Engineers – considering CFA or Financial Engineering?


I know of many engineers who regretted not getting the right career advice when they were in school. (What’s “right” is subjective, of course.)

Envious of the high income that an investment banker can fetch, some of these engineers decided to take up courses or certifications that hopefully will give them a chance to enter the lucrative finance sector.

Their options include:

  • Getting CFA charter. This can be done through self study, but it takes a fair bit of effort. The catch is that in order to get the charter title, you gotta accumulate a few years of relevant experience. There are people who deliberately became financial consultants (i.e. insurance agents) just to earn the CFA title. The interesting point here is that even working as a financial adviser/consultant counts as relevant.
  • Getting a financial engineering degree from NUS or NTU. You need to pay school fees, attend classes, do projects, homework, etc. It can be quite challenging.

BUT, does it help to do all this?

If you’re studying just to gain worldly knowledge of finance, then you’re fine. I salute you.

But more likely, you’re in this game because you want to get a job that pays well, at least reasonably better than your miserable engineer pay. If that’s what you want, then chances are you will be disappointed.

Don’t believe me? The next time you attend a preview session for such a course, ask questions.

Ask important questions, like “will I get a good job that pays well after I graduate?”, “can you show me statistics on the before-and-after salaries of your graduates?” and “how many of your graduates have gone on to be associates with a bulge bracket investment bank?”

You’d be lucky if the presenter advises you not to expect too much. He could’ve said, “you might need to take a pay cut…”


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  1. sachin: there are tonnes of CFA information available on india forums. Stop deluding yourself when you say you have no intention of coming to Singapore to get a job like your thousands of Indian counterparts.

    Killerspray: Quant sch? Don’t make me laugh. You just want a job here. Another hypocrite..

    You guys don’t get it, do you? You are not welcome in Singapore anymore. Why waste your time in this forum?

  2. Ignore the funny Indian
    We are open to foreign talents.
    There are always people who blame the govt for importing foreign talents instead of improving themselves.
    I have seen a few in the medical field where they lament us from taking up training positions.
    Singapore is a meritocracy so if a foreigner is better than you, then obviously the position should be his/her.
    Why should it be given to a local?

  3. @Funny Inida..
    Don’t make me puke with ur heights of stupidity!

    Seems, this uncouth illiterate idiot just venting out his frustration for being unemployed for so long – Not my problem sod head.. It’s just that you aren’t employable. so let people live their friggin darn lives. Singapore ain’t ur dad kid’s world

    Don’t just blabber what ever gets to ur freaking mouth.. instead try reason out what ppl are talking here.. Just list a single quant school in India.. I ll give my ass to u.

    BTW, No more words for u unless u make any sense..

  4. >Singapore is a meritocracy so if a foreigner is better than you, then obviously the position should be his/her.

    the problem is with the “birth right” that the local boys are demanding. there are always 2 sides to every argument. i tend to empathize with them.

    just an extreme example to set you thinking: if you find a lady who’s a better mum than your own mother, why don’t you disown your mother and go with that lady?

    besides birth right, there’re issues of loyalty, service, fairness and “fall back”. foreigners can always escape back to their home countries in times of crisis – a fall back – but where can the local boys go?

    if a country doesn’t give citizens a sense of belonging and a certain privilege, what good is the country?

  5. @ killerspray

    Let’s hope you don’t choke in your own puke. But seems more likely you will choke on your ignorance first.

    Mechanical engineer doing software development and now you wanna pursue the sexier finance? What really makes sense is that you are too old to switch and your attitude won’t get you anywhere. Forget Singapore, you are better off in India.

    And guys, I’m not local, not an Indian and I’m happily employed. You guys really excellent in making assumptions. I’m just surprised there are so many Indians writing nonsenses in a Singapore salaried-related forum. It’s no wonder local are pissed.

  6. He’s just a brain drained, trodden deep down some unending abyss, pissed and unhappy soul. Most of these kind are super active in this virtual world while being big time losers in real life leading the life of bumpkins – This is the only way they can live their dreamed life which they can’t even dream of living it real.

