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How to Become a Financial Analyst

By Emma Philo

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Financial analysts are the number-crunching heroes, fighting the forces of fiscal uncertainty with wit, charm, and a whole lot of Excel magic. Do you want to know how to become a financial analyst? Then dive head-first into our guide and discover the steps on the financial analyst career path.

Career Summary

Financial Analyst Salary

The salary of a financial analyst can vary, with the approximate wage ranges as follows, according to Glassdoor

  • Entry Salary (US$62k)
  • Median Salary (US$76k)
  • Executive Salary (US$110k)

This median salary for financial analysts exceeds the national average income of U.S. citizens, which was approximately $61,900 per year as of 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What does a Financial Analyst do?

Financial analysts play a crucial role in the world of finance, where they are responsible for gathering and analyzing financial data to assess the financial health and performance of companies, industries, and investment opportunities.

They conduct in-depth research, perform financial modeling and valuation analysis, and interpret market trends and economic indicators to provide insightful recommendations.

They also prepare reports, presentations, and forecasts, translating complex financial information into easily understandable insights for stakeholders.

Financial Analyst Career Progression

The financial analyst career progression is a dynamic journey filled with opportunities for growth and advancement. From the early stages of junior analysts to executive leadership, professionals in this field embrace the ever-evolving landscape of finance.

  • Junior Financial Analyst: Assists senior analysts in gathering and analyzing financial data, conducting research, and preparing reports.
  • Financial Analyst: Performs detailed financial analysis, conducts market research, develops financial models, and generates reports. Provides insights and recommendations for investment opportunities, budgeting, and financial planning.
  • Senior Financial Analyst: Takes on more complex analysis tasks, leads projects, and guides junior analysts. Has a crucial role in financial planning, forecasting, and making strategic recommendations.
  • Finance Manager: Oversees financial operations, budgeting, and planning within an organization. Analyzes financial performance, manages financial risks, and collaborates with other departments to support decision-making and strategic initiatives.
  • Director of Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A): Develops financial strategies, sets performance goals, manages budgets, and provides financial insights and guidance to executive management.
  • Vice President of Finance: Responsible for managing the organization’s financial health. Makes high-level financial decisions, and leads finance teams.
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO): Highest-ranking financial executive in an organization. Works closely with the CEO and executive team to drive financial performance and support the company’s long-term goals.
Financial Analyst Career Progression

Pros:

  • Intellectual Stimulation: Financial analysts use continuous learning and critical thinking to analyze complex financial data, market trends, and investment opportunities.
  • Impactful Decision-Making: Their insights and recommendations directly contribute to investment strategies, risk management, and overall business performance.
  • Competitive Compensation: As they gain experience and progress in their careers, financial analysts can enjoy competitive compensation packages, including salaries, bonuses, and benefits.

Cons:

  • Extended Hours: Financial analysts often face demanding work schedules, especially during critical periods such as earnings seasons or when working on complex projects.
  • Stressful Environment: The nature of financial analysis involves dealing with large volumes of data, making critical decisions, and managing financial risks which can lead to stress and pressure.
  • Continuous Learning and Adaptation: The financial industry is ever-evolving, requiring financial analysts to stay updated with market trends, regulations, and new technologies which can be demanding.

Useful Skills to Have as a Financial Analyst

As a financial analyst, having the following skills can greatly enhance your effectiveness and success in the role:

  • Financial Analysis
  • Data Analysis
  • Accounting Knowledge
  • Excel Proficiency
  • Attention to Detail

Popular Financial Analyst Specialties

If you’re already wondering about a specific path, here are some popular financial analyst specialties to get you thinking:

  • Investment Banking
  • Equity Research
  • Risk Analysis
  • Real Estate Analysis
  • Corporate Finance
  • Credit Analysis

How to become a Financial Analyst

Financial Analyst 5 Steps to Career

Becoming a financial analyst requires education, skills, and experience. While the specific path may vary, there are common steps to embark on this career journey. First, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, economics, or a related field provides a solid foundation.

Education

Do I need a degree to become a financial analyst?

In today’s evolving professional landscape, the requirements for becoming a financial analyst have become more flexible and dynamic. While a degree still holds value, alternative paths and a focus on practical skills have gained recognition.

