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CFA stands for Chartered Financial Analyst. The charter is a professional credential bestowed by the CFA Institute on financial and investment professionals who have completed its program of study, passed all three levels of its examinations, and met other professional requirements. A successful candidate is awarded the “CFA charter” and becomes a “CFA charterholder”.
Learn more about how to become a CFA charterholder.
Typically, it takes between two and five years to complete the CFA Program and pass all three levels of examination. According to the CFA® Institute, there are more than 170,000 CFA charterholders worldwide.
Completing the CFA Program exam prepares you with financial knowledge and analytical skills to succeed across many industry sectors. It also ensures you’ll stand out to top employers.
Here are a few reasons to consider earning your CFA:
While years of preparation may sound intimidating, the benefits of becoming a CFA charterholder are academic, professional, and financial.
Once you earn your CFA charter, you have a higher chance of finding a job at any company — no matter where it’s located! Investment firms all around the world respect the effort and diligence required to earn the CFA charter.
The CFA designation prepares you for a variety of positions in the global finance industry.
CFA Institute has identified several different types of jobs likely to be held by charterholders:
Once you earn the charter, you become part of a global network of over 170,000 industry professionals. Meeting members of local CFA societies can expand your network, continue your education, and open the door to more professional experiences.
A study by the CFA Institute found the average base salaries of CFA Institute members and CFA charterholders in 2019 increased at a greater year-over-year rate than the rate of increase for the general market.
While compensation varies due to the broad spectrum of jobs, the same 2019 study found a typical self-reported total compensation of $177,000.
Compared to applicants who don’t have the CFA designation, CFA charterholders may earn a higher salary. We’ll talk more about salary below.
In general, the price you pay to obtain a CFA charter is pretty low compared to more expensive, time-consuming options like an MBA program. In addition, most people can prepare for their CFA while working full-time.
For candidates who need financial assistance, the CFA Institute offers a number of scholarships. Each one includes a waived enrollment fee and discounted registration.
Becoming a CFA charterholder requires rigorous testing, intensive training, and years of work experience. While this process is known to be challenging, it pays off with real-world skills that demonstrate your knowledge.
To earn the CFA designation, you must pass three exam levels — Level I, Level II, and Level III.
The CFA Institute administers the exams, each of which cover the following topics to varying degrees:
To enroll in the program and register for the Level I CFA exam, you must first meet one of the following requirements:
CFA candidates cannot move on to the next exam until they pass the exam prior.
With relevant curriculum and input from industry experts, the CFA program exams prepare you with knowledge crafted around today’s market.
According to the CFA Institute, 97% of candidates agree that the curriculum improved their understanding of important topics, while 95% report the curriculum accurately reflects current industry practices.
To prepare for the exams, the CFA Institute recommends at least 300 self-study hours for each level. It’s important to give yourself ample time to study, as well, and become familiar with the exam format.
A CFA charter is extremely beneficial for virtually any financial professional’s career, including:
Since 2010, the CFA exam pass rate has stayed under 60% for all three exams. With that in mind, CFA review courses are very helpful for those looking to save time and pass their first time through
Our CFA Program Exam Review contains predictive scoring, world-renowned expert instructors, and our Access Until You Pass guarantee.
Where might you land with the CFA charter? Based on 2015-2019 statistics, below are the Top 10 employers of CFA charterholders.
The chart below shows the number of CFAs employed by the top 10 employers of CFA charterholders from 2015-2019. You’ll see that most years, these top 10 employers increased the number of CFAs they employ, with Goldman Sachs having the most consistent growth by employing about 13% more CFAs every year.
|JP Morgan Chase||2140||2037||1903||1786||1615|
|Bank of America ML||1633||1562||1404||1499||1404|
This is an excellent question, as both options hold great value. We’ve broken them down into a few key variables below:
|CFA Program||MBA Program|
|Timeframe||2-5 years depending on how long it takes to pass all three exams||2-4 years depending on the program|
|Program Cost||$2,400-4,590 USD depending on fee deadline||$80,000-125,000 depending on program|
|Educational Focus||Deep knowledge of investment analysis, management, and ethics||Broad knowledge of core business concepts with some opportunity to specialize|
|Networking Opportunities||167,000+ CFA Institute members||Depends on the specific MBA program|
|Designation||Average Pay (0-5 Years)||Average Pay (5-10 Years)|
|CFA + MBA||$87,200||$148,000|
|MBA in Finance||$63,100||$119,000|
In general, CFA charterholders earn roughly 25% more annually than MBA holders.
To fill a demand for finance and investment skills, many MBA programs — with the assistance of the CFA Institute — are now incorporating large portions of the CFA Program into their curricula.
As you can see, the path to becoming a CFA charterholder takes time, dedication, and grit, but pays off tremendously! If you’re ready to take this next step in your career, get started today with 14 days of free access to Wiley’s CFA Program Exam Review.