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Should I Pursue the CFA® Program?

By Arif Irfanullah, CFA

Posted on 14-04-18 at 10:14 am

If you are interested in a career in investment analysis and portfolio management, I strongly recommend the CFA Program.  It is the most recognized and respected investment management designation in the world.

If you are already in the investment management profession, the CFA Program will help strengthen your foundation. This is likely to accelerate your career progression.

The CFA Program also makes sense if you are a non-finance professional at a financial institution, such as a large bank, and want to move to the business side. For instance, imagine you are an IT consultant implementing a Treasury Management System at a large multinational bank and decide that you want to switch from IT to Treasury. Pursuing the CFA Program will certainly help with the career change.

For finance majors at universities, I recommend entering the program and taking the Level I exam in the final year.  As a university professor myself, I’ve observed that students who clear the Level I exam have a better understanding of finance fundamentals relative to their counterparts and have an advantage during the job recruitment process.

While the CFA certification is logical for those interested in investment management, this does not mean that it is the only certification for any finance career. There are several other qualifications such as Financial Risk Management (FRM), Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), and Chartered Accountancy (CA). The certifications and qualifications you pursue should be in line with your interests and career aspirations. As an example, the increasingly popular FRM certification makes sense for people who are committed to an international career in risk management for financial institutions. FRM’s emphasis on credit risk, market risk and operational risk highlights the focus on risk management for financial institutions. While FRM is growing in popularity it still lags behind the CFA program in terms of global recognition. In browsing through job postings, phrases like ‘CFA certification required’ or ‘CFA certification recommended’ overshadow references to FRM. To learn more about FRM visit www.garp.org.


What specific jobs does the CFA Program prepare me for?

According to the CFA Charter Factsheet, published by CFA Institute, the top CFA charterholder occupations are:

  • Portfolio Manager
  • Research Analyst
  • Financial Adviser
  • Corporate Financial Analyst
  • Consultant
  • Relationship Manager
  • Risk Manager

 Reference: CFA Charter Factsheet


What are the pre-requisites for entering the CFA Program?

According to the CFA Institute website, to enroll in the CFA Program and register for your first Level I exam, you must have an international travel passport and one of the following:

  • Undergraduate education: A bachelor’s (or equivalent) degree or be in the final year of your bachelor’s degree program (you must have completed your bachelor’s degree program in order to register for the Level II exam), or
  • Work experience: Four years of professional work experience (does not have to be investment related), or
  • A combination of professional work experience and educationthat totals at least four years (part-time positions do not qualify, and the four-year total must be accrued prior to enrollment).

Reference: www.cfainstitute.org/programs/cfaprogram/register/Pages/index.aspx


Am I too old for the CFA Program?

You are never to old to enroll in the CFA Program!  I’ve worked with students who decided in their 50s that they want to transition into investment analysis and then went about earning the charter.


How do I earn the CFA charter?

To earn the CFA charter, you must:

  • Pass the Level I Exam (June or December).
  • Pass the Level II Exam (June).
  • Pass the Level III Exam (June).
  • Have four years of professional work experience in the investment decision-making process (accrued before, during, or after participation in the CFA Program).
  • Join CFA Institute as a regular member.


Next Article: The CFA Program® Exams


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