Today, more than 170,000 Wall Streeters are expected to write Levels I, II, and III of the Chartered Financial Analyst exam.
The 6-hour exams are notoriously tough, and writing them, in the words of Kurt Schacht, a managing director at the CFA Institute, is “frustrating.”
“It’s gruelling, it’s rigorous, it’s confounding,” Schacht told Business Insider last year. “Some people take it multiple times to get through the various levels.”
Fewer than 50% of test takers pass the exams each year. And only 20% of people who start the CFA program actually complete it. On average, students spend some 250-300 hours preparing for each level of the exam over the course of 6 to 8 months, according to Schacht.
But writing the three exams is really just the first step to becoming a full CFA charterholder.
In addition to passing the tests, you also have to:
- Agree to the CFA Institute’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Processional Conduct
- Have four years of work experience in the field (in which “at least 50% of your time is spent directly involved in the investment decision-making process”)
- Become a regular member of CFA Institute (the annual fee is $275)
You can also choose to register with your local CFA chapter — there are more than 100 around the world — although that’s not a requirement.
Altogether, it’s a huge commitment, but it’s probably worth it. Schacht said that becoming a CFA charter holder is a huge leg up for anyone hoping to build a career in investment management.
As for other credentials, like MBA degrees, he said, “I honestly think there is no comparison in terms of the cost-benefit analysis.”
The CFA costs $2,300 altogether, including registration fees and test fees.
Good luck, candidates.