Complete Guide to CFA Institute Investment Foundations Program

Updated on April 4, 2024
Article bySayantan Mukhopadhyay
Edited bySayantan Mukhopadhyay
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

CFA Institute Investment Foundations Program

The CFA Institute Investment Foundations Program is a little unknown, like a hidden gem. Have a glance at the following statistics to get a glimpse of the program –

  • Have you ever imagined that you can get a world-class certification just by investing 100 hours? If not, try the Investment Foundations program. You would understand.
  • A candidate survey found that 76% of all students who pursued this program did so because they didn’t know any other avenue which could build their skills in such a short time.
  • The same candidate survey mentioned that 24% of the students pursued this program because they knew it could boost their career graph and offer better prospects.
  • Almost 6,480 students have already passed out from this program.
  • Unlike any other financial course, the Investment Foundations program takes a much easier approach in the study and offers flexibility to its students. Therefore, its pass percentage is much more remarkable than other financial courses. It was found that more than 85% of students have passed out of this program’s examination till now.
  • This program is not only valid in Europe and the USA. This program is also available in developing countries of Asia and other parts of the world. To be specific, this is truly a globally recognized program.

The CFA Institute Investment Foundations Program doesn’t need facts to prove it. The best way to experience its value is to enroll in the program if you are interested. But before you do anything, give this article a read. Take out a pen and paper and if you find anything useful, write it down.

Once you read this article, we assure you that you might not require any other article on Investment Foundations Program ever again because we bring in all the information and tit-bits right here.

Let’s begin.

About CFA Institute Investment Foundations Program

The CFA Institute Investment Foundations Program is a little unknown like any underdogs are. It isn’t a well-known program because very few people took the time and found out what’s in it for them. But sooner, you will be able to realize the value you receive after only 100 hours of time investment. For example, if you can study 4 hours a day, you only need 25 days to be eligible to pass this program with flying colors. But what’s easy to do is easy not to do. Read further to know more about it.

  • Roles: The program is designed for entry-level professionals who want to grow in the investment domain. If you wish to update your investment knowledge, there is no better course than this.
  • Exam: Passing this program’s examination is super easy. All you need to do is sit for 100 minutes and answer 100 multiple-choice questions.
  • Exam Dates: The purpose of designing a course like this is to offer its students much more flexibility. Thus, if you want to sit for this program, you need to sit for the exam within six months from the registration date.
  • The nitty-gritty: As the scope of the study is limited in this program, you don’t need to study multiple subjects. Under 100 hours, you need to go through 7 modules and 20 chapters (which will be discussed in detail later).

Eligibility: The best part of this program’s examination is that anyone can take the examination. All you need to have is a decent knowledge of English.

Why pursue Investment Foundations Program?

CFA Institute Investment Foundations Program is a course that can be pursued by anybody who wants to have a piece of basic domain knowledge in investment. If you want to start with investment analysis and don’t know where to begin, the Investment Foundations Program is the best place. But don’t choose this program because we’re saying it. You should have your reasons as well. In the beginning, we provided the statistics of why students joined the Investment Foundations Program. We will present the whole statistics here to get some guiding light.

  • Knowledge in any domain is an important part. Thus, by a survey conducted on the program’s joinees, it was found that 76% of the candidates joined because they wanted to develop knowledge.
  • Would a course be relevant if it weren’t globally recognized? You would agree that it won’t. 43% of the candidates said they joined the course because of its global recognition.
  • Everybody is not directly related to investment but indirectly related to the domain that can benefit from the CFA Investment Foundations Program. 30% of candidates joined this program to boost their confidence in their current field.
  • 27% of candidates wanted a global network to help them grow and increase their market value. Thus they joined this program.
  • What’s most surprising to see is that only 24% who wanted to improve their career graph joined this program.

Your reason for pursuance can be different than the above. But let’s see what top companies are saying about the Investment Foundations Program.

What top companies have to say about Investment Foundations Program?

CFA Investment Foundations Program is a brand new course launched on 20th May 2013 at the 66th CFA Institute Annual Conference in Singapore. But still, many companies are taking this course to understand all about investment. However, students still wonder about the job opportunities this course entails. So let’s see what the top three companies have to say about this program.

