If you want to stand out in the finance industry, you’ll need to pass the Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA) exam, said alumni at a recent Graduate Programs in Finance event. They shared their personal experiences to highlight the value of the CFA.

Globally recognized as the most respected investment designation, the CFA opens the door to career advancement. In fact, CFA holders make an average of $304,000 annually, noted Shahriar Khaksari, chair and director of Graduate Programs in Finance.

And that’s why Timothy Furbush, CFA, MSF '05, a senior portfolio manager at State Street Global Advisors, decided to earn his CFA. “I saw that the people with the CFA designation were the ones getting hired and promoted. They were motivated people,” he said.

John McLaughlin, CFA, MSF'01, AVP of Portfolio Modeling at John Hancock, agreed. “It definitely makes a difference in your career. When I hire people, I’m looking for something that demonstrates motivation. And the CFA does that. Everybody I work with really respects the designation,” he said.

It’s no secret that passing the CFA comes with a lot of hard work and rigorous preparation. The alumni recommended building a solid foundation in finance before taking the test. For them, this meant earning Suffolk’s MS in Finance. As a member of the CFA Institute University Recognition Program, Suffolk’s MSF covers many of the key concepts on the CFA exam, setting graduates up to pass.

“This program couldn’t have done more for me in terms of teaching me the baseline curriculum for finance and the CFA,” said Furbush. He also stressed the importance of getting to know your faculty. “Leverage the professors, and let them teach you as much as you can,” he advised.

For David Cox, CFA, MSF ’96, CFO at Sharon Credit Union, it was a combination of hard work and relevant coursework that helped him pass the exam. “I studied hard, don’t get me wrong. But the basics, the foundation, was already there in place,” he said

Other speakers at the event included Steven Chittenden, CFA, MSF '95, VP, director of Investment Ops at Loomis Sayles, and Joshua Gonzalez, CFA, associate credit analyst at Pioneer Investments.