about taking my GMAT this coming December. If I get into University of Chicago's MBA program, I'll take out the loans. But if I don't get into a top tier school, I don't see the point of taking the risk of becoming in debt and the risk of not ending up making a ton of money. Good luck with everything.

Sep 2, 2017

Thanks Rick, I never knew that about being exempt from coursework in an MBA program I'll have to look into that. Best of luck to you as well.

Sep 8, 2017

Business schools have been diversifying away from "finance bros" for a decade. Having a CFA signals a career in research not leadership/management. If you aren't Forest Gump a fraction of CFA study time can lead to a very high gmat score.

-Have a charter, took the GMAT (750+), decided not to do bschool.

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Sep 14, 2017

No one is going to be able to tell you exactly how much it helps or doesn't. My opinion is it's akin to other extra curriculars. So it can be a plus, but it's not necessarily worth the time and effort unless you want to do it for your career after business school. I have heard people say that they think it helps differentiate themselves in recruiting from a lot of the other people recruiting for finance jobs with little to no finance background, though. So from a career sense it can be a plus and obviously if you want to do HF/AM/ER post b school it would be very helpful.

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Sep 14, 2017
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No one is going to be able to tell you exactly how much it helps or doesn't. My opinion is it's akin to other extra curriculars. So it can be a plus, but it's not necessarily worth the time and effort unless you want to do it for your career after business school. I have heard people say that they think it helps differentiate themselves in recruiting from a lot of the other people recruiting for finance jobs with little to no finance background, though. So from a career sense it can be a plus and obviously if you want to do HF/AM/ER post b school it would be very helpful.

I agree. How it helps your app is more specific to you. If you're leveraging from IB or PWM to IM than it may be a resume boost for recruiting; and you'd better believe that the M7 schools are looking at your employability post MBA. If you're going to consulting, then it probably means next to nothing. I'm a CFA charterholder at an M7. For me, I had some quant holes in my background and a shaky undergrad record so I thought it would help me overcome that (and I'm sure it played a role). So there are different occasions where I would guess it is a boost.

For recruiting, it is a hit or miss. I'm targeting corporate and consulting roles. I'd say 30% of the people I talk to ask why I finished the CFA and think it's going to pigeonhole me down the line. 70% have commented on how it is impressive and that they don't see a lot of charterholders (since most are targeting IM or even IB); many of this second bucket believe it is more of a boost than a negative. Finally, for me, if I decide to transition from consulting back into finance it isn't going to hurt me when the time comes.

As a fun aside, a lot of your future classmates will be CFA washouts so you'll get a lot of rep. You'll also have a lot of CFA classmates whom you can relate with. It was also a nice boost on the coursework; I'm skimming through a lot of the more basic MBA areas (stats, accounting, econ, etc).

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Sep 14, 2017
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It was also a nice boost on the coursework; I'm skimming through a lot of the more basic MBA areas (stats, accounting, econ, etc).

I've visited a bunch of programs that'll allow you to skip some basic/core finance and accounting courses if you have the charter. Could take electives earlier, focus more on recruiting, etc. especially when time is at a premium

Sep 14, 2017

Can you give some names to these programs? That's pretty interesting.

Sep 14, 2017

Fuqua allows you to skip it's core finance class with the charter.

At Haas you can skip core accounting and finance.

At Anderson, financial markets.

For the latter two: https://www.cfainstitute.org/ethics/recognition/ed...

Sep 14, 2017

From what I've seen if you have level one it won't matter a bit because too many people have it. Maybe if you have level III + its relevant to your work it can have some influence. It's still less important than your GMAT, GPA or work experience though.

Sep 14, 2017

For my experience MBA programs could give two shits about your CFA. Don't know if it's the argument that an MBA is more rounded and integrated, or they see people choosing to get a $3,000 CFA vs an $80,000 MBA as an insult/hit to bottom line.

Sep 14, 2017

Rod Garcia himself told me that while they do understand the rigor it takes to get a CA/CFA designation, the impact is inmaterial compared to other parts of the application.

Sep 14, 2017

Fair point. If you're asking an MBA admissions person which they think is better, I'm sure you'd receive a barrage of reasons why an MBA is the way to go.

But I'm not presenting a case for the CFA. By applying to b-school, I'm showing that I think it's important enough for the $100k+ in opportunity costs, and I will be able to speak to the merits of B-school in my application. Aside from the general merits of the CFA, in my particular case it shows that I can perform well at a 50-60 hour per week job while effectively preparing for a test that requires ~15-20 hours/week of studying for 4 or 5 months for each level. If you don't do banking, how else can you convey performance in an 80 hour work week?

Sep 14, 2017

That said, the time off, if you've stashed away your bonuses so that you have cash on hand, makes doing an MBA a hell of a lot of fun, maybe it's worth the opportunity costs.

