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What Does a CFA Do? (And If It’s Worth The Career Switch!)

The financial industry offers many opportunities for interesting, challenging, and financially rewarding careers. One popular career option is becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst. The CFA role is considered one of the most important and the chartered financial analyst salary reflects that. But what does a CFA do? And would the career be worth it for you?

Before pursuing a new degree or certification, here’s how to find out if you’d enjoy being a Chartered Financial Analyst.

What Does a Chartered Financial Analyst Do?

Before we take too deep of a dive into the profession, what does a CFA do?

A chartered financial analyst is a diverse profession. What you do can vary greatly depending on your exact job title and employer. However, there are certain skills and duties that are common in the profession.

CFA holding piggy bank

Here are some common tasks and duties a CFA may perform:

  • Investment advice and tracking
  • General research
  • In-person meetings
  • Many other duties

Investment Advice and Tracking

One of the most consistent duties of a CFA is making financial investment choices for the purposes of turning a profit.

These investments include stock purchases into specific companies and overall industries. Once investments are made, a CFA will also have to track performance and carefully analyze results for the proposes of preparing reports for interested parties such as clients.

General Research

Some research can be a bit broader in scope. Often a CFA will have to research a company’s past and present performance to see if it is a wise investment opportunity.

Being able to recognize sound companies, and those about to grow, is a key part of offering sound investment advice. CFAs may also apply this type of research to specific industries such as those in commerce or technology.

What does a CFA do? And is it worth changing your career to a CFA?In-Person Meetings

Not everything a CFA does is behind the scenes. Some CFAs meet with company representatives to understand more about it, how it is run, and various business opportunities. CFAs also meet with investors to offer advice and further detail their investment recommendations. 

Other Duties

Other common tasks can include…

  • writing detailed reports,
  • portfolio research and advice,
  • and other information tracking and research.

Related: Top 12 Best Paying Jobs in Finance

What Traits Does a CFA Need?

Beyond understanding the answer to the question, “What does a CFA do?”, one should also understand the traits a CFA needs to do their job effectively and efficiently.

Put another way, an important part of knowing if a career path is right for you is knowing if the traits needed in the profession match your own, or if they are skills you can develop.

  • CFAs need to have sharp analytical skills to make judgments based on available information
  • They also need math skills to make proper calculations.
  • Also, computer skills are needed for tracking and recording financial information are essential. Since financial companies often use their own specialized software, the ability to learn new platforms is useful.
  • Finally, good communication is a must. CFAs talk to a lot of different people — investors, stockbrokers, clients, company representatives, and more.

Note that you don’t have to know everything as a CFA program is designed to educate you about the profession and to improve your knowledge in essential areas. While having these skills beforehand is an advantage being willing to learn new skills and improve on existing skills is an important part of your success as a CFA.

Woman wondering if she should be a CFA

What are the CFA Levels?

You may have heard of some different levels of CFAs. What are these?

There are three levels to the CFA exam (simply denoted with Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3). Each of these levels test your knowledge of different investment tools and skills.

As it stands right now, you do need to pass all three levels in order to become a CFA Chartholder.

Can the CFA Level 1 Get You a Good Job?

While you technically won’t be considered a full Chartered Financial Analyst, you could get a decent job after passing the first level of the CFA exams.

Once you’ve passed the Level I exam, you could get a job as:

  • an intern,
  • accountant,
  • assistant accounting manager,
  • investment administrator,
  • fund analyst,
  • or even junior equity research analyst.

It may be beneficial to get a job after passing your first level, then studying for the others while you get used to the field.

Related: How to Stop Being an Underemployed College Graduate

Piggy bank with moneyWhat is the Average CFA Salary?

Once you answer the question, “What does a CFA do?” and you become more interested in the career path, you’ll probably quickly start asking about the average CFA salary… 🙂 And I don’t blame you!!

This will vary based on the levels of the exam that you’ve passed, your location, and your experience. But the average salary is around $80,000 for base pay. Of course, some companies also provide bonuses, commissions, and other benefits as well, so your pay could be more.

Related: 16 Jobs That Pay $70k a Year Without a Degree

Is Getting a CFA Worth It?

For those that discovered what a CFA actually did, and then passed the tests and became one…would they say becoming a CFA is worth it?

Overall, getting your certifications to become a CFA can definitely be worth it. But only if you have the time, funds, and passion for it. It can become expensive to take the tests for your certification. And, it takes time and energy to study — the tests aren’t easy!

But, if you like the idea of the work you’d do, and you have the skills as well, becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst may be just the move for you.

What Does a CFA Do? In Summary…

So what does a CFA do? 

  • They are a Chartered Financial Analyst
  • They provide investment advice
  • Track the investments
  • Communicate with their clients
  • Continually educate themselves, continue to research, and work to stay certified

On average, a CFA makes $80,000 a year, but they can earn much more — like, upwards of $300,000 a year if they’re good and they stick with the career.

Becoming a CFA can be rewarding, interesting, and it can earn you a ton of money!

Is Becoming a CFA For You?

Your career is an investment. And putting in time and effort in improving your skills and expertise can yield far greater results. Becoming a CFA can open the door to many prestigious and important jobs in the industry. And, if you have all of the skills and like how the job sounds, it can be a great career change!

What do you think? Is it worth it to become a CFA? Is it your passion?


AUTHOR Kimberly Studdard

Kim Studdard is a project manager for online entrepreneurs and small businesses. When she isn't spending time with her daughter and husband, or reading her growing pile of horror books, you'll find her working on her HR degree and working towards FIRE.

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