Does passing all 3 CFA exams matter if I don’t have the work experience?

idontknowman's picture
Rank: Chimp | 5

I have always wanted to do Asset Management but got into the mortgage industry, since it was easy. That is gone now, so I can get back into what I originally liked about finance.

I am confident I can pass the CFA exams. However, I am currently unemployed. I am sure I will find another job within a month, but it will probably be as a business banker or in some kind of insurance job or something.

So, if I pass all 3 exams, but don't have the four years of relevant work experience will it have been for nothing? Or will passing all three exams still help get me into asset management?

Why Should I Write The CFA Exams?

The CFA charter is not technically a requirement for any position though, in many finance jobs, it has become extremely common. It is valuable in that, it is a statement from the Chartered Financial Analysts Institute that you have a high level of knowledge in ethics, asset management, and investment. It is particularly beneficial in asset & investment management, private wealth, equity research, and sometimes investment banking. Writing the exams are a great platform to put your knowledge to practice and expands your base of education and interests.

JustNumbers - Consulting - Vice President:

I got my undergrad from a midwest tier-two school in 2008, and took a pretty easy going job so I could study for CFA Level I. What I've learned from networking is that getting CFA Level I out of the way does help you stand out from the rest of the guys who barely do anything after undergrad. Which has landed me a few second round interviews at hedge funds and fund-of-funds.

I live in Denver, and after speaking with Janus, Oppenheimer, and a few other funds, CFA Level I will land you a solid interview as an analyst. Unless you are from a target school, you will need CFA Level I to get that interview. They just want to see that you are committed to advancing your education, because you may not have pushed yourself as much while in high school (to get into a target school) or college (lack of internships...).

Without work experience expect entry-level jobs. But another way to get experience is to focus on the core of CFA which is FSA. There are plenty of financial analyst jobs you should think about applying to since it will give you the foundational understanding of asset management analysis. Plus you can work there until CFA Level I or Level II is out of the way then really stand out to some banks/funds.

How To Get CFA Certification

The CFA designation consists of three exams: Level I, Level II, and Level III. You will also need four years of professional work experience in the investment decision-making process. This can be done before, during, or after passing the CFA exams. You will also need to be a CFA Institute member.

See below the CFA designation requirements.

Will A CFA Charter Help Me Get A Job?

Pursuing the CFA designation will look good on your resume and may help land interviews but it's far from enough to land you your dream job. If you've written the exams but don't have the four years of required, related work experience, you will be able to get entry-level jobs.

It's a good stepping stone to higher level positions but one of the requirements for the CFA designation is the work experience. The full CFA accreditation will set you apart more than simply writing the exams will. You have to be ready to do a few jobs you don't want on the road to the full designation. Once done, however, it will open up many doors.

That considered, it's not impossible to get into asset management without the full designation but you will need to rely heavily on networking and nailing interviews. Finance jobs are extremely competitive and increasingly so all the time so having the CFA will give your career a boost, especially if you're not from a top school, but without the associated soft skills, you won't land the jobs you want. Be prepared for entry-level positions and possibly unpaid internships.

TNA:

MSF = CFA Level I and some of II. Benefits of a Masters of Finance are going to be classroom instruction, networking, OCR, additional name brand on a resume, etc. CFA requires a very disciplined self-study regime. Some people do better in a classroom environment. If you get a Masters in Finance you should be able to get something entry in Asset Management.

On a side note, passing all three exams is pretty damn impressive. I think if you have at least Level II done with you should be able to transition. Level I is pretty basic, but Level II is a different level. Start attending CFA events and networking with those people. You will be able to land something.

Watch the video below about what having a CFA Charter can do for you.

Read More About The CFA Designation On WSO

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Comments (28)

Aug 15, 2012

inb4 'I don't know man'

Aug 15, 2012

i hate you
</3

Aug 15, 2012

just do it. you seem motivated, you'll have the time, just do it. people will respect the passing of the exams regardless of if you have the three oh so pretty letters.

Aug 15, 2012

Forget the CFA at this point. Get an MBA and start over, especially if you have 3+ years of work experience. As for finding another job, you'd be much better off spending your time networking: CFA is one point on a resume that will take the same amount of time as reaching out to hundreds if not thousands of people.

Aug 15, 2012

I suggest doing the CFA earlier rather than later, if at all. I just finished the 3rd exam and won't have the WE for at least 2 years. It is a bit frustrating right now, but I'm just glad to get the tests out of the way.

I agree with UFO though - if you don't land something relevant in the near future, I think MBA is probably your best course of action. Is the code of conduct violation going to prevent you from finding a similar job somewhere else?

Aug 18, 2012

Pursuing the CFA designation will look good on your resume and might get you some interviews. Don't be so confident you will pass the CFA exams. 200 hours is less than suggested and the level of difficulty of the exams is probably going to be alot harder than Temple. Forget about doing an MBA because you will not likely get into anywhere good with a 3.13 GPA from temple

Aug 20, 2012
Series7examtutor:

Pursuing the CFA designation will look good on your resume and might get you some interviews. Don't be so confident you will pass the CFA exams. 200 hours is less than suggested and the level of difficulty of the exams is probably going to be alot harder than Temple. Forget about doing an MBA because you will not likely get into anywhere good with a 3.13 GPA from temple

Dont listen to this hogwash. This aint law school- all you need is a strong GMAT, relevant work exp, and good leadership stories and youre competitive at most top level bschool's.

