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CFA Exam Draws Record 139,900 as Asia Applicants Increase 12%

A record 139,900 candidates enrolled for the Chartered Financial Analyst exam in June, an increase of 9 percent from last year as applicants seek a hiring edge in the recovering financial-services industry.

The number of registrations rose 12 percent in Asia, 9 percent in Europe and 5 percent in the Americas, the Charlottesville, Virginia-based CFA Institute said today in a statement. The first level of the exam is in December and June; the final two levels are administered only in June. Fewer than half the applicants at each level passed last June.

Candidates take the test hoping the certification can lead to better jobs, higher salaries and a deeper understanding of finance. Financial firms worldwide have cut more than 346,000 workers since the credit crisis began in 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. U.S. banks posted their highest profits in two years in the first quarter, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said last month.

“At this time of global economic instability, we believe it is especially important for the investment industry to be led by professionals who put investors’ interests first,” John Rogers, chief executive officer of the CFA Institute, said in the statement. “Finance markets cannot function effectively without ethical behavior, and transparency, and CFA charterholders are integral to this.”

Candidates from 160 countries are scheduled for the three levels of the exam. Forty percent of registrations for the test in June come from Asia, according to the CFA Institute statement. Applications from China climbed 19 percent to 15,700. India had the largest increase, 39 percent to 11,800. The U.S. had the most registrations with 38,200, up 3 percent from a year earlier.

The Topics

There are about 88,700 CFA charter holders globally, according to the organization’s website. The not-for-profit CFA Institute said candidates spend an average of 300 hours studying for each phase of the test. Topics range from ethical standards and securities valuation to financial statement analysis and portfolio management. Completing all three levels costs about $2,500 and takes an average of four years.

The CFA program started in 1963 and stems in part from Benjamin Graham, a pioneer of value investing who mentored Warren Buffett and advocated a rating system for financial analysts.

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