According to Salary.com, the annual salary of an investment portfolio manager in the United States falls within the USD 113,236 and USD 156,158 range, with a median salary of USD 133,749. Meanwhile, a risk analysis and management professional earns an estimated median salary of USD 119,939 annually, according to Glassdoor. Finally, also according to Glassdoor, an investment consultant in the United States makes a median salary of USD 102,873 per year.

Yes, investment professionals draw excellent salaries. If you want that for yourself, why don’t you enroll in an online financial training course and become a Chartered Financial Analyst? If you are currently an undergraduate student, now is the best time to begin your journey toward that CFA charter. Here is why you must and how you can do it.

Why Start Now?

Yes, you may start your CFA journey a little bit later – say, after graduation or even once you’ve started working. You can even choose to do this mid-career. However, the timing is just perfect while you’re still in college.

1.     Maximize Your Time in University

This is especially true if your college has a partnership with the CFA Institute and has incorporated the CFA curriculum into your undergraduate courses. In this case, you would be killing two birds with one stone. Not only would you be studying for your college degree, but you could also be preparing for your CFA level exams.

However, even if your university is not affiliated with the CFA Institute, beginning your journey this early would ensure you will have sufficient time to prepare for your CFA exams. It would be so much harder to focus on studying for your CFA exams when you’re already working and have day-to-day tasks to check off.

At least when you’re in college, studying is your primary responsibility. Thus, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to add studying for your CFA level exams to your daily tasks. Yes, CFA preps would add to your already heavy college load. However, you’d simply be adding one more subject matter to master; it wouldn’t be something too extra.

2.     Align Your Actions to Your Goals

Beginning your CFA journey while an undergraduate student has the added benefit of clarifying your goals and how you might achieve them. Therefore, you can ensure that everything you do while in college is aligned with your dream of becoming a chartered financial analyst and, ultimately, an investment professional.

In other words, your CFA goal can act as your compass, effectively orienting you every time you need to make decisions, like which college electives to take and how to spend your free time. It will help you focus on the courses that can help you sharpen the skills you’ll need to become a CFA. You can also start forming connections with professors and practitioners who can become your mentors.

3.     Gain a Valuable Head Start

Undergraduate students can take the Level I CFA exam before their senior or final year in college as long as they do so within 11 months of their graduation. As an undergraduate student enrolled in the CFA program, you can sit and pass your Level I CFA before graduating.

This is a significant head start. After graduation, you can focus on sitting for the CFA Level II exam and then the CFA Level III exam. While you will still need to spend a minimum of three years earning your qualified work experience, which is a requirement before you can become a charter holder, the head start you gain by sitting for your Level I early remains invaluable.

4.     Gain a Competitive Advantage

Graduating with a CFA Level I under your belt is a clear advantage when job-hunting. It’s an impressive credential. You’re on your way to a CFA charter; which employer wouldn’t want to buy into that potential?

This should also help you gain employment in a related field, which means you should find it easier to accumulate your qualified work experience hours.

How to Get Started

Here are the steps you need to follow to earn a CFA charter.

1.     Enroll in the program.

Find an affiliated training institute and enroll in their CFA training program. You must have a good grasp of the English language because all CFA level exams will be administered in English. You should also have an international travel passport, and you must live in a country that participates in the CFA program.

By the way, if your country has sanctions placed against it, you might consider obtaining a second citizenship and an alternative passport.

2.     Pass all three CFA level exams.

You will need to study three curriculum levels and pass an exam for each level: CFA Level I, Level II, and Level III. Every lower level is a prerequisite to the succeeding higher level. In other words, passing the Level I exam is a prerequisite of sitting for the Level II exam, and passing the Level II exam is a requirement to sit for the Level III exam.

Your training institute will guide you regarding the schedule of CFA exams. Just remember that undergraduate students can take their Level I exam before they graduate as long as it’s within 11 months of the date. However, they can take the Level II exam only after graduation.

3.     Accumulate Qualified Work Experience

To qualify for a CFA charter, you will need to complete at least 4,000 hours working in a relevant role in 36 months or longer. Qualified work pertains to any job directly related to the process of investment decision-making or in work that adds value to this process.

4.     Provide Professional References

One of the CFA charter application requirements is letters from professional references. Your immediate work supervisors will make the best references, but anyone in a position to attest to the work you do/did and your professional character may be considered.

Prepare two reference letters if at least one of your references is an active regular member of your local CFA society. If none of your references is an active regular member of your local CFA society, you’ll need three reference letters with your application.

5.      Apply for Charter

After passing all three CFA level exams, accumulating at least 4,000 hours of qualified work experience in a minimum of three years, and preparing reference letters, apply for membership with the CFA Institute. You will earn your CFA charter if your application is approved.

Launch Your Investment Career

If you want to work in investing, investment management, risk analysis, wealth management, and other investment-related jobs, become a chartered financial analyst. A CFA charter will help you jumpstart your career as an investment professional. Additionally, the earlier you start, the sooner you’ll complete the requirements. So, if you’re an undergraduate student, consider starting your CFA journey now.