A Typical Salary for a Chartered Financial Analyst

Compensation can vary depending on several factors

Financial analyst using computers

Getty Images/B Busco

Chartered financial analysts, sometimes called CFAs, work in a wide range of positions and industries. They often assist other financial professionals, such as certified public accountants, or track and manage a company's financial objectives.

A chartered financial analyst's salary is based in part upon his or her experience, although the nature of the employer, its market value and size, and its sales volume all influence how much a CFA can earn. Salaries cited here (as of December 2019) are based on reports from PayScale.com, which forms its estimates on responses gathered from more than 4,776 CFAs across the U.S.

Candidates studying to become a CFA need to pass three levels of rigorous exams covering:

  • accounting
  • economics
  • ethics
  • money management
  • security analysis

This series of tests is among the most challenging financial certifications to achieve and a minimum of 300 hours of study is recommended for each exam. The pass rate has historically been below 50%. Despite this, as of January 2019, there were more than 154,000 registered CFA charter holders in more than 165 countries worldwide.

Average Salaries for CFAs

CFAs earn from $50,000 to upward of $153,000 a year. Those with less than one year of experience earn on the lower end of this spectrum, while those with one to four years of experience fall in the middle of the range on average. CFAs with 20 or more years on the job earn in the neighborhood of $153,000 per year on average.

The most highly paid work for CFAs generally comes as a Chief Investment Officer (averaging $176,506 per year), a Senior Portfolio Manager (averaging $156,425 per year), or as a Finance Director (earning around $141,192 per year). Securities and Investment Analysts earn around $60,270, slightly less than the average Research Analyst.

CFA Salaries by Industry

CFAs working for foundations or trusts make an average of just around $100,000 annually, while those in private practice with a firm earn around $85,000. Those who work for federal, state or local governmental entities earn between $81,400 and $87,000 a year. Hospital-based CFAs earn around $92,600, and college or university CFA employees make around $75,000.

Self-employed and contract CFAs tend to out earn those who work within large organizations, with 20 year veterans earning $170,900 per year on average.

CFA Salaries by Company Size

A company's size helps determine how much the company will pays its CFAs. Generally speaking, larger companies pay slightly better than smaller companies, although the differences aren't extreme.

Small companies with fewer than 10 employees pay the second-lowest median incomes, about $84,500 per year on average, while companies with between 200 and 599 employees that were included in this survey paid CFAs the lowest incomes, around $81,500 on average. Meanwhile, companies with between 10 and 49 workers paid CFAs about $88,100, and companies with 50 to 199 workers paid their CFAs around $90,300.

The most lucrative employers for CFAs to work for are those with between 20,000 and 49,999 workers: These companies paid CFAs around $102,200.

Geographic Area

The impact of an employer's location cannot be understated. CFAs situated in larger metropolises tended to be paid more than the nationwide average: up to approximately $140,000 in New York City and San Francisco, and approximately $120,000 per year in Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia.