Is there a Need to Pursue Professional Courses?
With the rising number of college graduates and a limited supply of jobs, an undergraduate college degree is slowly losing its value. Professional certifications from various professional bodies serve the vital purpose of strengthening an undergraduate college degree.
Assuming a job interview setting, person X, who has both a college degree and a professional certification, will be preferred to person Y, who has only his/her college papers.
That said, professional papers, however challenging and costly, are worth every struggle.
What are Professional Certifications?
Professional certifications are accreditations offered by professional bodies from around the world. They are an attestation by a third party, of an individual’s knowledge, skills and ability to perform a specific task. Contrary to attaining a post-graduate degree, which offers generalized broad knowledge, a professional certification offers an individual in-depth specific skills and knowledge required to excel in their chosen field of practice.
Examples of Professional Papers
- Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA) Program – Offered by CFA Institute for individuals with an interest in Finance and Investments. Learn more at https://analystprep.com/cfa/
- Financial Risk Manager (FRM®) – Offered by the Global Association of Risk Professional® for individuals with an interest in Finance and Investments. Learn more at https://analystprep.com/frm/
- CIM® – Conducted by the Chartered Institute of Marketing® for individuals who would like to gain an internationally recognized certificate in marketing.
- FSA® exams – FSA exams are meant for individuals who would like to become actuaries. They are offered by the Society of Actuaries. Learn more at https://analystprep.com/actuarial-exams/
Chartered Financial Analyst®
The CFA designation, as the name suggests, is an internationally recognized accreditation that is offered by CFA Institute, a global professional body of Investors based in the United States of America. The exam offers candidates a strong and in-depth understanding of concepts that are applied in the finance and investment fields.
CFA Institute offers the CFA exams in three progressive levels, Levels I, II and III. For a candidate to qualify for level II, she/he must have sat and excelled in level 1, and for a candidate to qualify for level III, she/he must have passed level 2. A candidate can re-sit a failed level as much as needed.
To register for CFA exams, candidates need a one-time registration fee of $450. Thereafter, a candidate will be paying $700 for every level. Therefore, the first time CFA Program candidate needs $1150 in order to book an exam.
CFA Institute offers its candidates three registration deadlines (early, mid, and late registration). The amount of money paid for mid registration is higher than that paid for early registration. As for late registration, candidates pay almost double what they would have paid for early registration. It is, therefore, advisable to register before the early registration deadline, as this not only saves the candidate’s money but also provides ample time to study. The Institute recommends at least 300 hours of study time for every level.
Important Dates for 2020 CFA Exams
For June 2020 early bird candidates, the only remaining important date is the exam weekend (6th and 7th of June). However, candidates can still register for June 2020 CFA exams by paying their registration fees before 12 February 2020 (mid registration, USD 1000 fee) and 11 March 2020 (late registration, USD 1450 fee).
The months indicated below are for candidates who would wish to register for either the December 2020 exams or the June 2021 exams Note that months have been used in place of dates because the Institute is yet to release the specific dates.
|October 2020||Early registration for June 2021 CFA exams|
|October 2020||1st deadline to request disability accommodation|
|February 2021||Mid registration for June 2021 CFA exams|
|February 2021||2nd registration to request disability accommodation|
|March 2021||Late registration for June 2021 CFA exams|
|June 2021||Exam weekend|
Scholarships and Grants for CFA Exams
In order to give more people the priceless opportunity to pursue CFA exams, the institute offers a variety of scholarships for qualified and deserving candidates. Listed below are the six scholarships offered by the Institute.
- Access Scholarship: This is a general scholarship offered to any candidate who would wish for external funding. With this scholarship, an individual pays only $250 to register for any exam level. To qualify for this scholarship, applications should have been handed in by 15th September of the year preceding the year the candidate wishes to sit the exams.
- Women’s Scholarships: As the name suggests, this scholarship is reserved for the female gender. The registration fee is reduced to $350 with this scholarship. The application deadline is in the month of August of the year preceding the exam year.
