For those considering a career in investment, the question of whether to obtain a CFA or Master’s in Finance has always been the great dilemma.
Finding a good job – a job that is highly paid and in an industry offering potential for professional development – has become a really tall order. That’s why many organisations set higher criteria for their employees and started to look for the extra value their future employees might offer.
There’s no argument that additional education provides crucial added value of interest to an employer. This is 100% true, particularly when speaking about the investment sector, which has been seriously hit by the financial crisis. Further education after graduating from university and various postgraduate qualifications have been a prerequisite for career advancement in many investment fields for quite a few years.
Know the difference
For those considering a career in investment, the question of whether to obtain a CFA or Master’s in Finance designation has always arisen. Both have their pluses, as both degrees provide knowledge about the financial industry. However, there is a substantial difference between them. While the Master’s in Finance provides more general knowledge and is better suited for those who practise in more general fields in the business and financial sector, the CFA programme is particularly tailored to those who need more specialised skills, such as investment analysis, portfolio strategy, and asset management.
The Master’s in Finance
The MSF provides a very wide knowledge in every sector related to financial services – commercial banking, corporate finance, financial analysis and personal finances advisory services, insurance, investment banking, money management, property, business consultancy, taxation, risk management, funds management, stock-brokerage services and underwriting.
It is widely known that professionals in the industry have the highest salaries. The programme provides technical skills, improves the critical thinking of its attendees and teaches real business models.
I was a Senior Financial Analyst but wanted to acquire more technical they knew every topic; they used the most current examples; they taught us to analyse the models as tools that might or might not work and that should never be relied on; and they improved our critical thinking skills while incorporating financial knowledge. […] I’m sure that adding WBS to my CV impressed top companies,
says Fernando Castagnolo, risk management analyst with Citigroup, Master’s in Finance from Warwick Business School.
After graduation, I found a job in Equity Research more easily as the Master’s programme prepared me well for it. Having a Master’s in Economics or Finance from a prestigious institution abroad is an advantage when you apply for jobs,
Unlike the Master’s in Finance programme, which covers a broad range of topics, The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) programme focuses specifically on investment knowledge. In addition, the self-study format allows participants in the programme to continue working full-time while earning the designation, thus bridging academic theory, current industry practice, and ethical and professional standards to provide a strong foundation of advanced investment analysis and real-world portfolio management skills.
When I completed my Bachelor’s degree, I decided to start working. After a couple of years, I felt that I needed to continue my education and I was faced with the CFA or Master’s in Finance dilemma. I think both are valuable,
says Maria, Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Mathematics from Vassar College in the U.S. Maria is a CFA Candidate and has already passed Level II of the Chartered Financial Analyst programme.
According to Maria, candidates should first consider their own personal preferences, all the circumstances and of course, their career plans when faced with the CFA or Master’s in Finance dilemma.
Initially, I wanted to apply for a Master’s degree in Finance. However, I had a full-time job that I did not want to quit. Also, the more prestigious Master’s programmes are expensive, and funding was an issue. I believe the CFA designation is as prestigious as a Master’s degree in Finance from a good university but gives you more flexibility. Also, my employers agreed to fund it and I did not have to quit my job,
Employers recognise the CFA charter as a reliable way to differentiate between the most qualified and determined job applicants, frequently listing the Chartered Financial Analyst as a requirement for certain positions.
One day, I am hoping to make a career as an independent analyst. Maybe have my own research company. I believe the CFA designation will show my dedication and will keep me up to date with the good practices of doing financial analysis,
says Maria, who now works in an asset management company.
Proud holders of financial degrees – whether a CFA or Master’s in Finance, are unlikely to be left out of the financial job market. Recent statistics and estimates show that the economies worst hit by the crisis are recovering slightly, while those that have not been that seriously hit are growing continuously although at a slower pace.
According to the Global Market Sentiment Survey 2014 by the CFA Institute, investment professionals are increasingly confident that global and local economies will grow in 2015. This means that there will be need for financial professionals to contribute to and drive growth.
Read more about the CFA in our article CFA vs. MBA