How to Become a Financial Analyst

Think you’d enjoy a job working with numbers? Find out what it takes to become a financial analyst.

Illustration showing man looking at financial graphs and a calculator

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Do you love crunching numbers and staring at balance sheets all day long? If so, the role of a financial analyst is perfect for you, as you can take this dedication and joy and determine the performance of a stock or how an investment fund is put together.

When more people than ever before are buying exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and more businesses are going public, the position of a financial analyst has become more critical than ever before. 

So, whether you are searching for a career or you are thinking about changing jobs, this guide will help you determine how to become a financial analyst and if the work you are responsible for is right for you and your overall human capital.

What financial analysts do 

Financial analysts will examine the performance of a broad array of investment vehicles, such as stocks and mutual funds, requiring a knack for attention to minor details. Financial analysts, employed by banks or pension funds, will then help businesses and individuals in choosing what investment strategy to employ to ensure their money is working for them. 

So, what are some of the day-to-day responsibilities of this job, anyway? Let's find out! 

  • Analyze financial data and create models for decision-making purposes 
  • Complete market research and data mining
  • Prepare confidential financial information
  • Conduct financial forecasting
  • Assess financial performance by comparing and analyzing results
  • Offer forecasts, trends and models to clients, businesses, investors and business media
  • Manage information with Microsoft Excel
  • Recommend solutions through analysis and data interpretation
  • Present investment ideas in written reports or oral meetings
  • Cooperate with other departments in your company, especially the accounting department

Here is a look at some common jobs related to financial analysis.

  • Investment bank analyst: Evaluate and research investment opportunities in specific markets that reflect the objectives of the company's corporate clients.
  • Corporate development analyst: Comb through a treasure trove of information, such as reading business information, performing data interpretation and assessing risk management. You will also put forward business practices to help improve a business.
  • Treasury analyst: Develop or help with operations pertaining to treasury reporting, like producing or enhancing reporting procedures and processes.
  • Equity research analyst: Analyze stocks and other equities and give this information to portfolio managers to make better investment decisions.
  • Financial planning and analysis (FP&A) analyst: Put together a financial plan to accomplish management's overall strategic plan, which generally consists of forecasting, performance reporting, budgeting and completing basic and advanced quantitative analysis.
  • Rating analyst: Assess companies or governments' abilities to pay their debts and make interest payments. In the end, your job is to rate the risk of a company or government not being able to repay its bond.

What the job is like 

Is the job stressful? Do financial analysts spend a lot of time at the office and then answer plenty of emails at home? Is the pay excellent? Let's find out what the position is like. 

Work environment 

Financial analysts typically perform their duties at the office. However, in today's remote landscape, more financial analysts are working full time from home. The position will generally include meeting people, talking on the telephone, staring at a computer screen and reading documents. It can be a strain on the eyes and your body since you are sitting down for long periods of time and face tremendous stress trying to finish deadlines. 

Work hours 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial analysts work between 50 and 70 hours per week. Suffice it to say, overtime work is essentially the norm in this job as you work business hours and then in the evening and weekends. 

Job satisfaction 

Will you be happy with your career path 10, 20 or 30 years from now? While it is challenging to find official data on the subject, informal reports suggest that financial analysts, on the whole, are satisfied with their job situation. According to a U.S. News Money report, financial analysts possess high job satisfaction, scoring 6 out of 10. 

Job market 

What do the job prospects look like in this economy? Is it easy to find a job or challenging? What can you expect in compensation? The supply of financial analysts is immense, but is the availability of jobs a concern for the position? Indeed, there is a lot to know and unpack relating to this employment opportunity, from earnings to the number of jobs. 

The latest BLS figures show that the number of jobs in the labor market is upward of 490,000 in the United States. The job outlook from 2020 to 2030 is around 6%.

It is estimated that approximately 41,000 openings for financial analysts occur, on average, every year over the last decade. 

These were the biggest employers with financial analysts are on staff:

  • Securities and financial investments: 18%
  • Credit intermediation: 14%
  • Professional, scientific and technical services: 11%
  • Management of companies and enterprises: 11%
  • Insurance carriers: 7%

Because it is a competitive field for people leaving school and veterans with years of experience, applicants will need to think outside the box, gather the necessary credentials that could provide you with a competitive edge, and be tactical in your job search. 

