CFA vs. Masters in Finance


The Master in Finance and CFA are often compared so I wanted to post about their differences and pros/cons.

1) MSF programs based of CFA materials

I think this is a great idea and all programs should follow this. The CFA body of knowledge is epic and all encompassing. I mean lets face it, you get a graduate degree in finance you sure as hell better know a lot about finance. For any program just starting out or those programs doing well, having the CFA as a guiding light is great.

When someone is looking at potential MSF programs I think they should be on the lookout for CFA sponsorship, being taught by CFA’s, having the program incorporate CFA materials, etc. This keeps things in depth, but also practical. The MSF used to be a very academic degree and recently it is shaping into more of a practitioners tool.

If your goal is to get a job you want as much practitioner knowledge as possible. Not taking away from academic finance, but I don’t think having a degree primarily focused on that would benefit you as much. At least not at the masters level.

2) CFA vs. MSF: Which is better

The answer is neither is better. I have studied for L1, never finding the time to sit for it. I have many friend who have passed L1 and have taken a couple years to get to L2. Passing all 3 levels and having the appropriate work experience is a daunting affair. It is not for everyone. For those who do it they have now earned a world class designation.

The MSF is one year and covers pieces of all 3 levels of the CFA. It gives you a very in depth overview of finance. It also gives you the schools respective network, a formal degree, time to intern, etc. The negative is you usually have to take time off from work to complete it and it is much more expensive than the CFA would be.

I would have to say the CFA is ideal for individuals looking to continue in their career, to advance in asset management/PWM, etc. The MSF is more broad, more helpful for banking, trading and the like. The CFA is more pure finance while the MSF can lead to a great career at F500 firms which wouldn’t necessarily utilize a CFA.

Now their is a lot of overlap as many of my friends from Villanova have their CFA or various levels complete so I am not advocating one over the other. Simply stating that comparing and trying to find a winner is unfair and futile. I think they are both great. Honestly, I am happy that the CFA and MSF get compared so much. It is great company to be in.


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