How to Become a CFA Charterholder
Pass CFA ExamsCFA 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.
Achieve Qualified Work ExperienceComplete 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.
Submit Reference LettersIn 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.
Apply to Become a CharterholderApply to become a regular member of CFA Institute. Once your application is approved and you have joined CFA Institute, you will have earned the CFA charter.
Each year, we survey CFA Program candidates before and after the June exam to measure and improve the CFA candidate experience. The surveys ask for feedback across several areas, including exam preparation, curriculum, exam value, and employment outlook. View the June 2019 CFA Program candidate survey results.
Enrollment Criteria and Requirements for CFA Program
To become a CFA candidate, you must enroll in CFA Program and 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. For further questions about CFA Program enrollment requirements, please refer to these FAQs.
Complete a bachelor's program or equivalent program and have received a degree from the college/university. If you are not sure if your program is comparable, consult your college or university.
Student in Final Year
Your selected exam window must be 11 months or fewer before your graduation month for your bachelor’s degree or equivalent program. Understand that you must complete your degree program prior to the date of sitting your Level II exam.
Professional Work Experience
Have a combination of 4,000 hours of work experience and/or higher education that was acquired over a minimum of three sequential years and achieved by the date of registering for the Level I exam. The dates of education and professional work experience cannot be overlapping. If you have a combination of work experience and higher education to achieve the minimum hours and years, assume that higher education takes 1,000 hours per year.
Professional work experience does not need to be investment related. Internships/articleships are accepted if they are paid. Work experience with your own business or your family business will qualify only if it is professional experience for which you are paid.
What does professional work experience mean? Professional work experience requires specialized knowledge, education, or advanced skills. Professional work experience requires the application of higher-level judgement and business skills, including:
- Leadership and teamwork
- Business communications
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Time management
- Professional judgement
- Analytical skills
Candidates applying to register for CFA Program without completing a bachelor’s degree must honestly evaluate whether their professional work experience has equipped them for the significant volume and depth of study demanded by CFA Program.
Please note that CFA Institute may request proof of education (copy of diploma, marksheet, any other relevant documents) and/or work experience (letter of employment, salary slips, any other relevant documents) to be submitted at any stage of your journey as a candidate or even after becoming a member in order to demonstrate entrance requirements were met. Failure to provide requested documentation relevant to entrance requirements may result in cancellation of a current exam registration, withholding of exam results, voiding of past exam results, and may lead to investigation and disciplinary action by the CFA Institute Professional Conduct Program.
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.
Stay Ahead of the Curve
CFA Program vs. MBA
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||MBA Program|
|Career Path||Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management||Business Management|
|Course Requirement||900+ hours of self study
10 topic areas
4,000 hours of qualified work experience
|2–4 years depending on program
Class attendance and participation
No practice requirements
|Program Cost||USD2,400–4,590 depending on fee deadline||USD80,000–125,000 depending on program|
|Industry Recognition||Benchmarking by NARIC, as comparable to a Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) Master's Level 7
Waivers from licensing exams in 27 countries
|Accredited MBA programs are widely recognized by employers|
|Educational Focus||Deep knowledge of investment analysis, management, and ethics||Broad knowledge of core business concepts with some opportunity to specialize|
|Program Difficulty||Low barrier for entry, high attrition rate||High barrier for entry, low attrition rate|
|Award for Completion||Charter: professional designation||Degree certificate|
|Networking Opportunities||167,000+ CFA Institute members||Depends on specific MBA program|
Get Familiar with CFA Program
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.
Learn, Connect, and Advance
Are You Ready to Start CFA Program?
Enroll and register for the CFA exam.