Earning your Chartered Financial Analyst charter isn’t about merely passing an exam. It is a combination of both passing the CFA exam and having the necessary work experience. Before you begin your CFA charter journey, make sure you plan to prepare for the exam and complete the required work experience. Below are a few recommendations on setting yourself up for success as you begin your CFA journey.
1. Know the Work Experience Requirements
Before you qualify for the CFA charter, you need at least four years of experience as an investment professional or related role. About half of that time must be directly related to investment decision-making or developing a work product that contributes to that process. Note that this must also be in a full-time job. The good news is, this experience can be obtained before, during, or after you complete the CFA Program.
As part of your membership application, you will have to explain your past job functions and prove that you have the work experience necessary to earn your charter. These experiences should involve assessing or implementing financial, economic, or statistical data within investment decision-making. They can also include teaching or supervising those who conduct such activities.
2. Determine Your Current Qualifying Experience
Once you understand the work requirements, the next step is to determine how much of your work experience qualifies for the charter. It is easy to overestimate how much qualifying experience you may have, keeping in mind that you will have to explain and prove how your work experience qualifies.
Be realistic with yourself. Your work experience will be the foundation on which you build the rest of your CFA charter aspirations. Be sure that your work experience qualifies before you rely on it for your application.
If you need help determining your qualifying work experience, the CFA Institute provides a Work Experience Self-Assessment tool. The tool is a great place to start if you are unsure about what qualifies.
3. Create a Plan
If your past experience qualifies, great! But if not, the next step is to determine what you need to do to get the necessary experience. How much more experience do you need? If your current job doesn’t give you experience that qualifies, what can you do to get the experience you need?
If you don’t have the experience, you will need to make acquiring it a priority. If you want to earn your CFA charter, you need to make a concerted and well-planned effort to promptly obtain the experience you need. There is never a better time than right now to start.
4. Remember Timing Is Everything
Depending on your required work experience, you can also begin to plan when you will launch your CFA exam journey. If you already have all the experience you need, you can start preparing for the exam. If you haven’t, make sure your plans to earn your required experience are secure, then begin to investigate when the best time is for your exam.
Also, as stated before, you can accrue work experience after completing the CFA exams, so use that to your advantage. If you have just finished school and are not very far along in a career or have not started a job, it still may be beneficial to study for and take the CFA exams sooner than later. The further removed you are from your studies, the more you will forget.
While there will never be a “perfect” time to begin preparations for your CFA exams, there are certain times that are more manageable than others. If possible, try to synchronize your study plan and exams with those times. However, do not defer your dream for too long waiting on the right time; the longer you put your goal on hold, the more difficult it will become to execute. Your success depends on finding the right balance and planning wisely.
Just remember, through it all, you are working toward a very worthy goal—the exclusive CFA charter. So, execute your plan and keep taking steps toward that goal, no matter how incremental. You will ultimately meet the requirements to qualify for the CFA charter if you continue moving in the right direction. Best of luck to you!