Why CFA is the gateway to cracking IIMs and top universities abroad

“It is not hard to get into IIM, is it?” Said no one ever. 

There isn’t one student who harbors any delusions about the amount of effort it takes to get into a top-tier B-school like IIM in India or a high-end MBA program abroad. It is not uncommon for candidates to develop cold feet, perspire excessively or suddenly turn religious during the application process. Rumour has it that many bald candidates used to possess a full head of hair before sitting the entrance exam. 

We may have exaggerated a bit, but make no mistake about this. If you want to apply to the IIMs or foreign MBA colleges, you have your work cut out for you. The competition is stiff, the pressure is intense and your parents are probably breathing down your neck at every turn. 

You will need grit, determination and hard work to get into the prestigious business university of your choice. If you are searching for an advantage in your favour, a CFA certification might do the trick.

The chartered financial analyst (CFA) course is rapidly gaining a cult-like status among students. After all, it is a revered qualification that offers incredible career opportunities. It can also get you on that much-desired MBA shortlist. 

Here are some reasons why a CFA can help you crack into IIM or top universities abroad: 

  1. The CFA course is globally recognized and revered

The MBA admission process is highly competitive. Competent students from all over the country, and even the world, are vying for a limited number of seats. Your application instantly moves a couple of rungs above the others if you have cleared at least CFA 1 level. The more levels you finish, the greater your edge over the other students. Most universities don’t have more than a few minutes to go through each documentation. A quick scan will reveal you are a CFA holder, improving your chances of securing admission. 

  1. You are eligible for waivers, exemptions and credits

Many colleges in India and abroad recognize the CFA course as an illustrious financial credential. Colleges in the USA, UK, Canada and Australia offer many benefits to the certificate holders. You may be eligible to waive off entrance exams such as GRE and GMAT. Or, you could receive an exemption on one or more papers. Some universities also provide credits for their MBA course, depending on if you have completed CFA levels 1, 2 and 3. For instance, the Ivy League university Cornell offers 15 credits to CFA charter holders and a waiver of the NCC-5000 course to students who have finished level 2. 

Universities that offer special benefits for CFA students 

University  Country Exemptions/waivers/credits
University of Melbourne Australia  CFA charter holders can be exempted from GRE/GMAT entrance exams 
Griffith University  Australia  Level 1 holders are exempt from GRE/GMAT exams They don’t need an undergraduate degree in financeThey are eligible for 40 credits in the Master of Finance program 
Macquarie University Australia  Completing any or all of the three levels will grant you course waiversA level 3 certification is considered equal to a bachelor’s degree in a relevant streamA level 1 or 2 certification along with a bachelor’s degree in an irrelevant stream will be classified as a relevant degree
University of Toronto St George Canada  Students who have passed the CFA Level 3 are exempt from GMAT exams
Wilfrid Laurier University Canada Level 1 certificate holders are exempt from GRE/GMAT tests
Queen’s University  Canada CFA level 1-certified students don’t have to sit for the GMAT
York University  Canada Level 1 holders are exempt from GRE/GMAT tests
University of Regina  Canada CFA charter holders receive up to 9 credit hours of advanced standing
Concordia College Canada  Students who completed CFA level 1 don’t have to give the GMAT exams 
London Business School  United Kingdom CFA level 2 holders don’t need GMAT/GRE scores for Masters in Finance program 
Lancaster University  United Kingdom Students applying for the Advanced Financial Analysis program should have completed or registered for CFA Level 1 
University of London  United Kingdom  CFA holders of any level are eligible for course credits
Cornell University  USA CFA level 2 students are exempt from the NCC-5000 course in the MBA program 
Dartmouth College USA Charter holders are exempt from the financial core requirement of the MBA course
Boston University  USA  Charter holders can choose to omit any 2 courses out of ten in the financial management program
Boston College USA CFA charter holders receive certain waivers from the MBA course
Creighton University USA Students who have done any of the CFA levels are exempt from the GMAT exam 
Duke University USA Level 3 holders are exempt from one of the courses
Sacred Heart University  USA No GMAT score needed for charter holders
Drexel University  USA Charter holders get a waiver of up to ten credits prior to matriculation 
Loyola University Chicago  USA  Applicants for the Quinlan School of Business are exempt from GRE/GMAT if they are charter holders
Emory University  USA Charter holders don’t need the GMAT/GRE requirement 
John Hopkins University USA Charter holders don’t need to give the GMAT/GRE 
Texas Christian University  USA Charter holders are exempt from taking the GRE/GMAT
Texas A & M USA CFA level 1 students are exempted from two courses
Seattle University  USA No GMAT/GRE required for charter holders
University of California, Berkeley  USA Students done with CFA level 3 are exempt from 2 courses 
Seton Hall University USA Charter holders don’t need to give the GMAT/GRE 
University of Connecticut  USA  Charter holders don’t need the GMAT/GRE requirement 
University of Iowa USA CFA level 1 holders may be eligible to waive core courses in the Master of Finance core program
University of California, Los Angeles USA  Charter holders are exempt from the Mgmt 408 Financial Markets course
University of Kentucky USA Charter holders are exempt from taking the GRE/GMAT
University of Massachusetts USA Charter holders don’t need to give the GMAT/GRE 
University of North Carolina, Wilmington USA CFA Level 1 students can waive the GMAT/GRE requirement for the Finance and Investment Management program
University of Notre Dame USA Charter holders receive course wavers 
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill USA Charter holders applying for the EMBA program can waive the GMAT/GRE requirement
University of South Florida USA  No GMAT/GRE required for charter holders
University of Rhode Island USA Level 2 students are exempt from taking the GMAT 
University of Tampa USA  No GMAT needed for CFA level 1-certified students 
University of Virginia USA Charter holders don’t need the GRE/GMAT requirements
Frankfurt School of Finance and Management Germany CFA Level 1 students are exempt from one elective course in the Master of Finance program
American University in Cairo Egypt Level 1 and 2 students can omit the Finance 540 and Accounting 5201 courses in the Finance Policies and Regulations program
China Europe International Business school China  Level 3-certified students can apply for the FMBA-CFA Scholarship 
University College Cork  Ireland CFA charter holders can waive 10 credits off the required amount in the AC6120 Professional Examination Report module
Grenoble École de Management France  CFA level 1 students are exempt from the GMAT/GRE tests for the Finance Program
Universidad de Valencia Spain  Charter holders can waive the first year of the Masters in Banking and Quantitative Finance program
Universidad Complutense de Madrid Spain Charter holders can waive the first year of the Masters in Banking and Quantitative Finance program
IE Business school  Spain  Students who have cleared CFA level 1 and level 2 are exempt from the GRE/GMAT exams when applying for a Master in Finance and a Master in Advanced Finance respectively
Universidad de Castilla la Mancha Spain  Charter holders can waive the first year of the Masters in Banking and Quantitative Finance program
EADA Business School Spain Level 1 students are exempt from the GMAT/EADA entrance exam when applying for the International Master in Finance program
Universidad del País Vasco Spain  Charter holders can waive the first year of the Masters in Banking and Quantitative Finance program

