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Debate: Does Having your CFA Demonstrate Academic Ability?

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The answer for many of you, especially CFA charterholders, will unequivocally be yes. Yes, it’s a grueling process; those who don’t have academic skill couldn’t do it. Yes, many don’t pass the first time around; (remember, the 10-year average pass rates for Level I, II, and III are 39%, 44%, and 59%) those without persistence, skill, and some degree of intelligence wouldn’t make it. Yes, many professors of finance and related fields have CFAs, so CFAs are clearly represented in the academic field. But, does that really mean that having your CFA is a demonstration of your academic ability?

Yes, of course!

But, despite the days, weeks, and months of preparation—when and where is that well-deserved CFA, perhaps, irrelevant? Well, sadly, in an MBA application. According to one video released by “BeatthatGMAT,” the MBA Social Network, if CFA charterholders subsequently decide to pursue an MBA, their CFA designation matters not.

Before you get upset, the argument is made that, rather than an academic accomplishment, the CFA (along with operational certifications, e.g., the Six Sigma Black Belt) is “viewed as a professional accomplishment.” The speaker does not downplay the achievement, but suggests merely that it is not relevant with regard to an MBA application. But is that true?

Academic ability is roughly defined as the measure of competence to perform in educational activities…like the CFA exams, perhaps? How could the studying and test taking not be a measurement of academic accomplishment and/or ability? For those of you with CFA designations, preparing to take CFA exams, or in the process of taking CFA exams, you know that the three years the designation takes are very trying, and often discouraging—therefore its passing should be a clear measurement of academic accomplishment.

So, we asked our social media audience for their opinions. And, not surprisingly, 82% of you said it’s both. As one commenter put it: “… with out the former [academic ability] nobody can become a true professional, but a pseudo!” So, we defer to you—the audience. What do you think: is having your CFA an academic or professional accomplishment, and therein, a measurement of either your academic or professional ability? Are there times that your CFA is not applicable in the field? Do you have any experiences? Share them here.

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