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CFA or Masters


I wondered if anyone could offer me some advice.

I am 24 years old, have a degree in history from a good UK university, and have worked for Accenture for 3 years in Financial Services consultancy.

I am now going to take a year off to try and make a career change - I'd like to work in investment/portfolio/fund management.

Would I be best served taking a Masters in Finance degree, or CFA levels 1 and 2 (December and June)?

Many thanks for any advice,



  • SophieSophie Posts: 1,986 Sr Partner
    Hi @dmerriam88, welcome to 300HC.

    To your question: CFA, no doubt. It's also a masters equivalent and highly relevant for the sector you want to switch into.
  • Hi, thanks for the response Sophie.

    I've got a few more questions following that.

    1) Is it only a Masters equivalent if you pass all 3 levels and have the 4 years applicable work experience? I.e. the charter.

    2) Am I not going to struggle with just a CFA level 1 and 2 when graduate job requirements state that a degree in finance/maths/economics is needed (none of which I have)?

    3) Given that I am going to take the year off (I am also studying languages at the same time) is it realistic to pass a CFA level 1 in just September/October/November worth of studying? I'll be doing it full time however with no other job or strict commitments.

    Many thanks,

  • SophieSophie Posts: 1,986 Sr Partner

    1) Yup! CFA starts to become valuable once you are at least a Level 3 candidate, which you can achieve in 18months with hard work :)

    2) No it's fine. Your background in financial services consultancy is relevant to some extent, and you may not fit into graduate level recruitment anyway but experienced hire. It's not just a qualification you need, but a lot of networking to get into the role, as you don't fit into a particular 'mould' (not a grad, experienced hire but not from the investment industry).

    3) If CFA is new to you and you're full time, that 3-4 months is not a problem. But make sure CFA is your priority (not languages) as it can be difficult to grasp a lot of new concepts if you haven't seen some of them before.
  • Hey @dmerriam88!

    I'd say if you have the time for it, do both! I wrote my L1 this June and I'm also starting my MSc Finance course this September. One advantage this masters holds for me is that the course is tuned according to the CFA curriculum i.e. 70% of the course is of the CFA candidate body knowledge. So when I have to take the next two levels, the MSc will be a good foundation for it.

    Since you're taking a year off, you have time like @Sophie says to achieve the 3 levels. Even if you're not from this field, it doesn't matter that much, you can still prepare well using the materials given because in my opinion, they are meant to be usable by people not from the field too. 4 months is good time for someone who isn't working and is preparing for CFA, especially Level 1.
  • As I only have a Masters in Finance i can't say which one is better but the fact that after 7 years in the industry i'm now going for the CFA kind of answers the question. In my honest opinion and experience, a masters doesn't help at all until you are senior enough to use it and usually by then you are doing it out of personal interest rather than something for your CV. A CFA helps loads because you will have all the skills for the job drilled into your brain. Put it this way, no-one wants to have a 30 minute discussion on the finer points of anything with a junior analyst, they just want the answer. A masters equips you for the former, a CFA the latter.
  • SophieSophie Posts: 1,986 Sr Partner
    Thanks @Johny_Bravo, that's an interesting point of view. I have Masters in Econs (not finance), but would share the same view too.
  • ZeeZee Charterholder London - UKPosts: 1,547 Sr Partner
    @dmerriam88 - I did exactly what you're planning (i.e. CFA with languages). It did not end well. Suggest to concentrate on one...
  • FWIW, I recall all my employers and managers either having or being indifferent to Masters degrees. The guys who got respect had their Charter.

    Having both won't hurt, obviously, but consider your opportunity cost. If you have to choose, go for the CFA if it may lead to the professional opportunities you want. If you're still not sure, and have the luxury of attending classes, a Masters program might be a better choice.

    Regardless, finish what you start. :D
  • Thanks very much for your advice everyone.

    Similar to the poster above I am looking at a masters programme with a CFA partner combining CFA elements to enable me to do that and take CFA level 1 as well. I can appreciate from all of your comments that the CFA is more useful, however I am conscious that when I look at the look at company websites all of their recruiting processes state a need for a degree or masters in finance/economics etc. - which I don't have.

