How to Become a CFA Charter holder

How to Become a CFA Charter holder

Pass CFA Exams-

CFA Program contains three levels of curriculum, each with its own exam. Passing the exam for all three levels is a requirement to obtain the CFA charter. 

Achieve Qualified Work Experience-

Complete work experience requirements before, during, or after participation in CFA Program. Your experience must be directly involved with the investment decision-making process or producing a work product that informs or adds value to that process.

Submit Reference Letters-

In support of your membership application, you will need to provide 2-3 professional references. References will be asked to comment on your work experience and professional character. 

Apply to Become a Charterholder-

Apply to become a regular member of CFA Institute. Once your application is approved and you have joined CFA Institute, you will have earned the CFA charter. 

Each year, we survey CFA Program candidates before and after the June exam to measure and improve the CFA candidate experience. The surveys ask for feedback across several areas, including exam preparation, curriculum, exam value, and employment outlook. View the June 2019 CFA Program candidate survey results.

Enrollment Criteria and Requirements for CFA Program

To become a CFA candidate, you must enroll in CFA Program and register for the Level I exam. In order to enroll you must meet all of the qualifications listed below. We have provided helpful information below to guide you through the enrollment process and to keep you on track for registration. For further questions about CFA Program enrollment requirements, please refer to these FAQs.

Meet One of the Following Enrollment Requirements

Bachelor's Degree

Complete a bachelor's program or equivalent program and have received a degree from the college/university. If you are not sure if your program is comparable, consult your college or university.

Final-Year Student

Be a final-year student of a bachelor's program or equivalent program on the date of enrolling for the Level I exam and becoming a candidate in CFA Program. Understand that you must complete your degree program prior to the date of registering for Level II.

Professional Work Experience

Have a combination of four years (or 48 months) of full-time work experience and/or college/university education on the date of registering for the Level I exam. The dates of education and professional work experience cannot be overlapping. Candidates are required to have a total of four years sequentially. Understand that part-time work does not qualify toward meeting the professional work experience requirement. Also understand that full-time work does not need to be investment related. Internships/articleships are accepted if they are paid and full-time. Work experience with your own business or your family business will qualify only if it is full-time, professional experience for which you are paid. 

What does professional work experience mean? Professional work experience requires specialized knowledge, education, or advanced skills. Professional work experience requires the application of higher-level judgement and business skills, including:  
  • Leadership and teamwork 
  • Business communications 
  • Critical thinking and problem solving 
  • Time management 
  • Professional judgement 
  • Analytical skills 
  • Adaptability 

    Candidates applying to register for CFA Program without completing a bachelor’s degree must honestly evaluate whether their professional work experience has equipped them for the significant volume and depth of study demanded by CFA Program. 

    Please note that CFA Institute may request proof of education (copy of diploma, marksheet, any other relevant documents) and/or work experience (letter of employment, salary slips, any other relevant documents) to be submitted at any stage of your journey as a candidate or even after becoming a member in order to demonstrate entrance requirements were met. Failure to provide requested documentation relevant to entrance requirements may result in cancellation of a current exam registration, withholding of exam results, voiding of past exam results, and may lead to investigation and disciplinary action by the CFA Institute Professional Conduct Program.  

    Have an International Travel Passport 

    CFA Institute requires that every CFA Program candidate have a valid international travel passport. Those without a passport will not be able to register or sit for exams. 

    Be Prepared to Take Exams in English

    CFA Program exams are only offered in English. Exams require English proficiency for reading comprehension and formulating answers to complex financial scenarios.

    Meet the Professional Conduct Admission Criteria

    All candidates in CFA Program must complete a Professional Conduct Statement form to attest that they are in compliance with this requirement.

    Live in a Participating Country

    There are some countries with which CFA Institute cannot work. Review the OFAC Policy to check if there are any sanctions on your country.

    CFA Program vs. MBA

    Both the CFA charter and an MBA program offer benefits that can advance your career. While there are some similarities between the two, there are a few key differences. Examine the chart below to consider which education is more aligned to your career goals.
      CFA Program MBA Program
    Career Path Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management Business Management
    Course Requirement

    900+ hours of self study

    10 topic areas

    4,000 hours of qualified work experience

    2–4 years depending on program

    Class attendance and participation

    No practice requirements

    Program Cost USD2,400–4,590 depending on fee deadline USD80,000–125,000 depending on program
    Industry Recognition

    Benchmarking by NARIC, as comparable to a Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) Master's Level 7

    Waivers from licensing exams in 27 countries

    Accredited MBA programs are widely recognized by employers
    Educational Focus Deep knowledge of investment analysis, management, and ethics Broad knowledge of core business concepts with some opportunity to specialize
    Program Difficulty Low barrier for entry, high attrition rate High barrier for entry, low attrition rate
    Award of Completion Charter: professional designation Degree certificate
    Networking Opportunities 167,000+ CFA Institute members Depends on specific MBA program

    Get Familiar with CFA Program

    • Three Levels of Exams

    Learn about the structure, timing, and cost of CFA exams.

