Full Time Job, Part-Time Master’s Degree, and CFA at same time

JFKCFJ10's picture
Rank: Monkey | 41

Hi all - looking for some feedback to see if anyone has attempted this, has been successful or recommends working full-time, studying part-time for a master's degree, and pursuing the CFA at the same time.
From what I gather, most people work full time and do the CFA....and do a full time master's degree separately.

Some of my thoughts:
1.) CFA Level 1 studying time seems to be different than CFA Level 2 and CFA Level 3. From my research I can see that CFA level 2 and 3 are more rigorous, and this seems concerning if someone is working full time and taking a class or two towards a master's degree at the same time.

2.) Does it sound feasible that CFA Level 1 studying would equal about the same time commitment as taking 1 master's degree/graduate level class in terms of time, duration, and intensity?

3.) I would think taking one master's degree class at a time while juggling the CFA studying and working full time can be done, just sounds a little daunting for levels 2 and 3.

4.) I think trying to do CFA in 3-4 years, and then part time master's another 3-4 years sounds like a lot of time (6-8 years). In my opinion trying to tackle both at the same time before it gets more difficult to juggle all of this when you're in your mid to late 30's with family commitments sounds better to me.

5.) It seems now that having an advanced degree from a top school and the CFA charter are the only ways to be competitive working your way up in the ER sell-side community and moving over to the buy side.

I've seen some people talk about this on other forums but have not seen it discussed here. Any feedback would be appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Comments (13)

Aug 21, 2017

No, dont try all 3. 2 at once is bad enough. what's your full-time job? do you already work in the industry?

Aug 21, 2017

I work as an analyst in the fixed income division of a big bank and trying to move to equity research. Hours aren't too bad, 50-60 hour weeks (occasionally more) and it seems ER hours are around the same. Do you think it's just too much to take on at once?

Aug 21, 2017

What degree are you looking at? The whole job + grad school thing felt like enough to me. Can't imagine adding the CFA would be very productive.

Aug 22, 2017

i worked several years in AM prior to corp dev...do CFA and work on your pitches and network. no need for your to go back to school at this point. most people who you see with a masters and CFA did their masters to break into the industry, then did CFA once they began their role. Both are not needed in your case since you already have research experience. And I agree with Street Smart's advice...hedge funds care less about CFAs, while long only shops will likely require it.

Aug 21, 2017

Either a part time MBA or just a Master's Degree in a related field (management/finance/etc.) My thought was to study and take level 1 before being admitted to the program, and to take one class at a time while studying for levels 2 and 3. I've read on other forums how "A job, part time masters and CFA can be done, its actually somewhat common." This was back in 2007, however

Aug 21, 2017

I think more importantly, the questions are better asked.

  1. What are you trying to accomplish?
  2. What way does the CFA help you?
  3. What way does the MBA help you? Master's (MBA of the sorts) - are not generally helpful unless you get into a top school/program (please search WSO, there's plenty of threads regarding this topic).

I think you already got an in. I would just focus on getting a killer performance review then study for the GMAT for B-School. I think doing all 3 is virtual overkill.

@SSits , @Sil @DickFuld - Thoughts?

Aug 21, 2017

1.) Right now I'm trying to transition from a fixed income role to a sell side equity research role. I think I can break in without the CFA (through networking, stock pitches, etc). however, I'm not just trying to break in, I want to advance and be at the top of my game so I can move to the buyside at some point. Having impressive stock pitch write ups, being able to pitch a stock, generating positive returns in personal investment portfolios and having impressive work experience is important but I also believe a candidate who is pursuing the CFA charter will show the potential ER employer your commitment and dedication to the profession. For some shops, it seems as if you need those letters somewhere on your resume or they won't even look at it.

2.) From all of the sell side analysts I've talked to, the consensus seems to agree that a CFA charter is becoming a prerequisite to advance in ER and to ultimately be competitive to structure a move to the
Buy side. From what I gather, if you don't have it or aren't currently pursuing it, they're going to ask you why. Equity Sales professionals are getting CFA's now as well. It just sounds like it's becoming the standard. Does this sound accurate?

