Should I do the CFA or MS Finance if I have a weak undergraduate GPA?

Valorsq's picture
Rank: Gorilla | 610

I screwed up my undergrad GPA largely because of partying and girls. I'm in sell side ER right now and planning to transition to buyside IM. But the thing is CFA is gold standard in IM and my prospective employer will eventually ask me to take it. I can do both MSF and CFA before MBA but only 2 levels of the CFA. Would it be useful to just have 2 levels and not be a charterholder before apps? And then my OCD, I want to be done with everything related to studies before I embark on MBA path.

Secondly, what if I don't take the CFA at all and focus entirely on the MSF? In that case, do employers in IM pressurize you to take it or does hinder your chances of writing reports and having your name on them? Is MSF as valuable to adcoms as CFA even though CFA doesn't measure performance in GPA terms?

Lastly, if I take the third level just a couple of months before matriculating, will that be okay? In that case, will having passed only two levels of the CFA and not having the charter put adcoms off?


Comments (9)

Aug 30, 2019
Most Helpful
Aug 30, 2019

Thanks for the @mention @jnhadekjs" I'll respond to the admissions portions and let other respond to the career impact portions of your post.

Yes, passing two levels of the CFA will be helpful from an admissions perspective.. It shows you've acquired self-discipline, time management, and the ability to pass demanding, business-related exams. Obviously good grades in an MSF will also show that. Taking part 3 before you matriculate and after you apply and are hopefully admitted, is also OK.

The MSF is probably marginally more valuable than the CFA, because as you say, it's graded and more like an MBA. But it will also raise the question of why do you need the MBA if you have the MSF. That question is answerable; the degrees aren't identical. However, it will cross their mind.

Frankly, if you need the CFA for your future career and don't need the MFA, I'd go for the CFA and also make sure you do really well on the GMAT. I'm assuming your GPA is a 3.0 or above. If below that or if there was a downward trend to your GPA, I might change my mind.

For more suggestions on mitigating a low GPA, please see 5 A's for Your Low GPA


Linda Abraham
President, Accepted | Contact Me | Admissions Consulting

    • 3
Aug 30, 2019

I definitely agree with you on this.

If the OP is looking to do an MBA /w concentration in something else, it is completely fine. But I would definitely question the need for an MBA if he chooses a concentration in Finance, and already having an MSF.

MSF will open more doors of opportunities other than IM, compared to the CFA (AM/IM).

I think this question really should be answered by the OP on his preference.
Can he self-study? Or does he prefer being taught?
Can he fund the required tuition fees of MSF, or the 2-3k better financially?

Also, your perspective employer requiring a CFA. Remember, it is a perspective employer (not your current/guaranteed future). So if you want to be limited to IM go for CFA, if you want to open doors for more financial opportunities - go for MSF.


    • 1
Aug 30, 2019

Thank you Linda.

I have a question though. Since CFA is a graduate level self study certification, wouldn't that same question they would ask about the MSF, "why MBA when you already have the CFA", cross their mind?

Aug 30, 2019

You're welcome.

I think the answer is in your characterization of the CFA. It's a self-study certificate. It's not an accredited, degree program. There are no grades, papers, etc. You sit for the exam and either pass or fail.

I have interviewed over the years many MBA adcom directors and members. We also have former admissions committee deans and directors on staff. They have all expressed respect for CFA holders and the commitment, time investment required to pass that exam, not to mention the actual knowledge acquired. BUT, I don't remember even one questioning why a CFA holder would benefit from an MBA. I have heard that question raise about MSF holders. Again, it is a question that can be handled, depending on what you want to do post-MBA.

I'm not against the MSF, especially if it will enhance your chances of achieving the future you want to achieve. However, if you are taking it solely to improve the likelihood that you will get into a top MBA program, it may be an expensive, time consuming and unnecessary route to go.

Does that help?

Linda Abraham
President, Accepted | Contact Me | Admissions Consulting

    • 3
Aug 31, 2019

Thanks Linda.

Last question I promise. If I go the MSF route, when it comes to MBA adcoms, can I just tell them that I want to stay in finance but want to expand my network and change locations? Is that a good enough reason for wanting to do MBA? Because the MSF aim eyeing is not based in the US.

Sep 2, 2019

No problem.

Sorry. I don't find that a terribly compelling reason. What will you accomplish with an improved network and a new location that you can't do with your current degree?

Go deeper and think bigger about your goal. You are planning to invest a lot of time and money in the MSF and the MBA. Why do you need both degrees? What do you want to do that requires a larger network? What do you hope to do that requires the MBA and that the MSF won't give you. (and it can't just be making up for an academically wasted undergrad.)


Sep 2, 2019

@jnhadekjs" I don't know how the previous post went under a different sign-in, but it is from me. sorry about that.

Linda Abraham
President, Accepted | Contact Me | Admissions Consulting

Sep 3, 2019