CFA® Program Requirements:
How to Become a CFA® Charterholder in Just 2 Years
IMPORTANT: Due to COVID pandemic, CFA Institute has made the decision to postpone the June 2020 CFA Exam administration globally. Read more here
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 OR
- 4 years of professional work experience (full-time, investment-related or not) OR
- a combination of professional work experience and education totaling 4 years.
To become a CFA charterholder, you must have:
- all 3 levels of the exam completed AND
- at least 48 months of relevant investment-related work experience (full-time jobs only).
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,
pay your enrollment and registration fees,
have a valid international passport,
complete a Professional Conduct Statement form,
meet CFA Program entrance criteria:
You must have:
a bachelor’s (or equivalent) degree or be a final-year student.
4 years of professional work experience (investment-related or not).
a combination of professional work experience and education totaling 4 years.
Summing up, as far as eligibility for the CFA exam goes, you need to have an undergraduate degree or 4 years 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 years in whatever field,
- you are in an undergraduate school and have already gained some work experience in a full-time job and the total number of years of your education + work experience is 4.
The 3 Levels of CFA Exam
If you meet the 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 possible way to handle the exams is 2 years. This time accounts for intensive preparation before all the 3 levels and assumes you’ll pass each of the exams at the first attempt. Also, it’s a very strict and challenging scenario. There will be no time for procrastination – you’ll need to work like crazy!
The idea is to take your level 1 exam in December after roughly 4 months of preparation (ca. 300 study hrs, i.e. almost 20 hrs a week). With the 2-year plan in mind, it’s best to take a couple of weeks off to recharge the batteries after level 1 and start your level 2 prep in early January. Don’t wait for the results to follow this plan. Instead, study the L2 topics that have much in common with L1 topics like Ethics or Corporate Finance. Level 2 exam is harder than level 1 so you can definitely use an extra month of prep (again ca. 300 study hrs, i.e. 15 hrs a week). Take your level 2 exam in June. Wait for the results and take time off until January (after almost 9 months of hard work you surely need it!). The level 3 exam is also in June. Once again, you’ll need to arrange around 300 study hrs. But if you’re still following the plan, 5 months should do just fine to get ready for your last exam.
BECOMING A CFA CHARTERHOLDER IN JUST 2 YEARS
To become a CFA charterholder in just 2 years, you need to follow the 2-year plan strictly and successfully (it cannot be done if you need to retake any of the exams).
level 1 CFA exam:
Begin in early Aug 2019 prepare for 4 months sit L1 in Dec 2019 pass (results in late Jan)
level 2 CFA exam:
Begin in early Jan prepare for 5 months sit L2 in June 2020 pass (results in mid-Aug)
level 3 CFA exam:
Begin in early Jan prepare for 5 months sit L3 in June 2021 pass (results in late Aug)
BEGINNING: Aug 2019, END: Aug 2021, TOTAL: 2 years
Note that to make it work for you within the scope of 2 years, 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 48 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 4 years of professional work experience,
- 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 4 years of professional work experience,
4 years of professional work experience = 48 months of qualified 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
- Before you can register for the level 1 exam, you must first meet the CFA Program entrance requirements regarding education and/or work experience.
- The quickest possible way to handle the exams is 2 years but it’s a very strict and challenging scenario.
- All 3 passed levels of the CFA exam do not make you a CFA charterholder yet.
- 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.
- Still, every passed level is a milepost on your career path. Thus, every level is worth the effort!