CFA Benefits: 6 Reasons to Become a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®)

In the world of finance and investment, the title of Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) is widely known and respected. What’s more, this title brings with it a host of career CFA benefits. While earning the CFA is not easy, the more than 167,0000 current CFAs will tell you that all of the time and effort you put into it will more than pay off.

So, if you’re interested in becoming a CFA, you should learn more about the numerous advantages associated with the credential. As you’ll see, each of these CFA benefits provides a powerful career boost. Therefore, the CFA may be just what you need to achieve your vocational goals.

6 Career-Boosting CFA Benefits

Among the countless finance degrees around the world, the Chartered Financial Analyst qualification has become the gold standard.” ~ Financial Times

1. The CFA Is the Most Prestigious Designation in Finance and Investment

So, if you currently are or want to become an investment professional, then you’re likely already familiar with the CFA’s glowing reputation. And, similarly, the reputation of the CFA Institute and its charterholders.

The CFA stands out in the industry. No other professional designation carries the same weight for asset managers and other professionals in the financial industry. Furthermore, the CFA provides the greatest value for research analysts and asset managers. Commonly, these individuals work in portfolio management, pension funds, hedge funds, and fund of funds. They may also work in private banking and financial advisory.

Clearly, the CFA title is a must for any and all the roles mentioned above. And pursuing any of these roles without a charter is like trying to practice accounting without a CPA. Therefore, if you fall into any of the careers we’ve mentioned, you should have a straightforward answer to the question, “Should I get the CFA?”

However, the CFA also makes sense for non-finance professionals. Perhaps you work closely with investment or finance employees. In this case, you may choose to pursue the CFA to broaden your knowledge and, again, to stand out from your peers.

Specifically, the CFA can benefit accountants, auditors, lawyers, and senior managers in operations. Financial firms see the value of having CFA charterholders in areas outside their trading desks.

CFA Careers

According to the CFA Institute, the most popular careers among CFA charterholders include:

  • Portfolio managers: 23%
  • Research analysts: 16%
  • Chief-level executives: 7%
  • Consultants: 7%
  • Risk managers: 6%
  • Corporate financial analysts: 5%
  • Financial advisors: 5%
  • Relationship managers: 5%

2. The CFA Curriculum Ensures You Have a Well-Rounded (and Hard to Top) Knowledge of Finance

The CFA exam curriculum is designed to give you a strong knowledge base and incredibly sharp technical skills. It also covers everything directly or indirectly related to the finance and investment industry.

In particular, the CFA exam consists of 3 parts or levels. These levels focus on the same 10 topics, with each level getting progressively more difficult. In fact, unlike some other finance or investment exams, you can only take Level II after you pass Level I, and Level III after you pass Level II.

CFA Exam Syllabus

The 10 topics on the CFA exam are:

  1. Ethical and Professional Standards
  2. Quantitative Methods
  3. Economics
  4. Financial Report and Analysis
  5. Corporate Finance
  6. Equity Investments
  7. Fixed Income
  8. Derivatives
  9. Alternative Investment Portfolio
  10. Portfolio Management and Wealth Planning

So, when studying for the CFA Level 1 exam, you must develop your understanding of a wide range of topics. Above all, the Level I curriculum is broad enough to cover all topics relevant to today’s finance industry. Actually, we believe the examiners’ exact goal is to force accountants to learn about finance, and force finance professionals to learn about accounting.

Then, once you reach the CFA Level 2 exam, the curriculum gets into more detail and specializes in finance topics. In contrast, the CFA Level 3 exam is highly focused on the areas of portfolio and wealth management. Level 3 also introduces essay questions that require you to combine many topic areas and apply them to real-world scenarios.

Consequently, passing all 3 levels takes a lot of work. But when you do pass, you’ll have unsurpassed knowledge and the confidence to pursue any job in your chosen field.

3. The CFA Charter Provides Unique Networking Opportunities

According to the CFA Institute, there are more than 167,000 CFA charterholders around the world. And, the number keeps growing. You can find CFAs practically anywhere, especially as more local CFA societies begin to emerge. Currently, CFA societies are in more than 70 countries.

These figures are impressive, and, more importantly, they provide you with extensive networking and job opportunities. In fact, CFA societies often post job openings from companies that are specifically looking for charterholders. Moreover, the prospects of landing these jobs increase significantly when you actively network with the society’s other members.

Also, unlike some accounting qualifications that are more geo-specific (e.g., the ACCA in the UK and the CPA broadly in the U.S.), the CFA charter is truly global. Your work might take you from Mumbai to New York or from London to Singapore. And, the value of your CFA designation goes with you. Clearly, as a charterholder, you can enjoy some pretty amazing opportunities.

To earn your CFA title, you’ll have to become a member of the CFA Institute. And when you apply for membership, you also apply to become part of a CFA Society.

However, don’t look at the membership as a requirement. Rather, see the membership as a gateway to making critical professional connections.

4. The CFA Title Allows You to Waive Certain Requirements

Again, the CFA charter has global acclaim. The CFA Institute reports that 40 countries and territories formally recognize the charter. As such, some countries waive part or all of the requirements for licensed professionals, typically in the field of investment and trading. Therefore, you can travel to other parts of the world to work and not have to worry about clearing certain regulatory obstacles. The CFA Institute reports that charterholders receive waivers from licensing exams in 27 countries.