    Whilst I don't think this matters so much in England my understanding is that it definitely does in other parts of the world so I'm keen to have something. My thinking is that I can do a CFA anytime, but can only really take a masters degree now whilst I have some time spare.

    I'll try and combine them in any case to get myself in the best position to find a job - appreciate the advice.
  • Different parts of the world do place different emphasis on credentials. In the United States most job descriptions require a Bachelors or Masters degree in Accounting or Finance for financial analyst-type positions. I have neither. I have a BA, but not in Accounting, Finance, Stats, or anything similar.

    Despite this "requirement" I have found some employers who really don't care. This is also where a network comes into play. If someone a prospective employer trusts can and will vouch for you, that can overcome a multitude of deficiencies on a resume.

    I won't go so far as to say anyone really can do anything they want so long as they have rudimentary skills and a good network. But I know plenty of people who fill out all the "requirements" tick marks on the HR sheet and still have trouble landing (or performing) the work in question.

    Assess your opportunity cost in light of your goals. If a Masters makes sense as part of the plan, go for it. If it doesn't, don't lose sleep. Play the hand you're dealt as well as you can.
  • clwcain said:

    Play the hand you're dealt as well as you can.

    I'm reading this thread rather late. But @clwcain, I like that analogy. Puts some of the challenges I'm facing into perspective.
  • You're very welcome, @AjFinance. Glad I can offer something helpful. ~O)
  • Sophie said:

    1) Yup! CFA starts to become valuable once you are at least a Level 3 candidate, which you can achieve in 18months with hard work :)

    @sophie just noticed this, would this be applicable to only a number of specific roles in FS?
  • SophieSophie Posts: 1,986 Sr Partner
    @vincentt my view is it starts to add value to your CV for FS roles when you say you're a L3 candidate. Hope interviews are going well!
  • @dmerriam88 I think there are various providers that off Msc Finance or Msc Finance & Investment courses with some element of the CFA attached, usually gearing you up to take LI in the final term. I actually did one of these and then didn't do LI in the final term but did a thesis instead. It definitely helped me find good work... but where I am now more or less requires the CFA, so there's a pretty strong chance you'll end up doing it anyway, so you may as well nail it down earlier than later, i.e. so you're not facing it when you are 30ish and very very bored of exams. Learn from my mistakes, lots of other people do....
  • @sophie I am a CFA L2 Candidate and I was thinking of applying for the MFin programme in MIT & other univ next yr... But after reading this discussion i'm a bit confused... @-) The main problem is that i do not have any exp in the finance field & my total work ex till today is less than 2 Yrs... So neither I'm able to switch over to any Finance related jobs nor apply for any good MBA Programmes... So i decided that doing MFin in some good place is the only way to change my carrer path now... Need some Advice Pls... 8-|
  • Hi @HPK, what is your current role like? And what do specific area in Finance are you interested in? Having a finance degree is not a necessarily a pre-requisite for finance roles. So it's best to understand your situation first before any comments.
  • I'm 23Yrs old & a Software Engineer now.. and i would like to get in to Equity Research or Investment Banking side... Actually i have'nt thought much in this regard...
  • @HPK: Welcome to the club!!..where are u based?
  • Thanks for the clarification @HPK. Have you tried searching for entry level roles in finance? In my experience, for investment banking or equity research there's no pre-requisite of a finance background for graduates. It'll all be part of your training on the job.
  • Ohh okay....Then i guess i have to be more patient in job search & concentrate more on clearing CFA L2 in the first attempt... Thanks for ur advice!! @sophie
  • CFA and Masters or Masters and then CFA...?
    I'm in the 1st year of my Masters in Finance and did only 1 subject last semester part time as I work full time. The normal load is 2 per semester ,however I rather focus properly and get good grades than just scrape though.i really want to do the CFA , as I'm currently 34 turning 35 next month.age is an issue for me as I want to get it done with.
    My question is do you recommend studying level 1 with 2 subjects part time and full time work, or do you recommend it after finishing the masters altogether?
  • hamnajainhamnajain DubaiPosts: 1 Associate
    I also would recommend to take both the Degrees. Do your MBA in a reputed college and graduate from there with good grades and then you can apply for CFA. CFA is a little bit hard to clear in the first attempt. There are reputed Universities out there from where you can get valued certificate
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