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Is the CFA® Charter Worth It?

By: Kaplan Schweser
December 17, 2020
Photo with a book, diploma, key, and money showing that CFA charter is worth pursuing

Is the CFA® charter worth it? You might be asking yourself that question as you ponder at least four years of studying, reviewing, hard work, and difficult exams. Perhaps you’ve visited  Analyst Forum and seen threads about whether you gain anything from all the hard work. Many charterholders say it opened doors for them in their job search; others say it got them nowhere. So, who should you believe? This article aims to answer that question by looking at what CFA charterholders have to say, both good and bad, and then analyzing the opinions.

The Good: The CFA® Charter Was Worth the Effort

Interestingly, more people say that the charter is worth it than don’t. We checked numerous forums and blogs, and those who said the CFA charter was worth it outnumbered the naysayers about 8:1.

One CFA charterholder wrote this in a LinkedIn blog post: “I went from zero to hero in terms of finance knowledge education, moved to Canada, and am now employed as a research analyst in a macro-boutique firm. How much of this is attributed to my status as CFA candidate? A fair portion, I would say. Would I be in the equivalent or better position without doing the CFA Program? In my thinking, it is unlikely to be the case.”

“I just earned the CFA charter today! Feels good to see the charter next to my name. Studying for the charter was really worth it,” said a performance analyst and CFA charterholder on Reddit. Another charterholder had this to say on Analyst Forum: “Most everyone in the industry respects it.”

In a Life on the Buy Side article, Mike Moran, CFA, said, “Successfully completing the program and earning your charter is a worthwhile endeavor. You never know what future the markets might hold for you, so the CFA Program offers a good base of knowledge to get you on your way.”

As you can see from all these quotes, the general consensus of most CFA charterholders is that it has paid off in terms of career, knowledge, satisfaction, and end results. For example, when we were preparing our eBook, Before You Decide to Sit for the CFA® Exam, we interviewed several CFA charterholders, including Jason A. Smith, CFA. He said, “If you are willing to pay the cost, the rewards will wait for you at the end.”


The Bad: Putting in the Time Wasn’t Worth It

Those who had more negative opinions concerning earning the charter mostly felt that it hadn’t helped their careers.

“CFA charterholders do not have any edge over others,” said a poster on Quora. Dan, another charterholder on Analyst Forum, said, “No, it’s not worth it. People that have it view it as pretty easy in hindsight, and those that don’t have it don’t care. You can’t win.” Another anonymous CFA charterholder on Reddit wrote, “It gives people false hope about getting an amazing job in the financial industry.”

In short, those who have poor opinions of the value of the CFA charter believe it doesn’t deliver on its promises. But is that the right attitude to take?

Interested in more opinions from CFA® charterholders? Download this free Before You Decide to Sit for the CFA Exam eBook.

The Good, the Bad, and the Analysis

CFA Institute has a fact sheet showing that “Chief Level Executive” is one of the top 5 positions held by those with the CFA charter. Therefore, it’s easy to get carried away and picture yourself earning your charter and heading straight to an office in the C-suite. However, although the CFA charter can indeed help you in your career, it’s not the silver bullet for success. You are the secret to your success, and the CFA charter is just one part of that.

In our research and conversations with CFA charterholders over the years, we’ve learned an important fact. Charterholders who landed new finance jobs or moved up in their organizations applied passion, dedication, determination, and other traits to their job search or upward career move. In other words, they didn’t stop working hard after they passed the CFA exams. They also did not set the bar too high in their job search or in their desire for a better position. Instead, they did their homework on the types of jobs where a CFA charter is more likely to be respected and designed a long-term plan for working hard and moving into management.

These successful financial professionals applied for positions or promotions where the charter is seen as advantageous. They used personal contacts, joined a CFA society, and spent a great deal of time networking on social media. They attended events related to their career aspirations to meet possible employers. They sharpened their presentation skills, practiced for interviews, made the case for a better role, and didn’t let themselves get discouraged.

This could be you! Put in your 300 hours of study time for each level, master the concepts and applications, and earn the CFA charter. You will have accomplished something and acquired knowledge that many in finance do not have, and you can go into your job search or apply for a promotion with pride. As Anshu Ranjan Tiwari summed up in a Quora discussion about the value of the CFA charter: “It’s you who are going to create its worth.”

Ready to Tackle the CFA® Exam?

If you’re excited about what the future could hold for you as a CFA charterholder, why not get started today? Find answers to frequently asked questions about the Level I exam here, or explore our study package options.

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