MBA, CFA Get Hitched

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What'll it be - a graduate degree in finance or a CFA charter? A growing number of universities have set out to provide the tools to acquire both.

Around the world, some 41 educational institutions have signed on to a partnership program that the CFA Institute initiated in April 2006. The schools embed in their graduate curricula at least 70 percent of the "body of knowledge" that forms the basis of the three CFA exams, and agree to periodic monitoring by the institute.

The linked curriculum eases the path for students to pursue a CFA charter either during or upon completing graduate study in finance or business. Participating programs within the U.S. include those of Boston University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Georgia Tech, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Creighton University, the University of San Francisco and the University of Cincinnati. Most award an MS degree in finance or investment management. A few award an MBA.

Several more institutions participate at the undergraduate level. They embed at least 70 percent of only CFA Level I material.

Outside the U.S., CFA Program Partner institutions include Oxford's Said Business School, the London Business School, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Bocconi University (Italy), and institutions in France, Australia, Canada, Argentina and the Philippines.

Foreign-based partner institutions outnumber the U.S. contingent by almost two-to-one. CFAI officials say they have several new U.S. partners in the pipeline, but want the geographic distribution of partner schools to reflect the CFA program's increasingly global candidate base.

One Institution's Experience

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School "made a deliberate effort" to cover most CFA material when it overhauled the curriculum for its MBA in investment management a couple of years ago, says Gregory Brown, concentration leader and curriculum advisor.

"Having a CFA is a benefit for some career paths," Brown says. "We certainly encourage students interested in buy-side career paths to pursue the CFA." MBA grads who did so obtained better results when seeking work in asset management, he adds. On the other hand, Brown says CFA participation makes no difference for students who seek roles in investment banking or sales and trading.

The CFA Institute does not charge fees to participating institutions, but conducts periodic audits to make sure each program conforms with partnership requirements.