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Making Money CFA with a poli sci degree?
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Sonsowey Offline
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Post: #1
CFA with a poli sci degree?
I'm probably a typical case of smart kid who didn't fully apply himself in school.

I got a poli-sci degree, because it was interesting to me, and now work in a non-profit making a meh salary.

I have several friends who went into finance, and have all commented to me that basically, they feel like I have the brain for finance, and could easily be doing it.

Does anyone here have experience taking the CFA and applying to jobs in finance without any previous experience in the field?

I have heard they look for serious indicators of interest, like being the president of some financial organization or managing a portfolio independently. I have done none of this. I basically have come to a point where I am unhappy with my current career, and figure, hell, I could be just as unhappy making substantially more money, so why not actually apply myself and get this done.

However, I would love some perspectives from someone who switched to finance from a non-finance background.

01-05-2013 04:15 AM
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cibo Offline

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Post: #2
RE: CFA with a poli sci degree?
Here's the thing about the CFA, it's a bitch to study for and not worth the time.
Quote:1. The CFA

I must get more comments about the CFA than any other topic (yes, even you, models and bottles).

There are hundreds of reasons the CFA (any level) is a waste of time for getting into investment banking (note those highlighted words carefully, and read to the end of these points before leaving an angry comment), but here are the top 3:

a. It’s not necessary for advancement and the majority of investment bankers don’t even have it.

If you want to be a portfolio manager, go ahead… but for the rest of us it’s marginally helpful at best.

b. Studying for the exam requires an obscene amount of time – almost 1,000 hours according to the website.

Think about how much networking you could do in that same amount of time: let’s assume 900 hours of study time for the CFA (300 hours per level).

Assuming you can plan and conduct 1 informational interview in 1 hour total, that’s nine hundred new contacts.

Which do you think will be more useful: a single line at the bottom of your resume, or almost 1,000 people who can help you get interviews?

c. There’s almost no correlation between the CFA and what you actually do as an investment banking or private equity Analyst / Associate.

Last time I checked, the CFA curriculum did not cover administrative work, due diligence, pitch books, and the financial modeling specific to banking.

Please, no more email or comments on the CFA. Use those 900 hours and do some networking, learn another language, or go on a trip around the world – any of those would be more helpful for getting into finance.

Clarifications to the Statements Above: In some situations and geographies the CFA can be useful – for a full discussion, please read this newsletter article on the pros and cons and when you should think about the CFA.

The reason why I made such strong statements above is this: most comments and questions I get on the CFA are coming from people with low grades at lesser-known schools with no experience who think that the CFA will magically get them into Goldman Sachs investment banking.

It won’t.

It may help, and it is certainly more useful in other fields such as equity research, portfolio management, and (some) hedge funds, but it will not “replace” low grades or limited work experience.

Here’s more on degrees and certifications in investment banking.

Let me start off saying I dont work in finance. But i am very knowledge about the field given that I have many friends in fiance and the requirements for consulting are pretty much in line with finance. I am also a undergrad liberal arts major.

You're a fairly standard case study. You learned about finance after undergrad in something unrelated to finance. You need to demonstrate you can handle the work in finance. This means its about establishing your ability and desire for finance.

Ability is a function of:
a) your major
b) your school
c) work experience
d) your personality

While desire is:
a) your interests
b) your personality
c) if investment banking, can handle 100 hour weeks

Start off by getting an internship in finance no matter what your educational background is. They're pretty competitive sometimes so you might even need to go for an unpaid. However, I never worked an internship i wasn't paid because it says something about my worth and I thought that shit was exploitation. You can also look at related fields too but its better to be closer to your actual desired field.

If you have a good school, you get more leniency in your major which is why you see kids from the top ivies getting interviews with degrees in finger painting.

If you can't get an internship in finance, you could think about getting a masters in finance since that can deal with the issue of school and/or major. Be careful to not just be chasing degrees since thats what gets people in debt in the first place. You should really be sure if a masters is necessary. For a poli-sci, it demonstrates 1) interest in finance, 2) you have the baseline skills to do the job.

If you can show/learn those traits other way, more power to you. I recommend checking out the free online course options, coursea, mit opencourseware, hardvard-something, etc in those areas. I used those sources when I was doing my masters in a statistical/applied math field (my masters is distinct to my school and I'd rather not say).

Also the most important skill you should be working on at any level of education or employment is networking aka sales/business gaming. If you put the time in and just pound the pavement, you can potentially overcome nearly any background. It's just about how much you want it and how much effort is necessary. The amount of networking needed depends on how bad you look.

Useful links.
(This post was last modified: 01-05-2013 05:18 AM by cibo.)
01-05-2013 05:16 AM
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maestrobaires Offline

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Post: #3
RE: CFA with a poli sci degree?
it's very very tough and not sure if worth the hassle. lots ol hardcore maths too
01-05-2013 10:11 AM
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Post: #4
RE: CFA with a poli sci degree?
A CFA is a gateway to world travel and making money at the same time. Yeah it takes alot of hours to get to the level III. But it is far less money then getting a MBA and also is done in 3 years of study as opposed to 4 to get a relevant finance degree, or the total of 5-7 years to achieve degree and MBA.