As for the CFA, with your background, just having a CFA will unlikely make you extremely competitive for the job you want. Even after you get the designation, you will find yourself doing a looot of networking, only 2.5 years later in your life.

Apr 19, 2015

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Apr 19, 2015

You don't pass the CFA L1, L2 OR level 3; you have to pass the CFA L1, L2 AND L3. Also, you must ahve four years of experience in order to lawfully use the CFA denomination. If you've only passed the CFA L1, first, it doesn't say much and second, you can only say in your resume "Passed the CFA level 1 exam" or "CFA level 2 candidate". You aren't allowed, under the Code of Ethics of the CFA Institute to say anything else.

I guess you can always make the switch but you should also consider getting an MBA and starting in AM at the associate level.

Apr 19, 2015
martinrvau:

You don't pass the CFA L1, L2 OR level 3; you have to pass the CFA L1, L2 AND L3.

Yes, I know. I figured by saying passed L3, people would presume I also passed L1 and L2. Sorry for not being clear.

martinrvau:

Also, you must ahve four years of experience in order to lawfully use the CFA denomination. If you've only passed the CFA L1, first, it doesn't say much and second, you can only say in your resume "Passed the CFA level 1 exam" or "CFA level 2 candidate". You aren't allowed, under the Code of Ethics of the CFA Institute to say anything else.

I know you must have 4 years experience to say you're a CFA. I'm talking about putting that I passed L1, L2, or L3 on my resume in order to get a job.

martinrvau:

I guess you can always make the switch but you should also consider getting an MBA and starting in AM at the associate level.

So, I could make the switch pre-MBA? I'm a little uneasy about getting the MBA before an AM job, because I fear it might be hard to break into AM post-MBA without any work experience. At least if I didn't have the MBA yet, I could take low-paying AM jobs to get my foot in the door, since I wouldn't have six figures worth of student loan debt yet.

Apr 19, 2015

You should be also more specific about what you mean by "Asset Management". It is a very wide industry... investment management? private wealth management? hedge funds? Your chances of getting a job pre/post-MBA also depend on what exactly you want to do.

Apr 19, 2015
martinrvau:

You should be also more specific about what you mean by "Asset Management". It is a very wide industry... investment management? private wealth management? hedge funds? Your chances of getting a job pre/post-MBA also depend on what exactly you want to do.

All 3 of those sound good to me, if I could get a job in one of them, I'd be very happy.

Apr 19, 2015

Those 3 jobs could have very different skillsets. You could be only doing analysis in a hedge fund while in PWM all you could b doing is sales, so you have to consider what you would enjoy doing.. would you enjoy selling or analyzing?

Apr 19, 2015
materazzi:

Those 3 jobs could have very different skillsets. You could be only doing analysis in a hedge fund while in PWM all you could b doing is sales, so you have to consider what you would enjoy doing.. would you enjoy selling or analyzing?

Not interested in sales at all, just analysis (that's why I'm talking about the CFA). To put it simply, I want to be involved in the investment decision making process. I understand in the early years, that just means you're a junior analyst and you do research, due diligence, etc, to aid the investment decision makers. Eventually, I'd like to be making investment decisions myself, such as a portfolio manager or managing director. However, I don't really care if I do this in investment management, private wealth management, or at a hedge fund. My question is about the extent to which a CFA will allow me to get my foot in the door for an entry level job doing some analysis/research.

Apr 19, 2015

Come on, somebody has to have more advice, insights, comments, etc. Would a CFA L1 likely allow me to land an entry-level analyst/research job in AM? If not, then what about the L2 or L3?

Apr 19, 2015

I think that L1 would definitely help you in AM if you are looking to do analysis. At the very least, it shows that you are commited to landing that entry-level job when applying and helps in differentiating you. But networking will be far more important than the CFA.

Apr 19, 2015

Nothing is going to guarantee you a position anywhere right now. There are plenty of CFA level 1, 2, and 3 holders out there looking for positions just like yourself. A CFA will help especially in the long run but dont expect it to be the holy grail of Asset Management (whatever aspect). If you want analysis, knock pwm out of the picture. You're focused more on investment managers and asset management firms. Like someone mentioned above, you could always start in sales learning the details of the product while interacting with the pms and research teams. This works to put you in touch with people making decisions and also teaches you as you explain the concepts/reasoning to clients. You may be able to transition later but Im not sure how common it is and it depends on the firms. Sometimes you need to start where you dont want to end up where you do.

On another note, if you're doing the CFA simply to get a job, it will be really tough. You need to focus on getting it to further your "education" and "interest" in the field.

Apr 19, 2015

Thank you for your comments, and I truly mean that.

LAWM:

Nothing is going to guarantee you a position anywhere right now.

