What Is CFA: Meaning, Requirements, Salary & Program

What Is a CFA Program
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The title “Chartered Financial Analyst” (CFA®) is well-known throughout the world. Anyone who wants to join the top investment analysis teams must go through the program, and pass the CFA exam, which consists of three parts. 

There are many career options available for finance professionals, one of which is becoming a certified financial analyst (CFA). These people offer advice to businesses, as well as to people, to help them make the best investments.

This might be a good career choice for you if you’re a finance professional who wants to increase your investment knowledge while opening up new employment opportunities with higher earning potential. This article will go over what a CFA does, what their typical salary is, and how to become one.

What Is a CFA

The CFA Institute, a non-profit organization with a presence all over the world, offers the professional designation known as a certified financial analyst (CFA). Due to its emphasis on analysis, investment expertise, and ethics, the CFA designation is acknowledged as the top credential for investment professionals globally. One of the most esteemed credentials in finance, the CFA charter is widely regarded as the pinnacle of the investment analysis profession. Finishing the CFA Program and passing all three levels of the exam typically takes two to five years. 

The designation “Chartered Financial Analyst” guarantees that the holder is an expert in investment analysis. Individuals can rely on this designation to guide clients in making informed investment decisions. When someone completes the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) program, it serves as evidence of their extensive knowledge and skill set. Considering their skills and dependability in light of the company’s ethics and code of conduct, professionals are the most qualified resources.  

The credential allows professionals who hold it to stand out because it is globally recognized. Financial institutions and investment firms view individuals with this designation as professionals of the highest caliber. Additionally, charter holder is a perfect fit for the industry because they possess the ability to adapt to the changing investment industry.

Better job opportunities, increased earning potential, and respect among peers in the finance industry are some additional advantages of holding a CFA charter.  

What Is a CFA Charter Holder

A CFA is a qualified investment advisor who provides portfolio management and advice to individuals, companies, and other organizations. They might work for brokerage houses, insurance companies, pension funds, banks, and institutions of higher learning.

The curriculum covers a wide range of topics related to advanced investment analysis, including financial analysis, corporate finance, statistics, probability theory, derivatives, economics, and portfolio management, while also giving students a general understanding of other aspects of finance.

The only people who can earn the CFA designation are investment professionals who have complied with the CFA Institute’s requirements. Three difficult exams, a bachelor’s degree, and at least three years of relevant professional experience are typically needed to become a certified financial analyst (CFA). 

CFA Job Responsibilities and Duties

#1. Provide Financial Advice and Recommendations

The amount of money you should put aside for retirement, the investments that are most suitable for your objectives and level of risk, and how to maximize your savings are all things that CFAs can assist you with. Additionally, they can assist you with life insurance and wealth planning. A CFA can also assist you in figuring out how to make your investments more tax-efficient to raise their value. They can also offer you advice on how to reduce your tax burden by using retirement accounts. 

#2. Develop Investment Portfolios

The creation and upkeep of various investment portfolios, including those for stocks, bonds, mutual funds, commodities, and other assets, is one of the responsibilities of a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). The objective is to build a portfolio that will provide the highest return with the least amount of risk.

#3. Analyze Financial Data

The operations of a business depend heavily on financial analysis. It can give you a clearer understanding of the current financial state of your company, allowing you to take more informed decisions, minimize unnecessary risks, and more. 

CFA Requirements

The CFA Program is made to give you the knowledge and practical abilities in investment analysis that will enable you to advance in your career. The CFA Program offers a way to advance and realize your professional objectives, whether you are a student, an investment professional in practice, a career switcher, or looking to begin a career in this field.

Candidates must fulfill the following requirements to become charter holders.

  • Possess a bachelor’s degree (or an equivalent) or be enrolled in the final year of a bachelor’s program.
  • Mastery of the current CFA curriculum and passing three exams are required to complete all three levels of the program.
  • Possess 4,000 hours for at least three years of qualified work experience, as recognized by the CFA Institute.
  • Have two or three letters of reference.
  • Become a CFA Institute member.
  • Follow the CFA Institute’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

The following are the most typical steps that professionals take to become chartered financial analysts, though there may be some variations:

What is a CFA Salary? 

When deciding whether to pursue a professional degree or qualification, the two main considerations are how much money you can earn and how much better your career prospects will be. The chartered financial analyst designation is the most prestigious one that can be obtained in the finance sector. A CFA’s salary depends on several variables, including experience, educational background, employer type, and position held within an organization. 

According to information from Payscale, a chartered financial analyst can make between $57,059 and $191,000 per year. This figure can change depending on the kind of employer, the place of employment, and the experience of the worker. Nevertheless, the typical annual salary of a CFA is around $86,471. 

What Is a CFA Program?

The CFA Institute created a Candidate Body of Knowledge that serves as the foundation for the program’s curriculum. Every year, the CFA curriculum is revised to reflect the most recent best practices; the degree of revisions varies by year and level.

Level I, Level II, and Level III each make up one portion of the chartered financial analyst exam. This computer-based test requires the completion of each section at authorized testing facilities. Although candidates do not have to finish the test in its entirety on the same day, they must do so in order.

CFA Exams

The Level I study program places a strong emphasis on inputs and tools and provides an overview of asset valuation, financial reporting, and portfolio management methods.

