CFA Entry Requirements: A Detailed Overview

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There are currently more than 175,000 individuals CFA charterholders globally, and this number is only expected to increase. The first step of becoming a CFA charterholder is to register for CFA Level 1.

This brings up a handful of important questions:

  • What are the current CFA entry requirements?
  • Are there any CFA eligibility criteria or prerequisites that needs to be satisfied in order sit for a CFA exam?
  • What are the requirements to become a CFA charterholder? And what potential benefits can those who earn a CFA charter expect to enjoy in the future?

If you’re considering the CFA Program, check the list below to ensure you meet the CFA Level 1 requirements prior to registration.


The 5 entry requirements required for the CFA Program

Requirements for new CFA registrations

Before registering for CFA Level 1, do make sure you meet the following enrollment requirements:

  1. Meet one of the following CFA education or work experience requirements:
    • Bachelor’s degree; OR
    • If you’re a final year undergraduate, your Level 1 exam window must be within 11 months before your graduation month. Student candidates can register, but cannot sit for CFA Level 2 prior to graduation; OR
    • Have at least 4,000 hours of professional work experience OR a combination of work and higher education that was acquired over a minimum of 3 consecutive years.
      • Professional work experience does not need to be investment-related but must be paid. Paid internships are also acceptable.
      • To qualify under the combination requirement, the education and work experience cannot be overlapping, and assume that higher education takes 1,000 hours per year.
  2. Have a valid international passport, as per the CFA Program Identification policy.
  3. Be comfortable taking the exams in English, as CFA exams are only administered in English.
  4. Meet the Professional Conduct admission criteria by signing the Professional Conduct statement.
  5. Live in a participating country where CFA Institute conducts its business. See this list for countries CFA Institute doesn’t operate in.

Note that these CFA entry requirements are self-reporting. CFA Institute cannot check these individually prior to registration due to sheer volume of candidates.

That said, CFA Institute may request for proof of education and/or work experience randomly, anytime. If you fail to provide sufficient evidence to show you met the CFA entrance requirements, this 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 famously strict CFA Institute Professional Conduct Program.

Creating an account with CFA Institute

Creating an account with the CFA Institute

Upon meeting the CFA enrollment requirements detailed above, the next step is to create an account with CFA Institute so you can register for CFA Level 1.

This is a straightforward process and necessary for sitting the exams, CFA scholarship applications and accessing all the candidate resources.

To sign up, all you need is basic user details (such as name and email address) before getting approved.

Then, you can just click on the “CFA Program” tile to register and pay the exam registration fees.


CFA enrollment and registration fees

Paying CFA enrolment and registration fees

The CFA exam fees varies by deadline and whether it is your first CFA exam.

For a first-time CFA Level 1 candidate, the exam fees include:

  • A one-time payment of US$450.
  • A registration fee of between $700 and $1,000 depending upon how early the candidate registers.
  • A fee of $250 in the event that the exam needs to be rescheduled.

Self scheduling a CFA exam

Scheduling a CFA exam

Due to the shift to computer-based exams, one recent change to the CFA exam entry requirements now requires all candidates to schedule their own test dates.

The good news is that this process is straightforward and no further fees are involved. Dates and times can be selected based upon region and availability. Note that three or four examination windows are normally available each year.

As this is a first-come, first-serve process, it is much better to book an exam date sooner than later. Exam slot availability may also vary depending on location.

It is also relatively simple to reschedule a CFA examination if an unexpected situation arises. However, a $250 rescheduling fee would be applied (reduced to $25 if it is pandemic-related).


Start preparing for your CFA exam sooner rather than later

Preparing for your CFA exam

The various CFA Level 1 prerequisites are probably due to the challenging nature of the CFA exams.

The recent CFA Level 1 pass rates are 26%, a historic low from the long term average of 40% (there are a few reasons for this). It therefore pays to determine your eligibility well in advance and ensure that you are prepared to pass CFA Level 1 well in advance of taking your exam.

Furthermore, note that individuals living in certain countries are prohibited from obtaining access to the CFA examination. Examples include Syria, North Korea and Cuba. Those who are in doubt should always check this list or contact CFA Institute to learn more.


Why choose to pursue a CFA charter?

Studying for a CFA exams

Qualifying for CFA Level 1 is just the first step of the journey to earning the prestigious Chartered Financial Analyst title. However, all the study time and effort is likely to pay off in the longer term.

The advantages of obtaining a CFA charter are vast, but the main benefit is that you can cost-effectively equip yourself with a graduate level finance knowledge with global recognition, which opens up broader finance career opportunities.

Furthermore, our data-driven research has shown that CFA charterholders earn more, even after removing the work experience effect.


I hope you found the CFA Level 1 entry requirements summary above useful. Drop me a comment below if you have further questions!

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