Guest comment: The CFA charter is the gold standard

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John Bowman, CFA head of educational products tells us why having 'Chartered Financial Analyst' (CFA) after your name will make all the difference to your career.

While supervising the examination in Los Angeles last Saturday, it struck me how much growth the CFA Program has experienced in the last decade. Over 126,000 candidates in more than 145 countries enrolled for the June and December 2006 examinations.

That compares to about 70,000 only six years ago, when I completed the programme. And although those numbers are sizable for any education and credentialing programme, those who pass are decidedly fewer: Historically, only one in five people who enrolls, completes the programme.

With those kinds of odds, the programme has earned a reputation as being one of the most rigorous credentialing programmes in the financial services arena. The media has called it a "gruelling professional exam" (Financial Times, May 2006) and "the gold standard" (The Economist, February 2005).

So why are thousands of professionals around the globe willing to commit to this experience? The answer is simple. Its relevance and substance is like no other.

So what makes the CFA Program so different? First, the curriculum is grounded in practice. It maintains relevance through a regular, extensive survey of investment professionals around the world to determine what topic areas to test on the examinations. Second, it is timely-new curriculum and exams are prepared every year. And third, it is truly global-candidates in Taiwan study the same curriculum and take the same exams as those in Tampa Bay.

CFA vs. MBA?

Many people ask, why not just pursue an MBA? Certainly you should strongly consider the benefits of any postgraduate education. But if you want to focus on finance, you should consider the programme that has a deeper and more focused course of study than the broad-based MBA.

Additionally, the letters "CFA" symbolise commitment, integrity, and an educational aptitude that is clearly recognisable and geographically consistent.

On the other hand, every MBA programme is different; and some are better than others. Furthermore, the cost of the CFA Program is a small fraction of what you would pay for an MBA. The return on investment is therefore significantly higher. And because the CFA Program is self-study, you are able to continue working while pursuing the charter. Many MBA programmes entail a full-time commitment.

Who Hires CFA Charterholders?

· Investment Companies/Mutual Funds 26%

· Broker-Dealer/Investment Banks 18%

· Banks 15%

· Investment Management Counseling Firms 12%

· Consulting Firms 7%

· Insurance Companies 5%

· Pensions and Foundations 3%

· Other (Government/Regulators, Academia, Other) 14%

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