5 Reasons to Pursue an MBA Along with a CFA

Here are 5 ways in which the MBA and CFA programs work well together to help you achieve your career goals within the investment industry.

The results for the most recent CFA exam are due to be released this week and many financial professionals await the culmination of their prolonged efforts. The CFA Charter is indeed a time commitment: the average recipient spends an average of 300 hours studying for each of 3 levels of the exam, with less than 20% of entering Level 1 candidates successfully completing the program.

Many financial professionals might wonder if pursuing an MBA degree in addition to the CFA is worth it, and how the two programs may complement each other. Here are 5 ways in which the two work well together to help one achieve their career goals within the investment industry.

1) An MBA helps you to gain the leadership experience needed to move up in your organization and manage effectively.

At both large financial institutions and smaller investment firms where CFA candidates tend to work, a relatively hierarchical structure tends to be in place resulting in junior analysts lacking opportunities for leadership, organizational, and management responsibilities. These softer skill-sets tend to be vital to moving up to the management or executive level at a firm, and an MBA is an effective way to develop these. During the course of the MBA, a student can help lead group projects, student organizations, and treks abroad, all while developing a great network. The takeaways from these leadership experiences will come in handy when the stakes are higher in one’s post-MBA career.

2) While the CFA exams test the basic formulas and principles used to value investments, a quantitatively focused MBA goes further. Students test the limits of financial models and learn to apply them to real-world markets and investment scenarios.

Like most standardized tests, the CFA exam benefits those who can be precise and recall vast amounts of information within a short time-span without electronic aides such as a computer or phone. While this can be useful to testing one’s analytical rigor, the modern investment industry requires other skills such as creativity an abstract thinking, which an MBA degree can help provide. A staple of many MBA courses is the case study which allows students to peek into the history of a particular organization and ask themselves what they would have done under similar conditions. Often times, advanced analytical techniques using Excel and statistical tools are needed to arrive at a meaningful answer. These kinds of experiences cannot be simulated simply through taking CFA exams.

3) The extensive network in place at the world’s top business schools will make the process of finding an attractive role in the investment industry much easier. 

The investment industry, particularly the buy-side, is notoriously difficult to break into, and with more CFA Charterholders being minted each year, job seekers find that they must do even more to differentiate themselves. Networking with the right professionals tends to make the process much easier, and a degree from a top business school will instantly place you in a network of accomplished individuals who can help you. Often, all it takes is a nicely worded email or message on LinkedIn to get the right person’s attention and help lead to one’s dream job in the investment industry.

4) While many applicants to top business schools describe career goals within the asset management industry, a CFA Candidate describing these goals will have much more credibility.

Describing career goals in your MBA applications is much like telling a great story – it has to be believable and make sense from start to finish. While many applicants apply to top business schools filling essays with material on transitioning to the investment industry, only a few can effectively make the case that this goal is their passion and that they are the perfect candidate to pursue it. The CFA Exams are offered annually worldwide, with the Level 1 exam offered twice per year, so admissions committees appreciate that this pursuit is a credible and serious way of showing your commitment to the investment industry.

5) For applicants who lack significant community service involvement prior to applying to business school, becoming involved with your local CFA society can help fill in this critical gap.

Each year, many MBA applicants scramble to fill in the hole in their candidacy that exists from a lack of community involvement. Involvement with your local CFA society can help fill in this hole, while also enhancing your network and knowledge of the investment industry. Events can range from organizing stock pitch events to coordinating speaker series. Many of these same kinds of events will also take place at the top MBA programs, making these engagements excellent preparation for business school. Admissions committees want to select students who will be involved on campus and are serious about their careers, and dedication shown in the form of service to a professional organization is a great way to make this case.

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