What is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)?

A Chartered Financial Analyst is a professional qualification issued by the CFA Institution to finance and investment professionals with a focus on investment analysis, portfolio management, and financial research. This charter is a highly sought-after credential by companies and organizations all over the world especially while hiring investment professionals. Those who achieve it have a variety of opportunities available to them such as hedge fund managers, portfolio managers, research analysts, etc. Other benefits of accomplishing the CFA qualification include higher salaries, better job prospects, and respect among other investment professionals among other benefits. The CFA certification can be a tremendous boost to your career and therefore, is a very good qualification to pursue, especially for those aspiring to become specialists within the investment field. That is why, to help you along the path to becoming a CFA certification holder, we have discussed the process below in a step-by-step method.

Steps to become a Chartered Financial Analyst:


Step 1: Meet the CFA Charter eligibility requirements

In order to meet the eligibility criteria for the CFA charter, candidates must have at least 1 of the following:

  • A Bachelor’s degree OR
  • Be in the last 2 years of completion of your bachelor’s degree OR
  • Have gained 4000 hours of professional work experience OR
  • Have a combination of work experience and higher education over a minimum of 3 years without these periods overlapping. Education and work experience periods must be completed one after the other.

Once these requirements have been met, candidates can move on to the next step of the process.

Step 2: Enroll in the CFA Program

Enrolling in the CFA program involves becoming a member of the CFA Institution. Members looking to accomplish the CFA charter will need to complete their CFA registration and pay a 1-time enrollment fee of $350 as part of the CFA exam cost. Becoming a member is mandatory for those going to sit the CFA exams. However, becoming a CFA member also means getting access to volunteer opportunities, the most recent research in the field of investment analysis as well as voting rights in the CFA Board elections. Once members have accomplished the CFA qualification, they will also be listed in a directory along with other CFA members which makes them easier to contact for future opportunities.

Before proceeding to the next step, candidates will have to also meet the Professional Conduct Admission criteria and have a valid international travel passport before sitting any of the exams. They will also have to be proficient in English since the exam questions are in English. Additionally, candidates will need to have completed their bachelor’s degree before sitting for the CFA Level 2 exam.

Step 3: Pass all 3 levels of the CFA exams.

There are 3 levels for the CFA exams, all of which need to be completed in order to gain the CFA charter. Candidates begin at CFA Level 1 and need to pass it before they can move on to the next level. The CFA Level 1 exam covers a range of topics, some of which include financial statement analysis, quantitative methods, derivatives, and equity investments among others. The Level 1 exam focuses on the knowledge and understanding of the different subjects. While CFA Levels 2 and 3 delve further and focus on the application and analysis of the topics covered in the CFA Level 1 syllabus. Candidates are advised to spend an average of 300 hours preparing for each exam. Those that register for the exam before the early registration deadline can avail themselves of the discounted fees of $900 compared to the regular fees of $1200 per exam as part of the CFA exam cost.

Also, after passing the CFA Level 3 exam, candidates for the CFA certification need to complete before, during, or after the CFA exams 4000 hours of professional work experience directly related to the investment profession within a period of 36 months before they can obtain the CFA qualification.

Step 4: Submit reference letters.

Once all the above steps have been completed, candidates also need to provide 2 – 3 references that can speak to the expertise and knowledge of the individual. These can be made available from previous employers, work associates, etc.

Step 5: Apply for the CFA charter.

After you have passed the 3 levels of the CFA exam and completed all the steps listed above, you can apply to be a CFA Chartered Financial Analyst. This involves providing all your documents for review. Once candidates have applied for the charter, it may take up to 10 days for regular members to receive their charter and up to 4 weeks for affiliate members. Once CFA candidates receive their charter, they will need to pay a fee of $275 per year to maintain their membership within the CFA community.


Becoming a CFA charter is a lengthy but rewarding process. Studies show that, candidates take a minimum of 4 years to complete the CFA certification, however, if the steps above are followed correctly, candidates can pass and obtain the CFA charter in the minimum time possible. Candidates may struggle with educating themselves while juggling other responsibilities, nonetheless, online and traditional CFA training programs can provide additional support to CFA candidates and help them succeed with their career plans. So, join Delphi’s Online CFA certification course to guide you through this long journey in the best and most efficient way possible!