    @Funny Indian
    I wish you don’t fix noose around your neck some day! I really sense it. Grow up, get involved in some mind cleansing jobs

    FYI – I’m 28 yr old & don’t think too old to get to grad school.. What ever it is, trust this – ‘Knowledge is good’. It does good things in life.

    Best wishes to other aspirants! Ignore the chunks of this kind you come across

  7. Would a CFA or Masters in quantitative finance/financial engineering be a better investment if i’m not sure whether i will pursue a career within global markets/treasury/private wealth advisory?

    Thanks in advance.

  8. Why do people leave interesting jobs as Engineers and want to come to Finance? Finance(w/o mathematical modelling) is very very boring. CFA is useless exam, MFE is interesting but is worth if you hold a PhD in numerical discipline to get you real good jobs. Else remain wherever you are.

  9. Engineers are respected in countries like Germany, US and Japan. In Singapore they are way underpaid and more importantly not respected…

  10. CFA is not useless. Banks in general have strong branding, plus the pay tends to be slightly higher than engineering. So they attract people. But what non-finance people don’t realise is how boring non-front office jobs are. The work in finance is not so interesting/fufiling if you do not hold an investment decision making role. i.e. trading/fund management/investment research etc.

  11. Dear Friends,

    I am an Electronica and Telecommunication Engineer with 7 years of work experience in IT.
    i have always worked on Financial Application including:-
    1.National Stock Exchange of India – Client Site – 2 years
    2.ABN AMRO BANK Nederlands – Onsite as 3.Business Analyst – 2 years
    GERMAN STOCK EXCHNAGE – Onsite – 6 months
    AMERICAN LEADING BANK – Onsite USA -2 years

    I am planning to go back to India and before i do that i want to appear for CFA Level 1 exam and plan to cash it in India,along with work experience. I would like to continue working as a Business Analyst.

    Can anyone of you advice me if I’ll be able to sell “CFA Level1”. ( As I am sure that I do not want to leave IT anyways)

  12. To Mr IT going back to India on

    I don’t really think u need a cfa for that cuz it’s rather broad although if you know how the products work, it will be easier/faster for you to come up with financial applications. therefore your employer saves costs in the long run!!!

  13. I was an engineer for 15 yrs, no degree, self studied CFA (without taking exam), save up, trade financial index as hobby. Guess what, now I’m a full time trader trading solely my own account, with financial institution tried to head hunt me becoz of my track records. Maybe we shld try think out of the box, why not work for urself instead of the usual “look for a job”

  14. Hi AC,

    I’ve been quite interested in being a trader, but could you kindly advise what’s the kind of income that we can expect from this?


  15. Unless u have a huge trading capital to start with, I think most profitable full-time traders’ monthly profits (and this is already a tiny minority in the trading population) are probably only enough to sustain themselves, but not enough to support an entire family plus a car. Full time traders also lose out on employer’s CPF contribution. Just playing the devil’s advocate here.

  16. the US institution offered to me 6 digits annual plus bonus. Trillions change hand daily in the global market, how much one can take from it depends on his capital and skills.

  17. Wow, but what if say for a slightly above-average trader with a capital of S$100k, how much income can one look forward to? rgds

  18. To wannabetraders on

    around 20% per annum on average. if they tell u it’s more and it’s sustainable over the long run, it’s bullshit.

  19. Oh i see, that means to earn a decent income, i need to amass quite a substantial sum of capital b4 i can go into trading. Thanks

  20. i think even 20% is bs. if it’s so easy, why don’t Temasek Holdings and GIC simply hire traders like yourself to make $1 billion out of every $5 billion capital? why even bother to invest in companies in other countries like indonesia and get screwed?

  21. Haha, although i know nothing about trading, I think I’d still like to pass a comment about the Temasek and GIC, esp. the former. They appear as amazingly naive and ‘undiligent’ investors who buy on hearsay than do actual due diligence which would have shed light on those worthless US banks and some ABC Learning Centre whose value seemed to have dissipated within a short period of time. And thereafter, sell some of our national jewels to make up the losses while other countries go on protectionist mode, expropriating foreign investments.

