Last updated: November 16, 2021

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Your Eligibility to Become a CFA Charterholder

CFA Exam / Requirements


How to Become a CFA Charterholder

To become a CFA Charterholder, you need to pass all 3 levels of the CFA exam. You can register for the level 1 exam if you meet the education and/or work experience requirements. The years of professional work also count when you pass the exams and want to use your CFA designation.

CFA Program Requirements: Education & Work Experience


To register for your level 1 CFA exam, you must have:

  • a bachelor’s (or equivalent) degree or be a final-year student (max. 11 months to go) OR
  • 4,000 hours of professional work experience (full-time, investment-related or not) OR
  • a combination of professional work experience and education totaling 4,000 hours (education and work cannot overlap).

To become a CFA charterholder, you must have:

  • all 3 levels of the exam completed AND
  • at least 4,000 hours of relevant investment-related work experience, completed in a minimum of 36 months months (full-time and part-time jobs, as well as remote work arrangements – before, during, or after your participation in the CFA® Program – qualify).


Can I Take the CFA Exam?
Requirements for Entering the Program


To be able to enroll in the list of CFA exam candidates and sit for your first CFA exam, you must:

be prepared to take the exam in English,

have a valid international passport,

pay your enrollment and registration fees,

complete a Professional Conduct Statement form,

meet CFA Program entrance criteria:


Note that residents of Syria, Cuba, North Korea and the Crimea region of the Ukraine, as well as Specially Designated Nationals are prohibited from participating in the CFA Program in accordance with the OFAC Compliance Policy.

You must have:

a bachelor’s (or equivalent) degree or be a final-year student.
OR

4,000 hours of professional work experience (investment-related or not).
OR

a combination of professional work experience and education totaling 4,000 hours.


Summing up, as far as eligibility for the CFA exam goes, you need to have an undergraduate degree or 4,000 hours of work experience. The combo of education and experience is also possible. So, basically the following scenarios make you eligible for registering for your level 1 CFA exam:

  • you’re in the last year of your undergraduate studies (and about to become a bachelor, or equivalent, before you register for your level 2 exam),
  • you have your bachelor’s (or equivalent) degree (doesn’t matter whether you go to a graduate school now, later, or never),
  • you have no degree but you worked professionally full-time for 4,000 hours in whatever field,
  • you are in an undergraduate school and have already gained some work experience in a full-time job and your education + work experience is 4,000 hours (not overlapping).

It All Starts With Your CFA Exam Study Plan

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The 3 Levels of CFA Exam

If you meet the entrance requirements for candidates and you register for your level 1 exam, you’re on the right track to becoming a CFA charterholder. Now, you need to take and pass all the 3 levels of CFA exam:

This order is not random. You start with level 1 and continue with level 2 only if you pass level 1. The level 3 exam cannot be taken unless you pass the other two exams. That is why you can't register for your next exam before you know whether you passed or failed the one you’ve just taken. Which doesn’t mean you cannot study for your next exam before you register.

The quickest CFA exam path is now 12 months. It takes into consideration CFA Institute's official rule of 6 months minimum between exams. Moreover, it assumes that you’ll pass each level of your CFA exam at the first attempt. If you seek this path, know this – it’s a very strict and challenging scenario. There will be no time for procrastination – you’ll need to work like crazy!

Becoming a CFA Charterholder
in 12 Months

To become a CFA charterholder in 12 months, i.e. by following the quickest path there is, you need to pass all 3 levels of your CFA exam at the first attempt (no retakes allowed).

Actually, now with the compured-based CFA exams held more frequently, you can pass all 3 CFA exams within 12 to 18 months:

CFA in 12 Months, Start in 2021

CFA EXAM PASSED IN 15 MONTHS
level 1 CFA exam in Feb 2021 level 2 CFA exam in Aug 2021 level 3 CFA exam in May 2022

CFA EXAM PASSED IN 12 MONTHS
level 1 CFA exam in May 2021 level 2 CFA exam in Nov 2021 level 3 CFA exam in May 2022

CFA EXAM PASSED IN 12 MONTHS
level 1 CFA exam in Aug 2021 level 2 CFA exam in Feb 2022 level 3 CFA exam in Aug 2022

CFA EXAM PASSED IN 15 MONTHS
level 1 CFA exam in Nov 2021 level 2 CFA exam in Aug 2022 level 3 CFA exam in Feb 2023

CFA in 12 Months, Start in 2022

CFA EXAM PASSED IN 12 MONTHS
level 1 CFA exam in Feb 2022 level 2 CFA exam in Aug 2022 level 3 CFA exam in Feb 2023

CFA EXAM PASSED IN 15 MONTHS
level 1 CFA exam in May 2022 level 2 CFA exam in Nov 2022 level 3 CFA exam in Aug 2023

CFA EXAM PASSED IN 18 MONTHS
level 1 CFA exam in Aug 2022 level 2 CFA exam in May 2023 level 3 CFA exam in Feb 2024

CFA EXAM PASSED IN 15 MONTHS
level 1 CFA exam in Nov 2022 level 2 CFA exam in May 2023 level 3 CFA exam in Feb 2024



Of course, you need to factor in preparation before your level 1 exam, which has been excluded from the calculations above. Most of candidates prepare for their level 1 exam approx. 5-4 months but we encourage you to make an informed decision. See here when & how to prepare for your CFA exam.

Note that to make it work for you within 12-18 months, you need to meet the entrance requirements before you actually decide to register for your level 1 exam and start your preparation. Also, you’ll already need to have the required 4,000 hours (gathered in at least 36 months) of investment-related work experience before you complete your level 3 exam if you want to become a CFA charterholder right after you pass the last level of your CFA exam. You can find all the CFA charterholder requirements detailed below .


Can I Use the Designation?
Requirements for Becoming a CFA Charterholder

To become a CFA charterholder & earn your CFA designation, you must:

  • pass all 3 levels of the CFA exam,
  • have at least 4,000 hours of professional work experience completed in a minimum of 36 months,
  • become a CFA Institute (and society) member and pay annual dues,
  • commit yourself to follow the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct,
  • have 3 professional references (or 2 if they are CFA charterholders).

Work Experience Requirements

To become a CFA charterholder, you must have 36 months (4,000 hours)
of professional work experience!


DOES MY WORK EXPERIENCE QUALIFY?

Your work experience qualifies for CFA Program purposes if:

  • it is related to the investment decision-making process,
  • accrued before, during, or after participation in the CFA Program (full-time jobs only),
  • adequately described in your membership application.

CFA Institute Membership

To join CFA Institute as a regular member, you must:

  • apply to be a CFA Institute member,
  • be accepted by CFA Institute,
  • activate your CFA Institute membership,
  • pay annual dues,
  • submit your Professional Conduct Statement.

You can apply to become a regular member of CFA Institute already when you pass your level 1 CFA exam. It is recommended that you also join your local society when you become a CFA Institute regular member. Society membership is open to CFA charterholders, but also to candidates and other individuals as long as they meet eligibility requirements.


CFA Program Requirements Summed Up

  1. Before you can register for the level 1 exam, you must first meet the CFA Program entrance requirements regarding education and/or work experience.
  2. The quickest possible way to handle the 3 levels of the CFA exam is now 12 months but it’s a very strict and challenging scenario.
  3. All 3 passed levels of the CFA exam do not make you a CFA charterholder yet.
  4. After you pass all the 3 exams, you must meet the CFA charterholder requirements particularly related to the relevant work experience before you can actually use your CFA designation.
  5. Still, every passed level is a milepost on your career path. Thus, every level is worth the effort!





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