According to the CFA Institute, a person who holds a CFA charter is not a chartered financial analyst. The CFA Institute stresses that the CFA designation is not a noun. To become a holder of the CFA designation, a person needs to:

• Agree to follow the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct.

• Pass the CFA exams for CFA levels I, II and III.

• Complete four years of qualified professional work experience in investment decision making.

• Become a regular member of the CFA Institute and apply for membership in a local CFA member society.

Becoming a CFA Charterholder

The most important step in becoming a CFA charterholder is to pass the three CFA exams offered. Each exam is administered once a year, with the exception of CFA exam level I, which is administered twice a year. To move on to level II, you must first pass level I; to move to level III, you must pass level II.

After passing all three exams, you must fulfill the remaining requirements before applying to become a charterholder. You can gain the four years of qualified work experience concurrently with taking the exams. After completing the four years of qualified work and passing all three exams, apply for membership into the CFA Institute.

To be accepted into the CFA Institute as a member, you need to fulfill the following requirements:

• Hold a bachelor's degree.

• Have 48 months of acceptable work experience.

• Pass the level I CFA exam.

• Provide professional references.

• Follow the code of conduct.

• Pay dues.

After completing all of these requirements, you will be considered a CFA charterholder.

Advisor Insight

Stephen Rischall CFP®, CRPC
1080 Financial Group, Los Angeles, CA

The chartered financial analyst, or CFA, credential is one of the most challenging designations to earn and studying for the exams requires a lot of time, dedication and discipline. The CFA is one of the most respected and sought after designations in the investment industry.

The CFA Level I exam is administered only two times per year, while the CFA Level II and CFA Level III exams are each only administered once per year. Because the exams are not held frequently, it takes a bare minimum of two and a half years to pass all three levels.

The best resource to learn more about the chartered financial analyst program, requirements, exams and becoming a charterholder is the CFA Institute’s web site.