  22. how do you know they have not done due diligence? it’s run by the smartest people money can hire in the country, so it must be good.

  23. I have got 10yrs of exp in IT , and the last 6 yrs into Investment Banking IT. Graduate in Mechanical Engg( Industrial Engg Specialisation). My aim is to get into IT Business Analysis or into Finance. What Course I should take? Please advise.

  24. You don’t sound like you spent the last 6 years in an IB..granted it’s the tech dept. To get into IT business analysis or into “Finance”,you probably can try an internal transfer within your bank.

  25. You might need to take a pay cut. (you didn’t read the article?)

    Nowadays even undergrads are taking CFA to get a headstart.

  26. I’m an MBA marketing and finance graduate having four years experience in salse and business developement ( Banking and rating industry). i would like to get into core finance job and please let me know whether quantitative finance can help me in getting my dream fulfilled?

  27. Hi,
    I am an Engineer with around 2 yrs of Exp in IT industry.
    Can anybodt tell me what would be my career path if i go for CFA?

  28. Hi guys, a CFA is still very useful and gives you credibility in banking & finance. However, it is more suited for investment advisory/ research roles, not much for other roles such as sales, dealing, or back office etc. If you stop using the knowledge you learned, you’ll forget the CFA contents quickly.
    Studying for CFA is a very, very big commitment and takes up a lot of your time. Most people do not pass the exams in straight three years. Furthermore, you will only earn the title AFTER you have accumulated 4 years of relevant investment decision-making work experience (and passing the 3 levels of exams). If you do not have that relevant work experience, you will not qualify to put the 3 letters behind your name.
    Because it’s not easy, employers recognise and respect someone with a CFA and you will very likely to be employed.
    Having said all that, if you have money, in my opinion, it would be most efficient to pursue a Masters/MBA as you can complete it much faster and get a job in banking & finance.

  29. Hi,
    Currently i am working in an IT company in testing domain. Will this be considered as relevent experiance for CFA?

  30. Hi Arvind

    To be recommended for regular membership you must have completed four years (48 months) of qualifying work experience in activities that consist to a majority extent of:

    Evaluating or applying financial, economic, and/or statistical data as part of the investment decision-making process involving securities or similar investments, which includes, but is not limited to, publicly traded and privately placed stocks, bonds, and mortgages and their derivatives; commodity-based derivatives and mutual funds; and other investment assets, such as real estate and commodities, if these other investment assets are held as part of a diversified, securities-oriented investment portfolio; or
    Supervising, directly or indirectly, persons who practice such activities; or
    Teaching such activities.

    At least 50 percent of your work experience must be:
    Directly involved in the investment decision-making process
    Engaged in responsibilities and/or producing a work product that informs or adds value to that process
    Part-time positions do not qualify.
    Managing your own investments does not qualify.

  31. Thanks for the valuable reply.
    Currently m studying for level 1 exam. Even if i clear all the levels, my experience will not get counted as per the above criteria.

    Could you please suggest me the solution on this if possible?

  32. Pls advice me…..I’m local diploma graduate in engineering….have 2+ years experience, if i study finance or bussiness courses in private universities such as uniSIM,Kaplan, is possible to get finance or banking jobs?……….

  33. I’m an engineer, I’m about to persue CFA level one; however, I’m little worried about about this may impact my engineering carrier. I’m an industrial engineer working for 3 years now, isn’t understanding finance through CFA a previlage to enpower my career?

  34. i am a (ece) fresher and want to go for further studies specially for CFA. so help me if it is a right decesion to take?

  35. i am a (ece) fresher and want to go for further studies specially for CFA from american institute. so help me if it is a right decesion to take?

  36. Banking is all about relationship and network, so many banking, financial, business degree out there etc… Why think that by getting CFA will get you a jobs in banking. If you want to get into banking, personally think that by starting from part time job in a banking sector will help. From there proof your worth and create opportunity. Be prepare to work from morning to night…..Please do not think that the pay will be good, only some position are… and limited.

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