Will a CFA help me get in?

I'm currently a first year analyst at a boutique investment bank. I scored 730 on the GMAT (97th percentile), and will have 3 or 4 years of investment banking experience when I apply to business school. However, the "hole" in my resume is that my college GPA is rather weak (3.31 from USC).

How valuable is a CFA in b-school admissions? I'm aiming high - top 5 MBA or bust. I'd like to work in private equity after b-school, so a CFA won't be as valuable as if I were to work in asset management. Is a CFA worth the time and effort (250 hours+ recommended study time!)? Is it something that would put me over the top as an applicant and make up for my relatively weak GPA?

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Comments (6)

Feb 19, 2008 - 3:39pm

I have heard that it won't help you if you want to work in PE. Previous experience in M&A or Sponsors is the most important thing for getting into PE. Also getting PE experience right after banking before going to b-school will dramatically improve your chances of getting a PE job after b-school.

I am unsure about if a CFA will improve your admit rate to b-school. It is worth remembering that the average GPA for b-school accept candidates is much lower than law school, med school, or other grad programs.

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Feb 19, 2008 - 4:45pm

I can't speak to the benefits of the CFA but I can say that you may be putting too much focus on your GPA and subsequently are doing the CFA for the wrong reasons. A 3.3 from a decent school isn't too shabby for business school (if you were in engineering, even better), you've proved your smart with your GMAT and you've proved your work ethic by being in banking. I'd be more concerned with the other parts of your application...

Feb 19, 2008 - 5:53pm

Spend the time making yourself stand out from the hundreds of other investment bankers applying to top MBA programs. Showing leadership and that you are a well rounded person could help seperate you from the pack.

Feb 20, 2008 - 1:41pm

Seeing as how you went to a very good undergrad business school (top 10), a 3.31 isn't too bad. Of course, as a fellow Marshall School alumn, I'm a bit biased ;)

Seriously though, seeing as how you did well on the GMAT, I think it becomes more a question of the intangibles of your resume (recs, essay, extracurriculars). You've already proven your academic capacity, there's nothing left to prove by getting a CFA.

Feb 21, 2008 - 1:46pm

Very few people take the CFA exams sequentially. Also, few people pass all levels their first time. They often repeat exams. Life happens. Distractions happen. It's hard to maintain the level of focus that CFA study demands while simultaneous working or in school. So the average person takes 3+ years to complete a CFA.

My take on the CFA is this... why would I spend 3+ years studying for a certification when I can go to B-School full-time in 2 years? Better yet, I can do a JD/MBA in 3 years! What will the CFA provide in terms of an increase in salary, bonus, opportunities that an MBA or JD/MBA won't provide.

Spend the amount of time you would provide for studying for the CFA toward studying for the GMAT and nail the GMAT.

I think some folks are just credential obsessed... they want to get their CPA, CFA, MBA, JD, etc. I actually know a CPA, CFA, JD/MBA. He's a total dork.

B-schools are looking at your WHOLE profile. A CFA will not be the deal breaker between acceptance into Harvard vs. Kellogg or a Top 5 MBA vs. some 2nd tier MBA etc.

Just my 2 cents.

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