There are approximately 132,000 accountants globally that have passed the CFA program and so are recognized as a “CFA charterholder”. Although this figure may seem low, and it is, it is not because more people do not seek it, merely that only 20% of people that start the CFA program are able to pass it. The program, which was initiated by the American-based CFA Institute, covers a wide range of financial and investment topics and so requires, on average, 4 years of study in order to take the exam and meet the other specifications required in order to receive the acknowledgement.
The program has been broken down into 3 levels and those levels are:
Level I – Consists of 240 multiple choice questions
Level II – Consists of 120 multiple choice questions divided into 6 groups
Level III – Consists of a set of questions which require essay type answers and a further set of 10 questions similar to those in Level II
Any cfa study material needed will have to be purchased by the applicant plus there is a charge for each exam at the different levels and an enrollment fee into the Institute.
Usually one level’s exam is taken each year but of course the level II and Level III exams can only be taken if the previous exams have been passed and so although some may pass level I and Level II, they will not become qualified until they also pass the Level III exam. Although CFA Charterholders do exist all around the world, the companies which hire the most are usually US based and include Bank of America, JP Morgan, UBS, RBC, and Wells Fargo.
Some graduates of college, usually graduates in accounting, may consider a career as an analyst instead of acquiring a CPA and dealing with audits or acquiring a CMA and working in the accounts department of a large corporation and it are those graduates that will usually seek a charter with the Institute. The Institute does however accept none graduates to take the exams but usually only if an applicant has spent at least 4 years working in a financial analyst environment.
There is little doubt that those that pass the CFA exams, like those that pass the CPA or CMA exams, are qualified to the highest level of their professions and so can expect salaries high enough to make the initial cost of the different courses and programs worthwhile but, they must of course pass their relevant course or program in order to gain that compensation.
The world of finance, accounts and analyzing of either is complicated and diverse and so any of the exams are of course difficult and need hours of studying in order to pass. Anyone therefore considering sitting one of these exams or studying for them, should therefore ensure they are committed to many hours of studying before they spend money on the exam materials as they often can be very expensive, money which would be wasted if the exam is not passed.