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To earn the CFA charter you must pass three levels of the exam in order: Level I, Level II, and Level III. Each exam builds on the mastery demonstrated by achieving a passing score on the previous exams.

It is not a degree. It’s a professional credential that demonstrates mastery of advanced investment analysis and real-world portfolio management. Candidates often weigh the benefits of the CFA charter against those of an MBA, which may be a contributing factor in this common misunderstanding.

Candidates might also weigh the benefits of the CFA® charter against those of a Master of Science in Financial Analysis (MSFA). Certain curriculums like the MSFA offered by the College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan Company are aligned to the learning outcomes of the CFA® Institute’s CFA® Program, enabling students to earn an MSFA while concurrently preparing for the CFA® exam. 

An individual wishing to enroll in the CFA Program and register for the Level I exam for the first time must possess an international travel passport. In addition, candidates must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Have earned a bachelor’s (or equivalent) degree, or select an exam window that is 11 months or fewer before your graduation month for your bachelor’s degree or equivalent program. Understand that you must complete your degree program prior to sitting for level II.
  • Have accumulated 4,000 hours of applicable professional work experience (not required to be investment related).

Candidates may also have a combination of full-time professional experience and education that totals a minimum 4000 hours. Those hours of experience/education must be accrued prior to enrollment in the program.  This article has more details.

According to Payscale, in the United States, the CFA charterholder salary is anywhere from $64,234 to $255,000 a year. Why is there such a big range? Because there is a lot you can do with the charter in jobs with varying degrees of responsibility.

Read more about CFA Salaries »

The Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA) charter is a professional designation administered by CFA Institute. According to CFA Institute, it’s the most respected and recognized investment management designation in the world.