  • Aviva Investor: A team of employees was selected for the Investment Foundations Program Pilot course. They mentioned that it’s a good course for increasing professional credibility for human resources, legal, operations, and finance roles. It’s certainly not a course that will reach the standard of CFA but a good course to begin within an investment, they remarked.
  • BlackRock: A team from BlackRock had also participated in the pilot course. Their opinions were slightly different than what the employees at Aviva mentioned. They said that taking the course improved their internal communication and gave them a perspective on how their roles fit in the entire gamut of functions within the organization. They also mentioned that this program is more appropriate for small businesses using its magnificent foundational knowledge on investment.
  • Legal & General Investment Management: The experts in LGIM remarked that this is a course that broadens one’s perspective towards understanding where one stands in a job role. They said it’s particularly effective for people who join the organizations as apprentices or fresh graduates.

Investment Foundations Program Format

From the above discussion, you understood that the Investment Foundations Program is a program that needs 100 hours of study. But you may be wondering what exactly you need to study and how it would be relevant to your existing domain of work. This section will talk about each module you need to go through and give a brief overview of each module. Later we will talk about each chapter covered under each module.

You will be given the study materials, and all questions will come from the materials the CFA institute will provide.

All you need to do is sit for a 100 minutes exam and answer 100 multiple-choice questions for an exam.

Investments Foundation Program

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Investment Foundations Program Module

There is a total of seven modules that you need to cover under this program. So let’s look at that one by one.

Module 1: Industry Overview

In this module, you will understand how an investment works in businesses – from schools to hospitals. You will understand how you will help people save for the future and fund their dream businesses. The core purpose of this module is to teach you a helicopter view of investment within the purview of ethics.

Module 2: Ethics and Regulation

This module talks about the fundamentals of investment. How would you fetch a client – by getting his money or earning his trust, reputation, and confidence? You will receive a foolproof customer-centric investment approach in this module.

Module 3: Inputs and Tools

How does business happen? How does the economic perspective play out at micro, macro, and global levels? In this module, you will learn how to use and deal with the economic aspect of business and gain a big picture of all the businesses put together.

Module 4: Investment Instruments

Here you go into the depths of investment instruments. How would you use investment options? This module will teach you how to invest in basic equities, bonds, and specialized investment instruments like real estate and derivatives.

Module 5: Industry Structure

How does the industry help shape the investment decisions we make on an everyday basis? You will learn about the stakeholders in the industry who help you in investments and also about different markets where investment happens.

Module 6: Serving Client Needs

Learning about investments is all about serving clients’ needs and solving them. In this module, you will get to know your clients and serve them better.

Module 7: Industry Controls

There should be simultaneous measures to control and systematize investments. In this module, you will learn about all the controls and systems that ensure the smooth running of the investments to serve the clients better.

These modules are properly designed to gain a whole view of how the investment world works. So let’s dig deep and look at each chapter briefly to understand better.

Investment Foundations Program Curriculum Highlights

Module 1 –

  • Chapter 1 – The Investment Industry: A Top-Down View

[Imagine you’re viewing the world of investment from a helicopter. You will get to know about financial services, types, the investment industry, and economic forces that dictate the functions of the industry.]

Module 2 –

  • Chapter 2 – Ethics and Investment Professionalism

[You will learn about the need for ethics in the investment world, and you will be able to identify the obligations and framework for making ethical decisions.]

  • Chapter 3 – Regulation

[You will get to know about regulation, objectives of regulation, and also about compliance.]

Module 3 –

  • Chapter 4 – Microeconomics

[You will learn the basic economics, divisions, demand & supply, market equilibrium, production & cost functions, pricing, and how market structures affect investments.]

  • Chapter 5 – Macroeconomics

[After reading this chapter, you would be able to understand economic indicators, the need for macroeconomic consideration, components of GDP, economic indicators, business cycles, and monetary & fiscal policies.]

  • Chapter 6 – Economics of International Trade

[You will learn about import, export, the balance of payments, and many specialized definitions of international trade.

  • Chapter 7 – Financial Statements

[Learning to see and understand financial statements is a great skill. You will learn how to see balance sheet, trial balance, and link between two figures via ratio analysis. You will also learn about the cash flow statement.]

  • Chapter 8 – Quantitative Concepts

[You will get to know about the nitty-gritty of financial concepts. From the time value of money to interpreting correlation, you would be able to get to know every fundamental concept of finance from this chapter.]

Module 4 –

  • Chapter 9 – Debt Securities

[From discounted cash flow valuation to bonds, from risk in investing in debt securities to credit spread, you will learn a lot from this chapter.]

  • Chapter 10 – Equity Securities

[In this chapter, you will learn about equity and a comparative analysis between equity & debt securities.]

