Offered internationally by the CFA Institute, Chartered Financial Analyst certification is considered the most difficult test on Wall Street and the gold standard among qualifications for investment and financial professionals. The Economist magazine has noted that “whereas there are tens of thousands of finance degrees available around the world…there is only one CFA, managed and examined by an American association of financial professionals.”

Fewer than 20 percent of candidates pass all three required CFA exams on the first try, but don’t let this deter you from your determination to join this elite group and increase your opportunities to:

  • Build a sterling professional network: CFA societies exist in more than 50 countries, providing an unparalleled list of contacts to leverage for career growth opportunities.
  • Realize your aspiration of working for a global leader: The top employers of CFA charter holders are global investment banks, mainly in the areas of asset management and research. If you aspire to work at one of these companies, a CFA designation will give you a distinct advantage.
  • Earn more money: Though compensation packages vary depending on specific employers, if a firm values CFA charter status, you will be assigned prime projects. With them typically comes higher pay.

CFA designation was first awarded in 1963. As of two months ago, the CFA Institute had 122,664 members, just under 113,000 of whom were charter holders.

CFA Requirements

You can participate in the CFA program without obtaining charter status. To do so, you must:

  • Hold a university degree, be in the final year of a degree program or have four years of qualified professional work experience in an investment decision-making role.
  • Adhere to the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct.

To obtain charter status, you are required to have both a university degree and four years of experience. In addition, you must pass three exams, taken once a year. CFA exams are challenging, as they distinguish the “best of the best” in investment and finance. Of those who sit for the exams:

  • 38 percent pass Level I on the first try.
  • 42 percent pass Level II.
  • 52 percent pass Level III.

The curricula for the exams are based on a candidate body of knowledge established by the CFA Institute. Here’s a summary:

  • Level I: The emphasis is on tools and inputs, as well as an introduction to asset valuation, financial reporting and analysis, and portfolio management.
  • Level II: At this level, the exam centers on asset valuation. It includes application of tools and inputs including the economics for reporting and analysis, along with quantitative methods.
  • Level III: Here, the focus is on portfolio management. This includes strategies for applying tools, inputs and asset valuation methods in managing equity, fixed income and derivative investments.

Are you ready for the gold standard – or would you like to be? To help you achieve this and other milestones in your financial management career, consider working with a professional coach from Magellan Search & Staffing. Read our related posts or contact us today.