Why Pursuing the CFA®️ Charter Right After Your MBA is a Good Idea

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By Alex Van Noord | LinkedIn

I recently graduated this past spring with my Masters in Business Administration. Finance classes were by and far my favorite, and after gaining work experience as an intern in investor relations, I flirted with the idea of obtaining my CFA charter after graduation. The CFA society of my region spoke to my class the first semester in, and I was intrigued, but did I need it? What exactly would it do for me? I’m sure you have thought these exact same questions. But one doubt had a firm seat my mind: would I be able to pass?

After graduating, starting my career, and asking around, I decided to finally register for the December exam the end of that summer. After taking the exam and waiting a painstaking 53 days for the results, I learned that I passed! With good results to boot. It was by no means easy, as I still put in around 300 hours of studying, but I cannot imagine how hard it would’ve been if I waited 5 years or so after earning my MBA. 

5 Reasons Why You Should Pursue a CFA Charter Right After Your MBA

Undertaking the CFA exams with my MBA was definitely the right thing to do for me. I found there were multiple benefits from going from business school directly into the CFA exam curriculum.

1. Overlapping Material

Every MBA program covers the same material to a certain degree. You learn all about financial accounting, basics of finance, economics, and statistics, to name a few. Speaking from experience, the basics you learn in these classes almost fully prepare you in certain topics such as corporate finance, portfolio management, FRA or quantitative analysis. Learnings these aspects before entering the CFA program builds a solid foundation of knowledge and application that allows learning the depth of the CFA exam curriculum much easier. Sure, there might be aspects you will be unfamiliar with, such as fixed income or equity valuation if you did not specialize in finance during your time in graduate studies. But learning topics such as corporate finance or portfolio management before the crunch time of CFA exam review allows you focus on foreign topics that are much harder. The overlapping material made Level I much, much easier.

2. Making the Most of Your Studying Techniques

Earning your MBA is no easy task. Making it through all of the case studies and projects requires serious time management, leaving little time to study for exams. Just like your time in undergrad, you know how you study and what works for you. Whether it’s making flashcards or Quizlets, or taking notes from the textbook to put the curriculum in terms you understand, you make the experience easier for yourself. Taking time off between your MBA and your CFA exam studies risks you losing the techniques that work best for yourself.

3. Discipline

Discipline and study techniques go hand and hand. Assuming you’re working full time while studying for the CFA exams, you might find it a little difficult to find the time to crank through study sessions and practice problems. You will have been in the same spot one time or another while earning your MBA. Pulling late nights and saying no to a night out on the town, you will have developed study discipline that’s invaluable. By taking the CFA exam plunge directly after the MBA program, you carry this self-discipline with you, and we all know relearning this can take time, especially with so much on the line with the CFA program.

4. Broadening Your Expertise

I graduated from a dual-degree program, where I earned my MBA while finishing up my undergraduate engineering degree. This combination was put together to allow me and others to double down on a certain aspect of business, specifically energy. Because of this, I was not afforded the opportunity to gain heavy exposure to finance, another portion of the MBA program that I loved. My experience is unique, but many others go into a master’s of business program and specialize in something specific that they love, like marketing or entrepreneurship, but are unable to gain the experience or background that comes with finance. Having the recent education that comes with your MBA and the firm financial foundation obtained through the CFA exam curriculum makes you a well-equipped individual for the field you’re pursuing.

5. Shows Commitment

Many people graduating from business school with a finance emphasis think that their MBA would be enough for them to know the depth of material that the CFA program covers or allows them land a career in whichever facet of finance they’d like. And sometimes they are right; often they are wrong.

CFA exam candidates and charterholders understand how much work and commitment goes into earning the designation. It is widely recognized as one of the hardest exams in the world. So going from business school directly into the CFA program? That is downright impressive. It shows to your boss or potential employers that you are serious about your commitment to finance and improving yourself to be the best version of you.

Questions? Let me know in the comments below!

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