A Graduation cap set atop a gold coin with a dollar sign. In front of this, the word “scholarships” is displayed.

For some candidates, the expenses associated with the CFA program can produce sticker shock. A first-time candidate will need to pay for program enrollment and exams, a total of more than $3,000. Though students won't have to pay all of this at once, that's still a lot of money—and even more, if students seek out prep services. Here's a breakdown of those CFA costs and some ways to reduce them:

Exam Fees

The CFA Institute charges fees for participation in the program and for taking the exam itself. The exam fees listed here apply to all three levels.

Enrollment fee - – $350.
This is the one-time fee to begin the program, paid at the time the candidate registers for the level 1 exam.

Exam registration fee – Early $940, regular $1,250.
This fee is paid for each exam, and there are three levels. The early registration deadline is about seven months before the exam, while regular registration closes about three and a half months before the exam. There is an additional fee of $250 to reschedule an exam.

The Institute has changed the fee schedule repeatedly in the last several years. For the 2023 exam cycle, the enrollment fee was reduced from $450 to $350, while the registration fee was increased from $700 to $900 for early and from $1,000 to $1,200 for regular. For the 2024 exam cycle the enrollment fee is unchanged and the registration fees will increase to $940 and $1,250.

CFA Institute Scholarships

The CFA Institute offers various scholarships for people who fall into one of several categories or are sponsored by approved organizations. Those who qualify can eliminate the initial enrollment fee, and significantly reduce the fee for exam registration.

1. Student Scholarship

Under the University Affiliate program (UAP), a university can have the curriculum of a specific degree program officially certified as similar to the CFA curriculum. Any participating university is allocated a limited number of scholarships based on the number of CFA charter holders on its faculty. Scholarships can be awarded anytime throughout the year at the discretion of the university. Any student currently enrolled at the university is eligible.

2. Access Scholarship

The CFA Institute describes this scholarship as “for individuals who may not be able to afford the program fees.” While it states that financial need is important, other factors are considered such as academic and professional accomplishments and service to the community. Selection is determined from an application submitted to the CFA Institute.

3. Women’s Scholarship

This scholarship is open to any woman who does not qualify for other scholarships offered by the CFA Institute. The candidate must submit an application with a personal statement describing the candidate’s interest in the CFA charter and in the scholarship.

4. Professor Scholarship

This scholarship is open to university professors who teach a minimum number of credit hours at a qualified institution. The application requires a letter from the university confirming teaching status, a CV, and employment verification

5. Regulator Scholarship

This scholarship is awarded through approved organizations responsible for overseeing and regulating the investment management industry, such as financial regulators, central banks, exchanges, and similar organizations. The approved organization is allocated a set number of scholarships and awards them to its employees at its discretion.

The Access, Professor, Women’s and Regulator scholarships are offered twice per year. In the 2022–2023 program year the application windows were the months of September and January. All scholarships waive the enrollment fee and reduce the exam registration fee to $350, except for the Access scholarship, which reduces the exam fee to $250.

Company Sponsorship

6. Employer Funded Sponsorship

Companies in the financial services industry may sponsor their employees for pursuit of professional credentials such as CFA, CPA, CFP, and FRM. Under US tax law, an employer can offer up to $5,250 of tuition assistance per employee per year without declaring it as taxable income. Some companies even allow candidates to take paid “study days” in the final weeks leading up to the exam. If you currently work in the finance industry, your employer may offer to help pay the fees for the CFA program.

Remember, It’s Still Less Expensive Than a Degree

Even if a student takes four exams (including one failure) and uses The Princeton Review to prep , the cost of earning a charter will still be well under $10,000. By contrast, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the national average cost of a master’s degree is $19,749, and an MBA is $61,800. Bottom line, if you work in an industry where the CFA charter is equivalent to an advanced degree, then even at full price the charter is a much less expensive option.

Read More