CFA® Salary Guide

Total compensation and CFA salary guide

The CFA charter is a globally recognized professional designation awarded by the CFA Institute. This global non-profit organization provides professionals in finance with highly rigorous training and education.

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It is among the most recognized and prestigious designations in the field of banking and finance. The designation is awarded to candidates who demonstrate competence in investment analysis and wealth management. You can learn more about the CFA on WSO's dedicated article 'What is the CFA®?'.

The highly rigorous education provided and the highly technical skills garnered in the CFA program is why charterholders usually receive a significant pay raise, starting right after finishing the program.

It is important to note that the total compensation of professionals includes many components and not just base pay. In fact, the 2018 CFA Societies Financial Compensation Survey Report has outlined the other types of compensation in addition to base salary, as well as how common they are in the industry.

A summary of this can be seen in the table below:

CFA Salary
CompensationPercentage
Cash/bonus performance87%
Employer 401(k)66%
Profit-sharing17%
Restricted stock awards/phantom shares13%
Deferred/multi-year earnings9%
Commission/sales bonus6%
Stock options3%

Calculating the total compensation of a CFA charterholder is challenging, as there are a wide variety of industries and functions they work in. So let's first understand where CFA charterholders work.

Where Do CFA Charterholders Work?

CFA charterholders have a lot of opportunities in terms of where they would like to work, in terms of both industry and function. This is attributable to the extreme rigor and commitment that is required with completing the three CFA exams, as well as the profound knowledge and skills acquired.

CFA charterholders are able to apply their knowledge and skills in a wide range of roles throughout the global financial industry.

The sectors CFA charterholders typically work in include:

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The table below has been extracted from a data report from the CFA Institute 2019 and illustrates the various roles that CFA charterholders work in, along with a rough percentage.

CFA Roles
Job FunctionPercentage
Portfolio Management25%
Research12%
Consulting10%
Chief Level Executive9%
Investment Strategy7%
Risk Management7%
Relationship/Wealth Management5%
Credit Analysis5%
Trading4%
Accounting/Auditing4%
Financial Planning3%
Others9%

As we see in the table above, the highest proportion of CFA charterholders work in portfolio management and research (i.e. investment analysis), and with good reason.

This is because the CFA curriculum focuses heavily on the investment management sector, which is most relevant for those two fields.

So, how much do they make in these positions?

Median CFA Compensation by Position

In regards to the positions held by CFA charterholders, we are able to determine their median total compensation by looking at data from the 2018 CFA Societies Financial Compensation Survey Report.

This data will be portrayed below in a table format and in descending order of total compensation. The table will also break up the median total compensation, including median base salary, median bonuses, and the median of other compensation methods.

CFA Salary by Position
PositionTotal Comp.BaseBonusOther Comp.
Chief Investment Officer$393,700$227,500$85,000$95,000
Portfolio Manager (equities)$251,500$136,000$75,000$20,000
Director of Investments$234,700$165,000$46,500$21,536
Portfolio Manager (fixed income)$213,000 $132,500$75,000$19,800
Relationship Manager$209,000$120,000$70,000$30,000
Buy-side Research Analyst (equity)$190,250$122,500$40,000$6,750
Buy-side Research Analyst (fixed income)$182,600$130,000$50,000$10,500
Risk Manager$172,500 $126,060$36,000$7,000
Private Client Portfolio Manager$165,000$122,500$20,000$13,750
Manager Research (equity)$152,000 $120,000$27,500$5,450
Sell-side Research Analyst (equity)$133,000 $96,250$23,500$7,000
Other$133,000$110,000$22,000$8,500
Financial Advisor/Broker$128,375$110,000$21,000$8,000
Consultant$124,500 $100,000$15,000$5,785
Manager Research (alternatives)$122,000 $100,000$20,000$4,000
Credit Analyst (rating)$107,500 $80,250$13,500$7,500
Financial Analyst (corporate)$105,000 $87,500$12,500$5,000
Performance Analyst$105,000 $83,500$12,500$4,640
Client Services$104,538 $85,000$19,000$5,263
Operations/Reconciliation$101,420 $89,500$9,200$6,170

From this table, we can see that the highest paying job for charterholders is Chief Investment Officer, with $227,500 in base salary, $85,000 in bonuses, and $95,000 in other compensation methods, for a total compensation of $393,700.

However, it is vital to consider the experience of the CFA charterholders, as it plays a significant factor in determining one's income.

Median CFA Compensation by Experience

The median compensation of CFA charterholders changes dramatically as they gain more experience in their specific job function.

From the data in the 2018 CFA Societies Financial Compensation Survey Report, we are able to create a table for a whole range of different roles and the median compensation for each role based on whether you have less than 5 years of experience, 5 to 10 years of experience, 10 to 20 years of experience, or more than 20 years of experience.

