I Pass the CFA Exam | Finance Certification and Resume Guide

CFA Work Experience Requirement: Getting Approved for Borderline Cases


cfa work experience requirement

The two most significant obstacles you’ll face on your quest toward earning the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) title are the CFA exam and the work experience requirement. The CFA exam contains three increasingly difficult levels and can take several years to complete, so it’s clearly a challenge. The work experience requirement is also quite strict. Learning more about the CFA exam pass rates helps you understand the nature of the CFA exam, but for now, we’ll focus on the work experience requirement. We’ll explain the qualifications for CFA-approved work experience and provide tips for proving you have such experience.


CFA-Approved Work Experience

The criteria for work experience that meets the CFA requirement includes:

1. Relevant Work Experience

According to the CFA Institute (CFAI), a person must spend at least 50% of their work experience involved in the investment decision-making process and in work that informs or adds value to this process. This CFA Institute-provided list contains job titles typically considered relevant:

  • Accountant
  • Actuary
  • Auditor
  • Client service representative
  • Compliance analyst/officer
  • Consultant
  • Corporate chief financial officer
  • Corporate finance analyst
  • Derivatives analyst
  • Economist
  • Financial adviser
  • Financial journalist/editor
  • Institutional sales professional/business development (buy and sell side)
  • Investment banking analyst
  • Investment consultant
  • Investment strategist

  • Investor relations
  • Mutual fund sales
  • Portfolio administrator
  • Portfolio manager
  • Private client investment adviser
  • Product/software developer
  • Professor/instructor
  • Quantitative investment or risk analyst
  • Real estate investment manager
  • Regulator
  • Relationship manager
  • Securities trader
  • Securities underwriter
  • Security/investment analyst
  • Supervisor of investment firm
  • Valuator of closely held business
  • Venture capital analyst


As you can see, this list refers to investments a few times. The CFA Institute defines investments as:

  • Publicly traded and privately placed stocks, bonds, and mortgages and their derivatives
  • Commodity-based derivatives and mutual funds
  • Other investment assets, such as real estate and commodities, if held as part of a diversified, securities-oriented investment portfolio

Other Related Work Experience

If you don’t hold one of these job titles, your work experience can still qualify if it satisfies one of these specifications:

  • It is a supervisory role of someone involved in investment decision-making.
  • It is a teaching position addressing related subjects

2. Years of Experience

As a CFA candidate, you must have at least 4 years of relevant working experience, which can be gained before, during, or after you pass the CFA exam. Only full-time positions count toward this work experience.

3. CFA Work Experience Sample

The CFA Institute asks candidates to include specific details about their jobs and responsibilities within their membership application. The Institute explains that you must describe your responsibilities for each position in order to prove that your work experience is valid. To assist you in this process, the Institute offers insight into the features of a good description. Each description must explain how your job duties relate to investment decision-making and in the process,

  • Demonstrate how you conduct independent analysis that impacts investment decision-making for institutions or individual clients
  • Indicated how your duties produce a work product that informs or adds value to the investment decision-making process.

The Institute even provides examples of acceptable and unacceptable descriptions.

CFA Application Work Experience Examples

Qualifying Description Non-Qualifying Description
Example “I prepare financial models based on reviewed information, analyze fundamentals, and value acquisition targets to provide recommendations to the investment committee.” “I conducted an annual actuarial valuation process and benefit calculations.”
Why It’s Good 1. The applicant describes the types of independent analysis involved in this position.

2. The applicant creates financial models and investment recommendations as work products that influence investment decisions.

The applicant describes the types of independent analysis involved in this position.
What It’s Missing Nothing! This is a good description of qualifying work experience. This applicant needs to better demonstrate how the analysis created a work product that added value to the investment decision-making process.
Improved Description This is a good description of qualifying work experience and doesn’t need improvement. “I conducted an annual actuarial valuation process and benefit calculations which included performing projections, cash flow analysis, and durational analysis of individual health insurance policies. These analyses had a direct bearing on the investments chosen to back the reserves for these blocks of business.”

Ways to Verify Work Experience in Advance

Is there a way to verify your work experience before you take the CFA exam? Yes, having your work experience verified beforehand is possible. This process varies depending on your years of experience.