I understand that, I'm just trying to find out what will put me in the best situation. Is a CFA the best option? Is an MSF the best option?

LAWM:

There are plenty of CFA level 1, 2, and 3 holders out there looking for positions just like yourself. A CFA will help especially in the long run but dont expect it to be the holy grail of Asset Management (whatever aspect).

Fair enough.

LAWM:

If you want analysis, knock pwm out of the picture. You're focused more on investment managers and asset management firms. Like someone mentioned above, you could always start in sales learning the details of the product while interacting with the pms and research teams. This works to put you in touch with people making decisions and also teaches you as you explain the concepts/reasoning to clients. You may be able to transition later but Im not sure how common it is and it depends on the firms.

I have no problem starting in places to use as a stepping stone. I don't particularly want it to be sales, but if that's what it takes, I'll do it. The problem is, nobody on here tells me "do sales and you'll have a chance at AM after a few years." This leads me to believe it's nearly impossible to go from sales to AM and analysis (which maybe true). Essentially, the information I've got on this forum is this: get an AM job immediately, or get a job in IB and transfer to AM. The problem is, I may not be able to get an AM job. Furthermore, the IB jobs are even more competitive, so they don't make sense for me if I can't get an AM job. Basically, I get the advice that I have to start at the top, or else all hope is lost. I'm looking for advice that helps me understand ways I can break into the industry. I know there has to be ways, not everybody in AM, IB, or anything else started there. I understand these jobs are competitive, but there has to be ways for people to break in, even it they didn't set themselves up since the age of 18. There has to be ways to break in, even if you decided after graduation that this is what you want to do with your life. End of rant.

LAWM:

Sometimes you need to start where you dont want to end up where you do.

Like I said before, I'm willing to do whatever it takes. But I don't know what jobs keep AM open, and which jobs burn bridges.

LAWM:

On another note, if you're doing the CFA simply to get a job, it will be really tough. You need to focus on getting it to further your "education" and "interest" in the field.

Like I said, I'll do what it takes. Should I get an MSF? Is the CFA the most efficient route? Is a job the most efficient route? Are other finance jobs the most efficient entry?

Best Response
Apr 19, 2015

Hey all I can say is good luck. I graduated UG from a midwest tier -2 school in 2008 and took a pretty easy going job so I can study for CFA L1 in June 2010. What I've learned from networking is that getting CFA L1 out of the way does help you stand out over the rest of the guys who barely do anything after UG. Which has landed me a few second round interviews at hedge funds and fund-of-funds. The guys on this website really only help if you went to a top school for UG, and forget about any help if its anything less for MBA.

When you ask will it help with breaking into AM, they are right though. Its a huge field, so there is no specific answer. It will help in one area versus another of AM. I live in Denver, and after speaking with Janus, Oppenheimer, and a few other funds, CFA L1 will land you a solid interview as an analyst. But unless you are from a target school, you will need CFA L1 to get that interview. They just want to see that you are comitted to advancing your education, because you may not have pushed yourself as much while in highschool (to get into a target school) or college (lack of internships...).

Without work experience expect entry level jobs. But another way to get expiereince is to focus on the core of CFA wich is FSA. There are plenty of financial analyst jobs you should think about applying to since it will give you the foundational understanding for AM analysis. Plus you can work there until CFA L1 or L2 is out of the way then really stand out to some banks/funds.

Hope this helps.

    • 3
Apr 19, 2015

as far as I can tell, CFA is really of marginal usefulness in getting a job, at least in this market. without the relevant experience it doesn't really matter much. however combined with some solid networking it can help. CFA L1 is not going to "land you an interview" anywhere.

Apr 19, 2015

Take the CFA and get a Masters in Finance.
Easier said than Done but while doing a MSF you can do your school's recruiting stuff.

Apr 19, 2015

MSF = CFA Level 1 & some of 2. Benefits of a MSF are going to be class room instruction, networking, OCR, additional name brand on resume, etc. CFA requires a very disciplined self study regime. Some people do better in a class room environment. If you get a MSF you should be able to get something entry in AM.

On a side note, passing all 3 exams is pretty damn impressive. I think if you have at least level 2 done with you should be able to transition. Level 1 is pretty basic, but level 2 is a different level. Start attending CFA events and networking with those people. You will be able to land something.

Apr 19, 2015

Correction: with plenty of networking.

Apr 19, 2015

d3donahue's post pretty much nailed it, i have been hearing the same thing from the local CFA charter society.

my advice: network with alums from your local CFA charter society.

man made the money, money never made the man

Apr 19, 2015

You remind me very much of myself when I graduated Undergrad right after Lehman went BK.

Did you know that you can earn a "portfolio manager" title while working as an investment advisor at certain BD's? You get the opportunity to pick individual securities and construct a portfolio for HNW individuals, at your discretion, based on recommendations by the research folks (i.e. upgrades, downgrades, earning forecasts, etc.). Only caveat to that is that you would have to be willing to sell, but otherwise I think that would look good on your resume, don't you?

Apr 19, 2015
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