A record 139,900 candidates have enrolled to take the chartered financial analyst exam this month, an increase of 9% from last year as applicants seek a hiring edge in the recovering financial services industry.

The number of registrations rose 12% in Asia, 9% in Europe and 5% in the U.S., the CFA Institute, in Charlottesville, Va., said Wednesday in a statement.

The first level of the exam is in December and June; the final two levels are administered only in June.

Fewer than half the applicants at each level passed last June.

Candidates hope the certification can lead to better jobs and higher salaries.

Financial companies worldwide have cut more than 346,000 workers since 2007.

Yet U.S. banks posted their highest profits in two years in the first quarter, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said last month.

Candidates from 160 countries are scheduled for the three levels of the exam.

The U.S. had the most registrations with 38,200, up 3% from a year earlier.

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