  1. If you have 4 years of experience

The CFAI can validate your experience prior to your passing the exam as long as you are a member. To become a member, you can either pass Level 1 or pass the Standards of Practice Exam. You can take this exam online and receive your results immediately.

  1. If you have less than 4 years of experience

The CFAI provides an online self-assessment tool that helps evaluate the relevancy of your work experience. It doesn’t spit out a definite yes or no answer, but it gives you a good indication of your status and reveals how you can work towards fulfilling the requirements.

Tips for Filling Out Your CFA Work Experience Submission Form

If you hold the title of research analyst, portfolio manager, or any of the other position labels listed above, you are all set. A couple of standard descriptions of your role will be acceptable.

But for those of you with experience that may or may not seem relevant in the eyes of the CFA Institute, what can you do to convince them? Follow these steps:

  1. Look beyond the job title

In some cases, a job title says a great deal about the nature of your role. But in others, it doesn’t explain your duties and obligations nearly enough. If your job title is vague, it could betray the relevancy of your work, so shift your attention toward the activities associated with your position instead.

  1. Package the job description to your advantage

The job description section is very important to the CFA Institute. It should be equally important to you because it affords the opportunity to illustrate that function of your job is perfectly relevant even if the nature of your job isn’t.

As you’re crafting your job description, focus first on the work that fits the CFA criteria: that is, anything directly related to investment decision-making. Specifically, highlight the duties that closely relate to the Learning Outcome Statements (LOSs) of the CFA exam. We suggest referring to the Level 3 exam LOSs in particular.

Then, write about the indirectly related responsibilities, such as how the work supports and adds value to investment decisions. The research and analysis you did for clients or your team is a good example. Think creatively about how you’ve been helping your colleagues in their work.

Leave out other non-related tasks. You want to minimize the noise and distractions that irrelevant work may create. There is no need to list everything you do.

  1. Omit the work of managing your own investments

Just to be clear, managing your own investment portfolio is not permissible as CFA-approved work experience.

  1. Don’t count part-time experience

Approved work has to be full-time. Part-time jobs and internships don’t qualify regardless how glamorous or pertinent the work was.

  1. Find a good reference

The CFAI also asks you to submit 3 professional references, or just 2 if one of them is a CFA society member. Getting a society member to write the reference helps your case considerably. Ideally, this person is your supervisor or, at the very least, someone with whom you work professionally.

Answers to Common CFA Work Experience Requirement Questions

Does the CFAI ever deny an application due to a lack of relevant experience?

Yes. Denying an application is common if the applicant fails to state clearly how at least 50% of their role involves decision-making.

Do I stand a chance if I work in operations or another middle/back office in a financial institution?

Working in operations or the middle/back office of a financial institution is an example of a borderline case. In these scenarios, spinning the job description the right way is even more critical. We do have readers who earned the CFA charter with a back-office role, so it is possible.

What happens if my application is denied again?

You will be classified as an affiliate member with a “charter pending” status. From this position, you can enjoy all the benefits of CFAI membership except the right to vote.

From there, you can work towards getting into a role where your duties directly affect the decision-making process. Then, reapply after reaching the 48-month requirement. Good luck!

Help for Passing the CFA Exam

We hope this analysis gives you a better idea of how you can fulfill the CFA work experience requirements. Please let us know if you have any questions, or continue to learn more about the exam by discovering what the Level 1 exam covers, getting answers to CFA exam FAQs, or reading our recommendations for the best CFA study materials.

Up Next: What Exactly Does Level 1 Exam Cover?

  • vikram salokhe says:

    Hi I am working as Project leader in software testing profile . My software company’s software’s real estate of 27 countries including USA, includes automation of invoice processing ,tenant payment processing, procurement to pay solution, online shopping solution ,property auditing, accounting, ERP solutions.I am having 11 years of experience in my current company + 1.5 years in banking software, 1.5 years in US-Dental healthcare ( accounting and practice management software’s) in testing profile. Weather this will suffice experience requirement for CFA? I am keen to enter into this profile as part of my interest and also carrier enhancement? also I saw that CFA-I needs no prior experience in investment banking is this true? Please advice

    • Meghan D says:

      I’m on the fence about this. I think you could package this experience so it would apply; however, you won’t know until you send in your application. I would do that and see what the CFAI says.

