How to Become a Financial Analyst

Enter the CFA® Program:

To enroll for the CFA® Program and register for your first level of exam, you must have one of the following criteria:

Education: A bachelor’s degree or be in final year of any bachelor’s degree is needed to pass all the levels of CFA® exam.

Work Experience: Four years of Professional work experience

Now the question is what kind professionals can become CFA. What kind of work experience is required to get the CFA Institute membership is the main concern in your mind right now.

As per CFA Institute, there are limited professionals who can become CFA:

  • You have at least 4 years (48 months) of experience in the field of investment
  • Any type of decision-making process; supervising persons who conduct such activities; or teaching such activities related to investment will be eligible for CFA membership
  • Operations in big investment banks, deals with processing of the trades and record it in Accounting Systems will be eligible as well
  • As per CFA institute, trading, economics and corporate finance such type of fields are also acceptable as your working experience
  • Minimum 50% of your 4 years of working experience should be spent directly involved in the investment decision-making process
  • Work must be full time and can be earned before, during, or after participation in the CFA Program
  • Managing investments for yourself or your family or friends does not eligible

Combination of Education and Experience: 4 years in addition of education and work experience in total to passing the Level I CFA® exam.

Typical Steps for Becoming a Financial Analyst

According to the National Center for O*Net Development, people who are drawn to financial services careers are natural planners. They like to evaluate and compare facts then make judgments and decisions based on what they have learned. They make charts, plot graphs, and compare the merits of different choices when making purchases. Combined, these traits make a great foundation for those who want to pursue a financial analyst career. However, there are other important and necessary steps along the path.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Earning a bachelor’s degree is often the most important step a future financial analyst takes toward achieving his or her goals. While general courses in economics, statistics, and other related fields can be relevant to the field of financial analysis, a more targeted degree may be ideal. For example, a Bachelor of Science in Finance can be ideal for individuals who are pursuing a career in financial analysis.

Step 2: Attain Licensing and Certifications

Many bachelor degree graduates begin their career working in accounting, investment, or banking firms. While additional certifications may not be necessary at the beginning of their work experience, many professionals obtain licenses and designations later in their career.

Any firm or company providing financial products for sale must comply with specific regulations to protect consumers from fraudulent or unfair practices. Some financial analyst positions involve the sale of financial products and based on the state, licensing is a key component of how to become a financial analyst. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) requires entities under its purview to register and comply with its regulations. These specify that financial analysts must be licensed by FINRA. As a result, many employers prefer financial analysts who are already FINRA-licensed.

Even in cases where FINRA licensing is required, however, prospective hires may not be required to be licensed prior to receiving an offer of employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most companies will consider unlicensed job applicants if their other qualifications demonstrate they are a good fit for a specific role. Since FINRA licenses require employer sponsorship, job applicants who show potential will often be hired with the understanding that their new employers will sponsor them.

In addition, employers often recommend that financial analysts pursue the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credential from the CFA Institute. While not required by law, this additional certification often improves financial analysts’ chances for professional advancement. Even if new financial analysts do not automatically qualify for this certification, they could work toward applying for certification while getting experience in the field.

According to BLS, the requirements for the Chartered Financial Analyst credential include:

  • A bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting
  • A minimum of four years of qualified work experience
  • Passing scores on the three CFA Institute exams

Financial analysts may also achieve certification in more specialized areas by demonstrating their expertise and passing additional exams.

Step 3: Build On-the-Job Experience

Clearly, it’s important to have both the right education and any needed licensing and certifications to become a financial analyst. Beyond these steps, it’s also important for future financial analysts to get work experience in the financial industry as early as possible and work their way up.

O*Net data show that employers do consider relevant work experience when hiring potential financial analysts. Job candidates who have hands-on experience working in finance, economics, or accounting might have big advantages over other job seekers.

Step 4: Earn a Master’s Degree in Accounting (Optional)

While on-the-job experience is necessary, financial analysts have additional options for fortifying their resumes. Many choose to improve their knowledge in order to increase interest from potential employers by obtaining a master’s degree. Many professionals pursue a general master of business administration (MBA) however, a Master of Science in Accounting degree is an optional step that may help analysts’ stand apart in the job market.

