Probably the most pressing question on candidates’ minds during those three years of studying for the CFA exams is, “Will the CFA charter get me a job?” It’s definitely the most common question, in its various forms, I get from readers.
There are a lot of things that being a CFA charterholder will help you to do and the benefits go well beyond landing a job but the question itself is a tricky one. Asked outright whether you will get a job solely based on being a charterholder or having passed one or more of the CFA exams, the answer is obviously in the negative. But if you rephrase the question a little or ask what the CFA can do for you, then I think you’ll find the answer much more positive.
What the CFA will Not Do for You
First, the charter or having passed any of the CFA exams will not guarantee you a job. After all the time and dedication it takes to pass the exams, I think a lot of candidates are disappointed that the charter is not a golden ticket that opens all doors. You have to remember a couple of things, even being a charterholder only means you are one of more than 125,000 others around the globe. Your hard work and dedication sets you apart from many but does not make you unique.
While you and other charterholders know exactly what kind of rigor goes into earning the CFA charter, others may not have the same appreciation. The CFA Institute does a good job of supporting the CFA brand and marketing it to organizations but employers will not stand up in awe over your accomplishment.
So, unfortunately, just being a charterholder is not going to get you a job in analysis or asset management.
What the CFA will Do for You
Holding the CFA charter or having passed the exams will help your job prospects. Given two candidates with relatively similar experience, most employers I’ve talked to have said that they would prefer someone with some study in the CFA curriculum. Many employers have told me that they would even choose a CFA candidate or charterholder over another job candidate with slightly better experience on the basis of what the charter implies.
Holding the charter or being a candidate for the exams opens up a network of comradery as well. Other charterholders are not going to jump through rings of fire to help you but you do share a sense of accomplishment and that counts for something. I would say that I generally trust other charterholders a little more than other analysts and that I feel they are more reliable in their analysis. Of course, all this is my own opinion and I’m probably a little biased as a charterholder.
Let’s not overlook the most important aspect of being a CFA charterholder, affirming your commitment to being a better professional. Putting more than a thousand hours into earning a professional designation is no small accomplishment and is a decision that needs to be based on more than just, “Will it get me a job quick.” Spending half that time networking would land you several job offers so pursuing the CFA charter means more than just the job prospects it brings.
Wondering the value of all those hours spent studying is a legitimate concern and a necessary question before you begin studying for the CFA exams. There are a lot of benefits, both tangible and intangible, but it is not for everyone. Do you need the CFA charter to be successful? No. Will the CFA charter guarantee you success? The answer here is also no.
Will the CFA charter help make you a better professional and open up a world of opportunities to your career? Yes, if you put in the time to master the material and use the charter for everything it can offer. After you’ve made the decision to pursue the CFA charter, commit to finishing it. Don’t let doubts and naysayers get you off course. When you’re ready to use the charter to improve your career choices, understand exactly what the charter can help you do and use other resources within your search.
Ask the right questions and do a little networking and I think you’ll find all the answers are very positive.
‘til next time, happy studyin’
Joseph Hogue, CFA