How to Get Certified as a Chartered Financial Analyst

by Clayton Browne

The Chartered Financial Analyst Program offers a globally recognized curriculum designed to help candidates attain a CFA certification. Completing the program demonstrates that charter holders have the real-world investment analysis and portfolio management skills required to be successful in the 21st-century investment industry. Becoming a CFA requires passing three comprehensive exams. CFA candidates must also have a bachelor's degree or four years of professional work experience, or a combination of professional work and college that adds up to at least four years.

Earn a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree in any field is sufficient, but a finance, accounting or business program is relevant to much of the material on the CFA exams. Although it is possible to qualify to take the CFA exams without a degree, based on your work experience, not having a degree will likely limit your career advancement opportunities.

Register for the CFA program and take the Level I CFA exam in your final semester in college. The Level 1 CFA exam covers basic investment tools. A finance major should be well-prepared for the exam by her senior year. Taking the first exam while you are still in college will give you a jump start in your career, as you can sign up to take the Level II and Level III exams as soon as you graduate.

Sign up and take the Level II exam as soon as possible after you graduate. Do not delay signing up for the exam, as you only have a small window between your graduation in May and the exam on the first Saturday in June. While Level I exams are typically offered in January and June, Level II and III exams are usually only offered in June.

Register for and take the Level III CFA exam the following June. You must complete the CFA exams in sequence, so you must have passed the Level II exam in order to take the Level III exam. It can take 60 to 90 days for exam results to be posted.


  • Study hard to prepare for the CFA exams. The exams are designed to be comprehensive, and less than half of those who take the exams pass on their first attempt. June 2012 CFA exam pass rates were 38 percent for Level I, 42 percent for Level II and 52 percent for Level III.


  • Do not forget to sign up for the CFA Level II exam as soon as you graduate. You will have to wait a full year to take the exam if you miss the exam offered shortly after your graduation.

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