Rather than solely emphasizing a traditional degree, employers increasingly value practical experience, demonstrated skills, and a strong understanding of finance. Here are some factors that reflect the modern approach to becoming a financial analyst:

  • Practical Skills: Employers seek candidates with practical skills relevant to financial analysis, such as data analysis, financial modeling, proficiency in financial software, and strong spreadsheet skills. You can acquire these skills through online courses, certifications, boot camps, or self-study.
  • Certifications: While not mandatory, certifications can significantly enhance your credibility and demonstrate your commitment to the field. Examples include the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Financial Risk Manager (FRM), or Certified Financial Planner (CFP). These certifications often require passing exams and acquiring a certain level of professional experience.
  • Specialized Programs: Several universities and educational institutions offer specialized programs, such as finance boot camps or accelerated courses, focused on providing practical skills and industry-relevant knowledge in a shorter time frame compared to traditional degrees.
  • Networking and Internships: Building a professional network and gaining relevant experience through internships or entry-level positions can be instrumental in launching a career as a financial analyst. Networking events, industry conferences, and online communities can help you connect with professionals in the field.
  • Continuous Learning: The finance industry is constantly evolving, so it’s essential to stay updated on industry trends, regulations, and new financial instruments. Engaging in continuous learning through online resources, industry publications, and professional development programs can demonstrate your commitment to professional growth.

Remember, while a degree may not be an absolute requirement in the modern context, it still holds value and can provide you with a comprehensive understanding of finance. However, combining a degree with practical skills, certifications, relevant experience, and a proactive approach to learning can significantly improve your prospects as a financial analyst in today’s competitive job market.

Why is it important to get a degree in finance?

While a degree is not the sole determinant of success in the finance industry, obtaining a degree in finance offers several benefits and advantages for individuals aspiring to pursue a career in the field.

  • Specialized Knowledge: A finance degree provides you with specialized knowledge and a deep understanding of financial concepts, theories, and practices. You will learn about financial markets, investment analysis, risk management, financial modeling, corporate finance, and financial institutions. This knowledge equips you with a solid foundation to excel in financial roles.
  • Skill Development: Finance programs emphasize the development of critical skills that are highly valued in the industry. You will gain proficiency in financial analysis, financial planning, budgeting, data analysis, financial software usage, and quantitative techniques. These skills are essential for performing financial analysis, making informed decisions, and solving complex financial problems.
  • Career Opportunities: A finance degree significantly broadens your career prospects in the finance industry. It opens doors to various roles such as financial analyst, investment analyst, portfolio manager, risk manager, financial planner, or corporate finance professional. Many employers specifically seek candidates with finance degrees as they demonstrate a strong foundation and knowledge base in the field.
  • Credibility and Employability: A finance degree enhances credibility and employability in the job market. Employers often view candidates with relevant degrees as more qualified and competent in finance-related roles. It can give you a competitive edge over other candidates who need formal finance education, especially when seeking entry-level or higher-level positions.
  • Networking Opportunities: Pursuing a finance degree allows you to connect with professors, industry professionals, and fellow students with similar career interests. Networking within the academic environment can lead to valuable connections, internships, mentorships, and job opportunities. These connections can play a crucial role in advancing your career in finance.
  • Continuing Education: A finance degree serves as a solid foundation for pursuing further professional certifications or advanced degrees. For instance, you may choose to pursue the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, which requires a bachelor’s degree as a prerequisite. A finance degree prepares you for such advanced qualifications and sets you on a path of continuous learning and professional development.

How long does it take to get a degree in finance?

The duration of a degree in finance can vary depending on several factors, including the type of program, academic institution, and whether you pursue it on a full-time or part-time basis. Here are the typical timeframes for obtaining a degree in finance:

  • Bachelor’s Degree: A bachelor’s degree in finance usually takes four years of full-time study to complete. However, it can take longer if you choose to study part-time or if you pursue a double major or minor alongside finance.
  • Master’s Degree: A master’s degree in finance, such as a Master of Science in Finance (MSF) or Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a finance concentration, typically requires one to two years of full-time study. However, some programs offer accelerated options or part-time study.
  • Doctoral Degree: A doctoral degree in finance, such as a Ph.D. in Finance, typically takes four to six years to complete. Doctoral programs involve coursework, research, and the completion of a dissertation.

