Becoming a Financial Analyst: Job Description & Salary

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Financial analysts' median annual salary is about $79,000. Is it worth the educational requirements? See real job descriptions, career prospects and more salary information to find out if becoming a financial analyst is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Financial Analyst

Financial analysts work for banks and other firms and help them make sound investment decisions. Weigh some of the benefits and disadvantages of becoming a financial analyst before making your career decisions.

Pros of Being a Financial Analyst
High median salary (nearly $79,000 as of May 2014)*
Favorable expected employment growth (16% from 2012-2022)*
Opportunities for advancement*
Can work in a variety of industries*

Cons of Being a Financial Analyst
Competition for jobs*
Licensure required for many jobs*
Some employers require a master's degree*
May work long hours*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

A financial analyst assesses the economic performance of corporations in order to help them make investment decisions. These investment professionals work for banks, insurance companies and securities firms as well as pension and mutual funds. In this profession, you'll gather necessary financial information, analyze it and make the appropriate investment recommendations to your corporate clients. You will read your company's financial statements and study commodity prices, expenses and tax rates in order to determine future earning potential. You can generally expect to work long hours in this profession; in fact, the BLS reports that nearly 33% of financial analysts work 50-70 hours per week.

As a financial analyst, you may work as either a buy-side analyst, who creates investment strategies for businesses that want to invest money, or as a sell-side analyst, who give advice to companies or people who want to sell securities. You might also specialize in a particular facet of the field, like portfolio management, fund management, ratings analysis or risk analysis.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS states that financial analyst employment was expected to grow 16% from 2012-2022. This may be because investments and financial assets are becoming increasingly complex, and so companies need more financial analysts to advise on investment strategies. However, there will still be considerable competition for jobs, since many people are drawn to this high-paying field. The BLS also reported that the median annual wage for these workers was about $79,000 as of May 2014. The lowest-paid workers earned about $48,000 or less, while the highest-paid workers made about $155,000 or more.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and Licensure

If you're planning to become a financial analyst, you need to have a bachelor's degree in business administration, finance, accounting or another related field; however, some employers require applicants to hold graduate degrees. You should also have knowledge of statistics, economics, business, accounting and budgeting. You may also have to know advanced topics in financial analysis, options pricing and risk management.

Additionally, you may have to receive licensure from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), depending on where you work. In these cases, you'll obtain licensing sponsorship from your employer and obtain licensure after being hired.

Useful Skills

Along with education, research skills, technical aptitude and self motivation are important for a career in financial analysis. Other characteristics you'll need include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Excellent analytical skills
  • Able to work under pressure
  • Strong math skills
  • Good communication skills

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers often look for applicants who have several years of experience in finance as well as industry-specific experience, and many prefer applicants with advanced degrees. Additionally, most employers required applicants to be proficient in spreadsheet programs like Microsoft Excel. Here are a few samples of real job postings available in March 2012:

  • An engineering, construction and technical services company in Virginia seeks a financial analyst with a bachelor's degree in business or finance and at least three years of financial-management-related experience. The ideal applicant would have experience in CostPoint, Microsoft Excel, DOD acquisitions and the life cycle support contracting process.
  • A finance company in Michigan requests the help of a senior financial analyst with three years of experience who could also work with budgets. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or MBA holder was preferred. The employer also preferred applicants who had knowledge of Cognos and Oracle financials.
  • A healthcare organization in Illinois was seeking a financial analyst who could determine pricing for medical services. The employer preferred an applicant with a master's degree and 6-10 years of experience in financial services.
  • An IT/consulting company located in Virginia needed a financial analyst who had a high school diploma or the equivalent, but they preferred an applicant with a bachelor's degree.
  • An automotive company advertised for a financial analyst to work with IT managers in developing capital and expense budgets. The employer preferred applicants with an MBA as well as prior experience with SAP software and the automobile industry.

How to Stand Out

Earn Advanced Education

While a bachelor's degree is the minimum qualification, many employers favor financial analysts who hold master's degrees in a field related to finance or a Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in financial analysis. In fact, a graduate degree is often required for promotion to advanced careers, such as in portfolio or fund management.

