CFA Pass Rate on Level 3 Jumps to 54%, Highest Since 2006

The pass rate for the Chartered Financial Analyst exam’s third and final level rose to the highest since 2006.

Fifty-four percent of applicants succeeded, the CFA Institute said in a statement today, up from 49 percent on the June 2013 exam. Passage was the highest since 2006, when 76 percent of candidates made it.

The average pass rate from 2004 to 2013 was 54 percent, institute data show. Rates fell as the financial crisis spurred more people to seek the designation amid mounting competition for jobs on Wall Street.

Certification can lead to better jobs, higher salaries, and a deeper understanding of finance. The number of people taking the exam’s third level jumped from almost 14,600 in 2008 to more than 25,700 last year as the largest investment banks faced pressure to cut jobs, costs and risk-taking.

“CFA charterholders are in a unique position and uniquely qualified to help restore trust to an industry that has been undergoing a crisis of trust” since the 2008 credit crunch, John Bowman, a managing director at the institute, said in an interview last month.

Candidates can take the Level 1 exam in both June and December, while Level 2 and Level 3 are only offered in June. Successful charter recipients spend an average of 300 hours preparing for each exam and typically take four years to complete all three tests, according to the not-for-profit institute.

The road to a charter isn’t over after the final exam. Candidates must take an ethics pledge, demonstrate that they have at least four years’ professional experience in the investment industry, and apply for CFA Institute membership. Only after those steps can they hold the designation.

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