Why you need a CFA certificate and how to get it

You will have to study hard for the exam.

Why do I need a CFA certificate and how to get it

Egor Vakaryuk CFA expert at the SF Education online financial university.

What is a CFA certificate

A CFA certificate is an international document that confirms a person's professional knowledge in the field of finance, investment and insurance. CFA stands for Chartered Financial Analyst, or “Certified Financial Analyst”. The certificate is issued by the American CFA Institute, an international educational organization that brings together several thousand financial professionals.

CFA is a certificate, not an educational course. You don't need to attend lectures or complete any assignments to get the document, you just need to pass all three levels of the exam prepared by the CFA Institute.

At each stage, different skills are tested. So, at the first stage, Exam Dates, Cost, and Registration Fees/CFA Institute evaluate theoretical knowledge and the basics of investment analysis, in fact, this is the initial level. The further you go, the more difficult it is.

Why you need a CFA certificate

It provides many advantages for people who are engaged in financial analysis and investments.

Confirm knowledge in the field of finance and investments

The CFA exam is a good test for any financier. So, in August 2021, only 26% of participants passed the CFA Exam Results and Pass Rates/CFA Institute the first level and 39% the last. That is, the holders of the certificate are really highly qualified. Moreover, during the exam itself, not only professional skills are evaluated, but also compliance with ethical standards.

It is also important that there are no other diplomas of the same level of prestige in the field of investment. Therefore, for specialists in this field, a CFA certificate is almost the best way to confirm their knowledge.

Become more in demand in the labor market

Since it is not easy to obtain a CFA certificate, any holder of it gains a competitive advantage . Many companies, including those in Russia, pay attention to the presence of such a diploma. Even if only the first level of the exam is passed, such an entry in the resume will certainly be a plus for the candidate.

Moreover, there are organizations that require some employees to have such a certificate. First of all, these are the companies of the Big Four Auditors (E&Y, PWC, Deloitte, KPMG) and the relevant departments of the largest banks (Sberbank, VTB, Alfa-Bank).

Get a document, which is valued all over the world

The CFA certificate is an international diploma, and its holders are respected not only in Russia. Therefore, the document can be useful when looking for work abroad: if foreign companies are skeptical about some Russian standards, then there will definitely be no questions about CFA.

When and how the exam takes place

First level testing is organized by Exam Dates, Cost, and Registration Fees/CFA Institute four times a year (February, May, August, November), second and third levels – two (February and August May and August). Candidates take the exam in person at the CFA Institute centers. In Russia, they are Test Center Locations/CFA Institute only in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The exam takes place in Exam Dates, Cost, and Registration Fees/CFA Institute in English in the form of computerized testing. The rules are enforced by administrators, and participants can only take simple calculators with them.

Exam level Number and type of tasks Time to solve
CFA Level 1 180 test questions on investment analysis, portfolio management theory and professional standards 4.5 hours
CFA Level 2 88 Asset Valuation Test Questions at based on case studies 4.5 hours
CFA Level 3 44 test questions and essays on portfolio management 4.5 hours

Results are usually announced after 1.5 –2 months after the exam.

The CFA Institute never publishes or reports students' actual scores or passing scores. The exam participants themselves calculated that historically the passing score was about 70%, that is, to pass, it was necessary to answer at least 70% of the test questions correctly.

What are the requirements for candidates

At the time of taking the exam, you must meet several criteria for How to Become a CFA Charterholder/CFA Institute:

  1. Have a bachelor's degree or a total work and study experience of at least three years. Undergraduate students are also allowed to take the first level exam.
  2. Have a valid passport.
  3. Meet the requirements of a work ethic – you will need to fill out a special application for this.
  4. Live in territory not subject to U.S. sanctions. That is, today the residents of Crimea will not be able to pass the exam.

