Are you thinking about studying for and apply to receive your CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) certificate? If you are looking into this as a possible career path, there are a few things you might want to know before you begin the process. The CFA consists of three primary parts: the test, the work experience, and joining the institute. Here is the process in a nutshell along with some practical advice as you consider this certification for your career.
- Pass the testing. There are three levels to the CFA test and individuals taking the certification must pass all three in succession. The Level I test is given twice a year in the spring and fall while Levels II and III are only offered once a year. This means the testing portion of the certification will take at least a year and a half to three years to complete depending on your schedule. The estimated time that an average person will put into preparing for these tests is around 250 hours or 10 to 15 hours per week. Still, only 45-60% of people will pass the tests.
- Acceptable work experience. The CFA also requires 48 months of acceptable work experience. Luckily the lists of acceptable fields provided by the organization are fairly broad. However, it will require a sacrifice of time for anyone participating. 48 months is 4 years of experience. If you are already within an approved industry this could be completed before you take the exams. However, if you are taking the CFA as a way to change careers you will need to make a commitment to the process.
- Join the institute. Once you have completed the requisite number of working hours and passed all three levels of testing, you will be required to join the institute. This will involve annual dues as well as participation in your local chapter. This can be an excellent way to meet other professionals in your field and get new opportunities. Most experts advise against obtaining the CFA as a remedy for a failing career. Rather, it should be seen as an enhancement with your current experience. The registration fees alone can cost several thousand dollars per year so the commitment to the program needs to be its own incentive.
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