What is CAIA in your opinion? How tough is it.

Hey Guys

Wishing you all a Happy and A Prosperous New Year in advance.

Guys, I have cleared my CFA L3 this June and was seeking to get further knowledge in alternative investments. I wanted to know how good is this course and does it hold good reputation in the market. Also, if any one would be kind to comment on the levels, their difficult and the format of the exam. This will save my research time.

Thanks guys.


Anyone aware of this?

I’m an accountant by trade and recently completed the CAIA Charter. I work in the Funds industry so for me the knowledge I got from the program was top notch. I did however find it pretty tough, and had to take Level 2 three times but in the end I did very well on it.

For you coming from CFA, I would think you would have no problems passing it. It depends on what area you are working in to determine if it would be relevant, but if you want to learn more about alternative investments in particular Hedge Funds, Private Equity, Real Estate, Commodities, Structured Products and Asset Allocation then go for it, you will not regret it.


Thanks for your efforts to share your experience. Well, actually, I am looking for a career pivot. I am currently employed with a local bank in the credit division. I badly wanna work for the VC/PE industry and I am constantly hustling to build my network. So, in this scenario, do you think CAIA as an addition to my profile is worth the effort.


I think an MBA program from a top 5 target school is better in your situation.

check out: https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/what-do-you-think-about-the-caia

I would say if you want to learn a bit more about PE/VC CAIA is absolutely worth while. Its covered in both levels and the material is very useful.

I’ll just chime in with what I’ve heard from people I work with who have the CFA and went on to CAIA. A lot of things in alternatives are counterintuitive to equities. Basic things like CAPM and certain risk measures and processes don’t apply well to alts. So if you are already working in equities and using CFA concepts on a daily basis, you’ll have to “retrain your brain” a little when studying for CAIA. The advantages are, much of the statistical and quanty stuff in Level 1 plus ethics were already covered in CFA, so you have already studied and passed that stuff and won’t need to spend a ton of time on it with CAIA. Good luck with whatever you choose to do!

I don’t think CAIA will help you with getting PE/VC job unless you want to be a marketer. It’s not a very difficult test vs CFA.

They are trying to make it the CFA for alternative investments, but if so, they really have to up the difficulty and put in a lot more private valuation stuff in my opinion. Make it worth the time. I have it and I don’t think it was worth my time. Just did it cause I had a kid due in May and didn’t want to waste a year off from CFA.

Most people I saw with it were cap intro people or marketers, very few analysts, VPs, etc.

I have to disagree on the difficulty of CAIA, when did you do yours, after or before the curriculum adjustments ? I am not saying that CAIA is better or more difficult than CFA, but it is not easy to do. CFA always seems more difficult because its done by ppl with no experience, and most of CAIA charter holders are experianced professionals, which makes the exam seems “easy”.

For CAIA, the amount of work is less and the pass % is higher than CFA. I did find CAIA challenging and i feel it is becoming harder to pass.

After taking level 1 of the CAIA a few weeks ago and being a CFA charterholder already, I am going to say that the CAIA is harder than people think it is. It was much harder than I thought it would be at least.

Harder than I thought it would be, but way less material relative to the CFA, so perhaps less daunting. I don’t have the data, but would assume based on the folks that I know who have the designation, is that the pass rates are high because many pursuing the designation have already completed the CFA. Perhaps also folks have a lot of work experience, so have applied the knowledge in their careers. Also depends what you do for a living and your previous level of exposure to the content.

If you have limited to no knowledge going into it, I’d say you have a uphill battle. If you work in Alt’s, have a CFA or finance background then put in a decent amount of study time and your likely more than ok.

Just my two cents.


CAIA is purely focused on alts and for this reason it covers far less total material than CFA; therefore both level 1 & 2 CAIA exams are relatively easier to study for than CFA exams 1-3. The pass rates reflect this - the exams are tough but the material is less in quantity, so the pass rates are higher. People are studying for them obviously, they just don’t give out passing grades to anyone and the exams feel difficult when you take them - at least they did to me.

If you passed Level 3 CFA you can probably even skip level 1 of the CAIA exams now, due to their “stackable” program. So you can get with high likelihood the full accreditation in about 200 hours once you get the CFA. The exams are not easy but they are not very quantitative either. Lots of soft information and you get tested on lists and elements rather than using the calculator much. The material covers very useful concepts to understand the workings, strategy and modus operandi of how private equity and hedge funds work. On real estate it is still a bit “soft” in my view, if you knew nothing about real estate going into CAIA you will know slightly more than nothing going out.

Recently it seems like CAIA is positioning itself as a quick add-on accreditation to CFA. You can skip the level 1 exam, CAIA Assoc now says if you have the CFA you are just one exam away from becoming a full blown CAIA Association member. Two months of work if you like, and boom you have an accreditation. I am not sure this was a smart strategic move by the CAIA board. But they decided to do it, so CAIA is now a fast possibility (or afterthought?) for CFAs. For those of us who value our accreditations by how much learning time we invest into getting them, well, it is what it is.

I view the CAIA Association as a very decent and committed group of people who are trying to do the right thing. But they do seem to be in the middle of a strategic blunder with this stackable thing - they should (and could) further enhance their learning program instead of watering it down in my opinion. I think it is pretty consistent from posts on this forum that people are either disappointed or holding their noses politely through CAIA’s big announcement about the stackable program. But who knows, maybe all the fast new CFA members will become value added members of the CAIA community, not just absentee accreditation hunter-gatherers. For folks who study both CFA and CAIA - seriously they do not compare in terms of time investment, and CAIA seems bent on widening the gap at this time. They basically outsource the “hard skills” (in depth financial formulae, econ, accounting, etc.) to the CFA charter and skip them for the most part in CAIA. They also now outsource their entire Level 1 curriculum to CFA like CIPM (a certification not a charter) does. CAIA focuses instead on valuable “soft skills” plus interesting general topical knowledge that becomes increasingly important with the rise of alts in finance generally.

Totally agree. tried a old mock exam which was easy but not anymore. the exam is different now.

also noticed CFA has a lot of oversea students to take (getting a visa is one of the reasons)… this doesn’t apply to CAIA