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Should a CFA Charter Be in Your Future?

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CFA Exam Prep

More than 150,000 candidates sat for the CFA exams this past Saturday. Some will move to the next level or earn their charter. But many will have to decide if they should try again next exam.

The charter is not easy to get—which can make it very desirable. But is it right for you? Here are some things to consider:


CFA Institute requires that you:

  • Have four years of qualified investment work experience,
  • Become a member of CFA Institute,
  • Pledge to adhere to the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct,
  • Apply for membership to a local CFA member society, and
  • Complete the CFA Program (i.e. pass all three exams).


So there better be a good payoff. Consider the following benefits:

  • International Recognition: Employers and media praise the CFA designation.
  • Credibility: Clients and colleagues regard you with a presumption of expertise.
  • Respect: Your efforts connect you with the prestige of existing charterholders.
  • Competitive Advantage: Employers and clients demand professionals who demonstrate competence in implementing international investment strategies.
  • Knowledge with a Global Perspective: Analysis is conducted to ensure a globally relevant, broad-based curriculum.
  • Connections: There are 90,000+ charterholders around the world, many of whom are active investment professionals with senior responsibility.


With all these benefits, what could possibly stop you from pursuing your charter?


It takes approximately 300 hours of study at each level to adequately prepare. Over six months, this equates to a commitment of 12 hours per week (30% of a standard work week). This is a significant chunk of time, especially if you are a full-time student, have family obligations, and/or are working 40+ hours a week. There is no doubt that you will sacrifice time with family and friends. And remember, this is just an average. It could take longer if you have to brush up on—or learn—the basics, or if it’s been a while since you were a student.


Cost is also a consideration for many. But that is an easier pill to swallow if you frame it as San Francisco Level III candidate John does. “Compared with a Masters in Finance, the CFA designation gives you a better shot at a job, with more networking potential, and at a fraction of the cost.”

It’s Not the Secret Sauce

If your reason for enrolling in the program is to make a career switch or jump-start a fledging career, be aware that you will be competing against those who have successful career paths in the industry already. You will have to work harder, jump higher, and run faster to keep up.


In the end, you need to do the cost/benefit analysis on pursuing the designation to determine the opportunity costs and decide whether it is worth it.

Mike, a Level III candidate, listed his top two reasons for joining the CFA program. If his thinking matches yours, you may be ready to take the plunge:

  • “I am pursing the CFA charter because it is known as the gold standard in the investment management industry...”
  • “The extensive body of knowledge in the CFA program prepares candidates to understand the dynamics of the investment management world, and provides them with the framework to analyze changes in the industry over time.”

See what the CFA exam has in store for you at one of NYSSA's free sample classes. To learn more, please visit the CFA Preparation page.

–Linda Lam

Linda Lam has worked with a candidate review program since 2000.

*The names in this article have been changed.


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