The Chartered Financial Analyst®, or CFA® qualification, is awarded to those who complete required course material and pass a series of tests, taken over a three year period. Those awarded this prestigious designation are considered experts in financial management and investment strategy, and are highly sought after in the world of corporate finance. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree, or four years of equivalent experience within the industry, prior to beginning the course. The CFA® qualification is recognized worldwide.
After completing course materials, the candidate for a CFA® qualification must take and pass three separate six hour tests, one given each year. Only upon successful completion of all three successive tests is the person recognized as a Chartered Financial Analyst®. The exams must be taken in designated testing centers, which are offered in many cities throughout the world in a number of countries. The Level I test is offered twice each year, but the exams for Level II and Level III are only given once per year, typically in June. All applicants are required to take the test in English, as it is not offered in any other language.
The course of study to receive a CFA® qualification is rigorous, including essential topics such as ethical practices and business standards. This is a graduate level of study in financial matters, and is offered by the CFA® Institute. Completion of the program leads to a CFA® charter, and graduates are referred to as CFA® charterholders. Studies are self-guided, and typically the process takes about four years to complete, including testing.
The course also covers many technical topics in detail, including various types of analyses and economic topics such as market forces and supply and demand. Other subjects a CFA® must study include inflation, financial reporting, equity investing and corporate finance methods. Graduates of the program are expected to adhere to a strict code of ethics, and are held to a high standard as financial professionals.
Once a person has received his or her CFA® qualification, it may result in various on-the-job advantages. Often, those who have received the charter are well respected within the workplace and may enjoy significant pay increases, promotions or expanded career opportunities. In some cases the CFA® qualification may be a requirement before a person can advance past a certain level in the financial industry.