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Credentials for Accountants: Chartered Financial Analyst

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Into investments and looking to secure a credential that is recognized the world over as a standard of professional excellence? Getting the Chartered Financial Analyst (“CFA”) credential might be for you. You won’t be alone as 139,900 candidates in 160 countries have enrolled for June CFA exams this year.

Here’s the rest of the skinny on the CFA:

Education Requirement
To obtain a CFA, all you need is a bachelor’s and four years of relevant work experience, or a combination of education and experience that totals at least four years.

Professional Requirements
CFAs must have 48 months of qualified work experience to qualify to take the exams.

CFA Exam
The exam is administered only in English by the CFA Institute in June and December. The Candidate Body of Knowledge is the playbook from which all CFAs derive their moves; those who have recently passed the CPA exam can think of it as the opposite of the CPA exams, whereupon BEC is the largest section. Topics include the time value of money, corporate governance, equity investments and portfolio management.

The exam consists of three levels and Each has its own emphasis, with all of them weighing ethics heavily.

Level I emphasizes tools and inputs, and includes an introduction to asset valuation, financial reporting and analysis, and portfolio management techniques.

Level II emphasizes asset valuation, and includes applications of the tools and inputs (including economics, financial reporting and analysis, and quantitative methods) in asset valuation.

Level III study program emphasizes portfolio management, and includes strategies for applying the tools, inputs, and asset valuation models in managing equity, fixed income, and derivative investments for individuals and institutions.

All levels must be passed in order to secure the CFA designation. Each exam is 6 hours. There is no passing score, only pass/fail and candidates are given score reports that explain their performance according to other candidates. The exam uses a psychometric grading system similar to the CPA exam.

Studying takes about 10 – 15 hours per week for 18 weeks. Unlike the CPA, CFA candidates can take the exams as many times as they need to pass and there is no time limit to do so.

Career Options
A large number of CFAs end up as portfolio managers however other career options include research analyst, consultant, financial advisor or investment banking analyst. 7% of CFAs are actually chief executives.

Compensation and Other Benefits
Portfolio managers can make $77,443 – $144,360 (national average) so the obvious incentive to obtaining a CFA is the money. CFAs are overwhelmingly male, about 82% according to PayScale. For CPAs, the CFA designation offers quite a bit of flexibility in one’s career to work outside of accounting with a focus on financial products and investments.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts for GC here.