Become a Charterholder

Becoming a charterholder is a defining moment for many investment professionals and exemplifies a strong understanding of advanced investment analysis and real-world portfolio management skills. We outline everything you need to know to prepare for CFA® Program, so you can feel confident when enrolling.
Become a Charterholder

How to Become a CFA Charterholder


  1. Pass CFA Exams CFA Program contains three levels of curriculum, each with its own exam. Passing the exam for all three levels is a requirement to obtain the CFA charter. 
  2. Achieve Qualified Work Experience Complete work experience requirements before, during, or after participation in CFA Program. Your experience must be directly involved with the investment decision-making process or producing a work product that informs or adds value to that process.
  3. Submit Reference Letters In support of your membership application, you will need to provide 2-3 professional references. References will be asked to comment on your work experience and professional character. 
  4. Apply to Become a Charterholder Apply to become a regular member of CFA Institute. Once your application is approved, and you have paid annual dues, you will have earned the CFA charter.


Enrollment Criteria for CFA Program

To become a CFA candidate, you must enroll in CFA Program before you can register for the Level I exam. In order to enroll you must meet all of the qualifications listed below. We have provided helpful information below to guide you through the enrollment process and to keep you on track for registration.


Bachelor's Degree

Complete a bachelor's degree or equivalent program. Most CFA Program applicants have the education to enroll in graduate studies in the country where they earned their degree. If you are not sure if your program is comparable, consult your college or university.

Final-Year Student

Be a final-year student of a bachelor's degree or equivalent program. Understand that you may register for the Level I CFA exam, but must complete your degree program before being permitted to register for the Level II CFA exam.

Professional Experience

Have a combination of four years of full-time work experience and/or higher education. Understand that part-time work does NOT qualify you for this track, but your full-time work does not need to be investment related.

CFA Institute requires that every CFA Program candidate have a valid international travel passport. Those without a passport will not be able to register or sit for exams. 

CFA Program exams are only offered in English. Exams require English proficiency for reading comprehension and formulating answers to complex financial scenarios.

All candidates in CFA Program must complete a Professional Conduct Statement form to attest that they are in compliance with this requirement.

There are some countries with which CFA Institute cannot work. Review the OFAC Policy to check if there are any sanctions on your country.

Become a Charterholder

Stay Ahead of the Curve

To learn more about what to expect from CFA Program, check out our fact sheet and quick start guide. Sharpen your skills by downloading the economics prerequisite material to brush up on your foundational knowledge.

CFA Program Fact Sheet (PDF)

Economics Prerequisite (PDF)

Level I Quick Start Guide (PDF)

How Does CFA Program Compare to an MBA Program?

Both the CFA charter and an MBA program offer benefits that can advance your career. While there are some similarities between the two, there are a few key differences. Examine the chart below to consider which education is more aligned to your career goals.

CFA Program Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management 900+ hours of self study

10 topic areas

4,000 hours of qualified work experience
USD2,400–4,590 depending on fee deadline Benchmarking by NARIC, as comparable to a Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) Master's Level 7

Waivers from licensing exams in 27 countries
Deep knowledge of investment analysis, management, and ethics Low barrier for entry, high attrition rate Charter: professional designation 167,000+ CFA Institute members
MBA Program Business Management 2–4 years depending on program

Class attendance and participation

No practice requirements
USD80,000–125,000 depending on program Accredited MBA programs are widely recognized by employers Broad knowledge of core business concepts with some opportunity to specialize High barrier for entry, low attrition rate Degree certificate Depends on specific MBA program


Get Familiar with CFA Program


Curriculum Overview

Get a snapshot of the topics covered by CFA Program and discover other important curriculum material.

Three Levels of Exams

Learn about the structure, timing, and cost of CFA exams.

CFA Program Scholarships

We offer scholarships to help qualified candidates pay for exam fees. 



Become a Charterholder

Learn, Connect, and Advance

CFA Institute supports candidates beyond curriculum and exams. We foster successful futures within the industry through career center resources and career tools to help you secure a job. We also support communities of other committed professionals through CFA Societies.

Learn About CFA Society® Benefits

Career Center

Career Tools

Take the Next Step in Your Career

Ready to earn a charter and join the ranks of elite investment professionals? If you are registering for the Level I exam for the first time, you must enroll in CFA Program as part of exam registration. Follow the below link to create an account, and we will connect you with everything you need to prepare.

Enroll and Register
Register

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