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03/12/2014

The Paths to a Career in Investment Management


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More than one third (37%) of all CFA® Charterholders are portfolio managers or research analysts. The remaining 63% are strewn across a variety of job functions. Before becoming a CFA candidate, check the CFA Institute website to make sure your dream career aligns with the job functions held by current CFA Charterholders.

 If you passed this reality check, then consider the following before registering for the CFA program.
  • Do you have relevant work experience?
  • Do you have a graduate degree in an unrelated field?
  • Did you recently earn your undergraduate degree?

These questions point to three distinct categories of candidates and each suggests a different strategy to a career in investment management. Read on to find out where you fall.

Finance Professionals

Those who answered yes to the first question and who want to further their career should seriously consider earning this prestigious designation. You most likely have the academic training and definitely have the work experience. The CFA designation is perfect for you because earning it shows you have mastered the analytical material. Your work experience proves you can apply this knowledge in the workplace. This is a winning combo in investment management.

Career Changers

Those without the relevant work or academic background are behind the eight ball compared to candidates with practical experience. If your graduate degree is in an unrelated field, it probably isn’t necessary to earn another degree; you’ve already proven your academic prowess. But to get a leg up, consider a finance or investment certificate program. Earning a certificate plus your CFA charter shows potential employers you are serious about pursuing a career in this field.

Just Starting Out

Without relevant work experience or a finance-related graduate degree, you have a lot to prove. The CFA charter alone is not your golden ticket and is probably not the best use of your time and money if it is your only path. Consider earning a masters’ degree designed around the CFA Body of KnowledgeTM (CBOK) plus your CFA charter. Together, the degree and designation provide the one-two punch that demonstrates you have the training necessary to be successful. While not guaranteed, this strategy increases your chances of getting a foot in the investment door. An internship wouldn’t hurt either and being enrolled in a degree program may help you land one.

CFA Program Partners – a resource

CFA Institute describes its Academic Program partners as “high profile universities of global stature that embed a significant percentage of the CFA Program Candidate Body of Knowledge™… into their degree programs.” These institutions offer appropriate masters’ and certificate programs that will help advance your career. The full list, which includes MBA and undergraduate programs, can be found at CFA Program Partners.  

Schools offering specialty graduate masters’ tailored around the CBOK include Baruch College (NYC), Creighton University (Omaha), Fordham University (NYC), Marquette University (Milwaukee), University of Florida (Gainesville), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of San Francisco.

So do you have a better understanding of what you need to do to obtain your dream investment job? Leave your thoughts in the Comments.

–Linda Lam

 Linda Lam is the program manager of the CFA Review Program offered by the University of San Francisco.

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