CFA Exams/Jobs

Anybody with experience in these? I’m feeling burnt out on upper-level exams. I was told that a friend of a friend is earning quite a bit more than me with a CFA designation. They say the 3 exams take around 300 hours each, but I took a free practice exam for the first level and got a passing mark. The material seems somewhat interesting as well. I am a finance nerd and enjoy advising people and tweaking financial strategies.

I have a meeting set with friend-of-friend to ask questions, but wondering if anybody from the actuarial world has experience with the exams or the range of jobs as a whole. Think the 300 hours is still reasonable for these exams, perhaps excepting the first? Should I expect a similar work/life balance (average 40 hr/wk, good hour flexibility if there are no big meetings/pressing projects) or will I be working a lot more/more rigidly?

I know a few CFAs. From what I can tell the first CFA exam is similar to a prelim, maybe MFE and the other two CFAs are more similar to the later actuarial exams.

I’d looked into getting a CFA post FCAS and largely found it to be not quite close enough related to what I do to really be worthwhile. The main thrust of it is asset management so it’s possible certain actuarial roles could benefit from it but I think it’d be a small group.

That said if you’re interested in leaving actuarial to do a more CFA type job (what I’d describe as moving from focusing on the liabilities to the assets, or leaving insurance entirely) I think your mileage could vary quite a bit. If you’re working for an insurer but on the asset side I doubt it’d be that different. If you went to work for a bank as a CFA, perhaps focused on risk management to leverage the actuarial background, I’d expect it to be a worse work-life balance.


I found some example questions from the later 2 exams. Agreed, the jump in difficulty is substantial. I think I could answer some of it if I really worked on it, but they require you to read a long essay and then respond, so not putting the time in. It strikes me as quite a bit easier than upper-levels still, but not to the extent of the first exam.

Agreed yeah I’d venture to guess upper level actuarial exams are genuinely harder, especially since the candidates taking upper level actuarial exams have nearly all already passed a large number of these types of exams and the pass rate is still relatively low, not to mention actuaries usually have study time to help as well. Although I haven’t actually tried the upper level CFA questions so don’t know them much personally, just know it’s more open ended like the later actuarial exams.

My former boss was FSA + CFA and that’s exactly what he said: actuarial exams focus on liabilities and CFA exams focus on assets. He was in annuity pricing at the time but the combo definitely opened some doors for him.

Makes sense, yeah I could see it being more useful on the Life side. All my experience is on the P&C side so would defer on that.

That’s consistent with what i have heard about taking the cfa exams.

I have heard the 1st is much easier than the later ones.

I get the impression it helps to either have at least either a strong math background, or a strong accounting background

I have a math & stats degree, studied/tutored accounting, and have my CPCU, which in some cases (especially exam 540) seems to have some related concepts. So probably would be easier than average for me.

meh. None of them were particularly difficult. Especially if you are used to taking actuarial exams. I studied significantly more for the first out of an abundance of caution and due to having more time in general.

I got my CFA a few years ago. I primarily used AdaptPrep, which at the time was connected with an actuarial exam prep company and was taught by Mike Carmody. For those that have been around forever, he used to teach SOA Exam 6 (and its predecessors) prep back when it was an investments exam.

I don’t have any insight to share on the job market. I got mine primarily because I wanted it and because in my public facing role it provides a useful signal.

How much?

Probably about double what I currently make in total compensation, roughly in the range of $200k (in Po), but I don’t know to what extent that’s commission and what hours he works to earn that. I have a family member who earns nearly as much as me as a mortgage broker but works like 65-70 hour weeks, I’m not about that life.

yeah no. that’s not making more money.

I work 20 hrs/week max at best (don’t tell my boss that).

I don’t think 200k is crazy money for an experienced, fully credentialed actuary and you wouldn’t have to work crazy hours.

I think there are a lot of 200k type finance jobs but they almost always are crazy hours and in very non po.

yeah 200k (total comp) for experience actuary is pretty standard.

For sure. I might keep on the exam track - for now, I am still studying. But 200k+ isn’t common in my area of the Po even for an FCAS early in their career. And passing 3 much easier exams to earn significantly more is intriguing enough to ask about. But I do suspect we’re talking a commissioned position with less flexible hours, so I may pass.

The subject matter is (generally) interesting to me though. I like actuarial but it’s a job, it’s interesting enough that I don’t specifically want out of it.

Did you take a full 6 hour practice exam? A passing mark with no prep is pretty impressive. [How did you manage on Ethics??] They say that if you fail Ethics you fail the exam. That’s not precisely true, but if you’re a borderline score it’s Ethics that determines pass or fail.

Overall, they’re certainly easier than actuarial exams, no contest. If you study reasonable amounts of time, you’ll pass. Level II is the one you’ll have the most advantage on because it’s the most “mathy”. You’re unlikely to need 300 hours for any of them though.

These are pretty well written exams overall. They like asking slightly “tricky” questions which is a net benefit to good test takers. For the multiple choice questions, you only have 3 choices [not 5] and no guessing penalty so it’s not that hard to get a good score without knowing all of the material inside and out. Level III is only 50% written answer.

Also the official curriculum is very well written.

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For exam prep, besides having the official curriculum books, I used Schweser practice exams. Sometimes just the volumes of practice exams, sometimes the practice exams + study manual. The practice exams are what’s essential. Very cheap used on ebay. You should be able to get ahold of 6 full length practice exams for each level, that’ll be enough.

CFA exams don’t change much. I always got prep materials from the prior year or so and it was fine. You can also find out what changed in the curriculum and pay extra attention to those sections in the curriculum.

I do recommend paying the extra $ to get curriculum in physical book form. People do study off of the digital versions but I cannot imagine this.

I liked the summaries because I found it to be faster. Same as actuarial exams. And I was a pretty shitty exam taker as far as actuarial exams go (there is a reason I am ASA, EA, CFA).

I skimmed the official curriculum for exam purposes and relied more heavily on the summaries and practice exams/problems. Although I do occasionally use the official curriculum as a resource now.

Say whaaat, the most experienced actuaries where I work make $150K max. Our VP probably is close to $200K but I’d be surprised if they’re over that amount. I’d say low/medium COL area.