Table of Contents

. . . CFA Overview
. . . CFA Requirements
. . . CFA Exam
. . . CFA Pass Rates
. . . CFA Salaries by Job Type
. . . CFA Salaries by Years of Experience
. . . CFA Salaries by Employer Type
. . . CFA Salaries by Company Size
. . . CFA Salaries by Company Sales
. . . CFA Total Compensation
. . . Helpful Resources (including Financial Calculator)

CFA Overview

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation is a professional certification awarded by the CFA Institute. The CFA program provides instruction in a variety of topics such as investment management, accounting, economics, ethics, and financial analysis of stocks, bonds, and derivatives. Passing the series of exams and completing the CFA program can lead to substantial increases in CFA salaries. The CFA charter is a highly respected and prestigious designation that is globally recognized by employers and investment professionals.

CFA Requirements

In order to become a CFA charter holder and enjoy the benefits of increased CFA salaries, candidates must pass three sets of six-hour exams, have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, and have at least four years of qualified work experience. CFA charter holders are required to follow to a strict code of ethics and rules that governs both their professional and personal conduct. As of August 2010, the CFA Institute reported global membership of more than 90,000 CFA charter holders.

CFA Exam

The CFA exam consists of three parts (“levels”) and candidates generally take one exam per year. Level I is offered twice a year in June and December and Levels II and III are offered once a year in June. All three exams are administered on paper in a single day.

Each exam takes an entire day and consists of 6 hours of testing as well as several hours for breaks and registration time. Level I has a total of 240 multiple choice questions. Level II has 120 multiple choice questions structured into 20 six-question groups. Level III consists of a session of free response, essay type questions and a session of 10 six question groups. While passing one or more tests will benefit the candidate, they will not see the true increase in CFA salaries until they have passed all the exams.

All three levels have a strong focus on ethics as this is one of the underlying themes of the CFA program. Level I places heavy emphasis on equity valuation, financial statement analysis, as well as an introduction to economics, statistics, and portfolio management. Level II again focuses on financial statement analysis and expands asset valuation to subject areas such as fixed income, derivatives, and alternative investments. Level III emphasizes portfolio management strategies and provides real life application of these strategies across different asset classes.

CFA Pass Rates

Year Level I Level II Level III
2011 39/38% 43% 51%
2010 38/36% 39% 46%
2009 46/34% 41% 49%
2008 35% 46% 53%
2007 39% 40% 50%
2006 40% 48% 76%
2005 35% 56% 55%
2004 35% 32% 64%
2003 41% 47% 68%

Candidates who have taken the exam receive a score report that provides a Pass/Fail result and breaks down the performance scores for each topic area into three categories: below 50%, between 50% and 70%, and above 70%.

CFA Salaries by Job Type

CFA salary will vary based on the type of job, years of work experience, employer, and other factors. Using information gathered from various sources, the range of CFA salaries based upon job type ranges from $61,210 for a corporate financial analyst to $145,810 for a chief financial officer. Other positions include investment/securities analyst ($73,090), financial analyst ($62,460), senior financial analyst ($79,245) and vice president of finance ($131,700). Payscale.com provides additional data ranges on base CFA salaries broken down by title. Portfolio managers are paid $59,492 – $162,747. Financial analysts are paid $40,801 – $95,414. Investment analysts are paid $44,347 – $117,280. Senior financial analysts are paid $51,680 – $ 103,824. CFOs are paid $74,922 – $239,545.

CFA Salaries by Years of Experience

Based on years of work experience, the median CFA salary is $51,050 for less than 1 year of experience, $63,900 for 1-4 years of experience, and $93,452 for 5-9 years of experience. More senior CFA charter holders with 10-19 years of experience had a median CFA salary of $119,309. CFA charter holders with 20 years or more of experience had a median CFA salary of $147,260.

CFA Salaries by Employer Type

CFA charter holders work for a variety of employers and earn a range of salaries. CFA charter holders who worked as contractors had one of the lowest median CFA salaries at $50,400. CFA charter holders who were employed by trusts or foundations earned median CFA salaries of $77,438 per year, while hospitals paid salaries of $78,001 per year. Private practices, companies, and colleges paid median CFA salaries of $80,617, $84,792, and $86,400 respectively. Self employed had median CFA salaries of $90,005, while those employed by non-profit organizations had median Salaries of $90,690, and people employed by schools had median salaries of $98,264. Franchises and other organizations had among the top median pay for CFA charter holders at over $100,000. Government workers are also rewarded by having a CFA charter with state and local governments paying $76,041 and federal governments paying CFA salaries of $78,467.

CFA Salaries by Company Size

According to Payscale.com, CFA salaries varied depending on company size. Companies with under 10 employees had median salaries of $75,756 for charter holders. CFA charter holders at companies with 10 to 49 employees, 50 to 199 employees, and 200 to 599 employees had CFA salaries of $83,144, $85,649, $97,579, respectively. CFA charter holders at companies with 600 to 1,999 employees, 2,000 to 4,999 employees, 5,000 to 19,999 employees earned CFA salaries of $100,980, $82,571, $90,807 respectively. CFA charter holders who worked at companies employing 20,000 to 499,999 earned median CFA salaries $101,940.

CFA Salaries by Company Sales

CFA charter holders working for companies with less than $500,000 in sales earned the lowest median CFA salaries at $70,468. Those working for companies with sales between $500,000 and $2,000,000 earned CFA salaries of $82,122. The salary for CFA charter holders working for companies with sales between $10 million to $99 million earned salaries of $130,180. For companies with sales between $100 million to $500 million, charter holders earned CFA salaries of $132,500. Companies with annual sales of $2 billion or more paid its CFA charter holders salaries of approximately $104,000.

CFA Total Compensation

It is important to note that the quoted CFA salaries constitute base pay only and do not include bonus or profit sharing components. According to the CFA Institute, the average total compensation received by CFA charter holders located in the US was $304,000 as of 2001. Becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst is perhaps one of the most important career decisions that you can make as the CFA Charter has a global presence. It is also a solid resume enhancer and will provide stable long term employment, substantial CFA salaries, and excellent benefits.

Helpful Resources

HP 12C Financial Calculator
The official calculator authorized by the CFA Institute; the standard on Wall Street.


CFA Institute
The association of investment professionals that awards the CFA.


Schweser
The leader in study guides and exam preparation material for CFA.


Analyst Forum
An online community for CFA candidates, including discussions on CFA salaries.


CFA Societies
Local chapters of CFA holders in cities across the world.