Will Obtaining the CFA Charter Increase Your Current Salary?

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By Mike

It’s a question we all wonder from time to time.

How much does the CFA qualification add to my career? Not in prestige or knowledge, but actual dollars to my paycheck.

As Sophie’s written previously, the exact answer is really difficult to pin down, and comes with a dozen caveats. The reason being that pay is dependent on so many factors, such as experience, location, employer, industry (just to name a few). However I thought that I would have a shot at trying to decipher a rough idea of what uplift does a CFA qualification have on salary. Read on to see the results!

The Data: Payscale.com

In this exercise, I’ve used data from Payscale.com, which offers the ability to segregate normal pay data with data associated with a CFA qualification. I only use US data for this exercise, as the US database has the most number of responses, leading to a more solid conclusion.

The Method

Using the Payscale database, I looked for job profiles where employees indicated they were CFA-qualified, and collected data for the top 7 CFA-qualified job profiles. For each job profile, I calculated 3 metrics:

  • the CFA-qualified median salary
  • the overall median salary
  • thus calculating the uplift of a CFA qualification

The Caveats

Only salary data. The data used does not include bonuses or any other form of compensation. I chose to work with only salary data as it introduces the least amount of uncertainty, as bonus and profit-sharing data is often subjective. A reliable uplift can still be calculated.

Most likely contains a work experience skew. The comparison does not adjust for work experience. Since the CFA charter requires on average 4 years to obtain, there is every possibility that there is a work experience skew at work here. However, there isn’t enough data even at Payscale to adequately adjust for this.

The Results: An Average of 25% Uplift

The data for the top 7 job profiles with CFA-qualified data is as below.

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
Median Salary: $117,840
CFA-Qualified Median Salary: $139,589
Uplift: 18%

Equity Analyst
Median Salary: $73,406
CFA-Qualified Median Salary: $92,501
Uplift: 26%

Financial Analyst
Median Salary: $55,100
CFA-Qualified Median Salary: $64,646
Uplift: 17%

Investment Analyst
Median Salary: $59,306
CFA-Qualified Median Salary: $69,619
Uplift: 17%

Portfolio Manager
Median Salary: $84,871
CFA-Qualified Median Salary: $107,611
Uplift: 27%

Research Analyst
Median Salary: $50,701
CFA-Qualified Median Salary: $80,634
Uplift: 59%

Senior Financial Analyst
Median Salary: $72,950
CFA-Qualified Median Salary: $82,105
Uplift: 13%

There is an average of a 25% uplift across all 7 job profiles. This is broadly similar to a compensation survey in 2005, where the CFA Institute also found a consistent uplift in salary among CFA charterholders (see point 7 of our post here).

If you are a CFA candidate, you’ll know that the CFA qualification adds credibility and prestige to your CV. Although it is near-impossible to conclusively prove that CFA charterholders also get paid more, hopefully the data in this post can help assure you of the monetary benefits of having a CFA charter.

Any suggestions to the analysis?

This analysis is of course a basic one, and far from comprehensive. If you have any ideas on how to take this further, do let me know in the comments below!

Zee Tan
Author: Zee Tan


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