CFA program (Chartered Financial Analyst) after putting it off for a few years. This program is a very prestigious 3-level self-study certification in the investment industry. It's basically like a masters degrees, but without the degree! Though you do get to put "(first) (last),CFA" after your name! As irrelevant as that sounds, it's actually worth a lot. Most (if not all) top level investment firms will require applicants to be a CFA charterholder for a lot of job openings. Having it is considered a huge accomplishment and puts you among the best of the best. I kind of consider it a must have if I were to look for another job. It will enable me to get considered for higher level jobs and put me in a different salary bracket, and get more respect! Hehe. Seriously, it's more useful, and a lot cheaper than a MBA degree.
The hard part is, I have to actually pass the tests! The 3 tests must be passed in sequential order. Level I is offered twice a year in June and December, Level II and Level III are both offered only in June. So it means that if you don't pass any level, you have to wait at least 6 months to a year to re-take it and hope you pass. The fastest anyone could achieve this designation is 1.5 years. But it could drag on forever. This guy at my work has been taking Level I and Level II for at least 4 years now! The suggested study time is crazy, like 120 hours minimum for each level - with a full time job and um, a life, that's hard to achieve. So, it means that I will have no life whatsoever from now until December 4th! Not looking forward to that part. But suffer now and thank myself later I guess!
I've heard that Level I is not bad, but Level II is extremely hard, and Level III is in between. So I better pass Level I. But I won't tell anyone at work I'm taking it in case I don't, to spare myself of the embarrassment, hehe. The good thing is though, people understand how hard these tests are, so they don't look down upon people who don't pass. The 2010 June test results just came out recently, and it seems that nobody at my work who took Level II was able to pass it. Still, there are also people here who already hold this prestigious designation, so it really differentiates them. I want to do this in 1.5 years for my own sanity as well as bragging rights!
My Level I registration and exam fees were over $1000, and I don't get reimbursed from my firm until I pass, so I don't want to throw away my money for nothing! Not to mention the time I will spend studying, it will be devastating if I don't pass. I also got the Schweser Notes (another few hundred bucks I don't get back till I pass) which are supposed to be the best third party study tool, so now I'm all gun-ho. I don't know why they call them "Notes" when they come in 5 different parts, with over 300 pages each! More like a novel?!? I went through about 150 pages of the first part yesterday and I thanked God for my Business Econ degree because most of it felt like a refresher. Hopefully this feeling lasts. Over 1000 more pages to go..... I'm giving myself 3 weeks for each part of the "Notes", which should give me a few weeks before exam date to go over everything again, and again, and again....
Must say it's kind of nice being a student again. I like learning new things. I feel like my mind will become dull really fast if I don't stimulate it with new material! Will be a trip during the actual test though - they are usually held at the Convention Center here in LA, and you actually use pencil and paper instead of a computer screen. How old school and cute! Reminds me of my college days!