CFA Exam Fees Explained – The True Cost of Becoming a CFA

cfa-exam-fees-and-costsThe CFA Exam can get very expensive, partly because it’s actually made up of three separate exams that are very comprehensive. Most candidates think about the registration fees and the costs of actually taking the CFA exam, but they don’t consider all of the additional expenses that go with it.

Becoming a CFA is a huge investment in your career that will help you earn higher salaries, better opportunities, and more respect than you would have had without it. That’s why it’s worth paying for it. In the article, we will delve into the costs associated with enrolling in the CFA exam, ongoing CFA membership fees, and additional fees associated with the CFA exam and membership.

Let’s check out how much becoming a CFA cost.


How Much Does it Cost to Take the CFA Exam?


CFA Study Material Costs

Before we get into all of the different fees associated with registering and taking the exam, I think it’s important to talk about CFA exam prep courses. This, in my mind, is an essential cost. If you don’t get a good review course, you will most like fail at least one part. There’s no reason to take that risk.

Think about it this way. If you fail one part, you will have to wait almost a year to take it again. You will have to spend another 200-300 hours studying for it. Plus, you will have to pay another $650-$930 registration fee to sit for the part again.

The time involved in this process alone isn’t worth it, let alone the money of retaking the test. I wouldn’t chance it. Get a review course that fits your learning style and don’t look back. Most of them are really affordable. Here’s a list of different courses you can choose from and compare their features.


CFA Program Enrollment Fees

The first fee you will pay is the Program Enrollment Fee. This is a one-time fee to enter the series of CFA exams. The fee is $450 and is paid when you register for your first Level I exam. You can consider this your application fee since you have to pay this in order to apply for the CFA exam.


CFA Exam Registration Fees

You will pay registration fees are every exam you take. In addition to the exam, the fee mainly covers the eBook which has the complete curriculum, topic area practice tests and mock exams. As you can see below, the price of the exam varies greatly depending on when you register. In order to save money, make sure you register early for all three exams.

CFA Exam RegistrationCFA Exam Fees and CostsSign up Deadline
Early Registration$6508 – 9 months before exam
Standard Registration$9303 –4 months before exam
Late Registration$1,380< 3 months before exam

CFA Institute Member Fees

Once a you pass all three exams and your application is approved, you must pay annual dues. Regular dues are $275 per year, which runs from July 1 through June 30. Some of the benefits you receive as a CFA Member include exclusive career resources and continuing education, access to select publications and discounts on CFA Institute Conferences. This fee must be paid annually to be considered a CFA Member.


3 Hidden CFA Exam Fees You Didn’t Expect

In addition to the fees mentioned above, there are some hidden and / or ancillary fees associated with the CFA exam to be aware of. Some of these fees include:


Exam Re-take Fees

If you do not pass any of the exams, you will have to pay again to re-take the exam. These amounts can quickly add up especially if you fail more than once


Travel Fees

The CFA exam is offered in only 170 cities in June and 70 cities in December around the world. Most of the exam locations are in major metropolitan locations. If you are lucky enough to live by one of the test centers, then travel expenses will be minimal. However, if you need to travel to take the test, you may need to account for gas mileage, plane tickets and / or hotel rooms.


Additional Study Fees

Many candidates use study resources other than those provided by CFA Institute to help prepare for the exam. For example, the Kaplan Schweser CFA Exam study packages range from $379 for the self-study notes to $2,099 for in-person classes and study reviews.

There’s a standard cost to buy the course initially. If you fail the exam or pass the expiration date on your review course, you will have to pay an extra fee to renew it. This is really stupid because you already paid for it once. That’s why I would recommend a study guide like Wiley CFA that doesn’t have an expiration date. You can use it for as long as you need it to pass the exam. 🙂


Total Costs to Become a CFA

In sum, the cost to become a CFA Member can be significant and vary greatly depending on additional ancillary fees. At the very minimum, a Member will spend $2,650, assuming paying early registration fees and one year of annual membership fees.

CFA Exam Fees CFA Exam Costs
CFA Program Enrollment Fees$450
CFA Level I Registration (Standard) $930
CFA Level II Registration (Standard) $930
CFA Level IIII Registration (Standard) $930
CFA Annual Membership Fee$250

In another, arguably more realistic scenario, a Member can end up paying over $4,800 for the total cost of the CFA exam and membership. This is assumes paying standard registration fees, one exam re-take fees, some travel fees and purchasing Schweser notes (minimum package) for all three tests.

CFA Exam Fees CFA Exam Costs
CFA Program Enrollment Fees$450
CFA Level I Registration (Standard) $930
CFA Level II Registration (Standard) $930
CFA Level IIII Registration (Standard) $930
CFA Exam Re-take Fee$930
Tavel Fees$300
CFA Study Material Costs~$1,137
CFA Annual Membership Fee$250

While the CFA exam is not cheap, the largest chunk of cost comes from registration. Make sure you register early for all exams to save a significant amount of money.


Is a CFA Certification Worth It?

Without a doubt, becoming a CFA will open the door for many different career opportunities that you couldn’t even dream of without it. Not only will you be able to fulfill new roles in companies, you will be able to broaden your career options into fields you wouldn’t have access to without it, not to mention the pay.

It goes without saying that with more responsibilities and importance in your duties, you will get paid way more. It’s a long journey from your Level 1 to your Level 3, but it’s worth it.

Stop questioning yourself and get started studying today!

 

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Kenneth W. Boyd is a former Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and the author of several of the popular "For Dummies" books published by John Wiley & Sons including 'CPA Exam for Dummies' and 'Cost Accounting for Dummies'.

Ken has gained a wealth of business experience through his previous employment as a CPA, Auditor, Tax Preparer and College Professor. Today, Ken continues to use those finely tuned skills to educate students as a professional writer and teacher.