Financial Analyst: Career Path and Qualifications

Financial analysts prepare financial plans, projections, and analytical reports for use in investment decisions by companies, public and private organizations, and individuals. Depending on the type of analyst’s job, duties can vary considerably.

Some financial analysts analyze stocks, bonds, and other securities of banks, brokerages, money management firms, and other organizations in the securities industry. These financial analysts typically specialize in a narrow category of stocks or bonds, such as Canadian corporate bonds or technology stocks, for example.

Other financial analysts work for large corporations, analyzing internal financial data and preparing financial plans, revenue expenditure estimates, and recommendations to inform company executives’ budgeting and investment decisions. do Nonprofit organizations and government agencies also employ financial analysts in this type of work.

Key Takeaways

A financial analyst collects data to help companies make business decisions or help investors take action, such as buying or selling stocks or other securities.
They weigh macroeconomic and microeconomic issues, and company fundamentals, to make predictions about firms, sectors, and industries.
A bachelor’s degree in something related to math or finance is awarded and moving up to the senior level means getting a certification and/or an MBA.
A recent college graduate can expect to start at a junior level, under the supervision of a more senior analyst.
A few years of experience, several key certifications, and an MBA from a prestigious university can lead to a senior role.

Career paths

A recent bachelor’s degree graduate seeking to become a financial analyst can expect to begin work in a junior position under the guidance of a senior analyst. After several years of experience, many junior financial analysts consider returning to graduate school for advanced degrees.

Although junior analysts are not barred from promotion, continued advancement to positions with greater responsibility usually requires a return to school. A graduate with a master’s degree can expect to begin work as a senior financial analyst or move into a position very quickly.

An advanced financial analyst position typically requires an MBA degree or a master’s degree in finance with an appropriate subject concentration.

With more experience and expertise, a senior financial analyst may continue to work in a supervisory position. A senior analyst in the securities industry often progresses to become a portfolio manager or fund manager overseeing a team of senior analysts.

There may also be an opportunity to step into a senior management role. In the corporate world, senior analysts may become treasury managers overseeing working groups within their departments. A standout performer may rise through the ranks to become chief financial officer (CFO) or chief investment officer (CIO) responsible for all of the company’s financial activities.

Education requirements

Although a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for an entry-level financial analyst position, data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that a bachelor’s degree is generally required for permanent and senior positions in the field. Master’s degree is preferred.


Median annual earnings for financial analysts of all experience levels, according to May 2020 data (latest available) from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

A range of undergraduate subjects are commonly accepted by employers, including business fields such as finance, accounting and economics. Because of the importance of advanced quantitative skills in this field, bachelor’s degrees in statistics, mathematics, engineering, and physics are not uncommon among financial analysts. However, applicants with these degrees may benefit from business coursework, particularly in accounting and finance.

Other qualifications and skills

Some financial analysts must obtain an appropriate license from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which is responsible for writing and enforcing rules for securities firms and brokers operating in the United States.

Licensing usually requires sponsorship from the employing firm, so most financial analysts obtain a license after starting a job. However, long-term employment may depend on successful licensure.

Many employers expect financial analysts to obtain certification in the field. The leading certification in the field is the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation awarded by the CFA Institute.

It is available to financial analysts with at least three years of qualifying work experience. As such, it is generally considered a qualification for promotion to more senior financial analyst positions. Qualifying for the position also requires a bachelor’s degree and passing scores on a series of three exams administered by the CFA Institute.

Hiring of financial analysts is expected to grow by 6% between 2020 and 2030, which is roughly faster than the average for all occupations.

Financial analysts are often expected to present and explain their work to clients and superiors, so strong communication and presentation skills are critical. Analytical and critical thinking skills are essential to evaluate alternatives and settle on a final recommendation.

In addition to knowledge of statistics, mathematics and finance, experience using software tools associated with these subjects is valuable. While it’s not uncommon for employers to use highly specialized technology and proprietary tools that aren’t available outside the firm, learning and relying on complex quantitative software provides skills that complement other systems well. They translate.

What are the key skills a financial analyst needs?

Key skills a financial analyst needs include critical thinking, analytical skills, presentation skills, understanding of financial and economic terminology, financial modeling skills, understanding of financial regulations, and being personable.

How do you pursue a career as a financial analyst?

A bachelor’s degree is required to pursue a career as a financial analyst. A degree in finance, economics, business management, statistics, or related fields is advantageous but not required. An internship during the college years will help secure a full-time financial analyst position. After a few years of experience, further education may be required, such as an MBA or CFA qualification.

Are Financial Analysts Rich?

Generally, financial analysts are well paid which can make them rich. The median salary for a financial analyst in 2020 (latest data available) was $83,660. Depending on the job, firm, location, and years of experience, the salary can be very high and tends to increase over time.

The bottom line

A job as a financial analyst can be both demanding and lucrative. From working in investment banks to working in non-profit organizations, financial analysts can choose many career paths.

The majority of financial analysts will need a bachelor’s degree with on-the-job training to learn the intricacies of the job and industry. Depending on the specific path an individual chooses, additional requirements may be required, such as a securities license or other degrees.

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