Are CFA Charterholders Better Paid Than Their Non-Charterholder Peers?

< Back to articles

Published 11 November at 11:48AM, inInformation - candidates


We all know that money isn’t the key to happiness. And even though financial considerations aren’t at the top of the list of the tens of thousands of CFA candidates who sign up for the exams ever year, neither are they at the bottom. But for those who set out to obtain this prestigious professional designation, can they reasonably expect a bump in their wages once they do?

Two surveys carried out in 2018, the first by CFA Society Chicago and the second by two of its sister societies in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, show that, among those interested in changing their role within their organization, a new set of challenges (41%) is cited as the motivation more often than a raise (39% for Chicago and 30% for Madison/Milwaukee). [1] These statistics confirm that a higher pay grade is not the primary incentive CFA charterholders have in mind as they move up the corporate ladder.

Bachelor’s degree




CFA member



Non-CFA member



Difference (%)



Still, compensation is nothing to sneeze at. Beyond the material benefits that come with a heftier paycheque, there is the inherent acknowledgement of an individual’s qualifications and experience. So are CFA members suitably recognized and valued by the businesses and organizations that employ them?  

Master’s or PhD




CFA member



Non-CFA member



Difference (%)



It turns out the answer to this question is an unequivocal yes. The data from both reports, the results of which are summarized in the tables to the right, indicate that the median salary for CFA charterholders with a bachelor’s degree is dramatically higher than that of colleagues who lack this designation. The same observation can be made of those with a graduate or post-graduate level of education, as the second table shows.

The latest numbers (from 2014) published by CFA Societies Canada [2] on compensation for CFA members do not allow for a similar comparison of charterholders and non-charterholders. However, the median salary of the 2,600 survey respondents worked out to close to $150,000, or 27% higher than 2010. This speak volumes about the perceived value of the CFA designation.

Beyond dollars and cents, the most important takeaway from the two U.S. surveys mentioned above is that the vast majority of respondents (94% in Chicago; 98% in Madison/Milwaukee) feel that CFA certification has contributed positively to their career advancement. And that pretty much says it all! 


Text provided by HEC Montréal


[1] CFA Society Chicago; CFA Society Madison and CFA Society Milwaukee (2018). 2018 Financial Compensation Survey. Findings and Results, p. 6. Number of respondents: 662 (Chicago) and 227 (Madison/Milwaukee).

[2] CFA Societies Canada (2015). National CFA® Charterholder Compensation Study 2015, p. 32