Posted By: Kaplan Schweser
Updated: August 11, 2020
After months of studying, reviewing, hard work, and probably some nervousness, you’ve passed Level I of the CFA® exam. Now that you’ve conquered this first milestone, you might be wondering if it can help you in your career. If you’re in the final year of earning your bachelor’s degree, perhaps you’re wondering if passing Level I can open doors for you in your job search. Or, if you’re already working in finance, maybe you think it could help you get a better role. This article has the answers for you.
In 2016, an online job search company, eFinancialCareers, analyzed the resumes in their database to see what job roles candidates who had passed the different levels of the CFA exam held. Despite the fact that 37% of the resumes were not specific enough to make a determination of the role, they were able to identify ten roles. Here are their top five findings:
Based on these numbers, if you’ve passed Level I, the job roles most likely available to you are are intern, accountant or assistant accounting manager, investment administrator, fund analyst, investment product analyst, and junior equity research analyst (which is often the first step toward getting into asset management as a career).
Before you start envisioning your new career as an asset manager or risk manager because of your Level I credentials, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Yes, those job prospects look good, especially if you don’t have one yet. But the problem with them is that there is no information in the statistics that shows whether passing Level 1 of the CFA exam made any impact during the hiring. And if you search forums like analystforum.com, Quora, and Reddit to learn whether passing Level I helped anyone get a job, you’ll get a mixed bag of responses.
Some will declare that passing it won’t help you at all. Others say that it can help you get a good finance job with a competitive salary in some parts of the world, but not everywhere. And, there are still others who say it absolutely helped them in their careers in one of two ways:
Why are there so many different opinions? The answer to that question depends on how the forum posters approached job hunting after they passed. Quite a few job candidates think that passing Level I should be enough to get them their dream job. They’re looking for a shortcut on a career journey that is competitive and requires hard work. They are the ones who will tell you that passing the exam didn’t help. If you take the same approach, you are likely to be disappointed.
Those who say they were able to get a good job at a finance firm after passing Level I had a different view of how to leverage this accomplishment.
Those who have successfully found employment in a finance capacity after passing Level I applied the same determination to their job search as they did to studying and passing. They parlayed the techniques they used to create a study plan, stick to that plan, learn the material, and stay calm on exam day to finding a job.
They networked, used personal contacts, joined a CFA society, spent hours on social media, and attended career fairs. They honed their presentation skills, worked on portraying a specific image or showcasing a specialized skill, and didn’t let themselves get discouraged. With concerted effort, this could be you. You can also use the fact that you passed as a confidence builder when going into an interview. After all, passing Level I means you have a good grasp of basic financial concepts, and that is something for which you can be proud.
The general consensus in blogs and in the forum is that you can only get so far in a finance career if you don’t continue pursuing the CFA charter. In the eFinancialCareers research, the odds of moving up the ladder in asset management firms and corporate banks increased with each level passed, culminating in good prospects for CFA charterholders.
Those who found good entry-level jobs or gained a better position after passing Level I all said that it helped them even more if they showed they were willing to continue pursuing the charter. Some even said that it was better to put that you were a Level II candidate on your resume than to say you passed Level I. They told stories about how firms viewed the fact that they were registered for Level II very positively.
Although being a CFA charterholder doesn’t guarantee you a job, you are much more likely to advance in your career or find the perfect finance job if you’ve earned your charter.
If you’re excited about demonstrating your commitment to earning the CFA charter to a potential or current employer, why not get started today? Find answers to frequently asked questions about the exam here, or explore our study package options.