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If you’re looking into the possibility of gaining your CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) certification it is important to know all of the requirements for the application. The CFA process consists of three parts: tests, work experience, and membership in the institute. Here are short descriptions of each step of the process and practical advice to consider while pursuing this certification.

  • The tests. There are three levels to the test and they must be passed in succession. The Level I test is hosted twice a year in the spring and fall. Levels II and III are each offered only once a year. This means that the shortest time to complete the testing will be a year and a half depending on your schedule. It is more likely to take three years or longer. It is also important to properly prepare for the test. It is estimated that the average person will prepare for around 250 total hours. Only 45-60% of candidates will pass the tests.
  • Your work experience. The CFA certification requires 48 months of related and acceptable work experience. The list of acceptable fields which is provided by the organization is broad and many candidates are already working in similar jobs. 48 hours translates to 4 years of experience. A candidate already working in the financial field may be able to complete this requirement before taking the exams. If the CFA is viewed as a way to transition into a financial career, there will need to be an additional 4 year commitment to the process.
  • Membership in the institute. After the work hours are complete and the exams are passed, the only remaining requirement is to join the institute. You will be responsible for annual dues as well as participation in your local chapter. This can be viewed as a great networking opportunity and a way to learn about jobs in your area. However, experts advise against viewing the CFA as a means to remedy a failing career. It should be viewed an enhancement to current experience. Registration fees can cost several thousand dollars per year as well as up to 7 years commitment to the process.

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