CFA vs Series 7

Updated on April 22, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Edited byAshish Kumar Srivastav
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Difference Between CFA and Series 7

CFA Institute offers CFA or Chartered Financial Analyst. In addition, the course provides opportunities in portfolio management, risk management, consultant, chief executive, etc. In contrast, Series 7 is provided by FINRA. After completing this course, an individual can be registered with the self-regulatory organization to successfully trade in general securities, including bonds and corporate stocks.

This comparative article will discuss the CFA exam, an important financial credential with a Series 7 license, a prerequisite laid by FINRA engaged in trading securities. That should help those combating these two qualifications to make an informed choice regarding their eligibility and preferences.

CFA vs Series 7

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What is CFA?

CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) certification is considered the gold standard of investment management and financial analysis, designed to validate professionals’ expert knowledge and capabilities in these and related fields. This certification course offered by CFA Institute, USA, is undoubtedly one of the most reputed certification programs in finance that help professionals acquire advanced capabilities in highly specialized knowledge areas, including portfolio management, financial analysis, and financial advisory, among other subjects.

It has one of the lowest passing rates among financial credentials, making it difficult to acquire and one of the most sought-after in the financial industry.

What is a Series 7 License?

One must certainly understand at the very outset that Series 7 is a license, unlike CFA, which stands for a certification. The scope and contents of the Series 7 exam are much more limited than CFA. They are specifically aimed at helping those engaged in the sale and purchase of financial products and possess the eligible knowledge and skills for the job.

For attempting a Series 7 exam, an individual must be sponsored by a FINRA member firm and a prerequisite to appear for several other FINRA exams. Acquiring a Series 7 license is not as complicated as earning a CFA Charter, with the latter representing much-advanced knowledge and capabilities in the financial domain.

CFA Certification vs. Series 7 License Infographics

Let us see the top differences between CFA certification vs. Series 7 license, along with infographics.

CFA Certification vs. Series 7 License Infographics

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Exam Requirements

CFA Exam Requirements

To qualify for CFA, a candidate should have a bachelor’s degree (or need to be in the final year of a bachelor’s degree) or must possess four years of professional work experience or four years of higher education and professional work experience taken together.

Series 7 Exam Requirements

It is a must for every individual to hold sponsorship of a firm with FINRA membership. That is the only prerequisite for this exam.

CFA vs. Series 7 Comparative Table

SectionCFASeries 7
Organizing BodyThe CFA Institute, USA, is the organizing body for the CFA exam.The General Securities Representative Qualification exam, officially known as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), USA, is the organizing body for the Series 7 exam.
PatternThe course of CFA qualification is divided into three sequential levels – Level I, Level II, and Level III.The course of Series 7 license consists of a 3 hours 45 minutes exam to appear in a single day.
Duration of CourseThe candidates who pass each exam on the first attempt can complete the course in 36-48 months.This course requires 100-120 hours of study, expanding to 1-4 weeks. However, candidates’ inability to clear the exam on the first attempt may stretch the course duration as they have to wait for 30 days for the second attempt and another.
SyllabusThe syllabus primarily covers the following topics
  • Ethics & Professional Standards
  • Economics
  • Corporate Finance
  • Portfolio Management
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Fixed Income
  • Alternative Investments
  • Equity Investments
  • Derivatives
  • Financial Reporting and Analysis
The syllabus primarily focuses on the following functions
  • Seeking business existing & potential customers
  • Account opening after obtaining & evaluating customers’ financial profile & investment objectives
  • Providing investment-related information to customers, making recommendations, transferring assets & maintaining appropriate records
  • Obtaining & verifying customers’ purchase & sales instructions & agreements
  • Processing, completing, and confirming transactions

Exam FeesThe total cost of the course falls in the range between $2,550 and $3,450, including exam fees and an enrollment fee. The exam fees may vary based on the time of registration.The exam fee for the license is $245. However, this license also requires sponsorship from a FINRA-member firm.
JobsSome of the common profiles include
  • Strategic Analyst
  • Wealth Manager
  • Portfolio Manager
  • Investment Analyst
  • Financial Consultant
Some of the common profiles include
  • Financial Advisor
  • Registered Client Service Associate
  • Financial Planner
  • Registered Client Associate
DifficultyThe exams are very difficult. The pass rates for the exams conducted in June 2019 were as follows: –
  • Level I: 41%
  • Level II: 44%
  • Level III: 56% [Source: CFA Institute]
The exams are fairly difficult. Although FINRA does not publish the pass rates for the Series 7 exams, it is generally believed to be around 65%.



Exam DateThe schedule of the upcoming exams for the year 2022 is as follows: –
  • Level I: Feb 15-21, May 17-23, Aug 23-29 & Nov
  • Level II: Feb 22-26, Aug 30-Sep 03, Nov
  • Level III: May 24-26 & Aug 30-Sep 06
The candidates may schedule the exam on any weekday within 120 days from the enrollment date.

Why Pursue CFA?  

Earning CFA Charter validates that a professional can undertake complex roles in various sub-domains of finance, ranging from financial analysis and investment management to investment banking, research, and academics, among other areas.

Career enhancement is substantial as CFAs can explore several global opportunities in finance. In addition, this hard-earned credential can lend them greater credibility in the eyes of prospective employers. Non-finance professionals can also have several potential advantages as a professional if they continue to earn CFA Charter.

Why Acquire Series 7 License?

Series 7 license does not provide any unique advantage except serving as a General Securities Representative as a prerequisite kept as a requirement by FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority).

That qualifies them to engage in the sale, purchase, and or solicitation of securities products, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other forms of instruments. Accordingly, there is no additional career scope for those who acquire a Series 7 license except to work within these pre-specified roles.


There can be no comparison between the CFA and the Series 7 exam since they do not represent a certification program. CFA is an advanced multi-tier certification program considered one of the most stringent financial credentials to earn. Series 7 license qualifies an individual to trade general securities on behalf of any self-regulatory organization.

CFA is intended for professionals planning to advance their careers and showcase their knowledge and capabilities by acquiring a specialized credential in finance. In contrast, the Series 7 exam is only meant for individuals seeking licensure from FINRA to operate as general securities representatives, trading for securities in the market.

Recommended Articles

This article has been a guide to CFA vs. Series 7. Here, we have discussed the difference between CFA and Series 7, along with the infographics and comparative table. You may also have a look at the following articles: –

Reader Interactions


  1. Elias Braker says

    Great one!! thanks for providing insights to CFA and series 7.

  2. Erick Vesey says

    Very well explained about CFA and Series 7. I had knowledge on CFA but going this article I have also gained some important knowledge on Series 7 thanks for making it clear to me.

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