    Exams That Evolve in Complexity

    Each level of the curriculum builds on the prior level and becomes increasingly complex. The chart below explains the differences between each exam so you can prepare accordingly. For details on computer-based exams, visit our CBT information page.


    Level I
    Level II
    Level III
    Question Format
    Multiple choice questions
    Vignette-supported multiple choice questions
    Vignette-supported constructed response questions and vignette-supported multiple choice questions
    Exam Results Availability
    Within 60 days of taking the exam
    Within 60 days of taking the exam
    Within 90 days of taking the exam
    Level Advancement
    Meet CFA Program enrollment requirements
    Pass Level I CFA exam
    Pass Level II CFA exam
    Pass Rate
    View Quick Start Guide for Level I 
    View Level I Details
    View Quick Start Guide for Level II
    View Level II Details
    View Quick Start Guide for Level III
    View Level III Details

    Use the CFA Exam Calendar to Keep Track of Important Exam Dates

    CFA Program includes a series of three exams; Levels I, II, and III. The last paper-based exams will be offered in December 2020; exams in 2021 will be computer-based for all levels. Use the calendar to view upcoming exams and other important dates leading up to the exam. All deadlines are 11:59 p.m. ET. For the latest information on upcoming exams, please visit our CFA Exam Updates page.

    Note that scheduling for computer-based exams in August and November are not yet available. Candidates registered for these exams will be notified when scheduling opens.

    CFA Program Costs

    Registration costs vary depending on when you decide to register for the exam. Please note, there is a one-time enrollment fee of USD 450 the first time you register for the Level 1 exam. Take care when scheduling our computer-based exam appointment, as there is a $250 rescheduling fee if you wish to change your appointment.

    $450 One-Time Enrollment Fee

    There is a one-time enrollment fee when you register for CFA Program and the Level I exam. This fee will not be applied to subsequent exams. All fees must be paid in US dollars. For more information on enrollment fees and payment options, visit our policies page.

    Other Important Exam Registration Details

    Rescheduling Fee

    Computer-based exam appointments are on a first-come, first-served basis and there is a USD 250 rescheduling fee if you wish to change your appointment.

    Alternate Dates and Disability Accommodations

    If you have a religious obligation or belief that prevents you from taking your paper-based exam on the scheduled day, we offer alternate dates. We also accommodate for other special needs or health disabilities. For more information on alternate dates or disability accommodations, visit our policies page.

    • CFA Program Scholarships

    We offer scholarships to help qualified candidates pay for exam fees. 


    CFA Institute scholarships are part of our commitment to promoting the highest standards of ethics, education, and professional excellence. Our scholarships help make the CFA® charter more attainable and give more people an opportunity to advance their career. 

    Explore Available Scholarships 

    Our variety of scholarships allow more people to participate in CFA Program. View our full list of scholarships below or take advantage of our scholarship assessment tool to find the scholarship best suited for you. All scholarships include a waived enrollment fee and discounted registration. Scholarships for the 2021 exams will be available on 1 September.


    Who Is This For?

    Registration Discount

    Access Scholarship

    For individuals who may not be able to afford the program fees. Applicants must meet all CFA Program enrollment requirements. 

    Exam registration reduced to USD250

    Women's Scholarship

    For women who are interested in earning the CFA charter, do not qualify for other CFA Institute scholarships, and have not yet registered for their next exam. 

    Exam registration reduced to USD350

    Student Scholarship

    For students currently attending an affiliated university and have not yet registered for their next exam.

    Exam registration reduced to USD350

    Professor Scholarship

    For full-time college/university professors or administrators/department heads who teach a minimum number of credit hours at qualified institutions and have not yet registered for their next exam.


    Exam registration reduced to USD350

    Regulator Scholarship

    For employees of financial regulators, central banks, securities commissions, qualifying stock exchanges, SROs and/or government entities. Specifically, those entities that oversee or regulate operations, standards of practice or business conduct of the investment management industry and which have entered into a program agreement with CFA Institute.


    Exam registration reduced to USD350

    Media Scholarship

    Full-time or contract employees of media organizations that communicate and distribute financial news, data, and education and have not yet registered for their next exam.

    Exam registration reduced to USD350



    Hope you can find this article helpful. If you did like this Blog then Share it with your friends who are preparing for CFA Exams or who will be giving their CFA Exams in the near future.

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      Varun Sethupathi

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