Navigating the CFA® Requirements for Each Level

If you are considering obtaining your CFA charter, you may be aware that passing three exams is necessary. The Level 1 exam involves meeting various verification and eligibility criteria. However, for Level 2 and Level 3, the only additional requirement is having passed the previous level. The steps to begin the process of candidate eligibility and verification are outlined below.

qualifications to start the CFA Program

CFA Level 1 Requirements / Enrollment

Before you can actually sit for the first phase of the CFA exam, you need to satisfy some eligibility criteria and requirements mandated by the CFA Institute (CFAI).

Education & Professional Requirements

  1. Bachelor's Degree: You must have completed a Bachelor's or equivalent program and hold a college/university degree. Consult your college or university if you are unsure if your program is comparable.


  2. Undergraduate Student: Students with two years remaining in their undergraduate studies will be able to sit for the Level 1 exam; as part of CFAI’s expanded eligibility . Please note that it is essential to finish your degree program before taking your CFA Level 2 exam.


  3. Professional Work Experience: You must have about 4,000 hours of work experience or higher education acquired over three years before registering for the Level 1 exam. Make sure that your education and work experience timelines do not overlap.

International Travel Passport

To take the CFA exams, it is mandatory to have a valid international travel passport. If your passport expires before the exam date, you can still register, but you must renew it before the day of the exam and update your account credentials with the new passport information. It is crucial that the details on your passport exactly match the information in your CFA account. If the information does not match or your passport is expired, you will not be allowed to take the exam, and your registration fee will be forfeited.

See a sample passport

The United Nations agency ICAO has determined that all non machine-readable passports are considered expired as of 24 November 2015. Therefore, international travel passports that are not machine-readable (including handwritten passports) will be considered invalid for entry into the CFA exam.

English Proficiency

In addition to mastering the CFAI curriculum, the CFA exams also require candidates to demonstrate their ability to communicate ideas clearly and express themselves effectively. Given that the entire exam is conducted in English, a strong command of the language and its context is crucial. This is particularly important for Level 3, which includes an essay format, where strong writing skills, including proper sentence construction and the ability to provide concise responses, are essential to practice and master.

Professional Conduct

The CFA Institute is committed to maintaining the highest levels of ethical standards and professional conduct amongst its members, designations, and exam programs. To ensure this, they have established a set of guidelines called the Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct (Code and Standards). The Professional Conduct Program oversees the disciplinary process at CFAI, which involves conducting investigations into allegations, determining whether any violations have occurred, imposing sanctions when appropriate, conducting disciplinary proceedings, and disclosing any violations to relevant parties. The objective of this program is to uphold the integrity of the CFA Institute and its members, while ensuring that they adhere to the highest standards of professionalism and ethical conduct.

CFA Institute upholds the Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct (Code and Standards) to ensure the integrity of CFA Institute membership, designations, and exam programs. The Professional Conduct Program oversees the disciplinary process at CFAI for conducting investigations into allegations, determining violations, imposing sanctions, conducting disciplinary proceedings, and disclosing violations.

Countries Eligible for CFA

CFAI, as a US corporation, abides by the US Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) rules, which prohibit US institutions from doing business in certain countries and with specific individuals and entities. CFAI cannot conduct business with citizens of Cuba, North Korea, Syria, or Ukraine's Crimea region. Before registering for a CFAI program, it is recommended that candidates who work outside of the United States look up their employer's name on the OFAC SDN list.

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CFA Level 2 Requirements

You must have passed the Level 1 exam and completed your bachelor's degree to sit for the Level 2 exam. You will have 20 vignettes, each of which will be followed by six questions. Like the Level 1 exam, Level 2 is divided into two equal sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

CFA Level 3 Requirements

To attempt the CFA Level 3 exam, you must have passed Level 2. The Level 3 exam comprises 8-11 constructed response questions and ten vignettes divided into morning and afternoon sessions.

Check Your Eligibility

We understand that having many eligibility requirements can be perplexing at times. Here's a checklist to ensure you always have the list of requirements nearby, reducing the chances of missing anything.

Your Eligibility Checklist (excluding fee payments)
First Timer (Looking to attempt the CFA Level 1 exam)
Must have one of the following requirements checked
2 years remaining in Bachelor's Degree
An Undergraduate
Professional Work Experience
An International Travel Passport
English Language Proficiency
Meet the 'Professional Conduct Admission Criteria’
Do you live in a participating country?
Attempting Level 2
 Have a Bachelor’s degree
 Cleared Level 1 exam
Attempting Level 3
 Cleared Level 2 exam
Note: Read the detailed overview of each requirement before using this checklist.

What’s Next After You Fulfill the Enrollment Requirements?

Once you fulfill all the requirements mandated by the CFAI for attempting the exams, the next step is to register. The windows for the CFA registration vary in costs —earlier the date, lesser the registration cost — depending on when a candidate decides to register for the exam. The total cost of all three CFA exams ranges from approximately $2,600 to $4,000, assuming three consecutive passes with no travel and accommodation costs. This does not include third-party prep provider costs, which is highly recommended.

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Frequently Asked Questions

In technical terms, it is not possible to take all levels of the CFA exam if you enroll through the Bachelor’s Degree or Final-Year Student requirement. You can only attempt the Level 1 exam. However, your eligibility to attempt the CFA exam also depends on your chosen enrollment requirements.

If you opt for the Professional Work Experience requirement, you must have a minimum of 4,000 hours of professional work experience or higher education acquired over three consecutive years by the registration date. By fulfilling this requirement, you can attempt all levels of the CFA exam.

To be eligible for the CFA charter, you must have relevant work experience in the investment decision-making process, which includes evaluating or applying financial, economic, and/or statistical data. This experience can be gained through full-time, part-time, or remote work arrangements prior to, during, or after your participation in the CFA Program.

In addition, you must have completed at least 4,000 hours of relevant work experience in the last 36 months, and these hours must be directly related to the investment decision-making process or producing a work product that informs or adds value to that process. This work experience can include supervising individuals who are involved in the investment decision-making process or teaching activities related to investment decision-making.

One of the most critical requirements for obtaining a CFA charter is having the necessary work experience. Before embarking on the CFA charter journey, it is essential to understand the work experience requirements and determine whether you currently have qualifying experience. Creating a well-structured plan to obtain the required work experience is crucial, and timing is also important to ensure that you can meet the work experience requirement in time for the CFA exam. Therefore, it is essential to plan your work experience strategy and timing carefully, taking into account the CFA exam schedule.

Read more about the CFA Exam

Worried about missing out on important dates for the CFA exam? Here’s a handy list of new dates and frequencies to ensure seamless preparation.
Finding it cumbersome to keep track of CFAI’s exam-related changes? Use this link to stay updated with the latest changes and updates, so that you never miss out on one.
Looking to understand the CFA scoring process better? Here’s everything you need to know about CFA scoring, pass rates, and the Minimum Passing Score (MPS).
Wondering about the process required to become a CFA charterholder? Starting from passing the exams to becoming an actual member of the CFA Society, here’s all the info you need!
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