If you’re considering pursuing a degree in finance, it is recommended to research different universities and programs to understand their specific curriculum, course offerings, and program duration.

How much does it cost to study finance at university?

The cost of studying finance at a university in the United States can vary significantly depending on various factors, including the type of institution (public or private), its location, the specific program, and whether you are an in-state or out-of-state student. Tuition fees also tend to increase each year. It’s important to note that the following figures are general estimates and can change over time. Here is an overview of the approximate costs:

  • Bachelor’s Degree: A Bachelor’s degree in Finance in the United States can cost between $24,000 and $75,000 per year.
  • Master’s Degree: Studying for a Master’s degree in Finance in the United States can cost anything from $19,037 $USD to $77,168 USD per year.
  • Doctoral Degree: Studying a PhD in Finance in the United States can cost between $33,000 USD to $55,000 USD per year.

Make sure to research the specific universities and programs you are interested in and consult their official websites or contact the admissions or financial aid offices to get accurate and up-to-date information about tuition fees and financial assistance opportunities.

Can I become a financial analyst through online education?

Yes, it is possible to become a financial analyst through online education. Online education has gained significant popularity and credibility in recent years, offering flexible and accessible learning options for individuals interested in pursuing a career in finance.

What are some web resources to learn skills to become a financial analyst?

There are several valuable web resources available that can help you develop the skills necessary to become a financial analyst. Websites like Investopedia offer a wealth of educational articles, tutorials, and videos covering various financial topics such as financial analysis, valuation techniques, financial modeling, and investment strategies.

Wall Street Prep provides online courses tailored specifically for aspiring financial analysts, focusing on financial modeling and valuation. Corporate Finance Institute (CFI) offers a range of online courses and resources that cover financial statement analysis, financial modeling, valuation methods, and Excel skills.

Platforms like Udemy and Coursera host a variety of finance courses taught by industry professionals and top universities. Additionally, YouTube features educational channels that provide tutorials and explanations on financial analysis concepts and techniques.

By combining these web resources with practical applications through case studies, virtual trading platforms, or real-world experience, you can enhance your skills and knowledge to embark on a successful career as a financial analyst.

Practical Experience

What are internship opportunities for a financial analyst?

Internship opportunities for financial analysts can vary depending on the industry, company size, and location. Here are some common internship opportunities available for aspiring financial analysts:

  • Investment Banks: Major investment banks often offer summer internships or co-op programs where interns work closely with analysts and gain exposure to various areas such as investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, equity research, and financial modeling.
  • Asset Management Firms: Asset management firms provide internships that involve assisting portfolio managers, researching investment opportunities, analyzing financial data, and learning about portfolio construction and risk management.
  • Financial Services Companies: Internships in financial services companies such as insurance companies, commercial banks, or credit rating agencies can offer exposure to financial analysis roles specific to the industry, such as credit analysis, risk assessment, or insurance underwriting.
  • Corporate Finance: Internships in corporate finance departments of companies allow interns to gain hands-on experience in financial analysis, financial planning and budgeting, forecasting, and supporting decision-making processes.
  • Consulting Firms: Some consulting firms offer internships that involve financial analysis as part of their advisory services. Interns work on projects related to financial modeling, market research, valuation, and strategic planning.
  • Government Agencies: Interning at government agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the Federal Reserve, can offer insights into financial regulation, policy analysis, and economic research.

Many companies have formal internship programs, while others may offer internships on an ad hoc basis. Networking, attending career fairs, and utilizing online job portals are effective ways to find and apply for internship opportunities as a financial analyst.

What skills will I learn as a financial analyst?

As a financial analyst, you will develop a range of skills that are essential for performing financial analysis and making informed decisions. Here are some key skills you can expect to learn and enhance in your role as a financial analyst:

