Financial analysts analyze the past performance of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other investments, and provide advice to clients regarding current and future investments. Chartered financial analysts, or CFAs, are financial industry professionals who have met the rigorous chartering standards of the CFA Institute. Completing the CFA program includes educational and experience requirements and passing a series of rigorous exams.
A bachelor's degree is the general requirement to enroll in the CFA program and register for the Level I exam, with certain exceptions involving experience. The CFA program is considered a graduate-level program, and the curriculum and study materials are designed by CFAs with many years of experience.
The CFA Institute intentionally designed the CFA program requirements to be flexible and allow for those interested in becoming a financial analyst as a second career to become chartered. CFA program entrance requirements allow you to substitute four years of relevant professional experience for the bachelor's degree requirement. You can also substitute any combination of years of professional experience and years of college that adds up to four or more for the bachelor's degree educational requirement.
All exams include both multiple choice and constructed response questions. The Level I exam covers basic financial industry information, and focuses on asset valuation. Some questions require performing analysis. The Level II exam focuses on financial analysis techniques, and applying analysis to real world examples. The Level III exam is the most comprehensive, and expects you to synthesize basic financial analysis with evaluation tools and advanced analytical methods to demonstrate your mastery of portfolio management.
Although continuing education is not mandatory for CFAs, the CFA institute strongly encourages all CFAs to engage in continuing education. The CFA Institute sponsors a continuing education program to assist CFAs in identifying educational activities for professional development. CFAs can also manage their continuing education activities using the institute's Web-based tracking app.
Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.