Level I takes 4.5 hours to complete and consists of 180 multiple-choice questions. With an optional break, candidates take the exam over two 135-minute sessions. The first session discusses professional ethics and standards, financial reporting, economics, and quantitative methods. The second session delves deeper into fixed income, equity, derivatives, and portfolio management.

The Level II study program places a focus on asset valuation and incorporates applications of the tools and inputs (such as economics, financial reporting and analysis, and quantitative methods) in asset valuation.

There are 88 multiple-choice questions for each of the vignettes in Level II. Level II consists of two sessions lasting two hours and twelve minutes each, with an additional optional break in between.

The portfolio management component of the Level III study program includes explanations of how to use the tools, inputs, and asset valuation models to manage equity and derivative investments for both private investors and institutions. Multiple-choice and essay questions are included with the vignettes in Level III. It takes four hours and twenty-four minutes to finish. Similar to Level II, Level III has two sessions that last two hours and twelve minutes each and an optional mid-session break.

Benefits of the CFA Program

#1. It Enhances Your Finance Career Path

The charter will boost your finance credentials. Industry professionals are aware of the dedication and self-discipline needed to earn a CFA charter. Obtaining the charter shows potential employers that you have a strong work ethic, analytical skills, and ethical foundation.

#2. Global Recognition

One of the most well-known professional certifications in finance is the CFA charter. This widespread recognition has the wonderful benefit of improving career mobility for CFA charter holders abroad. Candidates from all over the world are obtaining their charters because the requirements are the same. 

In at least 30 nations and territories, the CFA charter is accepted by authorities, academic institutions, and certification programs. A chartered financial analyst charter or candidacy will give you access to jobs all over the world as well as unmatched career resources and connections. 

#3. The Investment Yield Is High and the Cost Is Reasonable

The cost of a CFA charter can range from $2,700 to $12,000, whereas an MBA can cost over $100,000. The cost varies depending on when you register, what study materials you purchase, and how many exams you ultimately take. That represents a good deal for a professional credential. Additionally, unlike in some full-time MBA programs, you are not required to leave your job.

Overall, the compensation package and salary for chartered financial analysts are higher.

Improve job mobility and career advancement in the finance and investment management industry

#4. Practical Knowledge

Compared to the MBA, which covers a wide range of topics with less depth, a CFA charter is regarded as a niche in the larger business community. You can advance your analytical expertise and knowledge in the areas of financial reporting, economics, investment analysis, and portfolio management by earning your CFA charter. You will gain from having this set of abilities and information as you work toward a CFA charter.

What is the CFA Qualification? 

One of the highest certifications a finance professional can obtain is a CFA charter. Although it requires a lot of preparation, receiving your CFA designation gives you an impressive foundation in financial concepts. The CFA Institute awards the charter, a professional credential, to financial and investment professionals who have finished its program of study, aced all three levels of examinations, and complied with other standards set by the profession. The “Chartered Financial Analyst charter” is given to a successful applicant, who then takes the title of “CFA charter holder.”

Is CFA Harder than CPA? 

Exams for the CFA are much more difficult than those for the CPA because they require more time and effort to prepare for and are more thorough. The CPA exam is simpler to prepare for than the CFA because it must be completed in a shorter amount of time.  

How Long Does It Take To Become A CFA? 

A minimum of four years’ worth of time is typically required. This includes the time spent studying for the tests, obtaining the required work experience, and submitting an application for the charter. The CFA Institute reports that the typical CFA studies and gets ready for the exams for 300 hours for each exam level.

How Much Does CFA Cost? 

The cost to register for an exam varies depending on when you do so. It costs $900 to register early, $1,200 to register normally, and $1,450 to register after the deadline. You must pay an additional $350 one-time enrollment fee in addition to the exam registration fee when you sign up for the Level I exam.

Is It Better to Get a CFA or MBA? 

CFA candidates can work full-time jobs while also pursuing their studies for the CFA, whereas an MBA is more expensive to obtain and typically requires full-time enrollment. After graduation, an MBA frequently increases your earning potential more than a CFA, which is the trade-off.

However, traditional MBA programs cover a wider range of subjects than the CFA program, including management, marketing, and strategy. Contrarily, the CFA program offers a more in-depth discussion of investment management. The choice of which to pursue ultimately comes down to the individual’s financial career objectives. 

Is ACCA Harder than CFA? 

No, the CFA qualification is typically thought to be a little more challenging than the ACCA. ACCA Qualification is much easier to obtain than the CFA Charter, but the CFA is better suited to seasoned financial professionals who want to specialize in a particular field. ACCA, however, is ideal for entry- or mid-level professionals seeking to expand their career horizons while acquiring practical accounting knowledge and auditing expertise

What is the Difference Between ACCA and CFA?

The ACCA credential is appropriate for aspirant accountants or entry- or mid-level professionals who want to broaden their career options by acquiring practical accounting skills. However, the chartered financial analyst credential is appropriate for seasoned financial professionals who want to specialize in particular fields.


One of the most esteemed credentials in finance, the chartered financial analyst charter is widely regarded as the pinnacle of the investment analysis profession.  

A bachelor’s degree, four years of relevant professional experience, and passing three challenging exams are all requirements for becoming a charter holder. Strong self-discipline and a significant amount of study are necessary to pass the CFA Program exams.  

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