To acquire a master’s degree in accounting, students usually must earn between 30 and 60 credits in addition to a bachelor’s degree. Courses for this graduate degree program cover advanced auditing, advanced financial accounting and reporting, managerial methods, and strategic analysis, as well as other related topics.


Energy Risk Professional (ERP)®

The Energy Risk Professional (ERP)® designation is awarded by the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) and is the first and only global certification for energy professionals. Designed to measure an energy risk professional’s ability to manage risk in a real-world energy environment, Certified ERPs represent major energy companies, financial institutions with direct and indirect investments in energy, consulting and technology firms with energy-related practices, and government agencies. Click to learn more.

How Do I Become CFA Certified?

To become certified, you must pass the three-level CFA exam; build up work experience before, during, or after the program; submit several references; and apply to join the CFA Institute.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have any of the CFA exam Level 1 requirements changed for 2021-2022?

Scheduling for the CFA exam has changed significantly over the past few years. Likewise, how to qualify for the CFA exam has been updated as of March of 2021. Before this date, part-time work didn’t count toward the experience requirement. Additionally, you needed four years of work rather than 4,000 hours completed over at least three years.

Post-exam requirements received similar updates. The work experience for CFA designation requirements must still be relevant and investment-related, but it can now include part-time and remote work and must total 4,000 hours over three years. The CFAI made this change in recognition of shifting work patterns in the financial industry. This allows non-traditional workers greater access to the CFA program.

Are there any other qualifications for the CFA program?

If you’ve read this far, chances are you meet these Chartered Financial Analyst requirements. You must

  • Be prepared to take the test in English
  • Have a valid passport
  • Comply with and sign the CFAI’s Professional Conduct Statement
  • Pay the associated exam and membership fees

Can anyone take the CFA exam?

The bar for entry for taking the CFA exam, especially Level 1, is fairly low. Anyone with a bachelor’s or equivalent four-year degree can take it. Similarly, anyone who has acquired 4,000 hours of professional work experience over at least 36 months may sit for the exam. Of course, just because you have met the prerequisites doesn’t mean you’re prepared for the exam’s content.

How much does it cost to take the CFA exam?

One requirement that we haven’t discussed so far is the price of the test. Unfortunately, taking the CFA exam isn’t cheap. There’s a $450 enrollment fee to begin the process, plus a $700-$1,450 registration fee for each part of the exam, depending on how early you register. Overall, the least you can pay for just the exam is $2,550. However, this doesn’t take into account the cost for any CFA exam prep courses.

Certified Fund Specialist (CFS)

As the name implies, an individual with this certification has demonstrated his or her expertise in mutual funds and the mutual fund industry. These individuals often advise clients on which funds to invest in and, depending on whether or not they have their license, they will buy and sell funds for clients. The Institute of Business and Finance (IBF), formerly known as the Institute of Certified Fund Specialists, provides training for the CFS, and the course focuses on a variety of mutual fund topics, including portfolio theory, dollar-cost averaging and annuities. The knowledge these CFS designees hold is kept current through their continuing education requirements. Click to learn more.

Get Familiar with CFA Program

Curriculum Overview Get a snapshot of the topics covered by CFA Program and discover other important curriculum material. Explore Curriculum Three Levels of Exams Learn about the structure, timing, and cost of CFA exams. Exam Information  CFA Program Scholarships We offer scholarships to help qualified candidates pay for exam fees.  Apply for a Scholarship

Questions About Financial Analyst Certification

Chartered financial analysts offer portfolio management and investment advice to organizations and individuals. Job titles for CFAs include investment banker, portfolio manager, financial analyst, and research analyst.
To register for the CFA exam, each candidate needs a bachelor’s degree or must be in the last year of a bachelor’s program. They can also qualify by meeting professional experience requirements. CFA exam requirements include an international travel passport and the ability to take the test in English.
CFA certification costs vary depending on when you register. They usually do not exceed $5,000 total. Each applicant pays a one-time $450 fee when they sign up for the CFA program and pays for each test separately. Registering early qualifies candidates for a discount.
Both financial analyst certifications and MBAs can lead to well-paying careers. However, becoming a CFA costs much less money and does not take as long as it does to earn an MBA.

Why study the CFA Program with Kaplan?

When studying with us, you can be confident that we’ll give you everything you need for the best chance of passing. Our study materials are designed by experts, and work seamlessly together, giving you the best possible learning experience. Our tutors are also here to help you succeed. They’re here for any questions or worries you might have.

