What can you do with a CFA?

The CFA (chartered financial analyst) exams test a variety of business-related topics, including accounting, economics, statistics, investing, and corporate finance. But what can you do with a CFA? Having the charter gives a professional a wide range of skills that can apply to a variety of jobs. Most charter holders are found in a relatively narrow part of the finance sector. With a charter so difficult to obtain, you may wonder what careers will allow you to make the most of it. We gathered data from the CFA Institute 2019 Compensation Study and several other sources to determine where the charter is most appreciated and what benefits a charter holder can expect regarding salary and advancement.


According to the CFA Institute Study, the most popular job functions of CFA charter holders are:

Job FunctionCharter holders (worldwide)Average total comp (USA)
Portfolio management 25% $321,000
Research 12% $246,000
Consulting 10% $221,000
Risk analysis / management 7% $181,000
Investment strategy 7% $242,000

  • The Study lists the total average compensation for charter holders in the United States at $279,000.
  • According to data from Statista, the average household income in the United States in 2021 was $70,784.
  • According to data from Zip Recruiter, the average compensation in the financial services sector in the United States in 2023 is $96,091.

The data suggests charter holders can expect to be compensated far more than the national average for the overall economy and the financial services sector. Portfolio management is the most favored job function on the list. It has both the highest compensation and the largest portion of charter holders. Research places second in both categories.


The CFA Institute Study lists the top five industries for charter holders:

Asset management 35%
Private wealth management 13%
Commercial banking 11%
Investment banking 7%
Consulting 5%

Within the asset management category, employers are identified as mutual funds, hedge funds, private equity firms, venture capital investment firms, and real estate investment firms. These industries are traditionally associated with both portfolio management and research job functions.

Figures from eFinancialCareer.com use CFA Institute data from 2019 to show the top ten companies worldwide that employ charter holders. Figures for total employees of those companies were taken from stockanalysis.com:

EmployerCharter holder employeesTotal employeesPercentage charter holders
JP Morgan Chase 2,140 256,981 0.8%
UBS 1,588 68,601 2.3%
RBC 1,686 82,801 2.0%
Bank of America ML 1,633 208,000 0.8%
HSBC 1,446 235,351 0.6%
Wells Fargo 1,384 259,800 0.5%
Morgan Stanley 1,180 60,431 2.0%
Citigroup 1,124 200,000 0.6%
BlackRock 1,184 16,200 7.3%
Goldman Sachs 1,133 38,300 3.0%

Over the five years ending in 2019, the average annual growth of charter holders employed at these companies was 4.2%. Additional data from the CFA Institute shows that the total growth of the charter holder population over that same period was 6.0%, higher than that of the combined top ten companies. This number suggests that growth at the top companies was lower than at smaller companies outside this list.

The companies on this list are some of the largest in the financial services sector, and nine out of ten are classified primarily as investment banks. Data on the charter holder job functions above lists the investment banking function as the fourth largest, with 7% of total charter holders. The high employment of charter holders among these companies is likely driven by their sheer size rather than specialization in CFA-related job functions.

At BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, the concentration of charter holders as a portion of total employees was by far the highest at 7.3%. The five-year growth rate of charter holder employees at BlackRock was also higher than average at 5.7%. While all listed companies have asset management operations, BlackRock is the only one for whom asset management is its primary business. Although BlackRock is the only evidence to support this conclusion, the popularity of the asset management industry and portfolio management job function suggests that companies like BlackRock employ a higher concentration of charter holders than investment banks and other financial institutions.

This data points to several key conclusions:

  • The CFA charter is an important step for professional development within the financial services sector. In other sectors, it is less widespread.
  • On average, charter holders earn much higher total compensation than the rest of the financial services sector. The highest earning job functions for charter holders are portfolio management and research.
  • The largest companies in the financial services sector employ many charter holders.
  • The highest concentrations of charter holders as a portion of total employees are at companies where asset management is the primary business.

In the final analysis, the CFA charter is suitable for you if you want to advance your career in financial services, especially in asset management. To make the most of the credential, use it in a job function involving professional investing such as portfolio management or research.