Become a Charterholder

Becoming a charterholder is a defining moment for many investment professionals and exemplifies a strong understanding of advanced investment analysis and real-world portfolio management skills. We outline everything you need to know to prepare for CFA® Program, so you can feel confident when enrolling.
Become a Charterholder

How to Become a CFA Charterholder


  1. Pass CFA Exams CFA Program contains three levels of curriculum, each with its own exam. Passing the exam for all three levels is a requirement to obtain the CFA charter. 
  2. Achieve Qualified Work Experience Complete work experience requirements before, during, or after participation in CFA Program. Your experience must be directly involved with the investment decision-making process or producing a work product that informs or adds value to that process.
  3. Submit Reference Letters In support of your membership application, you will need to provide 2-3 professional references. References will be asked to comment on your work experience and professional character. 
  4. Apply to Become a Charterholder Apply to become a regular member of CFA Institute. Once your application is approved and you have joined CFA Institute, you will have earned the CFA charter. 


Enrollment Criteria for CFA Program

To become a CFA candidate, you must enroll in CFA Program before you can register for the Level I exam. In order to enroll you must meet all of the qualifications listed below. We have provided helpful information below to guide you through the enrollment process and to keep you on track for registration.


Bachelor's Degree

Complete a bachelor's program or equivalent program and have received a degree from the college/university. Most CFA Program applicants have the education to enroll in graduate studies in the country where they earned their degree. If you are not sure if your program is comparable, consult your college or university.

Final-Year Student

Be a final-year student of a bachelor's program or equivalent program on the date of enrolling for the Level I exam and becoming a candidate in CFA Program. Understand that you must complete my degree program prior to the date of registering for Level II.

Professional Experience

Have a combination of four years (48 months) of full-time work experience and/or college/university education on the date of registering for the Level I exam. The dates of education and professional work experience cannot be overlapping. Understand that part-time work does not qualify toward meeting the professional work experience requirement. Also understand that full-time work does not need to be investment related. Internships/articleships are accepted if they are paid and full-time. Work experience with your own business or your family business will qualify only if it is full-time, professional experience for which you are paid. 

What does professional work experience mean? Professional work experience requires specialized knowledge, education, or advanced skills. Professional work experience requires the application of higher-level judgement and business skills, including:  

Leadership and teamwork 
Business communications 
Critical thinking and problem solving 
Time management 
Professional judgement 
Analytical skills 
Adaptability 

Candidates applying to register for CFA Program without completing a bachelor’s degree must honestly evaluate whether their professional work experience has equipped them for the significant volume and depth of study demanded by CFA Program. 

Please note that CFA Institute may request proof of education (copy of diploma, marksheet, any other relevant documents) and/or work experience (letter of employment, salary slips, any other relevant documents) to be submitted at any stage of your journey as a candidate or even after becoming a member in order to demonstrate entrance requirements were met. Failure to provide requested documentation relevant to entrance requirements may result in cancellation of a current exam registration, withholding of exam results, voiding of past exam results, and may lead to investigation and disciplinary action by the CFA Institute Professional Conduct Program.  

CFA Institute requires that every CFA Program candidate have a valid international travel passport. Those without a passport will not be able to register or sit for exams. 

CFA Program exams are only offered in English. Exams require English proficiency for reading comprehension and formulating answers to complex financial scenarios.

All candidates in CFA Program must complete a Professional Conduct Statement form to attest that they are in compliance with this requirement.

There are some countries with which CFA Institute cannot work. Review the OFAC Policy to check if there are any sanctions on your country.

Become a Charterholder

Stay Ahead of the Curve

To learn more about what to expect from CFA Program, check out our fact sheet and quick start guide. Sharpen your skills by downloading the economics prerequisite material to brush up on your foundational knowledge.

CFA Program Fact Sheet (PDF)

Economics Prerequisite (PDF)

Level I Quick Start Guide (PDF)

How Does CFA Program Compare to an MBA Program?

Both the CFA charter and an MBA program offer benefits that can advance your career. While there are some similarities between the two, there are a few key differences. Examine the chart below to consider which education is more aligned to your career goals.

CFA Program Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management 900+ hours of self study

10 topic areas

4,000 hours of qualified work experience
USD2,400–4,590 depending on fee deadline Benchmarking by NARIC, as comparable to a Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) Master's Level 7

Waivers from licensing exams in 27 countries
Deep knowledge of investment analysis, management, and ethics Low barrier for entry, high attrition rate Charter: professional designation 167,000+ CFA Institute members
MBA Program Business Management 2–4 years depending on program

Class attendance and participation

No practice requirements
USD80,000–125,000 depending on program Accredited MBA programs are widely recognized by employers Broad knowledge of core business concepts with some opportunity to specialize High barrier for entry, low attrition rate Degree certificate Depends on specific MBA program


Get Familiar with CFA Program


CFA Program

Curriculum Overview

Get a snapshot of the topics covered by CFA Program and discover other important curriculum material.

CFA Program

Three Levels of Exams

Learn about the structure, timing, and cost of CFA exams.

CFA Program

CFA Program Scholarships

We offer scholarships to help qualified candidates pay for exam fees. 



Become a Charterholder

Learn, Connect, and Advance

CFA Institute supports candidates beyond curriculum and exams. We foster successful futures within the industry through career center resources and career tools to help you secure a job. We also support communities of other committed professionals through CFA Societies.

Learn About CFA Society® Benefits

Career Center

Career Tools

Take the Next Step in Your Career

Ready to earn a charter and join the ranks of elite investment professionals? If you are registering for the Level I exam for the first time, you must enroll in CFA Program as part of exam registration. Follow the below link to create an account, and we will connect you with everything you need to prepare.

Enroll and Register
Register

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