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Should You Self-Fund Your CFA?

3 Oct 2013

The Internet is awash with articles recommending financial services professional to gain their CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) to get ahead in their career, however with it taking around 300 hours of study time and costing several thousand pounds, do you really need a CFA to progress in finance?

What is a CFA?

A CFA is a prerequisite for front office advisory roles in the financial services sector. There are three levels to becoming a full CFA, with a rigorous exam process that takes six months to prepare for. It’s a gruelling process with a successful completion rate of less than 30%.

CFA’s are designed for those that have financial services experience, providing the ability to study for the accreditation whilst working. Finding the time to dedicate to study when maintaining a career can be hard, however it can definitely be the right decision for those looking to specialise in the public markets.

Career Benefits

Those that are looking to follow a specific career path within public office financial services will benefit from the CFA, career paths that can benefits from the programme include:

  • Investment Analysts
  • Asset Managers
  • Equity Researchers
  • Financial Advisors and Planners

A CFA can act as a good link for generalist accountancy and finance professionals to move into the specific investment-banking world.


Those that pass their CFA typically earn 50% more than investment professionals who are not chartered.

This has led individuals weighing up the cost benefit and choosing to self-fund their CFA studies. This lack of vision creates the risk of ignoring career objectives, coupled with the fact that there is no guarantee of a job offer after the course. Essentially, a CFA will not give your career direction of you are unsure of where you want to specialise.

I definitely do not recommend my candidates to study for their CFA if they have less than two years’ general experience or if they are looking to jump start their career, particularly when they are planning to self-fund the programme in order to leap frog other jobseekers for prestigious positions. If your role requires you to have a CFA through either external or internal regulations then your company should and will pay for the cost and give you study time.

What Employers Want

Having a CFA can move your CV into the right pile, showing determination to succeed in a career within an investment manager, however there is a great degree of risk for the inexperienced finance professionals investing in something that isn’t going to guarantee them their dream job, let alone riches and glory.

For instance, many of my clients are prioritising CVs with commercial experience over an abundance of academic achievements. Candidates that are able to showcase a wealth of experience will be offered the role and will also be offered the training and courses relevant to the role as part of their CPD (continuous personal development).

Before throwing yourself into a CFA, it’s worth asking yourself what a CFA is worth to you. Is it to add value to your finance career, or simply to push past others in the job market? If it’s the latter, then there’s a risk the cost of the course will significantly outweigh the benefits of having a CFA.

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