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 date8.5 months3.5 months2.5 months
Enrollment$450 $450 $450
Level 17001,000 1,450
Level 2 7001,000 1,450
Level 3700 $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 EnrollmentCFA level 1 feesTotal
Early $450$700$1,150
Regular $450$1,000$1,450

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 SchweserWiley
 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

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 SchweserWiley
 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

  • Nick says:

    I have given CFA june 2018 exam which i got a scholarship and paid only $250, if i fail and want to retake exam in dec 2018, will i have to pay my scholarship fee only i.e. $250 or the full registration fee $650 0r $950

  • DB says:

    It seems there is a slight change regarding exam fees. Enrollment is still $450, but the CFA Institute is now charging $150 even for the e-book curriculum (and another $150 on top if you want the print version). Regular registration is $800 — not $930 — for the June 2018 exam, making the total regular cost $1400.

    In the end the new e-book fee and the decrease in registration largely cancel out but result in a modest increase.

  • Kumar says:

    I am a working professional in an IT firm with 7+ years of Exp. I have an Engg background and always wanted to pursue Management courses specially in field of finance. Is it worth working towards CFA which would be a total career change for me. Will I get financial sector jobs even if don’t belong to the Industry and have worked in IT with past experience as my background. Please suggest.

    • John / Stephanie says:

      Hi Kumar, there are quite a lot of IT professionals taking the CFA exam for the same reasons. I have to say that passing the CFA exam alone can’t land you a finance job, but it does show your commitment in finance which can help during your interviews. So while it is definitely helpful, I wouldn’t take that at your magic bullet, you know.

      A better way would be to get a job in the transition, such as a project manager in your IT firm that involves some analysis (ideally financial analysis) and management work. You’ll also be able to see if this sort of work interests you.

  • leo says:

    hi stepanie,

    I took the cfa level 1 exam back in Dec 2009, but unfortunately I did not make it. Now, I am planning to resit the cfa level 1 exam by Dec 2017. Do I still need to pay the program fee or the registration fee only coz that was a long time ago already since I registered for cfa level 1 exam?

    • John / Stephanie says:

      Hi Leo, I guess no, but since it is so long ago I would double check with CFA Institute first. Good luck!

      And glad you are back in the game 😉 Stephanie

  • Geetha S says:

    I would like to apply for CFA examination Dec 2017. I would like to know when is the last date for early registration.

    Also would like to know what are the minimum qualifications needed to appear for this exam

  • Martin says:


    I was wondering if i Could get the books so i can study at home alone as I’m not sure to whether i will take the exam or not yet as i have very little time everyday. Please could help me with this?

    Best Regards,
    Martin Najat

    • John / Stephanie says:

      There should be a lot of CFAI books floating around, from candidates who have taken the exam before. It is very expensive to ship, so best to try getting a copy in your area. Since the books come free (sort of), I don’t think it is too hard to get hold of a copy from friends’ friends. Good luck!

  • Tushar says:

    Could you write a post about / give me some information about engineering undergraduates giving the CFA for a change in career track; how useful it is and what are the job opportunities, considering that an engineer will have lesser working experience in the field of finance?

    Also, whether a CFA is helpful to get into the field of Quantitative Finance.

    Great work on the website!
    Thank you.

    • John / Stephanie says:

      Hi Tushar, yes, excellent suggestion! We have plans to write a post each for different professions, for IT, engineering and mainly those with the quantitative work nature. Please stay tuned for the next posts. We will announce it on facebook and in our newsletter.

      On your second question, yes CFA does cover Quant. There might be other niche qualifications out there but CFA is a good choice in our opinion.

  • Ria Shah says:

    Hiii. I had choose to pay the fees through wire transfer.. but nw i want to pay by credit. How should i channge it ?

  • Harsh says:

    I needed to know about the scholarship test. Could you please help and provide all the necessary details?
    It’s the fee waiver test ?
    Thank you.

  • sheriff says:

    Hello. I applied for the access scholarship which will be available December, but I wish to purchase the eBook curriculum before hand. How much will it cost. And are the ebooks self explanatory? Please advice.

  • Sai says:

    I have failed in cfa level 1 dec .i want to register again for June 2016, so I have to pay whole amount or only registration fee

  • Ananth LN says:

    Please give me CFA course in india updates every time

    • John / Stephanie says:

      Hi Ananth, we will only update online self study courses because it is hard for us to track the instructors in local CFA course providers. At the same time, the quality of these instructors make or break the courses. Hope you understand, Stephanie

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