Will passing the extremely laborious CFA Institute exams really make much difference to your finance career? While headhunters are equivocal on the subject, the eFinancialCareers resume database suggests it will - and that the more CFA exams you pass, the more exciting will be the finance jobs on offer to you.
We looked at the CVs uploaded to our resume database in the past year, and identified those belonging to candidates who said they passed CFA I, CFA II, and CFA III and were CFA Charterholders. We then looked at the sectors of the financial services industry they were working in. The results, shown in the chart below, are illuminating.
As the chart shows, the further you progress through the CFA Institute's system of examinations, the greater the likelihood that you'll work in asset management. If you attain the full charter, you'll also be more likely to work in a hedge fund than if you've simply passed CFA Level I (although, perversely, you're more likely to work in hedge funds when you've passed CFA I than CFA II). Conversely, the greater the number of CFA passes you have under your belt, the less likely you are to work in 'accounting and finance', and CFA Charterholders are less prevalent than Level II passers in risk management and corporate banking.
There is one area of finance, however, in which passing any number of CFA exams will make no difference at all: trading. Just 2.3% of people who've passed CFA Level I work in trading jobs - roughly equivalent to the 2.4% of CFA Charterholders on our database who say they're in trading roles.
Based on CVs in our database, these are the job titles typical of CFA roles at each level:
CFA I pass: Company accountant, assistant accounting manager at a Big Four firm, investment administrator, fund analysis, investment product analyst, junior equity research analyst.
CFA II pass: Senior audit associate at Big Four firm, product controller at US investment bank, analyst at US banking boutique.
CFA Charterholder: Portfolio manager, senior portfolio manager, quantitative analyst.