Get Certified

Employers often encourage certification among financial analysts. The CFA Institute offers the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation to qualified candidates. To be eligible, you must have four years of experience in investments and become a CFA institute member. You'll then have to complete a study program that is divided into three sections, each of which culminates in an exam.

Alternative Career Paths

Actuary

If being a financial analyst doesn't interest you, consider becoming an actuary. Actuaries focus on the risks involved with business, like loss of property, disabilities and injuries. They also help businesses decide which investments may provide the best returns. Actuaries usually have bachelor's degrees related to math or statistics and professional certification. The BLS states that these workers made a median salary of about $91,000 as of May 2011. Jobs for actuaries were expected to grow by 27% from 2010-2020, a faster-than-average rate, though the BLS says that competition for jobs will be intense.

Accountant or Auditor

Accountants and auditors maintain public financial records and taxes for companies and organizations. They can work in fields like government accounting, management accounting, public accounting and internal auditing. These workers need to have bachelor's degrees, but some employers require a master's degree. Accountants who deal with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) must become Certified Public Accountants. The BLS reports that accountants and auditors earned a median salary of about $63,000 as of May 2011, and employment in of these professionals was expected to grow 16% from 2010-2020.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Finance
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
      • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Finance - Financial Analysis
      • MS in Finance
      • MS in Finance - Financial Planning
      • MBA: Finance
      • Master - Accounting
      • MS in Accounting- Tax Specialization
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Finance - Accelerated MS in Finance Option
      • BS in Finance
      • BS in Finance - General Finance
      • BSBA in Financial Analysis
      • BS in Finance - Investments
      • Bachelor: Accounting
    Associate's
      • Associate: Accounting
      • Associate: Business Admin.
      • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt
    Certificate
      • Executive Leader Graduate Certificate
  • Campus and Online Programs
    3. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. - Internet Marketing
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Music Business
  • Online Programs Available
    4. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Accounting
      • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business
      • Master of Business Administration: Taxation
      • Master of Science in Taxation
      • Master of Business Administration: Risk Management & Insurance
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Business Admin - Financial Management
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Financial Management
      • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Advanced Accounting
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Management
    Master's
      • MBA - Financial Management
      • Master of Business Admin - General Business
      • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
      • MS - Accounting
      • MBA - Management
      • MBA - International Business
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Finance and Investing
      • Master of Arts in Law - Business
      • Master of Arts in Law - Wealth Management/Financial Planning
      • Master of Business Administration - Accounting
      • Master of Business Administration
      • Master of Business Administration - Kindom Business
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Accounting
      • Bachelor of Science in Business
      • Bachelor of Science in Business - Accounting
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Business
      • Bachelor of Arts in English - Government
      • Bachelor of Arts in Government
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Government Analytics
  • Online Programs Available
    9. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Finance
      • Master of Business Administration
      • Master of Business Administration - Custom/General
      • Master of Business Administration - Multiple Concentrations
      • Master of Business Administration - Strategic Leadership
  • Campus Locations:
    10. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate's - Business Admin
    Certificate
      • Diploma Program - Business Administration

Featured Schools

Georgetown University

  • Master of Science in Finance
  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate

What is your highest level of education completed?

Kaplan University

  • MS in Finance - Financial Analysis
  • BS in Finance - Accelerated MS in Finance Option
  • Associate: Accounting
  • Executive Leader Graduate Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

Full Sail University

  • M.S. - Internet Marketing
  • M.S. - Entertainment Business
  • B.S. - Music Business

What is your highest level of education?

George Mason University

  • Master of Business Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Saint John's University

  • Master of Science in Accounting
  • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business
  • Master of Business Administration: Taxation

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Business Admin - Financial Management
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Financial Management
  • MBA - Financial Management
  • Master of Business Admin - General Business

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Master of Business Administration - Finance and Investing
  • Master of Arts in Law - Business
  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting
  • Bachelor of Science in Business

What is your highest level of education completed?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Science in Government Analytics

What is your highest level of education?