If you are applying to IIM, there is an advantage here as well. The institution creates a shortlist based on an aggregate index score (AIS). Seven factors within this index have specific criteria for scoring. One of them is the PGP-F Suitability Score, where if you are a CFA holder, you can earn points towards your total AIS. 

  • CFA level 1 gets awarded 2 marks
  • Level 2 carries 6 
  • Level 3 receives a maximum of 15
  1. Many of the best IIMs in India are associated with the CFA institute 

Colleges such as IIM Bangalore, IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Nagpur, IIM Amritsar, IIM Vizag, IIM Rohtak and IIM Indore have joined the CFA Institute University Affiliation Program. This implies that both institutions have similarities in their syllabi and training in investment management. These two programs are closely linked. Together they offer students a well-rounded, in-depth financial education. 

  1. You will sound well educated in your interview 

Admission interviews can be a harrowing process. You never know what might be asked. As a certified student, your core financial concepts are rock solid. You can showcase your knowledge and convince the authorities that you are more than capable of doing well in the MBA program. As the CFA and IIM courses will have overlapping topics, you can show off your high level of proficiency. 

  1. Your chances of getting high-end placements are better 

Every MBA college likes to boast about its high campus recruitment rates. They often compete with each other over record starting salaries for their graduates. Whether the institution is IIM Bangalore or Wharton from the University of Pennsylvania, they compete similarly. Hiring companies look for recruits who have a deep understanding of economics and a solid foundation in finance. You fulfill the required criteria if you have a CFA certificate with your MBA. Recruiters also want top scorers to join their company. A CFA course will make the MBA program easier to tackle and achieve higher grades, whether you are a charter holder or have done CFA level 1, 2 or 3.

  1. A CFA certificate shows you mean business 

Many students stop studying after one post-graduate course or diploma. A lot of them can’t take the pressure of advanced academics. A CFA on your resume will reflect that you are not one of them. The course has a rigorous and intense curriculum and MBA universities know this. It shows them that you are well equipped to handle the strain and grind that comes with these high-intensity programs. 

Advantages of having a CFA and an MBA 

  • There are no gaps in your finance education 

Between the two programs, all the important subjects are covered. This makes you a specialist in your field. 

  • Recruiters are more interested in you

MBA students who have a CFA certification are most likely to bag high-ranking campus placements from top-tier financial companies 

  • You are likely to score high in your MBA exams

After completing the rigorous CFA papers, you are ready to take the MBA exams. There are some overlapping topics between the courses, making your study load lighter. These two reasons will help you get a good grade or rank on your MBA tests.

  • You become a strong contender for core finance-related jobs 

The CFA adds more weightage to an MBA finance degree as the latter lacks the intense financial training the former course offers. The two programs balance each other to mould you into an all-rounder in the industry. When you have two advanced finance courses on your resume, you are more likely to bag the jobs that need a good blend of a strong financial mind and a competent management professional. Also, most CFOs in the future will boast of being CFA and MBA holders.

  • You can negotiate a higher salary than lesser qualified peers 

The above reasons are enough to price yourself a bit higher than your contemporaries who lack similar qualifications. You are far more knowledgeable and skilled, so you might not need as much on-the-job training as the others. 

  • You are hireable in over 165 countries 

The CFA institute is prevalent across the world. Are you interested in migrating? Did you find an exciting opportunity in a foreign financial company? A CFA plus an MBA listed on your resume will help you achieve your goals. 

In conclusion 

There are so many bonuses that come with a CFA. Whether you plan to give your IIM CAT exams or apply for an MBA in foreign countries, you are already ahead of your competition. The CFA course gives you the theoretical knowledge, real-world understanding and financial skills to excel in your field. It also makes the path to your MBA a lot smoother. Once you have both qualifications, you will be unstoppable in your career.

Ready to boost your chances of getting into top MBA colleges with a CFA charter? Check out Proschool’s CFA Course here.