Only two-in-five people working in the investment industry passed the first stage of the most recent Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) examination.
Of the 68,086 candidates who took the Level I exam in December last year, 57% failed to progress to the next level, the CFA Institute reported.
Despite being renowned for its difficulty, the number of Level I registrations grew 14% year-on-year, the majority of which were from Mainland China (19,598), the US (12,126) and India (6,889).
Some 3357 Australians took part in the six-hour long exam.
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To become a qualified CFA, students must pass three exam levels, meet four years of work experience requirements in the investment industry, commit to a code of ethics and become a member of the CFA Institute.
Fewer than one-in-five candidates who begin the program will successfully earn the charter. Successful candidates take an average of four years to complete the program.
"CFA Institute is committed to raising professionalism in the investment management industry, and the CFA Program lays a solid foundation by instilling the highest standards of ethics, education, and professional excellence in candidates worldwide," CFA Institute chief executive Paul Smith said.
Over the last 10 years, the average pass rate for each level is: 40% (Level I), 44% (Level II) and 52% (Level III).
According to the institute, CBA employed the largest group of CFAs (124), followed by NAB (95), Macquarie Group (81) and Westpac (72) and ANZ (49) based on 2017 data.
AMP Limited, Citigroup, UBS, KPMG and PwC rounded the top 10 employers that highly regard CFA qualified candidates.
In terms of job function, portfolio managers (20%), research analysts (19%) and corporate financial analysts (9%) are the most popular for roles CFAs.
The next exam for all three levels is on 23 June 2018.