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Exploring 12 CFA Career Paths for Candidates and Charter Holders

Whether you’re currently enrolled in a CFA course, working towards becoming a charter holder, or have recently received your designation, one question that must be on your mind is, “What CFA job opportunities are available to me?” As one of the highest distinctions in the investment management field (if not the absolute apex), the CFA designation opens up a world of possibilities for aspiring and experienced finance professionals. Having passed (or are preparing to face) three levels of rigorous exams in topics like asset valuation, portfolio management, wealth planning, equity investments, economics, ethics and more and completed (or are currently fulfilling) the work experience requirement, you’ve proven yourself to be an expert who possesses the versatility of skills and knowledge to excel in any financial position. And employers know it. So, what kind of CFA work awaits you on the other side? Let’s explore 12 potential roles you can pursue as a candidate or charter holder. We’ll divide them into three primary categories geared toward the interests and strengths of different types of financial professionals.

1. Transaction-Centric CFA Career Paths

In this class of careers for CFA holders, you’ll need a firm grasp of financial markets and exchanges, portfolio management and transaction execution and the different types of assets and investment vehicles. These roles include:
  • Investment Banker

    Investment bankers are invaluable professionals to startups, corporations and even governments. They apply their finance industry expertise, analytical skills and top-notch persuasive techniques to help clients with high-stakes decisions related to capital raising, mergers and acquisitions, bond issuance and pricing, debt and equity advisory and more. Despite how intimidating the job description may sound, investment bankers don’t start out working on multibillion-dollar deals. Most of them move up the ladder from roles like financial analysts and associate advisors in investment and commercial banks or private equity or venture capital firms — CFA level 1 jobs, if you will — and work their way up to vice president positions and beyond.
  • Portfolio Manager

    As a core subject in the CFA program, portfolio management is a common position for CFA candidates and charter holders. A portfolio manager’s main responsibilities are to create and manage investment allocations for private clients, be they individuals and families or corporate and institutional clients. Portfolio managers brainstorm and implement investment strategies based on their clients’ risk appetite, time horizon, return expectations and market outlook and help them decide what and when to buy and sell assets to meet their financial goals.
  • Investment Strategist

    Jobs for CFA candidates typically demand a high analytical and quantitative skill set, but not more so than for an investment strategist. They’re macro-market advisors who examine economic indicators (e.g., GDP, currency fluctuation, interest rates, inflation and more) and generate insights for portfolio managers to direct their clients’ investing decisions. Roles in this category can range from high-level executives responsible for outlining overall investment strategies or offering detailed market analysis to specialized research positions in certain products, asset classes or local and regional markets, among other areas.
  • Private Equity Associate

    Private equity firms work to own stakes in companies, primarily private ones, that are ripe for rapid growth or better profitability. They source deals (finding suitable businesses to invest in through networks or brokerages), conduct due diligence on target firms and manage the portfolio of assets — from buying and selling shares to providing financing. A CFA job description for private equity associates usually includes screening for investment opportunities, performing financial modeling and forecasting to assess potential returns and risks, and collaborating with external stakeholders and internal departments to structure, negotiate and close deals.
  • Stockbroker

    As far as careers in CFA go, chances are you’re already familiar with stockbrokers. They’re the ones you spot in movies shouting into telephones, running across trading floors and staring intently at computer screens with graphs and figures. Jokes aside, however, stockbrokers are agents who conduct transactions on behalf of clients in public exchanges, buying and selling securities like stocks, bonds, commodities and derivatives. They can also work in an advisory capacity, counseling clients on how much, when and what to buy or sell based on their current holdings, financial goals and risk tolerance. Although candidates from different backgrounds can enter this field, CFA charter holders will always have an edge due to their rigorous training in market analysis and investment decision-making.
  • Chief Investment Officer

    At the top of the financial management hierarchy, chief investment officers (CIOs) are in charge of devising company-wide investment policies and strategies, establishing processes to make sure they’re followed, communicating them across the organization, forming competent teams, overseeing all the implementation phases, managing relationships with external stakeholders and, ultimately, delivering strong returns. Naturally, such a pivotal role requires not only extensive, broad expertise in finance but also outstanding leadership and communication skills, the kind that comes with years of experience at the helm of many investment management teams.