3.) I came from a non target undergraduate institution studying economics, and I think this puts me at a disadvantage when trying to reach a top hedge fund/buyside shop someday. The master's degree I will only pursue if I can get into a target (top 10/ Ivy League school). I'm confident I can make that happen. It's just the way our industry is, if you don't have that brand name someone else who has it will probably have a better shot than you do.

Does that make more sense? Or have I lost my mind...

thank you all for your time

Best Response
Aug 22, 2017

Going to take your concerns point by point here:

1) Half the things you listed here don't matter much, if at all, in the sell-side recruiting game. Take it from someone currently in sell-side research, you don't need all of that to be successful, let alone "move to the top".

2) You don't need the CFA designation to move to the buy-side, but this is also dependent on what form of investing you are wanting to do. In my experience HFs don't really care one way or the other whereas top LOs do care. But more often than not, it doesn't seem to matter all that much.

3) A top MBA would probably set you up best as I've heard some top funds do post-MBA recruiting.

All in all, you are attempting to do far too much with too little time and are setting yourself up for failure. heed the advice of those who have already expressed their thoughts here, take a step back and figure out what you are trying to accomplish. then decide on one of those options.

    • 2
Aug 22, 2017

Thank you everyone for your input and advice.

Street Smart, how did you ultimately break into sell side equity research? If I remember correctly, I believe you were in another area of finance beforehand from reading up on old threads/researching transitions into ER . I understand doing these two things at once while working is probably not smart, there's only so much time in the day.

From looking at course schedules and exam dates, however, I believe it is possible to study for the CFA from late December - June, take exam in June. Then do summer courses in mid June and fall courses towards the master's degree. Then repeat this structure till all exams are passed and all courses are completed towards the degree.

In essence, you would be doing them separately while working, just needing to switch gears throughout the year. Does something like this sound more feasible?

I get it, I probably don't need both for one or the other....but if I want sell side first, then buy side later on, both seem to be required since I don't have an elite degree already.

For sell side research, CFA looks to be the way to go, and for hedge funds/buy-side, a degree from an elite institution and a solid track record seem to be the ticket.

Aug 22, 2017

You seem pretty dead-set on doing things your way despite the abundant supply of advice to the contrary, so I'll just tack on a couple more points and then you can choose to do what you want.

1) Are you planning on doing a part-time MBA? Because I believe the top programs require full-time if I'm not mistaken. Someone chime in that has completed or is in the process of completing an MBA at a top program and correct me if I'm wrong. Everyone I know that has done the part-time in order to keep working takes class year-round. You get small breaks between sessions but other than that it is non-stop until you finish.

2) I networked like crazy. If you want to break into sell-side research you should do the same. Honestly, and it's been beaten to death on this forum, it truly is the best way to advance your career.

    • 1
Aug 22, 2017

Thank you Street Smart, I appreciate your input. To respond to your points,

1.) I'll probably plan to do a part time masters, not necessarily an MBA. Some of the schools that offer part-time master's degrees are Stanford, Columbia, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern, University of Chicago, Duke, etc. They usually give you a certain amount of years to complete the degree.

2.) I've been doing the same, but probably not enough. I sent you a pm about this.

Thank you for your time

Sep 19, 2017

You don't need an Msc or MBA - sell-side research requires a certain skill-set, and it isn't exactly what gets covered in the classroom. On the other hand, if you were to pass both L1 and L2 CFA exams, you could probably argue your technical proficiency meets the minimum requirement.

But as everyone else on this thread has stated, your best bet is to network your way into an associate role.

However, that assumes your financial accounting and equity valuation skills are good enough that you can hit the ground running. Otherwise, it makes sense to start working through the CFA while you network yourself into the interview room.

    • 1
Oct 1, 2017