There’s nothing easy about becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). If you expect to undergo the rigorous process of studying for and passing the exam, you want to be sure it’s worth it.
Here’s why You Should Become a CFA
Every candidate has his or her own reasons for becoming a CFA charterholder, but several key benefits stick out for almost everyone:
. Affordability. Many people assume that obtaining a CFA charter is expensive. However, you may be surprised to learn that it’s actually fairly affordable. Whereas an MBA can cost you well over $100,000, the CFA charter requires only $2,400 to $12,000, depending on such factors as when you register, which preparatory courses you take, how many times you take the exam, etc. You should also be able to work full-time while studying for the CFA exam, which means you can maintain a consistent income.
. Better job opportunities. With those three letters attached to your name, you instantly improve your job prospects. Although it’s not going to land you a dream job automatically, the CFA does give you a strong foot in the door. This is especially true if you want to work for major names like JP Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Ernst & Young, Morgan Stanley, etc. But even if you choose to go a different route and hire on at a smaller firm, your CFA charter will undeniably set you apart from most other candidates.
. Higher pay. Despite the relatively low cost to obtain a CFA charter, the average compensation for charterholders in the U.S. is $237,357 annually. When you add in bonuses and other forms of compensation, many CFA charters bring in more than $300,000 per year. It will depend on the industry you work in, where you’re located, what your experience level is, and other factors. But no matter which way you slice it, a CFA charter brings a nice pay hike. It alone might completely change your lifestyle for the better.
. Industry respect. Wherever you go in the world, your CFA charter will accompany you. There are more than 135,000 investment professionals around the globe, in 30 countries and territories, who have a CFA charter. This makes it the perfect credential for people who want the freedom to live in different regions of the world.
Becoming a CFA is not for the faint of heart, but it can be incredibly rewarding. Do it the right way and you’ll enjoy a successful career with an abundance of opportunities.
How to Become a CFA
As you can sense, becoming a CFA can yield an array of benefits. But to offer full disclosure, it’s one of the more difficult professional certifications to obtain. Passing requires a lot of hard work, discipline, and planning.
Here’s a 30,000-foot overview of the process:
- Step 1: Pass the CFA Exams. The CFA is actually a series of three different exams. You must pass each level before proceeding to the next. The trio consists of a combination of multiple-choice and response-style questions. A good CFA exam review course will help you prepare for each portion.
- Step 2: Achieve Qualified Work Experience. This step can happen before, during, or after you pass the exam. Before you’re allowed to obtain your CFA charter, however, you are required to amass the proper work experience.
- Step 3: Submit Reference Letters. You’ll need to include at least 2 or 3 professional references as part of your membership application. These references will have to comment on your work experience and vouch for your professional character.
- Step 4: Apply to Become a Charterholder. Finally, you’ll be able to become a member of the CFA Institute. Once your application is approved, you’ll be awarded your CFA charter.
This is a simplified description of the process. If you want to become a CFA charterholder, you’ll have to break each of these phases down into numerous “micro” steps. It won’t happen overnight, but eventually you’ll find yourself where you want to be.
Is the CFA Track Right for You?
Becoming a CFA charterholder inarguably demands a lot of work. Before you embark on this journey, ask yourself seriously whether it’s something you want to do.
The money is good and the opportunities will be plenty, but is this what you want to do? If the answer is yes, you should start the process.