What is a CFA course?

CFA is an acronym that means Chartered Financial Analyst. It came into existence back in 1947 when the Financial Analysts Federation (FAF) was established in the USA. It will be incorrect to consider CFA as a Postgraduation degree or any PhD course. Rather it is considered as a special certification course a student can pursue after completing their Bachelor’s. CFA is one of the most respected and recognized credentials in the whole world. It has always been the indisputable and ideal course in the investment industry. And since it is a globally accepted course, pursuing it becomes a crown to your MBA or any other UG or PG program.

Table of Contents

To talk about it in detail, it is in general a short course. A student can complete CFA in a minimum of two and half years. But due to the level of difficulty associated with it, the majority of the candidates clear in a maximum of 4 years. The course consists of three levels of exams which every student has to clear. Only then, the CFA Institute (formerly the Association of Investment Management and Research, or AIMR) grant the CFA certificate. 20% of the students have only so far cleared these 3 levels of exam in their first try. The concept, the process of selecting and administering students is very different from the regular programs.

Career Prospect and Fee Structure

The fees for the course varies from country to country. Although, it is estimated that the average fee is around 2 lacs to 5 lacs. The student has to pay for the registration as well as the exam fee for every single attempt. It must be noted that there is no limit for the reattempts. Students can try as many times as they want for clearing the levels. The CFA holders also get a handsome remuneration in the investment world. The least any CFA can get is Rs.4,00,000 in India. Not to mention the figures are not the same in every country. This course opens more opportunities for the students. Business Consultant, Research Analyst, Financial Manager, Private Bankers are some of the designations that a CFA can work/apply for.

All About CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst)

Duration 4 years
Admission Criteria Merit taken from the entrance exam
Eligibility Bachelor’s Degree
Course Level Certification course
Fees of CFA Rs.1,90,000 to Rs.5,00,000
Full-Form Chartered Financial Analyst
Average Placement Package Rs.4,00,000
Average Cut-off There is no cut-off

CFA Eligibility Criteria

CFA, an American-based Institute, offers Chartered Financial Analyst Certification to students globally every year. They conduct three exams known as Level-I, Level-II, Level-III. A student has to invest about 300 hours in exam preparation. They can retake the exam as many times as they want until they succeed. However, the preparation time differs for every student based on their own skill and pace. Generally, the applicants are either engineers, KPOs, or Finance and B-School students. To get the fundamental idea of investments, markets, and stocks, CFA will be a good choice for the aspirants. In order to be eligible to write the entrance test, the candidate must satisfy the below criteria:

  • They must have a valid international passport while applying for the course.
  • Bachelor’s or any equivalent UG course approved by any recognized University is required.
  • Also, those who are in the final year of their UG course can apply for it. Although, they should complete their degree before appearing for the Level 2 exams.
  • Anyone who has 4000+ hours of work experience or completed higher studies can provide enough documents for proving the same is eligible.
  • Those who do an internship or have their own business will also be counted as work experience (only if they have the income).
  • No rule says that only those who work in the finance and accounts department can apply for CFA. The Institute takes the workmanship, leadership, critical and logical thinking as well as the growth of the applicant in their respective field. It is because the course itself asks for adamant dedication and focus during the training period.
  • They must be fluent in English, of course, as the study materials and the books will only be in English.
  • They have to submit a professional conduct statement while applying for the program.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Fee structure

College/ University Type Average Fees
Central Universities Rs.50,000
Private Universities Rs.30,000 – Rs.70,000
Private Colleges Rs.60,000 – Rs.1,50,000

CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Admission Process

It is important to note that registering yourself for the course is not the only thing that should be focused on here. Of course, paying and enrolling are the first steps but other things should also be highlighted before anything. While the candidates provide all the necessary details during the enrolment, CFA Institute weighs their profile with the requirements they have set before. Whether to grant a scholarship or not is decided only after carefully scrutinizing the applicant’s profile. The scholarships are granted in December. And once the aspirant receives it, then they can continue applying for the exam. Their amount will be reduced automatically.

On the other hand, if the student is not eligible for the scholarship, then they can continue with the old process. First, they need to create an account at the official CFA Institute website. The one-time enrolment for the CFA course fee costs around USD 450. Another key point here is there are, specifically, two types of the registration process. One is called early registration which costs around USD 700, and another one is the standard registration. The latter cost around USD 1000. The dates for both are updated on the website. So, the students can check and apply accordingly.

After that, the students can register and pay for their Level 1 exam. Note that the fee thus paid is Non-Refundable. To elaborate, the fee can only be paid once, and it is not given back to the student under any circumstances. Once it is over, you technically enter into the Chartered Financial Analyst course. During this stage, you must not fail to submit your professional conduct certificate.

