CFA Exam Costs

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There are so many good reasons to become a Chartered Financial Analyst.  Known as a CFA, this credential can improve your job prospects and help you advance if you are currently working in the finance or investment industry.  Employers hold those who have a CFA designation in high regard.  This credential tells clients, customers, and employers alike that you are a competent professional, a leader in your industry, and have the skills to tackle complex financial problems. 

The CFA Institute is a global organization that supports the investment and finance community.  Through its credentialing programs, such as the CFA, the Institute promotes responsible and ethical practices within the industry.  While becoming a CFA requires a significant investment of time and money, many find the increased salary potential and opportunities to be well worth it.

To get the CFA credential, you must pass a series of three exams

  • Level 1 – Knowledge and Comprehension
  • Level 2 – Application and Analysis
  • Level 3 – Synthesis and Evaluation

These exams must be taken and passed in sequential order.  If you don’t pass an exam, you must retake and pass it before you can take the next one. 

Below we discuss the costs of becoming a CFA.

CFA Test Preparation Fees

To become a CFA, you will be required to take a series of 3 exams known as Level 1, 2, and 3.  Tests must be taken in sequential order and are offered according to this schedule;

SectionJuneDecember
Level 1YesYes
Level 2YesNo
Level 3YesNo

The CFA Institute advises applicants that each exam will take a minimum of 300 hours to prepare for.  Given the significant commitment of time, many people choose to take a CFA test preparation course.  While these courses may seem pricey, they can greatly improve your chances of passing each section the first time around.

CFA test preparation packages can range from self-study, online courses, and in-person instruction.  Self-study courses may cost up to $699 per level, whereas review preparation tools that combine online and in-person classes typically start at $1,499 per level.  Expanded test preparation options may cost you around $2,500 per level.  Many review courses allow you to make monthly payments.

CFA Exam Fees Explained

The CFA exam is administered in June and December of every year.  When you register to take the Level 1 exam, you are required to pay a one-time enrollment fee. 

Fees for the CFA exam are based on how close you register to take the exam.  If you register early, you can receive a $300 discount.  Registering late will cost you an additional $450.  You can stay on top of the registration deadlines here.

Depending on when you schedule yourself to sit for each section of the CFA exam, you can expect to pay between $2,550 and $4,800. 

Early RegistrationStandard RegistrationLate Registration
Single exam fee$700$1,000$1,450
Three exams$2,100$3,000$4,350
One-time enrollment fee$450$450 $450
Total$2,550$3,450 $4,800

Additional CFA Exam Costs

There may be other hidden costs of becoming a CFA. 

Travel

The CFA exam is offered in slightly over 290 major cities throughout the world.  However, many of these locations offer only the Level 1 exam.  If you do not live near a major city, you should expect to pay for travel costs such as airfare and hotel.  Some test takers may be required to travel to another country to take the Level 2 and Level 3 exams. You may need to get a Visa or other travel documents if that is the case. 

When you apply to take the exam you will be asked which location you prefer to take it.  However, the CFA Institute reserves the right to assign you to a different location if there aren’t enough available spots.  It’s a good idea to register as early as possible to better secure your location choice.  You can see check the CFA Institute website to find out which cities offer the CFA exam. 

Retake Fees

If you retake any level of the CFA exam, you will be charged the same examination fee.  The fee will range from $700 to $1,450, depending on when you register to retake the exam.  In addition, if you used a CFA exam preparation software solution, you may be charged a fee if you have to extend its use. 

Cancellation Fees

If you change your mind about taking the CFA exam, you have three days after your payment to cancel to get a refund.  The amount that you will receive may be less due to fluctuating exchange rates.  If you cancel beyond the three days, even in the event of an emergency, you will not be given your money back.  Be sure that you won’t have a need to cancel before you pay for the exam. 

Membership Fees

You will be required to become a member of the CFA Institute at some point throughout your testing process.  The annual membership fee for regular membership if $275.  If you join during the year, your fee will be prorated based on the month that you join.

Why Become a CFA?

The CFA designation is a symbol of responsibility, ethical behavior, and leadership. Investing in a CFA credential can open up opportunities for your career.

Your job outlook can improve and you have an advantage over competing professionals that don’t hold this credential.

It also shows employers and clients that you are competent and have the tools to evaluate and make difficult decisions. While it typically takes 2 years to complete the CFA process, the time that you invest will pay off for your career.