How much does the exam cost and how to save money

To be able to take the exam, you need to pay a registration fee. Its size depends on the Exam Dates, Cost, and Registration Fees/CFA Institute on the time of payment and the level of the exam. In general, if you register for the exam three months or earlier, the fee for each level of the exam will be 700 US dollars, or 52 thousand rubles, if you do not have time for early registration – 1,000 dollars, or 75 thousand rubles. For those who want to take the first level exam, there is a special offer of $450, or 33,000 rubles.

However, the CFA Institute gives Scholarships/CFA Institute members the opportunity to save money with an exam discount in the form of a scholarship. To receive it, you need to send an application and a cover letter. They should tell about your scientific and professional achievements and personal qualities, as well as explain why you want to take the exam. The application then enters the scholarship competition.

Some requirements depend on the type of scholarship selected.

  • Access.The scholarship is available to those who cannot afford to pay the full amount of the fee. The financial situation must be confirmed by documents, such as a bank statement. The price drops to $250 (18,000 rubles).
  • Women's. Any female who meets the eligibility criteria for the exam is eligible to apply for this scholarship. The price drops to $350 (26,000 rubles).
  • Student.It can be obtained by the University Affiliation Program/CFA Institute for students of educational programs accredited by the CFA Institute. In Russia, these are “Banking and Finance” at ICEF (bachelor’s), “Financial Analytics” at Moscow State University (master’s), “Finance” at NES (master’s), “Wealth Management” at Russian Economic University (master’s) and “Finance”, “Financial Analytics” and “Investment Management” at the National Research University Higher School of Economics (Master’s). The price is reduced to 26 thousand rubles.
  • Professor's.It can be applied for by teachers and administrative staff of the same accredited institutions. The price is reduced to 26 thousand rubles.
  • Regulator scholarship. Employees of central banks, securities commissions, stock exchanges or government organizations (for example, the Federal Financial Markets Service, financial monitoring). The price is reduced to 26 thousand rubles.

It is important to consider that a scholarship can be received no more than once a year.

How to prepare for the exam

CFA Institute conducts testing and makes a list of topics required for study, but does not organize preparatory classes. Therefore, you will have to prepare either on your own or with the help of third-party organizations.

Make a preparation plan

Level I CFA Exam Structure/CFA Institute is considered that candidates who successfully pass the exam spend about 300 hours preparing. Don't start too early so you don't forget anything. So it's better to start studying 4-6 months before the test date.

According to the simplest calculations, every day you need to spend 2-3 hours on preparation – it is better to do it steadily, and not jerkily on the weekends. Build your study around this and see if you're behind schedule.

Don't forget to practice

During the exam, you won't have time to think carefully about each question, you'll have to navigate quickly. Therefore, the key to success is solving the maximum number of practical problems in order to deal well with all types of questions.

Textbooks will be sent to you immediately after payment of the registration fee. For such practice, “more” definitely means “better”: set yourself the goal of sorting out at least three thousand tasks before the exam.

Take a vacation before the exam

It is better to devote the last week before testing to preparation . Try to convince the employer that the CFA certificate is useful not only to you, but also to him, as an indicator of the high professionalism of employees.

So you will have more time to prepare. Just don’t get carried away – it’s definitely not worth cramming the theory the night before the exam.

What is worth remembering

  1. The CFA certificate is, in fact, the only diploma in the field of investment. It is not easy to get it, therefore it is prestigious to own such a document. It will be especially useful for people who have linked their careers with investments.
  2. The exam consists of three levels. The first one tests the theoretical background and knowledge of the basics, the next one tests the ability to apply knowledge in practice, for example, managing an investment portfolio.
  3. Testing takes place in English in test centers. In Russia, they are in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Different levels of the exam last differently, but the average is 5 hours including a break.
  4. Not everyone is eligible to participate in the exam. This requires either relevant work experience or a bachelor's degree. Residents of Crimea cannot take the exam.
  5. To try to take the exam, you need to pay a registration fee. It ranges from $700 to $1,000 for each level of the exam. You can get a discount through various scholarships.