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2020 CFA Exam Fees Breakdown: Is the CFA Worth It?

So, CFA exam fees can really add up. Therefore, before you get into the details on how to apply, consider how much the CFA will cost you.

For specific cost breakdown for Level 1, 2 and 3, you can scroll down or click on these buttons for respective information:

cfa fees including cfa exam fees and review materials costs

CFA Exam Fees Overview

All amount in US dollars.

1. CFA Program Fees (Mandatory)

There are 3 layers of fees you’ll need to pay for the exam:

  • One-time enrollment fee for first-timers (i.e. new CFA Level I candidate)
  • Registration fee for each level or retake
  • Curriculum fee for each level or retake

a) CFA Enrollment Fee

This is a one-time program enrollment fee of $450 when you apply for Level I exam. You don’t need to pay again for Level 2 and 3. Similarly, you don’t have to pass the enrollment fee for any retakes either.

b) CFA Exam Fees for Registration

This CFA registration fee is the same for all three levels, but it varies depending on when you commit to the exam. You need to apply 9 months before the exam date to get the early bird discount.

  • CFA early registration fee: $700
  • Regular application: $1,000
  • Late registration: $1,450

You may want to check out this page on CFA testing windows for the deadlines.

c) Curriculum Fee

The cost of ebooks is included in the exam fee. If you don’t like to study from PDFs, you can pick up a printed version of the CFA curriculum.

Total CFA Program Costs

So, you can expect the overall CFA exam fees to cost between $2,550 to $4,800:

(US$)  Early  Regular  Late
# months before exam date 8.5 months 3.5 months 2.5 months
Enrollment $450  $450  $450
Level 1 700 1,000  1,450
Level 2  700 1,000  1,450
Level 3 700  $1,000  1,450
Total CFA program fees  $2,550  $3,450  $4,800

2. CFA Courses (Optional?)

The need to take the CFA review courses has somewhat diminished since CFA Institute began to publish its own guide in 2008 (that’s what you are going to get from the “curriculum” cost).

However, given the relatively low CFA pass rate, many candidates continue to get help from various CFA review courses to increase their chance of passing success.

These non-CFAI guides range from self-study books to fully-integrated guided review courses with costs varying from $50-ish to $1,500 for each level. Therefore, you’ll want to learn more about the CFA course options.

Also, I say that CFAI materials are “optional” because the CFAI guides are nearly 5,000 pages long. No concept has been summarized, and it will take you a very long time to get through all the information.

Additionally, if you don’t have an extremely strong finance background (education and experience), you’ll want to purchase a review course that covers some of the more beginner-level information.

3. Travel and Accommodation Cost

If you are lucky enough to live where CFA exam sites are located, then you don’t need to worry about this expense. However, since the CFA exam is available to take only in major cities, there is a good chance that you’ll need to include the travel and accommodation costs in your budget.

Remember to multiply this cost by 3 for the three exam levels.

4. Miscellaneous Expenses

If you haven’t already, be sure to get one of the approved CFA calculators. You don’t want to show up for your exam without one of these CFA calculators!

Other costs include possible exam retake fees, and possibly the fee to renew your passport which will be used as your identification at the exam site.

CFA Level 1 Fees for the 2020 Exam

Most readers with questions on cost are planning to take the Level 1 exam. So, here is your budget for the upcoming Level 1 exam:

1. CFA program fees

Registration Date  Enrollment CFA level 1 fees Total
Early  $450 $700 $1,150
Regular  $450 $1,000 $1,450
Late $450 $1,450 $1,900

2. CFA course fees

The CFAI curriculum is included in the exam fee. However, many CFA candidates prefer to purchase a comprehensive review course.

To elaborate, more than 70% of candidates get extra review materials, either as a supplement to or a replacement of the CFAI book.

Therefore, here is the cost breakdown of major providers for your reference:

 Fitch  Schweser Wiley
 Book /notes only  $325  $359 $225
 Self-study  $695  $649 $595
 Premium  $1,020 $1,499 $1,295


The range is quite large, but please expect to spend $1,100 for your CFA prep course at the minimum. For those who register late and choose to get the Premium course from the most expensive provider (Schweser), it will cost more than $3,300 for Level 1 alone.

CFA Level 2 Fees

1. CFA program fee

Registration Date  CFA level 2 fees
Early $700
Regular $1,000
Late $1,450

The cost is the same as that of Level 1, except that you don’t need to pay the one-time enrollment fee.

2. CFA course fees

The CFAI textbook is again provided (but remember, only in a 5,000 page eBook form). For review courses, Fitch’s Level 2 courses are slightly more expensive than their Level 1 course.

 Fitch  Schweser Wiley
 Book /notes only  $325  $359 $225
 Self-study  $695  $649 $595
 Premium  $1,120 $1,499 $1,295


Level 2 CFA fees range from $650, to almost $3,000 for those register late and get the most expensive review package.

CFA Level 3 Fees

The exam fee is exactly the same as that of Level 2. As for the CFA courses, Fitch’s premium offer is $1,220. The other CFA courses’ costs the same.

Similar to Level 2, Level 3 CFA fees range from $700, to almost $3,000 for those register late and get the most expensive review package.

Total CFA Fees

  • CFA exam fees (enrollment + 3 levels): $2,500 – $4,800
  • Review courses: $0 – $4,500
  • Travel and Accommodation (calculate based on your distance to the nearest CFA testing center)
  • Miscellaneous costs, e.g., calculator, passport and visa expenses
  • Possible Retakes

My Conclusion

Please expect $3,000 as the minimum for your “CFA investment”. The vast majority of candidates spend more than that. Those with multiple retakes can spend more than $10,000 on earning the CFA.

Wow. Is the CFA Title Worth That Much?

The CFA designation isn’t for everyone.

But if you stay in the finance industry, I would say the CFA is worth it in the long run.

Everyone’s case is different, but for some roles like equity analysts and asset management professionals, getting the CFA charter is a must, if not a prerequisite. In other finance-related careers such as hedge funds and anything related to investing, getting a CFA early in your career does help.

Are You Ready to Jump?

The CFA investment is big, but if you think it’s worth it, it is best to take the journey and reap the benefits as soon as possible! Here are two actionable steps for you:

Source: CFA Institute

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