What is a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst)?

True Tamplin

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®
Updated on January 11, 2021

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Definition

CFA stands for Chartered Financial Analyst and is used as a professional designation that certifies a financial analyst’s integrity and competence. 

A CFA means that the person with this designation has passed a series of exams and attained a certain amount of experience in the financial market. 

Significance of the CFA

A Chartered Financial Analyst is one of the most prestigious designations that can be achieved by a financial professional. 

Because of the rigor of the exams and the difficulty of attaining a CFA designation, the CFA is one of the most highly regarded appointments in finance and is considered the gold standard of investment analysis.

CFA Qualifications

To become a CFA, the candidate must pass three difficult exams that cover a range of subjects, including economics, ethics, equities, fixed income, options, and accounting. 

The level one exam is given twice a year (June and December), and the level two and level three exams are offered only once a year in June. 

On top of these challenging exams, the candidate must have at least four years of real-life experience within the industry.

Purpose of the CFA

The CFA designation was created to help distinguish financial professionals from their peers based on demonstrated knowledge, adherence to ethical principles, and experience. 

While the CFA does not necessarily mean that a particular financial professional is automatically superior to peers without the designation (in fact, making this claim goes against the CFA code), it does indicate that the financial professional is serious about their job and clients. 

They put in the extra work to build their competence and knowledge, and have a personal stake in doing honest, ethical business with their clients.

What is a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) FAQs

CFA stands for Chartered Financial Analyst, which is the designation that most portfolio managers either have or try to obtain.
A CFA means that the person with this designation has passed a series of exams and attained a certain amount of experience in the financial market.
The CFA designation was created to help distinguish financial professionals from their peers based on demonstrated knowledge, adherence to ethical principles, and experience.
To become a CFA, the candidate must pass three difficult exams that cover a range of subjects, including economics, ethics, equities, fixed income, options, and accounting.