Enrollment Criteria and Requirements for CFA Program

To become a CFA candidate, you must enroll in CFA Program and register for the Level I exam. In order to enroll you must meet all of the qualifications listed below. We have provided helpful information below to guide you through the enrollment process and to keep you on track for registration. For further questions about CFA Program enrollment requirements, please refer to these FAQs.

Bachelor’s Degree Complete a bachelor’s program or equivalent program and have received a degree from the college/university. If you are not sure if your program is comparable, consult your college or university. Undergraduate Student Your selected exam window must be 11 months or fewer before your graduation month for your bachelor’s degree or equivalent program. Understand that you must complete your degree program prior to the date of sitting your Level II exam. Professional Work Experience Have a combination of 4,000 hours of work experience and/or higher education that was acquired over a minimum of three sequential years and achieved by the date of registering for the Level I exam. The dates of education and professional work experience cannot be overlapping. If you have a combination of work experience and higher education to achieve the minimum hours and years, assume that higher education takes 1,000 hours per year. Professional work experience does not need to be investment related.  Internships/articleships are accepted if they are paid. Work experience with your own business or your family business will qualify only if it is professional experience for which you are paid. What does professional work experience mean? Professional work experience requires specialized knowledge, education, or advanced skills. Professional work experience requires the application of higher-level judgement and business skills, including:   Leadership and teamwork Business communications Critical thinking and problem solving Time management Professional judgement Analytical skills Adaptability Candidates applying to register for CFA Program without completing a bachelor’s degree must honestly evaluate whether their professional work experience has equipped them for the significant volume and depth of study demanded by CFA Program.  Please note that CFA Institute may request proof of education (copy of diploma, marksheet, any other relevant documents) and/or work experience (letter of employment, salary slips, any other relevant documents) to be submitted at any stage of your journey as a candidate or even after becoming a member in order to demonstrate entrance requirements were met. Failure to provide requested documentation relevant to entrance requirements 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 CFA Institute Professional Conduct Program.   CFA Institute requires that every CFA Program candidate have a valid international travel passport. Those without a passport will not be able to register or sit for exams.  CFA Program exams are only offered in English. Exams require English proficiency for reading comprehension and formulating answers to complex financial scenarios. All candidates in CFA Program must complete a Professional Conduct Statement form to attest that they are in compliance with this requirement. There are some countries with which CFA Institute cannot work. Review the OFAC Policy to check if there are any sanctions on your country.

What to Do Before, During, and After Your CFA Exam

When you enroll in the CFA Program, it is an approximately a four-year commitment that is also quite costly. In addition to the $450 enrollment fee, there is a $950 registration fee for the Level I exam (2018). With this kind of an investment in both time and money, make sure everything goes well. Here is how to increase your chance of getting a good grade and avoid any problems on the day of your exam:

  • Register for the test and choose a test location which will be a major metropolitan city or area around the world.
  • Prepare for the exam using the ebook, practice tests, and mock exams you received when registering. The CFA Institute also provides a list of approved test prep providers.
  • About four weeks before your exam you will receive your exam ticket indicating the specific test center.
  • On the day of your exam, do not bring mobile phones and other electronic devices into the exam room; store them in your car or the area in the test center set aside for personal belongings.
  • You are also prohibited from bringing refreshments, backpacks and handbags, study materials, and weapons into the exam room.
  • Bring your valid international travel passport and leave it on your desk along with your admission ticket, and approved calculator and writing instruments.
  • Eyeglasses (out of cases), manual pencil sharpeners, ear plugs, erasers, and wristwatches (not smart watches) may be kept on your desk as well.
  • Store tissues, medicine, cough drops, gum, hard candy, eyeglass cases, and wallets in your pocket or under the desk.
  • Arrive at least one hour before the exam to check in. Doors close before each timed session.
  • After the doors close, you won’t be allowed to enter the exam room until the proctor has finished reading the test instructions. Arriving more than 30 minutes after the beginning of the exam or leaving prior to dismissal will result in your not being able to take or complete the test and the forfeiture of your fee.
  • Expect to receive your results within 60 days of taking the Level I and II exams, and within 90 days of taking the Level III exam.

Source: The CFA Institute