The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation—a grueling, three-year financial program that hundreds of thousands of people pursue each year—covers many of the subjects included in a “typical” first-year MBA curriculum. A CFA aspirant must study basic economics, accounting, finance, and quantitative analysis—areas that echo aspects of many first-year MBA core curricula. So would working toward a CFA designation actually negatively affect an MBA applicant’s candidacy by suggesting that he/she already has the tools and MBA education would provide and that additional studies would therefore be superfluous? Definitely not!
Pursuing a CFA designation is not at all a negative, and in fact reflects positively on the applicant in that the effort emphasizes his/her abilities to manage a rigorous MBA curriculum and establishes the candidate as a self-starter and a disciplined individual (given that CFA study is intense and requires several months of sustained study for each level). Furthermore, from an admissions perspective, admissions officers want to know that they are admitting individuals who are employable; the CFA charter holder has an advantage in the post-MBA recruiting world, because employers can point to the designation as a differentiator among otherwise indistinguishable applicants.
The CFA can also be a useful marketing tool for candidates to help them during the admissions process. Because the CFA narrowly focuses on financial tools, it does not cover a myriad of other subjects the MBA does address and that are useful to financial professionals, including marketing, operations, international business, human resource management, and entrepreneurship. The CFA is an independent and largely quantitative program and thus cannot provide the elements that the MBA offers through discussion, debate, and measuring qualitative information in decision making.
Together, the CFA designation and the MBA degree are a powerful one-two punch that can be advantageous in both gaining admission to business school and to landing that coveted post-MBA position.