2. Client-Facing CFA Job Opportunities

You can probably tell by now that many CFA job descriptions include an element of client-facing work. But for the following positions, you’ll really be in the thick of it. As such, in addition to technical skills, you’ll also need to develop and demonstrate a high level of emotional intelligence as well as persuasion, negotiation and interpersonal skills to effectively nurture your clients’ trust and maintain lasting relationships with them.
  • Investment Consultant

    Fund managers, trustees and asset holders can be investment consultants’ clients. They’ll rely on you to guide them through decisions like which asset classes to invest in, how they should be allocated and what regions or markets to focus on to achieve their financial objectives. You might also be tasked with selecting and evaluating external investment managers for your clients.
  • Private Wealth Manager

    Private wealth managers are usually directly responsible for the financial planning and portfolio management of high-net-worth individuals and families, from the ultra-rich to the sufficiently affluent. Apart from standard investment advice, in this line of CFA work, you’ll likely be expected to manage tax, estate and retirement planning, charitable giving, wealth preservation and transfer and other major life events and financial affairs of your clients.
  • Financial Analyst

    A financial analyst role is probably the most general and versatile of all the CFA job opportunities we’ll mention here. These professionals are the go-to’s for any type of data-intensive, mathematically and logically anchored research and analysis tasks in financial services. They work for large enterprises like insurance companies, investment banks, mutual funds, private equity groups, securities firms, and similar organizations. Financial analysts channel their skills into informing and supporting strategic investment decisions by evaluating a business’s financial data, performance metrics and potential risks, preparing models to predict future outcomes and weighing how market conditions will impact profitability.

3. Analytical CFA Work

On the subject of everything mathematical and data-driven, we can’t leave out the CFA career paths for those who love wielding tech tools to derive insights and find patterns to power better decisions, including:
  • Data Scientist

    Data science is one of the most in-demand fields in the world right now (and for the foreseeable future). Data scientists are called upon to channel their proficiency in algorithms, programming and machine learning techniques to analyze massive data sets, predict trends, detect opportunities or anomalies and create visualizations that make complex information accessible to business users. Imagine the possibilities for a candidate who pairs such skills with the knowledge and credentials of a CFA charter holder. You’d be a rare hybrid who can communicate insights in the context of business and strategy like few others can. Some technical skills you’ll need to master for this option, however, include:
    • Programming languages such as Python, R and SQL
    • Data architecture
    • Data modeling and visualization software
    • Machine learning and statistical methods
    • Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Risk Analyst

    All types of businesses face certain risks, but going in blind is never how they want to tackle them. That’s where risk analysts come in. Companies employ these specialists to anticipate and minimize the probability of losses and damage from events like natural disasters, financial risks like credit default and interest rate fluctuation, and operational risks like fraud and human error. The responsibilities a risk analyst usually involve:
    • Investigating, categorizing and measuring the likelihood and severity of risks
    • Recommending policies or controls to prevent or mitigate potential threats
    • Creating summaries, reports or presentations to relay findings and provide recommendations to stakeholders
    • Utilizing tools like risk information management software (RIMS)
  • Forex Trader

    Foreign currency traders (also known as forex traders) are professionals who speculate on the direction of exchange rates between currencies. They take positions in the market, buying one foreign currency and selling another, with hopes of profiting from the waves of fluctuating values. If you were to pursue this career in the CFA track, you could be self-employed or work for hedge funds, brokerages, investment, central or commercial banks and multinational corporations. Either place you land, you’ll need to be comfortable examining large amounts of data and using several qualitative and quantitative analysis tools to forecast currency behavior.

Jumpstart Your CFA Career Today

As comprehensive as our list is, it still only offers a peek into the massive world of CFA job opportunities. To unlock all of these possibilities and more for your future, start preparing for your CFA journey today with Phoenix Financial Training. Contact us to learn more about our packages, extensive study resources, qualified instructors and CFA course fees, and take the first step toward your dream career.

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