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Make the Right Choice with CFA Program

There are many respected credentials in the investment management industry. Esteemed and valued across the globe, the CFA designation is known for demonstrating superior competency in advanced portfolio management, financial expertise, and technical skills, underpinned by ethical conduct and the highest standards of practice. 

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CFA® charter vs. MBA vs. CPA vs. CFP

Benefits CFA charter MBA CPA CFP
Career Path Investment Analyst, Portfolio Manager, Strategist, Consultant, Wealth Manager Business Manager, Portfolio Manager, Financial Analyst, Strategist, Consultant Accountant, Comptroller, Financial Manager, CFO Financial Planner, Financial Advisor, Investment Advisor, Financial Consultant, Wealth Manager
Requirements 3 exams and one of the following: bachelor’s degree, be within 23 months of graduation from the date you sit for the Level I exam, combination of 4,000 hours of full-time work experience and university education accrued over a minimum of 36 months master’s degree (2-3 years) 4 exams, bachelor’s degree, & 150 schooling hours 1 exam, bachelor’s degree with coursework in financial planning, and 4,000–6,000 hours of work experience
Cost min. USD 3,050 - 3,950* USD 80,000–125,000 USD 800 USD 825
Recognition Preferred by nearly 90% of executive and senior level positions in investment management positions Not a requirement for most positions Increasingly becoming more required Required to become a financial planner
Focus Investment tools & valuing assets Broad list of business concepts Auditing, business concepts, financial accounting, regulation Financial and investment planning
Difficulty 38% pass rate for Level I Pass rate depends on individual university 53 - 64% pass rate 62-66% pass rate
Award for Completion Professional designation Degree certificate Professional License Professional designation
Professionals 178,000 More than 100,000 degrees awarded annually 659,000 181,000
Average Salary $180,000 $107,000 $70,000 $80,000
Key Summary Focus on investing in large scale corporate situations Broad field of careers across marketing, finance, management, etc. Accounting and finance are the main career paths Focus on helping individual clients achieve their personal financial goals

*The minimum estimate assumes passing all three exams on first attempt.

All fees shown are net of any local VAT, Goods and Services Tax (GST) or any other sales tax payable by the candidate in their country of residence. Where CFA® Institute is required to add sales tax at the local statutory rate, this will be added to the fees shown during the payment/checkout process.

For information about taxability related to online purchases from CFA Institute, please visit our Tax Policy page.

CFA® Program vs. MBA

The CFA Program and master of business administration (MBA) programs both offer benefits that can help you advance in your career. Although the programs have some similarities, key differences make the CFA Program particularly well suited to investment careers. Traditionally, MBA programs have been the conventional path taken for business management, and the typical program offers a broad business curriculum, which does include financial and investment aspects. The CFA Program curriculum, however, specifically focuses on investment analysis and portfolio management and provides deep knowledge of investment principles and ethics. Although top MBA programs do have wide networks, the CFA Program connects candidates to a global professional network of elite investment professionals. Industry recognition is also different. For example, some industry regulators even allow waivers and exemptions for candidates who successfully complete the CFA Program or certain exam levels.

CFA® Program vs. CPA

The certified public accountant (CPA) credential is well established but is primarily associated with careers in accounting. The CFA Program is designed to advance investment careers and provides deep knowledge of investment analysis and portfolio management as well as professional ethics. In contrast, the curriculum for CPAs concentrates on accounting, taxes, and audits. The CFA Program requires fewer educational prerequisites than the CPA curriculum, and its three exam levels enable candidates to demonstrate mastery.

CFA® Program vs. CFP

The CFA Program is demanding, and the CFA designation is a testament to the knowledge, skills, and determination invested over three exams, professional requirements, references, and more. Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) are also widely respected financial professionals. Although many CFP professionals pursue careers that involve working directly with individual clients for financial planning services, CFA charterholders pursue careers as investment professionals, including private wealth management and financial advisory roles. The CFA charter provides flexible career opportunities to work more with people or with data, depending on your interests.

Learn more about how the CFA Program can help jump start your career in investment management

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