It’s a great question and one that I’ve often received and I must say, it’s a very valid one. Why? I know some who did the exam while still in school while others start after 10 years in the business with a wife, kids, and a demanding career. There is no age to get it done…but there is one important things…
Do It As Early As Possible…!
How early? Ok, maybe not while in high school, but as soon as you know that at some point you will want to do the exam, it is probably a good time to sign up. There are a million reasons why but I think it all comes down to one thing…
The More You Wait, The Tougher It Will Be
No doubt, once you have a demanding career, a girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband, and kids, finding the amount of time and the right place to do it will be a major challenge. Not only that, once that happens, you will likely be more tired and not in as good of a condition to study. You know how everyone tells you to enjoy school because it’s the most free time that you will ever get (apart from retirement obviously), as much as you hate to admit, it’s 100% true in almost all cases. Once responsibilities start piling up, you will not be looking forward to the Thursday-Friday-Saturday party nights but rather to that once every 2 weeks where you will go out (although not too late because there’s lots to do on Saturday morning).
It’s NOT Too Early
If you are considering taking the exam but wonder if you know enough, don’t worry. The exam does not assume that you know much and what it does is fully learnable. It’s much more about time, discipline, and a great plan than about what you know going on into the exam. I would not do the exam while in high school but apart from that, you are free to do as you wish.
Don’t Worry About The Experience
Yes it’s true, if you start (and pass) your exam before ending school, you are virtually certain to finish your exams before having the necessary experience to be a qualified charterholder. That is sad because you will certainly be anxious to add the 3 letters next to your name. But IT DOES NOT MATTER. Why? Because what makes the CFA so difficult is obviously the exam, not getting the experience. Start by worrying about the exam and if that’s done, you’ll be so thrilled to have done the big part that waiting a couple of years will not matter much.
Anyway, telling an employer that you have the CFA title is incredible but telling them that you have passed the exam and are awaiting your experience is almost as good.
So do the exam as early as possible– I can guarantee you that you will not regret it.