Is CFA the Right Choice for You?

Mentioning a chartered financial analyst (CFA) role on your resume gives you a significant advantage over other candidates in extremely competitive fields. Portfolio management, business development, investment banking, and corporate acquisitions all require highly skilled individuals at the helm.

The catch is that earning a CFA requires considerable commitment because you have to pass a grueling three-part program. Only about 30 percent of candidates at the first level go on to pass the final Level 3 exam.

So before you decide to pursue a CFA title, it’s best to weigh the alternatives and understand what you’re getting into.

To help you get started, we’ll go over the various components of a CFA designation—as well as its pros and cons.

An Overview

The CFA is notoriously challenging and follows a series of steps, all of which need to be completed before the person can receive the title. These include:

  1. Three stages of examinations (each exam is six hours long)
  2. Four years of credible work experience in related fields such as economics, finance, and trading.
  3. Membership in the local CFA institute
  4. An agreement to abide by a firm code of ethics involving finance and accounting


The advantages of getting a CFA degree are quite prominent, which is why it is so widely pursued. Studying for the CFA exam ensures you have a deep understanding of the material, which is useful when you need to apply that knowledge practically. Secondly, if your resume features a CFA rank, it shows the employer that you’re dedicated and serious about advancing your career.

Finally, a CFA title boosts your chances of landing a high-paying job significantly. A study conducted by the CFA Institute in 2005, found that CFAs earn 54 percent more than investment analysts who don’t have the charter. Furthermore, CFAs who have more than a decade of experience out-earn MBAs too.


The downside of going for a CFA is that it takes a lot of commitment and time. Only 19 percent of those who start the program are able to complete all three stages successfully. According to experts, many candidates back out once they realize how rigorous the program is. Each exam requires at least 250 hours of study time, which boils down to 15 hours per week for over four months.

Knowing about the pros and cons of the CFA can help you prepare better for the grueling hours. If you come out successful on the other side, there are great opportunities for you.


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