  • Chapter 11 – Derivatives

[You will get to know everything about derivatives and get a good understanding of forwards, futures, swaps & options.]

  • Chapter 12 – Alternative Investments

[You will learn about private equity investments, real estate investments, and commodity investments from this chapter.]

Module 5 –

  • Chapter 13 – Structure of the Investment Industry

[You will learn about investment management and investment information services, and you will also gain insights about brokers and dealers.]

  • Chapter 14 – Investment Vehicles

[You will get to know about hedge funds, mutual funds, and managed accounts.]

  • Chapter 15 – The Functioning of Financial Markets

[You will understand the difference between primary and secondary markets; you will also know about private placements, public offerings, and right issues.]

Module 6 –

  • Chapter 16 – Investors and Their needs

[You will get to know different types and their different needs and how to structure investment policy for serving client needs.]

  • Chapter 17 – Investment Management

[You will learn about systematic & specific risk and also about investment objectives and constraints.]

Module 7 –

  • Chapter 18 – Risk Management

[You will learn all about risk in investments and how to mitigate and manage it.]

  • Chapter 19 – Performance Evaluation

[This chapter will teach you the process of performance evaluation and how to measure performance via different methods and tools. You will also learn the concept of alpha and uses of performance attribution.]

  • Chapter 20 – Investment Industry Documentation

[After learning everything, this chapter is specifically designed to teach you about documentation and how to do document management.]

Investment Foundations Program Weights / Breakdown

CFA institute says you need to study 100 hours to clear this program. To give proportionate importance to each module, you need to know how the breakdown is being done. Here’s the percentage of weights given to each module.

Claritas Program Weights

Fact Source: CFA Institute

You need to give more importance to Modules 3, 4, 5, and 7. Then there comes Module 2 and finally Module 1 & 6 in order of importance.


You pursue this program for no cost as the CFA Institute offers the program for free through its digital platform, called Learning Ecosystem.

Exam Results & Passing Rates

  • Over the period, the exam’s passing rate has remained above 80%, which indicates that the exam is relatively easy.
  • After you finish your exam, you will get a “pass” or “did not pass” notification on the screen. Within five days after the exam, you will get an official email stating whether you pass or not pass the exam.
  • If you pass the exam, you will get the certificate within 4-6 weeks.
  • If you don’t pass, the institute will offer you information about how you performed in each module to improve in your next attempt.
  • If you don’t pass the exam within the six-month window, you can re-take the exam without re-registration. You can register twice a year since each registration permits you two attempts.

Study Material

The CFA Institute provides the study material for this program. All you need to do is dive in and invest a good amount of time every day to prepare for the exam.

Strategies to Pass

As CFA Institute has mentioned that you need to study 100 hours for the exam, the general tendency is to study for only 100 hours or less to pass the exam. To ensure that you pass the exam on the first attempt, study better and study more from the beginning. Here’s the plan.

  • You will get the study planner along with the study material provided by the CFA Institute. Use it well.
  • You will get 180 days to study for this program. So, each day if you study even one hour, you will be able to study for at least 180 hours.
  • If you want to pass the exam on the first attempt, it’s better to study for a minimum of 200 hours. The first 100 hours should be invested in reading all the chapters. The next 50 hours should be invested in the first revision. And the last 50 hours should be divided into second revision and attempting mock tests.
  • You will crack the Investment Foundations Program very easily if you are a sincere student.

If you are wondering about the differences between the Investment Foundations Program and the CFA examination, you may look at this detailed comparison of the CFA vs. Investment Foundations Program.


We wish you all the luck with your Investment Foundations Program. Remember, it can add tremendous value if you sincerely study and approach the exam with the right preparation. However, from the article above, we can conclude that the Investment Foundations Program is not for everyone. People who want a more in-depth knowledge of investment should go for IMC (Investment Management Certificate) or CFA. But if you are one to support investment roles, this program is the perfect course for you to begin with.

This has been a guide to the CFA Institute Investment Foundations Program. Here we discuss the Nuts & Bolts of this Program, why you should pursue it, its fees, structure, passing strategies, tips, tricks, etc. You may also have a look at the following articles –

Reader Interactions


  1. Giang Nguyen says

    Thank you very much for the article. It is really informative, specific, and helpful.

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      thanks Giang!

  2. Bedabrata Hazarika says

    Hi, What is the minimum qualification required for getting job at JP Morgan as an analyst

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hi Bedabrata,

      There is no such minimum qualification apart from you being a graduate. I have seen JPMorgan hiring engineers, MBA Grads and students from othe rstreams too.