What does a financial analyst do?
A financial analyst examines a public or private institution’s financial data, as well as current economic trends. The analyst then uses that information to draw conclusions and make recommendations to help make business decisions.
What skills do you need to become a financial analyst?
If you’re planning to become a financial analyst, you’ll need strong analytical and communication skills, as you balance doing calculations with explaining said calculations to various stakeholders. In addition to communicating your analyses and suggestions, you’ll need to be able to negotiate and persuade. People won’t always agree with you, but as the expert, it’s your job to convince them otherwise. And since you’re dealing with money all day, you should be able to work under pressure, taking stress and sudden change in stride—while being empathetic during trying times.
What experience and/or certifications do you need to be a financial analyst?
The vast majority of financial analyst jobs require a bachelor’s degree from a four-year institution, and a master’s is even better. Financial analysts graduate with a variety of majors, but degrees in finance, business administration, economics, accounting, or statistics are most popular. Before applying to a financial analyst role, you’ll want to hone your software savvy, with a focus on statistical analysis software, such as SAS, QlikView, Tableau, and MATLAB. Excel will be crucial to your work as well, as you’ll be building plenty of financial models. As a finance expert, you should understand the ins and outs of forecasting, budgeting, valuation, investments, and cost-benefit analysis. You should also stay up-to-date on the latest market news.
More than 75 percent of analysts have done one or more internships before applying to a full-time analyst role. If you’re working in the securities industries, you’ll likely need to get your license from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a private regulatory corporation. FINRA offers several specific licenses, as well as three general ones. The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) also offers securities licensing. Your employer will tell you which license(s) you need; you don’t have to be licensed prior to applying to a certain role. Instead, a licensing program will be included as part of your training.
Many financial analysts aspire to certification. They enroll in the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Program, a challenging post-graduate program that requires three exams, work experience, and reference letters. Each exam requires approximately 300 hours of preparation time (according to the CFA), and most people take 2–5 years to complete the entire process. Being a CFA is certainly impressive, but it’s a lot of work, too.
What companies and industries employ financial analysts?
Financial analysts are most likely to be employed with banks, insurance companies, and real estate brokerages. Other industries that employ financial analysts include information technology services and banking. Financial analysts can find jobs in major US cities, including New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, and Philadelphia.
What is the job outlook and salary for financial analyst roles?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that financial analyst employment will grow by 6% over the next decade. The average financial analyst makes a median annual wage of $85,660.