Sure, you know the many benefits that come from being a CFA®, but do you know the exact cost associated with getting to that point? Well, we may not be able to pin down an exact cost, but we can come pretty close. There are a lot of intangibles that could affect the overall price of the CFA journey, but we can outline the basics for you.
Before we dive into the rudimentary numbers, you can expect the cost of becoming a CFA® to be around $5,500. This is a mid-level estimate, so let’s see exactly what YOU are going to pay.
CFA® Exam Application Costs
Let’s start at the beginning. So, you’re working in a finance job, see some of your peers climbing the ladder a little quicker, and want to beef up your resume and standing at your company. The best way to do so is to get a financial certification, which often means that you’re going to need to study for, take, and pass the CPA or CFA®—these are the two most common designations, but there are plenty more.
Being a Chartered Financial Analyst holds a little more weight than having your CPA—people could argue about this, but the numbers don’t lie—for many financial institutions. Though the test is harder, the arduous process brings you a ton of respect. It also tends to cost a little more than the CPA, but it’s worth it.
The first payment for the CFA® exam is a one-time enrollment fee of $450. So, if you pass or if you fail to complete one of the three levels, you’re still paying the same amount. For those of you reading with pen and paper ready to calculate the total cost, this is the first of many expenditures.
CFA® Exam Registration Costs
That whole one-time fee thing, that’s done now. When you register for Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3, you’re going to pay a scheduling fee for each of the individual exams. The costs for each level are the same, but how much you’re paying depends on when you actually register.
Early Registration: $650
Regular Registration: $930
Late Registration: $1,380
As you can see, it behooves you to register as early as possible, as the cost more than doubles if you don’t do so before the late registration deadline. So, let’s aim for the middle with regard to your potential timeliness and say that you’re going to pay $930 per section. That’s $2,790 for all three levels, bringing the total at this point in the process to $3,240. You’re thinking “Okay, nice, that’s not too terrible!” However, you’re forgetting that you need to study for this exam.
CFA® Exam Review Course Costs
You need to study for the CFA® exam, unless you’re some type of savant. Seriously though, no one passes this exam without putting in HOURS AND HOURS of studying for each level. CFA® exam review courses come in all shapes and sizes, but the range tends to be as follows:
Level 1 Courses: $400-$1,600
Level 2 Courses: $400-$1,500
Level 3 Courses: $300-$1,350
Once again, we are going to aim for a middle-of-the-road course, which would put you at roughly $900 per level. So, not to do the simple math for you, but let’s do it anyway: that’s $2,700. To this point, you’re looking at $5,940.
If you’ve paid attention while reading, you can see that the stated “total” cost can vary quite a bit. If you get your act together and register early, you can save almost $1,000, or more than double that compared to the late registration cost. Review courses are pretty all over the place, price-wise, so you could pay a lot more or a lot less.
Basically, you could end up paying as little as $3,500 or as much as $8,500…if you live close to the testing centers and pass the first time around.
Potential Extra Costs
Let’s get back to that original “middle” number of $5,940. This number can increase significantly if you’re not near a licensed testing center. You would have to factor in airfare, hotel costs, and a number of other necessary expenditures (food, water, cab fare) if you’re traveling to take the exam.
Another big cost that may be incurred is the repeat exam fee. You’re going to have to pay all over again for each level, but not for the initial enrollment fee, as this is a one-time cost. So, it may be worth it to pay more for a really thorough review course and take a little more time studying to avoid the retake process, which can be $650-$4,140 depending on how many exams you fail and when you’re able to register.
It’s not cheap to become a CFA®, but it’s certainly worth it in the long run. You’re investing in yourself and your career if you’re taking this exam, so be sure to put in the time and effort to make it worth it.