Mission Admission: Is the CFA a Help or a Hindrance?

Mission Admission is a series of MBA admission tips; a new one is posted each Tuesday.

These days, many in the financial industry take the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) study program to bolster their credentials and become more attractive to employers. Some candidates with the CFA designation subsequently worry that it undermines their need for an MBA and that the admissions committee will question their candidacy. Well, worry not.

One thing to keep in mind is that the CFA is a narrowly focused program. It teaches finance, accounting and economics, but it does not teach marketing, strategy, entrepreneurship and other such areas typically included in an MBA curriculum. So, your need for a broad general management education should still be evident if you were to move outside the financial field. Further, even if you were to return to finance, you could still benefit from specialized academic courses that the CFA does not offer (for example, a class in “Emerging Market Private Equity”). In addition, the CFA does not offer experiential opportunities that add value, such as speakers and internships. So, in short, the MBA admissions committees understand that candidates with their CFA have more to learn and experience after earning their charter.

In fact, far from being a negative, the CFA is actually a positive—the designation suggests that you are independently motivated and dedicated to learning, and that you have core competencies that will allow you to manage the MBA curriculum. Further, especially during an economic downturn, your CFA designation shows that you have achieved a certain standard, one that gives you an edge with many employers. So, is the CFA a help or a hindrance? We would say it definitely helps…

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