To become a chartered financial analyst, you must fulfill the requirements set forth by the CFA Institute, an organization which has existed in various forms since 1947. Then, you must complete three tests administered by the institute. Upon completion of the process, you are granted the title of chartered financial analyst, which indicates knowledge of the practices of financial analysts and professional experience. It also shows a commitment to the ethical practices advocated by the CFA Institute.
Prospective members of the chartered financial analyst program must have a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, or four years of work experience. Students working toward their bachelor’s degree may begin the program in their final year of study. If you have time in college and work experience, not including summer jobs and internships, totaling four years, then you are eligible to enter the program. Entrants must speak English well enough to sit the exams and hold a valid passport.
Once you enter the program to become a chartered financial analyst, you must pass three exams to receive a charter. At each level, you pay a fee to receive the curriculum and register for a test date. The exams are self-study, and the institute estimates that the preparation for each test should take about six months. Each exam, however, is given on a set schedule, so you may not be able to register for the next exam immediately after you finish the previous exam. Usually, it takes about four years to become a chartered financial analyst.
Each exam follows a different format. The Level I exam is a collection of 240 multiple choice questions with three answer choices for each. In the Level II exam, there are 20 item sets, or miniature case studies, which consist of a vignette followed by six questions about the case that was described. For Level III, the exam has 10 to 15 essays followed by 10 item sets. On the essays, each test taker is graded only for content.
After you have passed all of the tests, you are a financial analyst with charter pending. To receive the charter, you must have a regular membership with the CFA Institute, which requires 48 months of work experience. After you are accepted as a member, you become a chartered financial analyst. To maintain your charter, you must pay your annual membership dues and submit a Professional Conduct Statement each year.