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Social> Financial education Updated: 19 Sep 2017

What is a CFA?

The CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) credential is the most complete and recognized credential in the world of investment and finance. There are more than 500 CFAs in Spain, but, what are the requirements to become a CFA?


The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credential is aimed at professionals that want to specialize in the world of investments and financial markets, and more specifically in investment management and financial analysis.

In finance, CFA, FRM – Financial Risk Manager - and CAIA - Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst - are the three most recognized credentials.

How do you become a Chartered Financial Analyst?

The CFA credential is administered by the CFA Institute, an association of investment professionals.  In addition to defining the CFA program – including exams and the program’s subjects - the CFAI organizes seminars and readings on finance and investments.  Everything finance professionals need to know to embark on a professional career on the field.

To earn the degree candidates need to pass three exams, each one corresponding to a different level.  Candidates are required to hold a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) or be in the final year of a bachelor degree. The Level 1 exam is a basic knowledge test of investment tools, asset valuation principles and portfolio management.  After passing this exam, candidates can go on to take the Level 2 exam. The format of this exam is different. Knowledge is assessed by means of a series of scenarios, focusing on the same topics as the previous level, but at a more detailed level.  Finally, the last examination, Level 3, also uses case studies to assess candidates' knowledge about portfolio management with use strategies of tools, inputs, and asset valuation models for the management of variable and fixed income securities, and financial derivatives.

Level 1 exams can be taken twice a year – June and December, while Level 2 and 3 are only offered once a year.  Tests are taken on the same day around the world (in Spain they can be taken in Madrid and Bilbao), are conducted in English and have the same question paper worldwide.  Overall, passing the three exams requires about 900 hours of study in average, and the pass rate is about 40%.

Besides passing the three exams, to become a member of the CFA Institute, applicants are required to have at least four years of experience in finance, which can be completed both before and after examination.  Finally, CFA credential holders are required to abide by the CFA institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct during their professional career.

What is it for?

After earning the credential, most Certified Financial Advisers pursue professional careers in investment management or financial analysis, but also in retail banking and consultancy.  In addition, for those interested in furthering their education, the CFA credential is validated for a number of credits when enrolling in any of the Master in Banking and Quantitative Finance programs that many Spanish universities offer.

Despite the credential is not an essential requirement to work in finance, due to its broad recognition, it is generally deemed a "golden passport" that grants holders access to a world of opportunities in finance globally.

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