Scheduling and Rescheduling the Exam

For CFA, the candidate himself/herself needs to schedule the exam date and center. The Institute shall provide a minimum of 2 separate months where the dates for the exam can be scheduled. The total number of days given in each month may or may not be the same. Henceforth, students must check them properly. They can select the place where they wish to give the CFA exam. Another important note here is they must check by entering the city’s name to get better results.

CFA is a globally accepted certification course. So, the CFA Institute administers the test globally at the same time. No matter if the candidate is giving an exam from India, Europe, China, or any other country there will be regulated on the same day at the same time.

If in any case, the applicant finds it difficult to attend the exam on the date they fixed before, then there is no need to panic. The Institute provides an option for rescheduling the dates. The deadline for them is also updated on their website. While changing the dates or center, the applicant has to additionally pay USD 25 for each re-appointment. Thereafter, the candidate is properly ready to start their journey in cracking all the three levels of the CFA exam.

Chartered Financial Analyst Entrance Exams:

For getting admission or registering, there is no special entrance exam for CFA specialization. One can directly register by sending an application to the Institute before the deadline. But to attempt the Level 2 of the CFA exam one must qualify in Level 1. Likewise, to reach Level 3 they must qualify both Level 1 and Level 2. In short, Level 2 is the entrance test for Level 3 while level 1 is an entrance exam for Level 2. There is at least a 6-months gap between each level. The results are announced after 60 days from the date of the exam.

The CFA exam in India is conducted in the following states/cities:

  • Ahmedabad
  • Bangalore
  • Chennai
  • Gurgaon
  • Kochi
  • Kolkata
  • New Delhi
  • Mumbai
  • Pune

Due to the global pandemic that started in 2020, two new windows (months) were added to this year. These windows will be open for 10 days only. The Institute has decided to go for CBT type i.e. no more paper-based exams. Many other changes are made for this year’s CFA exam. Therefore, let us now clearly understand what are these Levels and why they are considered as one of the toughest tests to crack.

Level-I

  • Level 1 exam is conducted in every window of this year.
  • It is a multiple-type question (MCQs) where marks will be awarded for each right answer. But if it is wrong, then no marks shall be deducted. To put it in another way, there is no negative marking.
  • The exam is divided into two sessions. But both will be conducted on the same day.
  • A candidate shall have 1.5 mins i.e. 90 secs to answer each question.
  • The total duration of each session now is 135 mins that means 2hrs 15 mins.
  • Out of 180 questions, there will be 20 trial questions. These are called pretesting and they don’t have any weightage. They are unknown and don’t add to the final score of the candidate.
  • There is no way to skip a question. Every question should be answered. That means zero marks for the non-attempted question.

Exam Syllabus:

Each session has two groups. The topics covered in Session 1 are:

  • Group 1: Ethics
  • Group 2: Quantitative methods, Investment tools, Economics, financial reporting and analysis.

For Session 2 the areas covered from the overall CFA syllabus are:

  • Group 1: Portfolio Management, Corporate Finance
  • Group 2: Derivates and Alternative Investments, Equities, Fixed Income, Investment assets

Level of Difficulty: Highly Advanced

Exam Fee: USD 700 for early and USD 1000 for standard

Level 2

  • Level 2 is conducted in each quarter of the year.
  • It consists of two sessions.
  • The total duration of the exam is 4.5 hours. That means each session is for about 2hrs 15 mins (135 mins). There is an optional break that the candidate may or may not use.
  • The format is Vignette-supported Multiple Choice Question. There is 88 such question in the exam which means 44 in each session.
  • There shall be 4 to 6 MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions) after each vignette.
  • For each correct answer, the student will gain 3 marks. And there is again no negative marking here. So, the students can attempt every question without worrying.
  • The candidate will have a whole of 3 minutes to answer each question.

Exam Syllabus: There are majorly four areas covered in Level 2 of the CFA exam. They are Investment tools, Wealth Planning, Portfolio Management, Ethical and Professional Standards.

Level of Difficulty: Highly Difficult (Student must at least focus more than 20 hours a day)

Exam Fee: USD 700 for early and USD 1000 for standard registration. There is no need to pay the enrolment fee again for the Level 2 exam.

Level 3

  • Similar to Level 2, Level 3 is also conducted in each quarter of the year.
  • It is also divided into two Sessions.
  • The duration of the exam remains the same. That implies 135 mins (2 hours 15 minutes) for each session or 4.5 hours in total.
  • Session 1: There is about 8 to 11 Vignette type question which requires an answer in a sentence. That means the student has to select the correct answer and also provide an explanation for it. A few Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs) are also included here.
  • Session 2: It has a vignette followed by 4 or 6 Multiple-Choice Questions. Each correct MCQ’ answer will give a total of 3 marks to the student. Again, there is no negative scoring in any of the sessions.
  • The average time a student can spare is about 3 mins only for each question.

