Is Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) Exam Right for you?

By: Sunny Lei 5 min read

Where should I take the CFA? Why should I take the CFA exam? How would it help accelerate my career? These are the most common questions faced by fresh graduates and even professionals who wants to climb up the corporate ladder.

What is CFA?

CFA stands for Chartered Financial Analyst and it is a program for graduates, professionals, investors, students, and executives. In essence, it is one of the most respected and accredited certifications for individuals working in the financial industry.

Where can you take the CFA Exam?

Exam centres are located all over the world except in Cuba, North Korea, and Crimea region of Ukraine. If you live in the aforementioned countries, you will have to travel to another country to take the exam.

When can you take the CFA Exam?

There are 2 sittings for the Level I Exam each year, June and December.

For the Level II and Level III Exam, there is only one sitting per year at June.

On average, it takes about 6 months for an individual to prepare for each level of exam.

What is the structure of the CFA exam?

The CFA Exam consists of three stages: CFA Level I, CFA Level II, and CFA Level III. To be classified as a Chartered Financial Analyst, you will have to complete all three levels in ascending order.

The CFA exam is structured in such a way where it is extremely difficult to acquire a CFA and it is limited to those who has genuine intentions of pursuing a profession in the finance field.

There are entry barriers associated with each stage of exam.

For take the Level I exam, you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Have a bachelor’s (or equivalent) degree
  • Be in the final year of a bachelor’s degree programme
  • Have 4 years of professional work experience
  • Have a combination of professional work and university education that totals to at least four years

The Level I exam consists of 240 multiple choice questions and are distributed over two exam sittings. Each exam session is 3 hours long.

For Level II applicants, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must have completed CFA Level 1
  • Have a bachelor’s (or equivalent) degree

For Level III applicants, you must first complete the Level II Exam.

How can CFA increase your salary and employability?

Once you are part of the CFA Institute by passing the CFA exam, you are classified as an investment and finance professional. With an accredited title on your CV or business card, you are bound to land a better paying job.

According to Analystprep, taking the CFA exam boosts salaries by 15-20%. Depending on your existing role, the more seniority your role is, the higher the raise (Payscale, 2021).

If you’re the type of person who wants to determine what’s the return on investment (ROI) for taking the CFA, you can use this graph as a reference benchmark. The salary quoted from the graph above is on per-hour basis (Payscale, 2021).

Looking at the amount of sweat and money you put in to acquire the CFA, the CFA only pays off when you are late in your career. To get the most out of CFA, you will have to stick around in the finance industry for long enough to get a lump raise (Payscale, 2021).

In addition to better pay, taking the CFA exam grounds you to up-to-date financial knowledge.

CFA versus MBA

It is incredibly common for high executives to have both accreditations. If you are picking between the two, CFA is for individuals who want to specialise in the financial industry. Meanwhile, the MBA is delivered in a broader education covering topics such as audit, accounting, marketing, management, and leadership. 

Conclusion

After all the jargon of information, what’s the takeaway of this article and decision?

It is apparent that CFA pays off later in careers. As your years of experience in the finance industry increase, the more valuable CFA will be.

What else?

On average, a CFA holder earns a higher income than a MBA holder.

If you’re a fresh graduate looking to pursue a career in the financial industry, it is backed by facts that you should start accumulating work experience while studying for Level I CFA.

If you’re CFA holder, feel free to share your opinion and let us all know your career journey!

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