CFA Salary by Experience
PositionTotal Compensation
Experience< 5 years5 to 10 years10 to 20 years>20 years
Buy-side Research Analyst (equity) $93,500$196,250$264,300N/A
Portfolio Manager (fixed income)N/A$196,000$247,500N/A
Financial Advisor/Broker$90,100$186,200N/A$261,000
Buy-side Research Analyst (fixed income)$95,000$180,000$280,000N/A
Relationship ManagerN/A$162,000$373,000N/A
Risk Manager$150,500$160,060$214,166N/A
Consultant$80,950$152,000$270,164N/A
Sell-side Research Analyst (equity)$112,500$151,000N/AN/A
Manager Research (alternatives)$92,000$130,000N/AN/A
Private Client Portfolio Manager$78,000$103,750$170,000$271,000
Chief Investment OfficerN/AN/AN/A$393,700
Portfolio Manager (equities)N/AN/A$253,000$260,000
Investment Banker$148,600N/AN/AN/A
Accountant/Auditor$85,000N/AN/AN/A
Financial Analyst (corporate)$92,750$107,000$190,500N/A
Other$75,000$130,000$200,000$241,100

Based on the data above, the highest paying roles, along with the total compensation for each experience bucket, is as follows:

  • Less than 5 years of experience: Risk Manager - $150,500
  • Five to ten years of experience: Buy-side Research Analyst (equity) - $196,250
  • For 10 to 20 years of experience: Relationship Manager - $373,000
  • For more than 20 years of experience: Chief Investment Officer - $393,700

However, these figures are the median figures for CFA charterholders in the US by experience.

Since there are so many charterholders worldwide, we will be outlining the median salary of CFA charterholders by country and state.

Median CFA Salary by Country and State

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By extracting data from the CFA Institute website and salaryexpert.com, we have created a table of the top countries with the most CFA Charterholders as well as the median base salary for that country. All figures have been converted to USD.

CFA Salary by Country and State
CountryCFA CharterholdersMedian Base Salary
Switzerland3,782$119,530
USA76,686$100,071
Australia3,271$93,138
Germany3,420$88,074
Canada18,866$88,011
Netherlands1,358$86,737
Ireland608$81,873
United Arab Emirates1,385$81,251
Hong Kong8,585$80,930
Japan1,466$80,402
France1,372$78,666
United Kingdom12,459$77,936
Singapore4,525$75,391
Taiwan612$62,041
Spain864$58,416
South Korea1,104$48,401
China6,617$44,540
Poland770$33,835
South Africa2,288$33,497
Malaysia903$30,022
Thailand642$25,051
Brazil1,384$23,982
Russian Federation664$17,700
India2,843$14,238

So it seems that the highest paying CFA charterholders are in Switzerland, USA, and Australia.

However, it is essential to note that these figures are just for the median base salary. The total compensation might be completely different in terms of ranking the data for which was not available.

As WSO's audience is primarily from the United States, this post will go over the highest base salaries for CFA charterholders in different states and cities as it changes dramatically.

The following data has also been extracted from the CFA Institute website as well as salaryexpert.com, and presents the highest paying states and cities along with the number of CFA charterholders there in that state.

CFA Salary by US Cities
State and CityCFA Charterholders in StateMedian Base Salary
San Francisco, California9,384$125,777
New York-Manhattan, New York13,288$119,635
Boston, Massachusetts6,488$115,684
Washington, District of ColumbiaN/A$115,640
Anchorage, Alaska45$112,774
Seattle, Washington1,435$112,461
Chicago, Illinois5,421$107,630
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania3,127$106,999
Detroit, Michigan761$105,427
Baltimore, Maryland1,563$105,376
Denver, Colorado1,740$104,506
Las Vegas, Nevada193$104,403
Minneapolis, Minnesota1,507$104,222
Houston, Texas4,250$104,195
Manchester, New Hampshire301$100,848
St. Louis, Missouri1,094$99,315
Cleveland, Ohio1,629$99,184
Miami, Florida2,571$98,622
Atlanta, Georgia1,810$98,580
Raleigh, North Carolina1,724$98,263
Phoenix, Arizona612$96,709
New Orleans, Louisiana162$96,344
Indianapolis, Indiana523$95,325
Birmingham, Alabama269$95,019
Memphis, Tennessee688$94,452
Louisville, Kentucky280$92,957
Charleston, South Carolina283$92,511
Wichita, Kansas410$92,192
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma212$88,237

From the table above, the highest paying cities and states for a CFA charterholder are:

  • San Francisco, California
  • New York-Manhattan, New York
  • Boston, Massachusetts

This article has outlined the different median compensation and salary for CFA Charterholders based on position, experience, country, and state. 

However, there are a lot more factors that contribute to their median compensation, including the size of the company, the industry, firm performance, individual performance, and more.

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Overall, the CFA charterholder is one of the most prestigious and arguably hardest designations in the world, and as the data suggests, they are compensated quite well for it.

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Additional Resources

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Osman Ahmed is a member of WSO Editorial Board which helps ensure the accuracy of content across top articles on Wall Street Oasis. Osman started his career as an investment banking analyst at Thomas Weisel Partners where he spent just over two years before moving into a growth equity investing role at Scale Venture Partners, focused on technology. He’s currently a VP at KCK Group, the private equity arm of a middle eastern family office. Osman has a generalist industry focus on lower middle market growth equity and buyout transactions This content was originally created by member WallStreetOasis.com and has evolved with the help of our mentors.