What’s more, if you’re thinking about pursuing a graduate degree in banking, investment, or financial services, you may be able to bypass the GMAT entrance exam as well as certain courses. To be eligible for this exemption, you must be enrolled in or have completed the CFA program.

Finally, your CFA title can also help clear a path to earn other professional designations. In some cases, you can leverage your status as a charterholder to waive continuing education, exam, and work experience requirements for other certification programs.

5. The CFA Paves the Way for Working for Major Investment Firms

Of course, no finance or accounting certification guarantees you a job. However, getting the CFA can significantly bolster your chances. Additionally, the designation gives you inroads to landing a job with some of the biggest firms in the finance field.

Global investment banks are the biggest employers of CFA charterholders. Typically, CFAs find work in these firms’ asset management and research divisions. In many cases, companies will only hire CFA charterholders in their investment divisions. Specifically, the marketing materials for these banks reveal a 100% CFA hire rate.

Top 10 Companies That Employ CFA Charterholders

cfa benefits

Source: CFA Institute

So, if you aspire to work in any of the companies listed above, the CFA designation gives you a distinct advantage in the recruiting and interviewing phases.

6. The CFA Charter Helps You Earn a Bigger Salary

A higher salary is certainly a benefit of the CFA. As mentioned above, CFAs often find work in the most recognizable global financial firms. And it’s no secret that these companies tend to pay a premium.

However, if you work in a boutique firm or for a small, specialty hedge fund, the CFA still affords you unique opportunities and money-making power. Your employer will give you better projects with more visibility. Consequently, you’ll earn higher pay. Of course, these benefits come as they are available and only among the firms that value the CFA charter.

Now, we know you’re a numbers person and want the hard statistics. But the CFA Institute has ceased their annual salary surveys because they simply found that too many factors affected average salaries among members. However, we can use the last CFA Institute salary survey to show that the premium among charterholders was substantial at 54%.

CFA Salary

 US$  CFA charterholders Non-holders
 Annual median salary  $180,000  $116,850

3 Reasons Why Not Getting the CFA Designation May Hurt You

For some people, the CFA benefits will be enough incentive to start the charter process. However, if you’d like some more information before you make the decision, then you should consider these 3 reasons why not getting the CFA can hurt your career prospects.

1. You May Get Left Behind

Simply put, if you’re in the investment industry and don’t have the CFA designation, you’re at a disadvantage. In 2003, there were 85,000 CFA charterholders. Today, the number clocks in at more than 167,000. And, thousands of candidates work toward the title every year.

At the same time, CFA exam pass rates are low and have been for quite a while. So, if your current or future position requires this title, you should start preparing for the CFA exam sooner rather than later.

2. The Longer You Wait, the Harder Passing the Exam Will Be

Unfortunately, your book smarts start to depreciate the day after you graduate high school or college. Therefore, the longer you put off studying for the CFA exam, the harder jumping back into study mode will be for your brain. And physically, your body can’t handle as many late nights as it could when you were younger. Of course, if you have a spouse, children, a full-time job, or other adult responsibilities, your time and energy become even more of a limited commodity as you age.

Therefore, if you plan to take the CFA exam sometime in your career, you should take it as soon as you can. Remember, the exam is difficult, and you want to give yourself every possible advantage to pass it. In other words, you need the mental and physical energy to make it work.

3. You Could End Up Spending More Money and Time for Less Applicable Work

Many professionals pick the CFA because they don’t want to spend the time and money on an MBA program.

Now, the CFA exam fees will cost you between $3,000-$9,000. However, this amount is still considerably less than the average MBA program. The CFA Institute estimates that MBA programs typically cost $80,000-$125,000.

Also, if you choose the MBA route, you’ll have to take and pay for many non-finance-related classes. These classes may or may not be applicable to your career.

Comparatively, the CFA program is a more efficient use of your time.

Speaking of time, you’ll likely find it hard to juggle a full-time MBA program and a full-time job (or other full-time responsibilities like a family). And while universities do offer part-time MBA programs, a part-time program takes twice as long to finish.

On the other hand, you can continue to work while you earn the CFA title.

So, MBAs are great for networking and breaking into specific industries. However, for certain career paths, the CFA is more useful than an MBA, especially if you cannot get into first-tier MBA programs.

The Decision to Pursue the CFA Benefits

The CFA has its push and pull factors. Therefore, to determine where you stand with the CFA, you owe it to yourself and your career to do more research. So, get started by watching this video summary:

Then, to learn more, discover how to become a CFA, what the CFA Level 1 exam looks like, and which firms provide the most CFA jobs and careers.

Help for Earning the CFA Benefits

The best resource for passing the CFA exam so you can earn the CFA benefits is a CFA review course. So, check out the best CFA study materials so you can find the right course for you. For example, AnalystPrep CFA Review is a top-rated course at an affordable price with plenty of learning tools to help you pass your exams.

Then, sign up for our CFA e-course so you can learn about how to study and pass the CFA exam in the most efficient manner.

Or, you can reach out directly with any questions you may have. We understand the CFA program is a major undertaking, and we are here to offer advice and resources.

CFA® and Chartered Financial Analyst are trademarks owned by CFA Institute.

About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley), and I also passed all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on my first try. Additionally, I have led webinars, such as for the Institute of Management Accountants, authored featured articles on websites like Going Concern and AccountingWeb, and I'm also the CFO for the charity New Sight. Finally, I have created other accounting certification websites to help mentor non-CPA candidates. I have already mentored thousands of CPA, CMA, CIA, EA, and CFA candidates, and I can help you too!

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