The BLS also makes a crucial point about big data, writing:

‘Demand also is projected to increase as big data and technological improvements allow financial analysts to conduct high-quality analysis. This analysis will help businesses manage their finances, identify investment trends, and deliver new products or services to clients.’

Salary 

No matter how much you love finding out how much a corporation is generating in revenues, it is important to learn how much your salary will be as a financial analyst. 

This is an overview of potential earnings for financial analysts by the level of work experience and geographic location, based on statistics compiled by the BLS.

Median wage

Median annual wage

Median hourly wage

$96,630

$46.46

Median wage by experience

Here is a look at the potential median wage for financial analysts by work experience:

Experience

Mean annual wages

Entry-level

$48,760

Junior level

$63,670

Mid-level

$83,660

Senior level

$112,460

Top-level

$159,560

Median wage by state

Here is a look at the potential median wage for financial analysis by US location:

State

Mean annual wage

New York

$130,670

District of Columbia

$109,070

Massachusetts

$105,680

Connecticut

$105,020

New Jersey

$101,780

Median wage around the world

Here is a look at the potential median wage for financial analysts around the world:

Country

Mean annual wage

Australia

AU$76,490 ($54,760)

Canada

C$59,680 ($47,280)

Ireland

€37,770 ($42,620)

New Zealand

NZ$66,010 ($44,120)

UK

£33,980 ($45,910)

Steps to become a financial analyst

What do you need to do to become a financial analyst in this global economy and ultra-competitive labor market? It all comes down to your education, work ethic, skills and enthusiasm to learn from your mistakes and always grow.

1. Determine if it's the right job for you

Is financial analysis the right career for you? This is an imperative question to ask since this is a job that you will be doing for the rest of your working life. In today's economy, there is a plethora of employment opportunities in all kinds of sectors, fields and industries, so you need to balance what you want to do with something that is best for your pocketbook.

Perhaps you can find out if it is right for you by understanding the professional skills and characteristics you will most likely need to survive and thrive.

2. Focus on the right subjects at school

If you are still in high school, and you are considering what course you should enroll in to get accepted into college or university to become a financial analyst, these subjects are of the utmost importance:

  • Business: You can learn about everything related to starting and running a business and what internal external factors can affect a company.
  • Computer science: This is relevant since you want to learn about specific applications that can allow you to excel in your field.
  • Economics: From the micro to the macro, economics is a crucial science to study when you want to do anything in finance. 
  • English: Since you will be engaged in a lot of communication, be it verbal or written, you want to have impeccable spelling and grammar. Plus, when you are doing writing in this career, you want to be a little bit creative to avoid boring your readers.
  • Mathematics: And, yes, mathematics is another important topic because you will need to run calculations, produce statistics and work with an abundance of percentages and decimal points.

3. Complete a bachelor's degree

Let's be honest, earning a bachelor's degree is the most critical step you can make when preparing to become a financial analyst. It is a requirement for most job applications, particularly since you will study economics, statistics, accounting and a diverse array of other subjects relevant to financial analysis.

Depending on the school of your choosing, you could try to earn a bachelor's degree that is more targeted.

4. Get licensed

While it is true that most employers will consider candidates who are unlicensed, it is better for your career to make sure that you garner the proper licensing to advance in your career. This starts by attaining the necessary licensing from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) as it mandates firms in its purview to register and comply with its regulations.

5. Earn a professional certification

The finance industry has provided a wealth of professional certification standards for financial analysts and a wide range of other experts in this area. But what type of professional certification exactly should you even be looking for, anyway?

Here is a list of some of the more popular options:

  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
  • Certified International Investment Analyst (CIIA)
  • Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA)
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Financial Risk Manager (FRM)
  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)

6. Get a master's degree

In today's higher-education system, credential inflation is real, meaning that a college degree is as essential as a high school diploma. This also means that something like a master's degree acts like a bachelor's degree from several years ago. While it is not a prerequisite to flourishing as a financial analyst, it is something that can give you a distinct advantage over your competitors.

Final thoughts

The job of a financial analyst is critical in this economy, whether it is the growing number of special purpose acquisition companies forming or young investors who became rich by purchasing Ethereum and AMC stock. It is a worthwhile field to get into and there is plenty of upward mobility in the overall finance industry, even with no experience. That is if you are interested and possess the knowledge and ethic to grow. Get the education, license, and professional certification and the world is your oyster.

Join the discussion! Does the idea of being a financial analyst appeal to you? Is there anything else that you think is a crucial skill to become an analyst? Let us know in the comments!