How to Become a CFA® Charterholder
Step 1: Pass the CFA® Exam
To earn the CFA charter, you first have to pass the CFA exams. There are three exam levels (I, II, III) with unique topic and learning focuses. The topics include investment tools, asset valuation, and portfolio management. Each exam will test different learning focuses. The Level I exam focuses on knowledge and comprehension, while Level II is more application- and analysis-based. The Level III exam focuses on synthesizing information and making evaluations. Make no mistake: these exams are challenging. According to CFA Institute, candidates spend an average of 300 hours preparing for the exam for each level, and many find it easier with exam prep packages.
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Step 2: Complete Education and Work Experience Requirements
There are a number of different ways to fulfill the education and work experience requirements to enroll in the CFA Program. If you are new to the industry, you need to have a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) or be in the final year of your bachelor’s degree program. If you have been working in the industry, and you have 4,000 hours of relevant work experience or a combination of professional work and university experience that totals 4,000 hours, you are also eligible to start the CFA Program.
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Step 3: Become a Member of CFA Institute
Before you receive your charter, you have to become a member of CFA Institute. You can become a member while you are in the process of getting the charter or wait until the end. The application process has three phases, and it typically takes a few weeks to get approved. To apply, you need to have passed at least Level I of the CFA exam or the self-administered Standards of Practice Examination, a bachelor’s degree or equivalent education/work experience, 4,000 hours of professional work experience in investment decision-making, and three professional references are also required. You are also strongly encouraged to join a local CFA Society to network with your peers and take advantage of local continuing education opportunities.
Step 4: Abide by the Code of Ethics
The Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct are the ethical benchmarks for investment professionals around the world. As a CFA Program candidate or CFA Institute member, you are required to abide by the Code and Standards. The Code maintains that you must place the interests of your clients and the integrity of the profession above your own interests, and that you must act with respect and professional competence.
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