Now That I Passed the Whole CFA Program: Is it Worth the Effort?

If you are working in finance and have friends/colleague who did CFA level 3 exam last June, there is a good chance that you have seen them posting their exam result today, usually stating that they passed the whole CFA program after years of effort. I am happy for those who managed to pass the exam, which I think shows dedication and continuous learning process, even after graduating from university. From an outsider perspective, with so many people posting their celebration at the same time, it is easy to think that it was an easy thing to do. But I could assure you that behind every of those post, there are unique stories to be told, frustration to be shared and hope to spread. This post is my humble story, progressing from a person who was unable to understand “Time Value of Money” concept three years ago, to a person who could recall Black-Scholes formula while dreaming today.

My Story

Let me start the story by going back to May 2015 (3 years and 3 months ago), the day I decided to quit from medical school in Indonesia and start my journey in the finance world. It was the fifth month I was working in the hospital and just the beginning of rotation in the internal medicine department, after successfully completing my rotation in the neurology and oral health department. I was having a burnout, unhappy and wondered if I was doing what I want to do for the rest of my life (if you have to ask this question, the answer is probably a no). Also, I had not been actively trading/managing my family equity portfolio since entering the hospital, something that I love doing since 2012. After three days of life planning, talking to my parents and friends, I firmly gave my resignation letter to the head of the department, and so began the new phase of my life.

Well, if you are in a major career change from xxxxx to business/finance, guess what people suggest. Of course, the rational option is to either take the MBA or the CFA program. And that is exactly what I did. Three months after my resignation I joined a business school for its Master of Management program with specialization in Applied Finance, after enrolling in the statistics and corporate finance course, I already knew that this is what interests me. I love solving quantitative problems so much that I took the CFA level 1 exam in June the next year.

2015 Aug – Enroll in Master of Management program (Binus Business School)

2016 Jun – CFA level 1 exam

2016 Nov – FRM level 1 exam

2017 Apr – FRM level 2 exam, finish M.M program, obtained Financial Modeling designation

2017 June – CFA level 2 exam

2017 Jul – Enrolled in Master in Finance program (McGill University)

2018 Jun – CFA level 3 exam, finish M.Fin program

However, it is not without sacrifice that I sailed through this journey, I had to forgo the time for me to relax, meet my friends, or even the luxury of sleeping well. The last three years have been a very difficult time for me personally, not only I have to proof myself that my decision to quit from medical school was a prudent one, but I also have to keep moving toward my goal of working in the finance industry in U.S. I would bring a schweser note anywhere I went and read through couple pages while waiting for something, either it is for a food when eating out or waiting for my professor to consult on my thesis, On average, I did 20 hours of study each week for 3 years to pass these exams.

It is a truly humbling experience to be considered as failing in one subject (to be a doctor, in my case) and having the pressure to proof myself that I could be successful at another subject. This might be the reason I have been pushing myself to the limit, whether in my study, following every major development happening in the world, or trading on my personal account. In my previous role, people could potentially die or become disabled if I do a fatal mistake (or if I study just to pass the exam). Today, I still like to think the same way (think of managing pensioner’s defined benefit plan).

Was it Worth It?

One thousand days since I quit medical school, I am not the person I used to be known as anymore. I went from zero to hero in terms of finance knowledge education, moved to Canada and employed as a research analyst in a macro-boutique firm. How much of this is attributed to my status as CFA candidate? A fair portion, I would say. Would I be in the equivalent or better position without doing the CFA program? In my thinking, it is unlikely to be the case.

As stupid as it may sound, having passed the level 1 exam helps me get into the Master in Finance program at McGill University, which opens my door to the possibility of working in Canada. And passing the level 2 also helps me got my current role after graduation. As you can see, the options I have are very dependent on the previous steps I took, this concept applies in life generally. That is the major reason I have to give major credit to the CFA program in opening the doors for me to explore better opportunities in the world of finance.

I think this is why the program is popular among finance people in the first place, as it tests not only the financial knowledge of the candidate, but also the work ethics and ability to manage time and stress. Going forward, I would still expect a significant growth in the candidacy and may be the decrease in relative value of an employee with and without CFA charterholder (as the number of charterholder increases), but nevertheless I believe in the future, the CFA program will still create competitive advantage for finance professionals and benefit the society as a whole.

And when you study to learn, not to pass the exam, the result speaks for itself.

CFA Level 1 Result


CFA Level 2 Result


CFA Level 3 Result




About Journeyman

A global macro analyst with over four years experience in the financial market, the author began his career as an equity analyst before transitioning to macro research focusing on Emerging Markets at a well-known independent research firm. He read voraciously, spending most of his free time following The Economist magazine and reading topics on finance and self-improvement. When off duty, he works part-time for Getty Images, taking pictures from all over the globe. To date, he has over 1200 pictures over 35 countries being sold through the company.
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