Exam Syllabus: Wealth Planning, Portfolio Management

Level of Difficulty: Highly Difficult (Student must at least focus more than 20 hours a day)

Exam Fee: USD 1000 for standard and USD 700 for early registration. Again, there is no need to pay the enrolment fee for the Level 3 exam.

Subject/Syllabus for CFA in India

CFA subjects revolve mostly around 10 particular subjects throughout the three levels of the exam. The concepts involve a deep understanding of quantitative methods, private equities, and portfolio management. However, the degree of difficulty of each subject increase as the student progresses and enters into another level. The curriculum deals with the analysis of ethical and professional standards and provides a theoretical explanation about the security market, macroeconomy, and microeconomy.

Below are the important CFA course details, topics, or subjects that are discussed and learned in all three stages of the CFA exam:

Alternative Investments Financial Reporting and Analysis
Debt Securities Economics
Derivatives Corporate Finance
Ethics and Regulation Macroeconomy and Microeconomy
Equity Securities and Investments Investment and Fixed Income
Quantitative Methods and its Concepts International trade and Risk Management
Ethical and Professional Standards Portfolio Management and Wealth Management

Skills required for CFA in India

It is a well-known fact that CFA is one of the toughest exams for a student to clear. According to the Wall Street analysis, only 20% of the students are able to qualify in the exam in their first attempt. The National Academic Recognition Information Centre UK (NARIC UK) has stated that the CFA course is on the same level as QCF Level 7 (Master’s degree). All this indicates that one needs to put extra effort and dedication in order to clear the exams. They must invest more than 18 hours of the day in the preparation of the three levels.

Also, everyone must remember that there is no exemption for anyone. And there is neither any shortcut nor any special status that an applicant can enjoy during the exam. So, the scholar who is taking up the exam should prepare themselves for all the unknown challenges they might have to face throughout the process.

Required Skills:

Anyone who is not from the finance industry can also apply for the CFA program. But they must have the necessary zeal and passion to learn new things. Some common yet special skills a candidate must possess are explained below:

  • Analytical Skills: The CFA aspirant must be able to conceptualize or visualize and analyse the problem whenever faced without any difficulty. They must have the ability to solve every complicated issue within no time.
  • Computer Skills: Along with basic computer knowledge, they must also understand how to operate certain applications. It is because, in the future, they might have to create portfolios or keep a track of market trends and investments.
  • MS Excel Skills: Every finance student must learn all the tricks and shortcuts associated with it.
  • Critical Thinking and Decision Making Skills: These two are the most important skills a candidate must possess. These will help, mostly while attempting the Level 2 and Level 3 exams. The item set questions and constructed response questions will become easier to solve when the examinee has these two skills.
  • Mathematical Skills: Knowledge in General Math can be useful to understand the accounts and finance section. Sometimes they will need to estimate the figures or value of the stocks. Then they will have to do a quick calculation to get the results. Henceforth, a minimum understanding of basic Math is always necessary. It plays an important role in this program.

Jobs after Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) in India

Job Name Average Pay (Per Annum)
Investment Banker Rs. 8,00,000 to Rs.10,00,000
Risk Manager Rs,10,00,000
Portfolio Manager Rs.6,25,000
Private Managers Rs.3,00,000 to Rs. 9,00,000
Market Research Analyst Rs.3,00,000 to Rs.10,00,000
CFA Rs.4,00,000 to Rs.15,00,000

Top Employers for CFA in India

Generally, the job position and package depend on the candidates’ performance. The one who has cleared all three levels in one go will definitely receive huge rewards and pay scale when compared to the others. But in few companies, the pay range will be equally high for those who cleared the tests in their third or second attempt. It all depends on the candidate’s leadership skills, his/her knowledge of investment and stocks in real life. Not to mention, there is high scope for CFA holders in the countries like UAE, USA, and UK. Moreover, the CFA salary gets multiplied if the employee has 2-5 years of experience in the business.

