How to Become a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Charterholder : 

Step by Step Guide

Tue Feb 2, 2021

Getting the CFA charter is a grueling process, however, the benefits that you reap at the end of the journey will make you realize that it was all worth it. Earning the CFA designation can move your resume to the top of the pile in extremely competitive fields, including portfolio management, investment banking, business development, and corporate mergers and acquisitions. The path to becoming a CFA charterholder is challenging, but it can open new doors to you in global finance. Though every professional's path toward becoming a chartered financial analyst may be different, here are the most common steps you can take to become one:

1. Enroll for the CFA program

2. Pass three levels of the CFA program.

3. Obtain qualified work experience.

4. Become a Member of the CFA Institute

5. Abide by the Code of Ethics

1. Enroll for the CFA program to become a CFA candidate, you have to first enroll in the CFA program before registering for the Level I exam. To enroll in the program, you need to meet one of the following requirements:
  • Have a bachelor's degree
  • In the final year of bachelor's degree program
  • Completed a combination of four years of full-time work experience and higher education
In addition to these requirements, candidates must also own an international travel passport, be able to take the exams in English, meet the professional conduct admission criteria and live in a participating country.

2. Pass three levels of the CFA program The next step to becoming a CFA is to pass all three levels of the CFA program. These three levels comprise unique topics and learning focuses. The topics include investment tools, asset valuation, and portfolio management. Each exam will test different learning parameters.
  • Level I:Discusses about basic concepts regarding asset classes, securities and markets. It equips candidates with tools and concepts that applies to investment management and portfolio management.
  • Level II: Discusses about company and industry analysis and investment vehicles and financial instruments. It equips candidates with the concept application of investment tools and valuation techniques for all types of assets.
  • Level III: Discusses about management of specific asset class portfolio, institutional portfolio and individual portfolios. It focuses on synthesizing all the concepts and analytical methods in a variety of applications for effective portfolio management and wealth planning.
Passing the CFA exams is a requirement of obtaining the CFA charter. Make no mistake: these exams are challenging. While some professionals can study for the exams while working in the field, others find concentrated study to be a more successful strategy. The CFA Institute estimates that the average candidate spends 322 hours preparing for each exam—304 average hours for Level I, 329 hours for Level II and 334 hours for Level III.

Obtain qualified work experience to progress toward becoming a CFA charterholder, you'll need to acquire 48 months of “acceptable work experience” which can be achieved before, during or after taking the exams. The CFA Institute considers acceptable work experience to be a broad range of financial and investment experience covering areas like trading, economic and corporate finance. However, at least 50% of this work experience must be directly involved in the investment decision-making process or in the production of a product that impacts this process.

3. Become a Member of the CFA Institute, after you have passed the three exams and acquired the necessary work experience, you will need to start preparing reference letters to submit to the CFA Institute. These references should attest to your abilities and professional character as well as explain why you should be awarded a charter. References that come from supervisors or current CFA charterholders will be more impactful than others. 

After completing this, you can apply to become a CFA charterholder. This requires you to submit a payment as well as your prerequisites for review. The CFA® Institute offers two categories of membership, namely, regular and affiliate. The CFA Institute may take up to 10 business days to review regular membership applications and up to 4 weeks for affiliate membership applications. Candidates will receive an email once their application has been reviewed. Once you are approved, you are officially a CFA charterholder. Hurray !!! Congratulations :)

4. Abide by the Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct are the ethical benchmarks for investment professionals around the world. As a CFA Program candidate or CFA Institute member, you are required to abide by the Code and Standards. The Code maintains that you must place the interests of your clients and the integrity of the profession above your own interests, and that you must act with respect and professional competence. 

On the internet you can find plenty of tips that will help you in making the CFA exam preparation easier. It is important that you plan a strategy for each level as each one of them is different from one another.

If you have already made the decision of going for CFA Program and are looking for a CFA Course training ,then reach out to us at FinKore (info@finkore.com or +91 7042666890). 

You may also join our discussion forum to interact with CFA Level 1 Students ( Public Forum (finkore.com)) .

CFA Institute does not endorse, promote, or warrant the accuracy or quality of the products or services offered by FinKore. ” CFA® Charterholder, CFA® designation, CFA® charter” are trademarks owned by CFA Institute.


Shubham Bansal
Wealth Manager, financial Advisor, an avid reader and finance enthusiast.

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