Should You Be Considering CFA-Partnered Business Schools?

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By Mike

Is getting an MBA in a CFA Program Partner business school a good idea? 

In fact, is getting an MBA a good idea at all?

In researching for this article, I tapped into our team’s collective personal experiences, and also reached out to contacts who also have done both the CFA program and elite MBAs in HBS & INSEAD. If you’re interested in an MBA and/or a CFA charter, and are thinking of how to proceed, make sure you read on!

Presently, there are more than 100,000 CFA candidates every year, and about 10x that in MBA students just in the US. That‘s a lot of people, and with the overlapping career paths and people considering both, many candidates have questions comparing and contrasting the two in our online community.

What you should also know about are CFA Program Partner business schools – schools that incorporate a ‘significant’ amount of the Candidate Book of Knowledge (CBOK) and emphasise the Ethics & Standards of Professional Conduct in their programs. 


Should You Be Considering CFA-Partnered Business Schools?

What would you say about the MBAs offered by B-schools partnering the CFA Institute? In particular:

  • What is the value of such a partnership both on the resume and in the office? Could it be a distinguishing criterion?
  • Would it be worth taking out the time from the professional domain to do such a full-time course?
  • Would it be complementary or contradictory with the CFA qualification?
  • What could be the reasons to opt for such partner B-schools over other prestigious non-partner B-schools?

Don’t choose a university SOLELY because it is a partner university with the CFA Institute. This is absolutely not a 2-for-1 qualification – you’re still getting an MBA, not a CFA charter. Being a partner simply means that the finance modules are slightly more compatible with the current CFA syllabus – it doesn’t actually give you any credits nor extra qualifications. The main advantage of a partner school is that it would probably be easier to simultaneously pursue the CFA while at b-school (see the next question).

No transferable credit – You do not get to skip any CFA levels if you’ve completed an MBA program at a CFA-partnered business school.

Whether or not the MBA is worth your time is something you have to figure out for yourself. The 300 Hours team is divided on this. The MBA camp value the MBA for business & project management, as well as networking, whereas the others find it akin to trying to learn swimming in a classroom. Much better to just jump in.

The full CFA charter is useful if you want to go into wealth management, asset management or investment related field. CFA Level I is good to have if all you want is an overview and have less interest in the actual accreditation. 

To summarize:

  1. Don’t choose your business school solely because it is a CFA partner.
  2. If you’re planning to pursue both an MBA and a CFA charter, a CFA partnered business school could help as the finance modules follow parts of the CFA curriculum.
  3. Decide whether you want an MBA or a CFA charter, then see it to the end. Or do both. Completing an MBA at a CFA-partnered business school is not likely to give you any additional CFA credentials on your CV.

How to Approach Getting Both an MBA and a CFA Charter

​Assuming the plan is to do both – what would the ideal order be? There has been contradictory advice and cases here. Many peers pursue MBA and take up CFA by their 2nd year, with the vision of completing it later with a job. On the other hand, some advise to clear the CFA levels while gaining the work experience, and then hammer it in with a niche MBA.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for this one. It depends on your personal circumstances, but obviously you have 2 options:

Option 1 – CFA first. If you are currently in a good role, or have a job lined up, in this economic climate we’d strongly advise you to take that experience and work on your CFA charter first. CFA pursuits are much more time and cost efficient compared to MBAs. MBAs are also more effective (i.e. you learn more from them) if you’ve had a few years experience in a professional setting.

Option 2 – MBA first. On the other hand, if you are struggling to land a suitable role, and you’ve been accepted to a good business school, it is quite efficient to study for your MBA and kick-start your CFA charter as well when you’re finishing up your MBA. Be warned though – it is very, very challenging to try and do both at the same time. The CFA program is difficult enough as it is.

If you’re not in a role at the moment, and still undecided, then the best option is to try and get work experience first (i.e. Option 1). In the end, nothing beats good working experience, so it makes sense to try to get a role first. If it doesn’t work out you can then explore options on the MBA side.

Are you currently considering an MBA and/or a CFA charter? Check out our 7 reasons to consider the CFA charter, and let us know what your deciding factors or doubts are via the comments below.

Zee Tan
Author: Zee Tan

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12 thoughts on “Should You Be Considering CFA-Partnered Business Schools?”