  • Financial Analysis: Financial analysts develop expertise in analyzing financial statements, assessing financial performance, and identifying trends and patterns. You will learn how to interpret financial data, evaluate profitability, assess liquidity and solvency, and conduct ratio analysis.
  • Financial Modeling: Financial analysts utilize financial modeling techniques to forecast future performance, perform scenario analysis, and support decision-making. You will learn how to create and manipulate financial models using spreadsheet software, incorporating assumptions and variables to project financial outcomes.
  • Data Analysis: Strong data analysis skills are crucial for financial analysts. You will learn how to gather and analyze relevant financial and economic data, perform statistical analysis, and draw meaningful insights. Proficiency in tools like Excel or specialized data analysis software is often required.
  • Valuation Techniques: Financial analysts learn various valuation methods to assess the worth of investments, companies, or financial instruments. You will gain knowledge of techniques such as discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis, comparable company analysis, and relative valuation to determine the intrinsic value of assets.
  • Investment Analysis: Understanding investment opportunities is an important aspect of financial analysis. You will learn how to evaluate investment options, conduct research on industries and companies, assess risk and return profiles, and make recommendations based on your analysis.
  • Risk Management: Financial analysts play a vital role in identifying and managing risks associated with investments and financial decisions. You will learn techniques to evaluate and quantify risk, perform sensitivity analysis, and develop risk mitigation strategies.
  • Industry and Market Knowledge: Financial analysts develop a deep understanding of the industries and markets they operate in. You will learn about market trends, economic factors, regulatory frameworks, and industry-specific dynamics that impact financial performance.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a financial analyst?

The work-life balance of a financial analyst can vary depending on factors such as the industry, company culture, workload, and individual preferences. Here are some advantages regarding work-life balance for financial analysts:

  • Working Regular Hours
  • Structured Environment
  • Flexibility in Terms of Work Arrangements
  • Career Stability
  • Predictable Workload Cycles
  • Transferable Skills

What’s the Career Outlook for Financial Analyst?

The career outlook for financial analysts in the United States is promising. The employment of financial analysts in the country is projected to grow 9% from 2021 to 2031, which is faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is driven by the increasing complexity of financial markets and the growing need for professionals with expertise in investment decision-making and risk management.

As the financial services industry expands and global markets become more interconnected, financial analysts play a vital role in analyzing investment opportunities, providing financial guidance, and ensuring regulatory compliance.

Additionally, advancements in technology and data analytics are reshaping the industry, creating new opportunities for financial analysts who can leverage these tools to analyze complex financial data.

Overall, the demand for skilled financial analysts is expected to remain strong, making it an attractive career path for individuals interested in finance and analysis.

Financial Analyst Popular Career Specialties

What Type of Companies Hire a Financial Analyst?

Financial analysts are sought after by a wide range of companies across industries. Investment banks, asset management firms, and consulting firms rely on their expertise to provide analysis, recommendations, and strategic insights.

Corporations, insurance companies, hedge funds, private equity firms, and technology companies also hire financial analysts to support financial planning, risk assessment, and decision-making processes.

The diverse demand for financial analysts across sectors highlights the importance of their skills in navigating complex financial landscapes and driving informed business decisions.

What are the Job Opportunities of a Financial Analyst?

Financial analysts have a wide range of job opportunities available to them across various industries and sectors. In investment banking, financial analysts play a crucial role in conducting market analysis, financial modeling, and providing recommendations for mergers and acquisitions, as well as IPOs and other investment opportunities.

Equity research departments of investment banks or independent research firms also provide job opportunities for financial analysts. Here, analysts analyze companies and industries, create financial models, publish research reports, and provide recommendations on stock investments.

In corporate finance, financial analysts are employed by corporations to manage financial planning, budgeting, and forecasting. They analyze financial data, evaluate investment opportunities, and support strategic financial decision-making within the organization.

Financial analysts can also work in consulting firms, offering financial analysis, strategic advice, and data-driven insights to clients across various industries. They may be involved in market research, financial modeling, risk assessment, and performance improvement initiatives.

Other job opportunities for financial analysts include roles in insurance companies, government and regulatory agencies, nonprofit organizations, and entrepreneurship/startups.

Should I become a Financial Analyst?

If you are proactive, love to solve financial puzzles, and have strong analytical skills, then becoming a financial analyst may be the next step for you in your career. Though having a degree in finance is not mandatory, it is highly advised to provide internship opportunities, develop your skills and give you credibility in the field.

Finance is an industry that will continue to grow over the next few years, therefore providing career stability. There are different types of financial analysts, allowing you to choose a role that really showcases and fits your skills. You can work for banks and consulting firms, but also for insurance and sector-specific companies.

Need help with your next interview? Check out our interview prep to help you ace the recruitment process!

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Emma Philo

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