CFA Level III 2025: Choose Your Path with New Specialized Pathways

CFA Level III 2025: Choose Your Path with New Specialized Pathways

The CFA Level III curriculum for 2025 marks a significant evolution with the introduction of specialized pathways. These pathways enable candidates to tailor their studies to match their professional interests and career aspirations. In addition to the traditional Portfolio Management path, two new specialized paths are available: Private Wealth and Private Markets. Each pathway includes a common core curriculum supplemented by specialized content. The CFA Program has adapted to these changes. Currently, about half of discretionary portfolio managers are CFA charterholders. However, as many Charterholders work in Private Markets and Private Wealth, gaps in the curriculum have become evident. To better prepare candidates for these expanding segments and evolving workflows, the CFA Institute is introducing specialized pathways within Level III.

Portfolio Management Pathway

The Portfolio Management pathway focuses on constructing, managing, optimizing, and measuring public market equity, fixed income, and derivative securities portfolios. This pathway remains consistent with the traditional CFA Level III content, providing in-depth knowledge and skills for effective portfolio management in public markets.

Private Markets Pathway

The Private Markets pathway is designed from the general partner’s (GP) perspective in private market investing. It covers the entire workflow from deal-sourcing and due diligence to exit strategies, building on crucial valuation and investment competencies across four asset classes. This pathway includes practical examples from recent private market activities, such as high-profile leveraged buyouts and private equity deals.

Private Wealth Pathway

The Private Wealth pathway offers a global perspective on serving high-net-worth clients (worth US$5M+). It follows a structured arc from onboarding young adults and generating wealth to wealth transfer. This pathway extends beyond traditional investment management to cover family management, philanthropy, and the unique needs of ultra-high-net-worth individuals, including star athletes.

Structure of Level III Specialized Pathways

Upon registration, candidates will select one of the three specialized pathways, and the study materials provided will correspond to the chosen path. Once a pathway is selected, it cannot be changed. The Level III exam will consist of 65-75% standard core content, while the remaining 25-35% will pertain to the selected pathway. Questions related to each pathway will include both item-set and essay formats.

A mandatory Practical Skills Module focusing on Portfolio Construction will be introduced. This 10-15 hour module is not graded but must be completed and documented.

The CFA Charter granted upon passing Level III remains the same regardless of the chosen pathway.

Common Core Curriculum

The core curriculum covers essential knowledge and investment management skills relevant across all three pathways. Topics include asset allocation, capital market expectations, macro forecasting, and handling constraints. Portfolio construction focuses on equity, fixed income, alternatives, and the differences between institutional and private wealth portfolios, including trading costs. Performance measurement involves performance attribution, manager selection, and Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS). The curriculum also covers derivatives and risk management, addressing options, swaps, forwards, futures, and currency hedging strategies. Finally, ethics is an integral part of the code of ethics, standards of professional conduct, and the Asset Manager Code.

Private Wealth Pathway Content

The Private Wealth pathway includes seven comprehensive learning modules:

  1. The Private Wealth Management Industry: Business models, fee structures, regulation, and compliance.
  2. Working with the Wealthy: Family dynamics, psychological influences of wealth, and skills for serving ultra-high-net-worth individuals.
  3. Wealth Planning: Goals-based financial plans, asset protection, tax strategies, and liquidity management.
  4. Investment Planning: Portfolio allocations, tax management, retirement planning, and performance evaluation.
  5. Preserving Wealth: Risk management strategies, inflation protection, and currency volatility mitigation.
  6. Advising the Wealthy: Citizenship, legal residency, managing concentrated assets, and maximizing net worth for various clients.
  7. Transferring Wealth: Wealth transfer strategies, including gifts, bequests, and philanthropy.

Private Markets Pathway Content

The Private Markets pathway is organized into seven learning modules:

  1. Private Investments and Structures: Characteristics of private and public investments, investment methods, and performance metrics.
  2. GP and LP Perspectives and the Investment Process: Roles and interactions in private investment funds, due diligence, and exit strategies.
  3. Private Equity: Strategies, valuation, and risk-return profiles for venture capital, growth equity, and buyouts.
  4. Private Debt: Use of debt financing, valuation of private debt, and risk-return profiles.
  5. Private Special Situations: Event-driven opportunities, distressed debt, and capital structure arbitrage.
  6. Private Real Estate: Investment features, economic value drivers, and valuation processes.
  7. Infrastructure: Investment methods, project lifecycle, and valuation of infrastructure investments.

Portfolio Management Pathway Content

The Portfolio Management pathway includes eight detailed learning modules:

  1. Index-Based Equity Strategies: Index investing, replication methods, and tracking error management.
  2. Active Equity Investing: Strategies: Fundamental and quantitative approaches to active management.
  3. Active Equity Investing: Portfolio Construction: Portfolio construction, risk measures, and evaluation.
  4. Liability-Driven and Index-Based Fixed Income Strategies: Fixed income securities, benchmark selection, and strategy implementation.
  5. Fixed-Income Active Management: Yield Curve Strategies: Yield curve positioning, duration analysis, and cross-currency strategies.
  6. Fixed-Income Active Management: Credit Strategies: Spread-based strategies, tail risk management, and international credit markets.
  7. Case Study in Portfolio Management: Institutional: Strategic asset allocation for institutional investors, liquidity risk management, and ESG considerations.
  8. Trade Strategy and Execution: Trading strategies, execution benchmarks, algorithmic trading, and regulatory compliance.

These specialized pathways in the CFA Level III curriculum for 2025 offer a tailored approach to mastering investment management. They allow candidates to align their studies with their career goals while ensuring a comprehensive understanding of core concepts.