MBA or CFA for a Hedge Fund Job

Those seeking an edge in breaking into a hedge fund job might be wise to pursue the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation over an MBA, according to a recent Businessweek article.

The hedge fund pay might be there but some argue that obtaining the CFA is even tougher than getting an MBA. First off, it’s a self-study program that takes between two to five years to complete. So you need to have the self-motivation and drive to complete it. Plus, you have to pass three 6-hour examinations, and agree to abide by a strict code of ethics and standards of conduct.

However, Thomas Robinson, who heads the education division of the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, the nonprofit organization that awards the CFA designation, says the CFA and MBA may in fact complement one another.

“The CFA is a very specialized credential that focuses really very deeply on 10 investment-related topics. If you want to analyze securities, or if someone wants to specifically work in the investment management area as an analyst or portfolio manager, then the CFA makes a lot of sense and that will get you through the majority of your career,” Robinson said.

“The MBA is more of a generalist designation. You are not able to get as in-depth in the finance topics in an MBA program as in the CFA curriculum. But certainly for those who are in the running for a management position later in their careers, the MBA can be quite useful. I would generally recommend it if you want to work in the investment field and ultimately want to end up in management that you start with your CFA, work for a few years, and then do the MBA.”

The CFA is also much more economical than getting an MBA. You can get through the entire program for roughly $3,000, which is considerably less than the cost of a single course at many MBA programs.

Interest in the CFA designation has grown, according to Robinson, but not as rapidly as in past years. He chalks this up to the cutbacks in the investment industry recently, which have left more industry veterans, those with the most experience (and possibly CFA designations) hunting for job openings. Nevertheless, many candidates look at a CFA as yet another way to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market for hedge fund jobs.

What about you? Would you consider getting a CFA? Do you have it already? Add your comments below.

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