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09/18/2012

Pursuing the CFA Charter – Candidates’ Perspective


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CFA San Francisco

The first deadline for June 2013 CFA exam registrations is September 19, 2012. But price shouldn’t be the only thing you consider when deciding to enter the CFA Program.

THE RIGHT MOTIVATION

In a recent survey of candidates in San Francisco, almost 65% said that the motivating factor that led them to pursue their charter was a personal career choice. These candidates believe that earning their charter will help them further their career in the finance/investment industry as well as be competitive in the job market. In contrast, no one claimed that they entered the CFA program because their company required it.

Number of Yrs-CFA

Source: CFA San Francisco (CFASF) Review Program June 2012 (257 candidates surveyed).

So it seems that the majority of candidates polled embarked on this Herculean task to continue learning, growing, and succeeding in their given profession. Before hitting the register button, make sure you have examined your true motives. It is a long haul, and if you aren’t in it for the right reason, it could prove to be a very unpleasant one too. As one candidate surveyed said, “Do some soul searching. Make sure you really want it before sacrificing your time.”

Breakdown-CFA


Source: CFA San Francisco (CFASF) Review Program June 2012 (257 candidates surveyed).

TIME: PROBABLY THE MOST CRUCIAL FACTOR

Let’s assume you’ve passed the motivation test. What else should you consider? Have you taken into account the amount of time you have to devote to studying the voluminous amount of material covered in the readings? That was the biggest theme in our survey results. When asked what advice they would give potential candidates, the majority of responses centered on allotting enough (more) time to the study for the exams. Here is a sampling of the answers:

“[I would have] allowed more time to study.”
“I would have started to study earlier, as four months is not enough time.”
“[I would] recommend giving oneself plenty of time to study.”
“Don't do it unless you're ready to commit the time.”
“I would say register but give your self a minimum of six months to study.”

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A number of candidates also pointed out that the required study time increases if you don’t have the proper academic background or work experience. It may seem obvious, but if you’ve never taken an accounting course or if your college economics books haven’t seen daylight in a decade, you should take that into account. This comment summarizes that sentiment: “If [a potential candidate] has no previous finance experience through work or education, I would recommend taking courses in economics and accounting prior to beginning the program.” This may means you may need to postpone entering the program until you’ve brushed up on the fundamentals by taking a community college course.

SO WHAT’S THE TAKE-AWAY?

Do not enter the CFA program without really examining your motives. Are you truly committed and do you have enough time to study for the exam?

But don’t just take it from me. Here’s how one candidate said it: “From my own experience, time and dedication are two single most important factors in passing the test.”

–Linda Lam

Linda Lam is the associate director of the CFA Review Program at the CFA Society of San Francisco.

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