      Kind regards,

  • […] or CPA: Which Qualification is Better? 2017 CFA Exam Fees Breakdown: Does the Title Worth the Cost? CFA Work Experience Requirements: How to Pass for Borderline Cases Why CFA is Important: 9 Reasons Why You Can’t Afford to Wait How to Become a CFA in 2018: My […]

  • […] or CPA: Which Qualification is Better? 2017 CFA Exam Fees Breakdown: Does the Title Worth the Cost? CFA Work Experience Requirements: How to Pass for Borderline Cases Why CFA is Important: 9 Reasons Why You Can’t Afford to Wait How to Become a CFA in 2018: My […]

  • Derek says:

    I am wondering if a position of commodities product controller can be counted. Thanks for reply

  • khaled says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I passed all the CFA exams and working as a Mortgage Specialist for the last 4 years. Please let me know if my experience will count.

  • Sachin ahlawat says:

    I’m in last year of my graduation(Bachelor in commerce)
    During my campus placement, I got job as an assurance associate(audit)
    If I work for 4 yrs in this field and clear the exams, will I be able to get CFA charter from institute?
    If this is not sufficient, what should I do in order to get my charter?

    • John / Stephanie says:

      Hi Sachin, audit is listed above. I believe you are fine but when you fill in the application, make sure you put an effort in writing a good job description.

  • Hope Husbands says:

    I hope you reply to this. I am currently a Bank Regulator/Examiner. I am reponsible for conducting oversight of key risk areas within the Banking Sector and performing financial anlysis. Would this count toward relevant experience. I’ve been getting conflicting reports. I know the site includes “Regulator” but what type of regulation are they referring to.

  • parth bhavsar says:

    I am working as an audit Intern since 2 months can i opt doing CFA Since i only dreamed of doing it so as to complete a degree in my entire life!! I am 21 years old. Can you guide me on what should i do!!??



  • […] Can I call myself a CFA immediately after passing the exam? […]

  • Aditya says:

    I hold a MBA (finance ) & m working in private sector bank in India. Is this sufficient for required work experience for CFA.

  • Prashant says:

    I am a working professional and my profile is basically in the field of audit and accounts. Is this kind of profile OK to get CFA charter..
    Pls advise.

    • John / Stephanie says:

      Hi Prashant, sure it’s fine, but by getting a CFA it implies you want a change of career from accounting to finance. There are jobs that value accounting and finance qualifications, e.g. CFO in a hedge fund, but it’s worth thinking about your career before jumping in.

  • Holborn says:

    I mean 3.5 weeks 🙂

  • Holborn says:

    i have the required work experience and the CFA Institute has already verified it and accepted me as a “regular” member. I am sitting for the Level III exam in June. Assuming I pass, will I be a CFA Charterholder the day I receive my exam results, or is there some additional granting/awarding step for which I need to wait?

    Just looking for some additional motivation to keep my nose to the grindstone for the next 1.5 weeks 🙂

  • Matt says:


    I am currently working as a Financial Advisor for edward jones in Canada. Does this experience count towards the 4 years? Thanks

  • Rahul says:


    Thanks alot for the information!! I am planning to go for it. I have 2 queries though,
    In the Experience Field it says, he candidate should have at least 4 hours of relevant working experience. I think its a typing mistake or is it really 4 hours and not 4 years?

    The relevant jobs include Consultant.
    I am a SAP consultant dealing in a non-finance module so does this consultant experiences count towards the CFA experience?

    • Stephanie says:

      Sorry, 4 hour is definitely a typo! Will fix that.

      Well, consultant is included in the list but I guess it depends the nature of consultation work. Does it involve investment decision making? You are expected to pay at least half the time doing that.

  • gayathri says:

    Thanks for the information…..can u please resolve few queries or provide the link where i can find further information about CFA….thank u.

    • Stephanie says:

      Hello, where are your queries please? Please post below and we would love to help. Regards, Stephanie

      • Rebecca says:

        hi I am currently studying a program in Mathematics of Finance , in South Africa , and it will take me 4 years will this help ?

        • Meghan D says:

          I’m not sure that it will help w/ experience requirements, unless you meant something else? Double check with the CFA Institute if this question is regarding meeting the experience requirements.

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