- Student Scholarship: This scholarship is limited to students studying in schools that are affiliated to the Institute. The application deadline is 8th February for June exams. The exam registration fee is reduced to $350 with this Scholarship.
- Professors Scholarship: This scholarship is exclusive for professors who lecture business-related courses and for those who teach the subjects tested by the CFA exams. Professors need to apply by 1 February for June exams and by 1 September for December exams. With this scholarship, professors pay only $350 for exam registration.
- Regulator Scholarship: Scholarship is meant for employees of without profit entities who regulate business conduct of the Investment industry. The application deadline is 1 February for June exams and 1 September for December exams. The exam registration fee is reduced to USD 350.
- Media Scholarship: Media scholarship is meant for employees of media organizations who air financial news, data and education. Selected benefactors pay a reduced exam registration fee of USD 350. To qualify, applications need to have been handed in by 1 February for the June exam and by 1 September for the December exams.
The Level I CFA Exam
The level I CFA exam is the only CFA exam that is offered twice in a year, in June and in December. It is also the only level that can be taken by students in their final year of study. The Level I exam is written in two three hour sessions (morning session and afternoon session) with a 15 minutes break between the sessions. The level encompasses 240 independent multiple-choice questions split equally between the morning and afternoon sessions. The 240 questions test on all the concepts covered by the level 1 syllabus, and they carry the same weight. No penalty is given for any incorrect answer. Level I equips a candidate with the basic concepts applied in the investment field.
Level 1 exam results are released 60 days after the exam day. For study materials regarding the Level I exam: https://analystprep.com/cfa-level-1/
The Level II CFA Exam
The level II exam can only be taken in June, can only be taken after passing level I, and after obtaining a bachelor’s degree. The exam is taken within a period of six hours. It is a multiple-choice exam comprising of 21 sets of questions (10 sets taken during the morning session and 11 during the afternoon session), Each set has a case statement from which questions are answered.
The exam focuses on the application of the concepts acquired in level I. It encompasses four test areas (Ethical and Professional Standards, Investment tools, Asset Classes and Portfolio Management. These four areas are further divided into ten study topics.
Level 2 results are released 60 days after the exam day. For study materials regarding the Level I exam: https://analystprep.com/cfa-level-2/
The Level III CFA Exam
The level III exam is offered in the month of June. Only after passing level 1 and 2 can a candidate sit for level III. This level focuses on Portfolio management and wealth planning. The exam is also done within 6 hours.
The exam is a mixture of item set questions (similar to level II) and essay-based questions. The morning session offers at least 10 essay type questions with multiple parts. These questions may also provide case examples that will need application answers. The afternoon session provides 10 sets of questions, with each set having six multiple choice questions to be answered from the provided case scenario.
Level 3 exam results are released 90 days after the exam day. For study materials regarding the Level I exam: https://analystprep.com/cfa-level-3/
Applying for the CFA Charter
Successful completion of the level III exam with at least 3 years of practical work experience leads to accreditation by the Institute.
Are CFA Exams Difficult?
The CFA exams were ranked as the most difficult exams to excel in as of December 2018. In an article by Business Women Media Magazine, the CFA designation was described as the Mount Everest of finance, the most coveted accreditation in the field of finance. Statistics from the most recent CFA exam sitting (June 2019) showed that only 41%, 44%, 56% of the candidates who sat the level I, level II and level III exams respectively managed to pass.
An accreditation from CFA Institute offers a wide range of opportunities. Since CFA Institute is an internationally recognized accreditation, an individual can work in almost every country in the world. A CFA member can be employed to work in any of the positions listed below:
- Portfolio Manager
- Risk Manager
- Investment Manager
- Research Analyst
- Relationship Manager
- Financial Advisor
- Investment Consultant
- Financial Consultant
- Financial Analysts
- Chief Executive
CFA exams are not an easy venture. They are, however, worth the venture. The median salary earned by a chartered financial analyst is approximately USD 180,000. Thus, despite the challenging exams, CFA designation is one of the most valuable charters around the world, not forgetting that the charter offers the opportunity to work almost everywhere in the world.