Earning a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation requires two components. You must successfully complete the academic side by passing three levels of exams .
You also need to accrue 48 months of approved work experience.
Today a few comments on what constitutes CFA relevant work experience.
Relevant Not Exact
There is some flexibility as to what the CFA Institute considers relevant work experience. You do not need to be 100% a financial analyst.
According to the CFA Institute :
To become a regular member, you must have completed four years (48 months) of qualifying work experience in activities that consist to a majority extent of:
- Evaluating or applying financial, economic, and/or statistical data as part of the investment decision-making process involving securities or similar investments, which includes, but is not limited to, publicly traded and privately placed stocks, bonds, and mortgages and their derivatives; commodity-based derivatives and mutual funds; and other investment assets, such as real estate and commodities, if these other investment assets are held as part of a diversified, securities-oriented investment portfolio; or
- Supervising, directly or indirectly, persons who practice such activities; or
- Teaching such activities.
Qualifying work experience:
- May be accrued while you’re in the CFA Program, after you’ve passed all three exam levels, or in previous positions.
- At least 50 percent of your work experience must be:
- Directly involved in the investment decision-making process
- Engaged in responsibilities and/or producing a work product that informs or adds value to that process
- Positions must be full-time. Part-time positions do not qualify.
- Managing your own investments does not qualify.
Wide Range of Careers
Many possible career paths allow you to become a CFA. And the CFA designation is an asset for employers hiring in many different fields.
The CFA Institute provides a number of examples of possible member job titles . These include: accountant, actuary, auditor, client services representative, compliance officer, chief financial officer, finance analyst, derivatives analyst, economist, financial advisor, investment banking analyst, investment consultant, mutual fund sales, portfolio administrator, product develop, professor, regulator, securities trader, venture capitalist analyst.
That said, having one of the above job titles may not be enough to meet the relevant work experience. You need to assess your personal situation against the above criteria.
For example, consider a portfolio manager. If the individual only rebalances portfolios and performs the reporting, that is not considered adequate. But a portfolio manager who “rebalances high net worth client portfolios through trades and then analyzes and evaluates client performance” does meet the requirements.
Be Certain Your Experience Qualifies
You do not want to spend a minimum of three years studying and writing exams just to find out you lack the work experience to become a CFA.
To help determine whether your work experience meets the CFA benchmarks, the CFA Institute provides examples of what it considers adequate and inadequate . A self-assessment template  is also provided to help you assess the appropriateness of your own work experience.
Review the links and be sure that your job functions allow you to qualify as a CFA.
If not, reconsider entering the program. Better yet, work with your employer to add the required skills to your role. Or find a new job that meets the CFA requirements. Even if you have to take a half-step backwards career-wise, adding the CFA designation may accelerate your future career path.