Sep 14, 2017

From what I have seen and heard, you would reap better returns focusing that time and effort on your essays and work, which will improve your recs

Sep 14, 2017

You have 4 months until R1 applications and 7 months until R2 applications are due. Forget Level 3 of the CFA for B school-this is an important tangible skill for specific jobs, but not for B school. As an MBA is what you want, spend these months on essay topics, extracurriculars that have an impact and working with your recommenders so that they have enough details on your work product to do right by you in their LOR's. Good news is you are being proactive and thinking about all this stuff now!

Carol Grayson

Sep 14, 2017

CFA might be useful if you fared poorly on GMAT quant or if you didn't have a quant/finance background or if you had a weaker than average GPA.

Sep 14, 2017

Someone else said it... You can't leverage a CFA at all. Spend the time making your essays the best thing they've ever heard. Your GMAT is quite good and if you do we'll in the interviews too, you can get into great schools.

It is incredibly difficult to get into H/S/W regardless of who you are. The big thing missing is your essays and how you spin your leadership experience. There is no candidate that's a lock. So, if you really want to go there, do you best work Nd cross your fingers... This isn't a question if if it's worth it. It's like everything else in this world worth achieving... If you want it go for it and believe you deserve it instead of wondering is your time worth it.

Sep 14, 2017

My guess is that the higher the b-school ranking, they less they care about the CFA. I think mine helped offset concerns about my low quant score, but it certainly wasn't a deciding factor.

Sep 14, 2017

just curious, what was your quant score? and how much did admissions ask about CFA?

Sep 14, 2017
WallStreetJunkie123:

just curious, what was your quant score? and how much did admissions ask about CFA?

They don't ask, it's on your resume.

Sep 14, 2017

Q43 (52nd percentile). They didn't ask me about it, but it was in my application. I specifically addressed my low quant score in the optional essays and said that my CFA is evidence that I'll do fine on the coursework. M7 bound in the fall in case you're wondering.

Sep 14, 2017

CFA's are in abundance at top programs. That being said, I had a really shitty undergrad GPA and I absolutely believe that completing the program, coupled with a high GMAT, made the GPA a non-factor. I also found it useful in recruiting for consulting, as most of the CFA's were seeking banking or AM roles. I don't think I would have been a solid contender for M7 without both the GMAT and CFA to overcome the grades issues. It really frames you differently from that background.

You have time to apply this year, but it will depend on how well you do with the GMAT. Might as well get an attempt in. Most people take it more than once, if you crush it you'll be in a good place to app, if you don't at least you have some direction.

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Sep 14, 2017

Taking it no, passing it yes

"I am not sure who this 'Anonymous' person is - one thing is for certain, they have been one hell of a prolific writer" - Anonymous

Sep 14, 2017

Taking and passing the CFA level 1 is better than nothing, but if your serious about buy side, then you should do the whole CFA, which is a major commitment for the next couple of years.

Sep 14, 2017

It can't hurt.

Sep 14, 2017

It's not really going to help you get into an MBA program.

Sep 14, 2017

It will help with buyside recruiting IF you're already at a top MBA program. Don't take it with hopes that it will help you transition without an MBA. The CFA is vastly overrated for career transitions.

Sep 14, 2017

Yes. Like I've said many times RE is getting more competitive. I really think it could be as competitive as IB within the next 10 years (for some firms it already is). Especially if you're interested in an investment or finance role.

Sep 14, 2017

http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/cfa-and-appl...
Anyone else want me to use the search function for them?

Sep 14, 2017
duffmt6:

http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/cfa-and-appl...
Anyone else want me to use the search function for them?

haha ill let you know, might need you to.

Sep 14, 2017

It helps, but it's definitely not on par with grades/gmat/work experience. If your gmat quant score is a bit lower, having the cfa could help resolve concerns that you cannot handle an MBA curriculum.

If you want to get into investment management post-MBA, having a CFA can definitely help your case since it shows a high level of dedication. So in that sense, a cfa could make somewhat of a difference in admissions.

Sep 14, 2017

Hi scielle,

Although admissions teams understand how difficult a CFA can be to attain, it is important to understand that business schools are aiming to cultivate future leaders. For this reason, a CFA certification will be weighed with less emphasis than your work experience. It will also be weighed less than your extra-curriculars and GPA. A CFA will be of help if you are addressing a low quant score, however you should not expect the impact to be significant.

Hope this was of help.

Cheers,

Conrad and the Stacy Blackman Team

Sep 14, 2017

What about an average GPA? wouldn't the CFA show the adcomm that the candidate can handle the workload (considering most people who do the program work 50+ hours while studying)

Aug 24, 2017

Well, it'll probably help you do a little bit of "catching up" if you weren't a business/finance/accounting major in college, and aren't doing something in this field as a full-time job.

Sep 14, 2017

Well, no on both counts. I work in equities, have a finance undergrad. my concern is that my undergrad GPA might not be up to par, so i'm wondering if tackling a hectic work schedule+CFA would help me in someway to see if i'm 'fit enough' for a decent MBA program.

Aug 22, 2017

It's not going to hurt you, but it's not going to do much from a b-school admissions standpoint (especially if you're already in banking).

Alex Chu

Sep 14, 2017
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