CFA Exam Pass Rate Climbs to 42% for First Level, 46% for Second

Jul 29, 2014 9:29 am ET

July 29 (Bloomberg) -- A higher percentage of hopefuls for the Chartered Financial Analyst designation passed the first and second levels of their three-part exam in June compared with a year earlier.

Forty-two percent of applicants passed the first level, the Charlottesville, Virginia-based CFA Institute said today on its website, up from 38 percent in 2013. The second level was achieved by 46 percent, up from 43 percent in June of last year and the highest since 2008. Results for the third level will be released in August.

Certification can lead to better jobs, higher salaries and a deeper understanding of finance. Candidates can take the Level 1 exam in both June and December, while Level 2 and Level 3 are only offered in June. Successful charter recipients spend an average of 300 hours preparing for each exam and typically take four years to complete all three tests, according to the not- for-profit institute.

“It’s no joke –- it’s a lot of work,” said Christopher Geczy, who teaches investment management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “As a signal to the marketplace, it brings a lot of credibility.”

This year, 148,927 candidates from 179 countries registered for the exams, with the greatest concentration in the Asia Pacific region, said Sarah-Jane Purvis, a CFA Institute spokeswoman. Among top global employers of CFA charterholders are JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC and Ernst & Young LLP, she said.

“The CFA designation is becoming much more relevant, because the market is becoming more sophisticated,” Geczy said.

--With assistance from Michael J. Moore in New York.