The top recruiters that offer numerous and various positions for CFA holders are:

  • JP Morgan and Co-Investment Specialist, Financial Advisor Support, Trading Analyst or Associate, CFA, Fixed Income Investment Specialist, Fund Controller, Risk Management and many more
  • The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. – Internal Audit, Consumer and Commercial Banking Associate, Client Portfolio Management Analyst/Associate
  • Deloitte – Financial Advisory, Market Research Analyst, CFA
  • Ernst and Young – CFA, Consultant or Advisor in Business
  • HSBC – CFA, Lead Business Analyst, Equity Research Analyst, Independent Model Review Associate
  • Crisil – Market Research Analyst, Equity Researcher
  • Credit Suisse – Risk Manager
  • SBI Bank – Senior Executive in Research Analyst- Equity Research, Macroeconomic Research Specialist, and many more.
  • Hindustan Unilever Ltd. – CFA
  • Aditya Sun Life – CFA, Senior Executive Analyst

Top CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Colleges in India

In India, we have a total of 18 Colleges or Universities that are affiliated with the CFA Institute. These Universities will get scholarships for their students to pursue CFA in India. They will include the syllabus along with their MBA or teach it separately. At the end of the training, the students have to appear for the CFA exam. Following are some of the Colleges that are affiliated with the CFA Institute. Their NIRF rankings are also as follows:

College Name NIRF Ranking
Christ University 79
Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad 1
International Management Institute – New Delhi 28
Indian Institute of Management – Kashipur 33
SCMHRD (Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development) 19
Ta Pai Management Institute Manipal 21

Top Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Universities in India

In general, many coaching centres focus on providing CFA programs to the aspirants. But there are a few Universities that have included the Chartered Financial Analyst course in its academic curriculum as a certification course. Since the CFA has high relevance everywhere around the world, many other Universities are taking a step forward to join hands with CFA Institute. Therefore, students can select the concerned University and start preparing for the program.

The numerical figures on the right side of the tabular form are the QS World ranking of the respective University:

University Name QS Ranking
Indian Institute of Management – Bangalore 1
Indian Institute of Management – Nagpur 401-450
University of Delhi 474
KREA University NA
Flame University 6666

Frequently Asked Questions about CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst)

Is CFA harder than CA?

Both CA and Chartered Financial Analyst programs come under the toughest exam in the world. But when we look at the passing rate of each exam, then both have a visible difference. And thus, it becomes evident that CA is a bit tougher than the Chartered Financial Analyst program. The pass percentage of CA is about 26% meanwhile the CFA percentage is around 44%. Also, CA requires more hard work to deal with the rigorous curriculum. Hence, it is clear that CFA is much easier than CA (Chartered Account).

Is CFA better than MBA?

CFA mainly focuses on the theoretical and analytical parts of the investment industry. It has subjects at a deeper and advanced level. It neither helps the student to become an ace in the market nor in the other field. Rather it may help you become an expert in the investment industry. Whereas MBA, overall, gives the basic idea of the different subjects. In MBA, the students will have an opportunity to get more exposure to many areas in the Accounts and Finance world. In a way, they both compliment each other.

But when it comes to the cost of the subject, CFA is less expensive than MBA. So, according to the budget the student can afford to put in, they can select either of the courses. Also, if we look at the jobs and salaries offered to CFA and MBA, then both give the student equal opportunities. The pay range depends on the experience as well as the performance of the candidate.

In conclusion, depending upon the needs of the aspirant, they can choose either CFA or MBA. They both have equal pros and cons.

What is CFA education?

CFA is a Universally accepted special certification course. CFA full form is Chartered Financial Analyst. Its Conducting Body is situated in the USA and it is called CFA Institute. It deals with the investment and financial world at a deeper level. There is no entrance test for enrolment. Another interesting fact here is that working individuals can also apply for the CFA program.

The study materials and textbooks are either in e-book format or in physical format. The Chartered Financial Analyst course details are readily available online. Many sources on the internet conduct mock tests and release sample papers for practice. Students can download them and can work on them. CFA Institute also releases many journals based on the subjects to provide a better understanding to their student. Here each reading has a certain number of learning outcomes that a student can check at any time. If the student is able to keep up with the real-life finance world with CFA knowledge, then they can get a job in a higher position at renowned organizations.

What is the CFA salary?

Investment is an art. A certificate in CFA won’t help the scholar to get a job in reputed companies. It is their skill and understanding of the subject that will help them secure a decent job with a high package. The minimum Chartered Financial Analyst salary for a CFA starts from Rs.4,00,000 per annum. Nevertheless, the pay scale is different for different countries and different designations. CFA Salary in India can go high up to as much as Rs.35,00,000 sometimes. Based on the following parameters the salary of a CFA depends:

  • Number of attempts, it took to clear the exam
  • Leadership Skills, Communication Skills
  • Dedication and Intelligence of the Candidate
  • Work Experience
  • Decision-Making Ability of the person
  • Marks scored in each subject in all the three levels
  • Knowledge of current market trends
  • Critical Thinking

The CFA salary and demand for CFA holders might be different in other countries. So, those who wish to work overseas can try their luck there also.

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List of Universities offering CFA
List of Universities