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Should I apply for membership with CFA Institute or CFA® Society - and how much does it cost?

Confused? Here's a handy guide to help you figure out which one to apply for.

CFA Institute vs CFA® Society: while the names sound similar, they're not the same thing.

CFA Institute governs activities related to the CFA® Program exam worldwide, while the CFA Society is country-based.

CFA® charterholders and CFA® Program candidates are encouraged to join both CFA Institute and their local society.

We break down membership in each institution, how to apply, and if it's worth it.


#1. CFA Institute membership

For many candidates taking the CFA® Program exams, the ultimate goal is to pass and gain the CFA® charter.

In order for you to use the CFA® designation, it is compulsory for you to be a member of CFA Institute.

What do I get out of it?

Without this membership, you cannot use the designation at all, meaning you have no choice but to be a member if you want to be a charterholder.

If you’ve passed your exams, it’s a good time to look at becoming a regular member.

How do I apply?

To apply, you need to submit proof of these:

  • A University degree

  • A Level I Program exam pass

  • 4 years professional working experience in investment decision-making

  • 3 professional references

You typically need three referees on your application, but if one referee is a member of CFA Institute, then you only need two referees.

Pick referees who can talk about your work experience and professional character, such as your investment decision-making process. It’s ideal if your boss at work can be listed as a referee.

Once you submit your application, CFA Institute will send you instructions for the referees to fill in an online application for you. You’ll need to wait a few weeks for the membership to be approved.


CFA® Society membership

After you get your CFA Institute membership, you may also want to consider being a member of your country’s CFA Society, such as CFA® Society Singapore or CFA® Society Malaysia.

Joining the society is not compulsory. However, it is highly recommended because you can attend discounted or free professional talks and workshops for tailored at the local market, and make contacts in your own country.

What do I get out of it?

Here are the extra perks being a CFA® Society member gets you:

  • Free professional development talks that qualify for Continuing Education credits

  • Workshops, seminars and networking events at a discounted rate

  • An exclusive list of job openings

  • Career help, like coaching and resume-writing

  • Vote and run for positions in the society

If you think this all sounds good, then you should apply for society membership.

How do I apply?

To become a member, you will need to:

  • Log into your CFA Institute account

  • Look for the 'Membership' tab, and click on 'Apply for Membership'

  • Select the option to ‘add a Society’ and choose your country: eg. Singapore or Malaysia

Similar to CFA Institute membership, the application will take about 2 to 3 weeks to process.


How much will it cost me?

Unfortunately, both memberships will cost you.

Members of CFA Institute have to pay USD275 per year, and you will need to file a Professional Conduct Statement every year.

Members of a CFA® Society have to pay a one-time application fee, and a membership fee every year.

In Singapore, the fee is S$107, according to CFA® Society Singapore's website.

CFA Society Malaysia did not list its fees.


I'm still taking my exams. Is it worth applying tfor membership now?

You cannot be a CFA Institute member if you haven't passed your Level I exam.

However, you can be a member of a CFA® Society - but you'll be considered an associate member, not a regular member.

According to CFA® Society Singapore's site, the fees for associate members are cheaper compared to regular members, at just S$85, while it's RM165 for CFA Society Malaysia associate members.

What do I get out of it?

Associate members get the same perks as normal members - except you cannot vote on society matters.

In addition, you'll also get these special perks:

  • 10% discount off exam materials

  • A free lunch on your exam day

How do I apply?

CFA Society Singapore requires you to fill up and email in this form.

CFA Society Malaysia requires you to fill up and email in this form.


So... is CFA® Society membership worth it?

It really depends on what you're going to do with the perks you paid for.

Do you want to get a headstart into your career as a charterholder? Do you have the time and discipline to attend the courses and networking sessions, so as to get your money's worth for the membership? Do you need specialised career resources?

If the answer is yes for the above, then go for it. The membership may just help you get a leg up over others, whether in your exams or in your professional career.


Still considering if the CFA® Program is for you? More information about the exam is available here.

If you think exam prep courses will be useful for you to pass your exams, check out our classes here.

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