These guys that talk about hustling and get out and networking are nothing more than glorified salesmen. They have finance degrees and are happy to party it up with clients and not move up in the world. Yes guys with drive and smarts with a finance degree can go to the top of the bank, but not very likely. If you get into finance why wouldn't you want to be a Portfolio Manager and work for yourself ? Why work the 80 hours a week at the bank ? Where you have the potential to be laid off every bad quarter.

With no background in finance what so ever it would be hard to land a job at a bank. Banks will take guys no questions asked like me with an engineering background or some other technical degree such a computer sciences. I am not sure about a poly sci degree.

My advice is stick with your job, study your ass off over the next couple years, get your designation and then live it up the rest of your life. I have 3 friends with CFA's, one doesn't even have a degree. Between the 3 of them they have lived all over the world. You can work anywhere there is a bank and investments that need to be made.


Canada, where the women wear pants and the men wear skinny jeans
01-05-2013 02:34 PM
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Post: #5
RE: CFA with a poli sci degree?
There is also a guy here who works on wallstreet and has his own blog. Check it out I think they touch on the subject.


Canada, where the women wear pants and the men wear skinny jeans
01-05-2013 02:35 PM
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Lou pai Offline

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Post: #6
RE: CFA with a poli sci degree?
The CFA is usefully for asset management but its not geared towards investment banking/private equity. So you have to decide which area you would like to work in. Also if you are doing finance just for the money it is going to be soul crushing, 100 weeks are common and will never have any time to spend that salary. Also while the money is still good its not 2007 money, more of your compensation is tied to performance. Most people in finance actually real love what they do that is why they can work those long hours. I passed level 1 of the CFA and will hopefully be able to pass all 3 levels and it gets you respect but you need experience first. I would reach out to your friends/alumni and network like crazy to get a job/internship.
01-05-2013 02:38 PM
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Blackmagic Offline

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Post: #7
RE: CFA with a poli sci degree?
As others have noted, the CFA is most useful in an asset/portfolio manager position, so if that is not your end goal, it will be a waste of time. I have an economics degree and sat for level 1 back in '07 and failed miserably. My goal was to work with commercial real estate portfolios, as they were hot asset class at the time. Well, not too long after I failed that test, the credit crunch took hold and many real estate funds went down while some are barely still treading water today. The test is heavy on accounting--which I hate--and very light on alternative asset classes such as real estate, commodities, etc.

You sound like you may have limited knowledge of what you want to pursue, so my advice would be to find something in the business development side of the finance world to get your feet wet and make sure you want to even do this long term before wasting time and a $1k to register for level 1, get study materials, etc. If you have some personality, you should be able to get a financial advisor training position at your local Morgan Stanley or Merrill Lynch--don't get coaxed by recruiters into going with New York Life, MetLife, or a similar insurance company fronting for an investment shop. If you live in a metro area, there should be 15-20 branches that you can work out of. Learn what you can about the finance industry from the older guys in your office if any of them take a liking to you. I won't lie, those places are a grind and it is unlikely that a guy under the age of 30 will survive more than a year without some combination of crazy work ethic, luck, and a fairly strong network of upper middle class/upper class contacts.

At the Merrill Lynch's and Morgan Stanley's of the world, at least once a week, they have wholesalers come in from different mutual funds/insurance companies pushing their company's products. THOSE WHOLESALERS ARE PEOPLE YOU DEFINITELY WANT TO NETWORK WITH. Basically, they are the pharmaceutical salesmen of the financial world and make anywhere from $100k to $750k per year depending on how great their product/fund is. The entry point for that job is an internal wholesaler position (my last corporate job) and those guys make anywhere from $45k-$90k. Ask the wholesalers that visit your branch if they have any internal sales desk openings. There is a heavy concentration of these types of jobs in New York, Boston, Chicago, and LA, so if you're in one of those cities, that is a great option. If you're not in one of those cities, the jobs can be had but are a little harder to find as they usually operate of the home office of the mutual fund/insurance company. The time to go from internal wholesaler to external wholesaler is anywhere from 2-5 years.

So yea, my advice would be to get one of those financial advisor gigs because it is pretty easy to get hired if you're personable, have good credit, and aren't afraid of hard work. From there, you find out if you have the chops to do something else in the financial world while getting paid. Plus, it will give you some background so that if you do choose to take the CFA, some of the concepts won't seem so foreign to you.
01-05-2013 03:20 PM
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pobreinvestidor Offline

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Post: #8
RE: CFA with a poli sci degree?
Executive summary:
- Helpful if you want to follow the equity research/portfolio management path

- The exam involves some accounting and some math. Neither have very challenging material but there are trick areas for someone new to it, specially because it is a self-study program

- It will take a long time (4 years minimum)

- Most of the cost of completing the program is time value as the $ cost for registration and books are relatively cheap
01-05-2013 06:35 PM
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presidentcarter Offline
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Post: #9
RE: CFA with a poli sci degree?
I'm considering taking the plunge and taking the test this June. I blew $1k on Manhattan GMAT test prep stuff last year around this time and eventually decided an MBA wasn't a good choice for I want to pursue private wealth (CFA better for) and not continue in investment banking (which MBA would be better for).

Everyone I know that has done it acts like you shouldn't do it. It's like they regret wasting that much of their time even if it's a great credential or as if they don't want you to achieve something they did.

"'s the quiet's for someone who's been through the struggle and come out on the other side smelling like money and pussy."

"put her in the taxi, put her number in the trash can"
01-22-2013 01:03 PM
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