How to become a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

According to the Economist magazine "Whereas there are tens of thousands of finance degrees available around the world, ranging from the excellent to the worthless, there is only one CFA, managed and examined by an American association of financial professionals, the CFA Institute"

The 'Chartered Financial Analyst' (CFA) Program is a professional credential (not an academic degree) offered internationally, by the American-based CFA Institute to investment and financial professionals. A candidate who successfully completes the program and meets other professional requirements is awarded a "CFA charter" and becomes a "CFA charter holder".

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credential has become the most respected and recognized investment designation in the world. The CFA Program curriculum covers concepts and skills you will use at all stages of your career, bridging academic theory, current industry practice, and ethical and professional standards to provide a strong foundation, of advanced investment analysis and real-world portfolio management skills.

What does a CFA do?

Entities frequently employing CFA charter holders:

  • Registered Investment Advisor
  • Investment advisory
  • Financial adviser
  • Separately managed account
  • Mutual fund
  • Hedge fund


The obvious is investment management. As the investment industry continues to become more competitive (fewer positions) and somewhat commoditized, it will become almost imperative for any credible investment manager to earn the charter. A number of other professions in which charter holders will benefit considerably are:

  1. Buy-side trader (investment management) or other buy-side professional positions
  2. Sell-side analyst (investment banking), associate, or other sell-side professional positions
  3. Business school professor
  4. Economist
  5. Financial advisor or financial planner

How much does a CFA earn?

According to various salary surveys conducted over the past five years, an entry level CFA charter holder can expect to make somewhere around $50,000; within four years, that median salary increases to the $60,000 range. In the next decade the median salary increases yet again to the low six digit range.

What are the requirements?

To become a charter holder a candidate must satisfy the following requirements:

  • University degree or equivalent
  • Have four years (48 months) of qualified work experience (or a combination of education and work experience acceptable by the CFA Institute). However, individual level exams may be written prior to satisfying this requirement
  • Complete the CFA Program (mastery of the current CFA curriculum and passing three six-hour examinations)
  • Become a member of the CFA Institute and apply for membership to a local CFA member society

Independent of any other requirements for becoming a charter holder, the CFA Program takes an average of four years for candidates to complete.


Candidates can start the program in the final year of their university. They generally take one exam per year over three years, assuming a pass on the first attempt.

All three exams are administered on paper on a single day; the Level I exam is administered twice a year (usually the first weekend of June and December). The Level II and III exams are administered once a year, usually the first weekend of June. Each exam consists of two three-hour sessions.

About exam fees:

  • Register early to save. There are three possible registration deadlines for each CFA exam and fees increase with each subsequent deadline. Exam registration closes at 11:59 p.m. ET on the day of the final deadline.
  • Enrollment and registration fees are nontransferable and nonrefundable.
  • First time CFA Program applicants pay an initial one-time enrollment fee of US$440 in addition to the exam registration fee.
  • Returning candidates pay only the exam registration fee.
  • Payment must be made in U.S. dollars.

JUNE 2014 Exam (Levels I, II, and III)


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