  1. Hi Christine, Thanks for replying. I am applying for equity research,IB and fixed income analyst roles.

    Reply
    • Hi Atul, If I had to pick amongst the 3, CFA is more “useful” for equity research / fixed income analyst roles. That said, I just spoke to Sophie, our guest contributor (check out her articles), who was in IB corporate finance role when she chose to study CFA, and for her, it was extremely helpful as although she did Economics in university, it didn’t cover finance extensively and Level II’s valuation/accounting segments were very helpful to her role. So our view is to tailor your application to highlight aspects of your MBA and CFA studies that are particularly relevant to the specific roles you are applying for the best chance. There’s no need to do more as you’re probably right in that there’s a diminishing marginal return to all the accreditation you can obtain, it’s best to demonstrate through work experience examples in your cover letter / interview. Best of luck and do keep us posted on how things are going! Christine

      Reply
  2. I would like to know whether CFA designation is useful in the Sell Side. There is an argument about it being useful for the Buy side , Asset Management Portfolio Mgmt.etc, but not so much so in the Sell side . I applied to many jobs after clearing Level II but couldnt get a call from the advertisers. I have 3 years of Work Ex. post MBA and currently working with a Bank. My MBA is from a mid level B school in India. Job Descriptions which I am trying for in the Buy side and Sell side here always have a rider of Top B school or alternatively with an Engineering degree. CFA charterholders are few and despite the demanding nautre of this examination its being billed just as an Add-on to some commerce designation as CA or worse even an Engg. degree. Is there anything more i need to do other than clearing Level III. Should I be trying some financial modelling course?

    Reply
    • Hi Atul, Just to clarify, what sell side roles are you applying for exactly? It depends on the nature of the role you are interested in. Generally, given that you already have an MBA and are almost done with CFA (good luck!), I think its a very strong set of credentials. It’s likely that the sluggish job market is simply reflecting the tough market environment we’re in now.

      Reply
  3. I would like to know whether CFA designation is useful in the Sell Side. There is an argument about it being useful for the Buy side , Asset Management Portfolio Mgmt.etc, but not so much so in the Sell side as in IB. I applied to many jobs after clearing Level II but couldnt get a call from the advertisers. I have 3 years of Work Ex. post MBA and currently working with a Bank. My MBA is from a mid level B school in India and I am an Arts graduate. Job Descriptions which I am trying for in the Buy side and Sell side here always have a rider of Top B school or alternatively with an Engineering degree. CFA charterholders are few and despite the demanding nautre of this examination its being billed just as an Add-on to some commerce designation as CA or worse even an Engg. degree. Is there anything more i need to do other than clearing Level III?

    Reply
  4. I would like to know whether CFA designation is useful in the Sell Side. There is an argument about it being useful for the Buy side , Asset Management Portfolio Mgmt.etc, but not so much so in the Sell side as in IB. I applied to many jobs after clearing Level II but couldnt get a call from the advertisers. I have 3 years of Work Ex. post MBA and currently working with a Bank. My MBA is from a mid level B school in India and I am an Arts graduate. Job Descriptions which I am trying for in the Buy side and Sell side here always have a rider of Top B school or alternatively with an Engineering degree. CFA charterholders are few and despite the demanding nautre of this examination its being billed just as an Add-on to some commerce designation as CA or worse even an Engg. degree. Is there anything more i need to do other than clearing Level III?

    Reply
  5. Thanks for the response! That’s great feedback; now I know my essay will count for something and that I should look to discuss my passion for investing and my goal to one day become a portfolio manager. I’ve been reading this blog for awhile now but this was my first time commenting. You can count on seeing me around more often!

    Reply
  6. First off, love your blog! Does progress in the CFA program help you get into an MBA school? For example, I currently have 2 years under my belt as an analyst at an RIA with level 1 of the CFA and CAIA program under my belt. My hope is to attend an ivy league (domestic or abroad) MBA program in the next two years. Any insight would be great. Thanks guys!

    Reply
    • Hi Dollars to Donuts Thanks for stopping by – hope to see you around often! CFA Level I and CAIA are pretty good achievements – well done! Business school admissions tend to focus on your essay – it really depends what you want to push forward in your essay. It definitely shows discipline and drive and that’s always a plus though. But I’ve not heard of CFA officially counting as ‘extra points’ in admissions or credits though, so wouldn’t count on that. They’re both quite different qualifications fundamentally.

      Reply

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