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How to Become a CFA in California

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The CFA Institute has been serving finance professionals for over 50 years. It designates as certified financial analysts, or CFA charter holders, those who meet the education and work requirements and pass a rigorous series of exams. Although the CFA designation is international, you must also become a member of your local CFA society before receiving your credential in California.

Complete an accredited bachelor's degree. You may also substitute an equivalent combination of education plus full-time work equaling four years. Alternately, you may enroll for the first exam during the last year of your bachelor's study.

Read and sign the candidate responsibility statement and professional conduct statement from the CFA Institute.

Obtain a current passport if you do not have one. A passport is required for identification for enrolling for and taking exams as of January 2011.

Enroll in the CFA examination program, and successfully complete the three test levels required for charter holder status. Among the many locations worldwide, exams are scheduled in San Diego and Los Angeles. The first exam has 240 multiple-choice questions. The level two exam has 20 short case studies, each with six multiple-choice questions. The final exam, level three, has between 20 and 15 essay questions. You can repeat the exams, with no time limit from when you begin.

Complete the minimum membership prerequisite of four years' work experience if you have not already done so. Then join both the CFA Institute and your local CFA society as a regular member. You must be a regular member to receive your charter. If you are not already an affiliate member, you will need two statements from sponsors. Find a local society in California urban areas, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, Orange County and San Francisco. After the CFA Institute and your local society approve your membership, pay dues to both organizations. Once you have passed all three exams and become a full dues-paying member, you will receive your CFA charter.

Keep your designation as a CFA charter holder in good standing by complying with all the rules and regulations of the CFA Institute, including the codes of ethics and conduct and the articles and bylaws. You must also pay your annual dues to both the national and California organizations and submit a yearly professional conduct statement.


If you wish to join the CFA institute before completing four years of experience, you become an affiliate member. You can upgrade your membership whenever you finish the work requirement and pass the first exam or a standards of practice exam.