Financial Analyst

What is this job like?

Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions. They assess the performance of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments.

Financial analysts work primarily in offices, but travel frequently to visit companies or clients.

Many financial analysts work at large financial institutions based in New York City or other major financial centers.

How do you get ready?

Financial analysts typically must have a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree is often required for advanced positions.

Math, computer, and problem-solving skills are vital. Working with clients requires good people skills. Confidence, maturity, and the ability to work on your own are important, too. Analysts also need good communication skills to explain complex financial ideas using simple words.

Financial analysts must be able to look for obscure facts and details about companies. To get ready for these jobs, it helps to learn how to make presentations and write reports. It also helps to read about business news.

How much does this job pay?

The median annual wage for financial analysts was $78,620 in May 2014.

How many jobs are there?

Financial analysts held about 277,600 jobs in 2014.

What about the future?

Employment of financial analysts is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.

A growing range of financial products and the need for in-depth knowledge of geographic regions are expected to lead to strong employment growth.

Some information on this page has been provided by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

More details ⇣: 

Overview:

Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions. They assess the performance of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments.

Financial analysts typically do the following:

  • Recommend individual investments and collections of investments, which are known as portfolios
  • Evaluate current and historical financial data
  • Study economic and business trends
  • Examine a company’s financial statements to determine its value
  • Meet with company officials to gain better insight into the company’s prospects
  • Assess the strength of the management team
  • Prepare written reports

Financial analysts evaluate investment opportunities. They work in banks, pension funds, mutual funds, securities firms, insurance companies, and other businesses. Financial analysts are also called securities analysts and investment analysts.

Financial analysts can be divided into two categories: buy-side analysts and sell-side analysts:

  • Buy-side analysts develop investment strategies for companies that have a lot of money to invest. These companies, called institutional investors, include mutual funds, hedge funds, insurance companies, independent money managers, and nonprofit organizations with large endowments, such as some universities.
  • Sell-side analysts advise financial services sales agents who sell stocks, bonds, and other investments.

Some analysts work for the business media or other research houses, which are independent from the buy and sell side.

Financial analysts generally focus on trends affecting a specific industry, geographical region, or type of product. For example, an analyst may focus on a subject area such as the energy industry, a world region such as Eastern Europe, or the foreign exchange market. They must understand how new regulations, policies, and political and economic trends may affect investments.

Investing is becoming more global, and some financial analysts specialize in a particular country or region. Companies want those financial analysts to understand the language, culture, business environment, and political conditions in the country or region that they cover.

The following are examples of types of financial analysts:

Portfolio managers select the mix of products, industries, and regions for their company’s investment portfolio. These managers are responsible for the overall performance of the portfolio. They are also expected to explain investment decisions and strategies in meetings with stakeholders.

Fund managers work exclusively with hedge funds or mutual funds. Both fund and portfolio managers frequently make buy or sell decisions in reaction to quickly changing market conditions.

Ratings analysts evaluate the ability of companies or governments to pay their debts, including bonds. On the basis of their evaluation, a management team rates the risk of a company or government not being able to repay its bonds.

Risk analysts evaluate the risk in investment decisions and determine how to manage unpredictability and limit potential losses. This job is carried out by making investment decisions such as selecting dissimilar stocks or having a combination of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds in a portfolio.

Work Environment:

Financial analysts held about 277,600 jobs in 2014.

Financial analysts work primarily in offices, but travel frequently to visit companies or clients.

Many financial analysts work at large financial institutions based in New York City or other major financial centers.

Most financial analysts work full-time, and about 1 in 3 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2014. Much of their research must be done after office hours because their days are filled with telephone calls and meetings.

Education and Training:

Financial analysts typically must have a bachelor’s degree. For advanced positions, employers often require a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) or a master’s degree in finance.

A number of fields of study provide appropriate preparation, including accounting, economics, finance, statistics, and mathematics.  Knowledge of options pricing, bond valuation, and risk management are important.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is the main licensing organization for the securities industry. It requires licenses for many financial analyst positions. Most of the licenses require sponsorship by an employer, so companies do not expect individuals to have these licenses before starting a job.

Certification is often recommended by employers and can improve the chances for advancement. An example is the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification from the CFA Institute. Financial analysts can become CFA certified if they have a bachelor’s degree, 4 years of qualified work experience, and pass three exams. Financial analysts can also become certified in their field of specialty.

Financial analysts typically start by specializing in a specific investment field. As they gain experience, they can become portfolio managers, who select the mix of investments for a company’s portfolio. They can also become fund managers, who manage large investment portfolios for individual investors. A master’s degree in finance or business administration can improve an analyst’s chances of advancing to one of these positions.

Skills to Develop:

Analytical skills: Financial analysts must process a range of information in finding profitable investments.

Communication skills: Financial analysts must explain their recommendations to clients in clear language that clients can easily understand.

Computer skills: Financial analysts must be adept at using software packages to analyze financial data, see trends, create portfolios, and make forecasts.

Decisionmaking skills: Financial analysts must provide a recommendation to buy, hold, or sell a security.

Detail-oriented: Financial analysts must pay attention to details when reviewing possible investments, as small issues may have large implications for the health of an investment.

Math skills. Financial analysts use mathematical skills when estimating the value of financial securities. 

To be successful, financial analysts must be motivated to seek out obscure information that may be important to the investment. Many work independently and must have self-confidence in their judgment.

Job Outlook:

Employment of financial analysts is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. A growing range of financial products and the need for in-depth knowledge of geographic regions are expected to lead to strong employment growth.

Investment portfolios are becoming more complex, and there are more financial products available for trade. In addition, emerging markets throughout the world are providing new investment opportunities, which require expertise in geographic regions where those markets are located. 

The continued implementation of financial regulatory reform could constrict growth in the industry, as rule-making bodies place a greater emphasis on stability. Restrictions on trading by banks may shift employment of financial analysts from investment banks to hedge funds and private equity groups.

Despite employment growth, strong competition is expected for financial analyst positions. Growth in financial services is projected to create new positions, but there are still far more people who would like to enter the occupation than there are jobs in the occupation. Having certifications and a graduate degree can significantly improve an applicant’s prospects.

Earnings:

The median annual wage for financial analysts was $78,620 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $48,170, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $154,680.

Fund managers are typically compensated by fees, usually structured as a percentage of assets under management and a percentage of the fund’s annual return.

College Courses: 

Sample courses that might be required for a degree in Finance:

Core Business Courses

  • Financial Accounting 1
  • Managerial Accounting 1
  • Intro to Information Systems
  • Statistics
  • Finance
  • Principles of Microeconomics
  • Principles of Macroeconomics
  • Managerial Economics
  • Management Science / Operational Management
  • Marketing
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Business Law

Finance Major Courses

  • Investment Theory
  • Corporate Finance
  • Financial Markets / Intermediaries
  • Advanced Financial Accounting
  • Finance Electives

Colleges will also require you to take some core undergraduate courses in addition to some electives. Required core courses and electives will vary from college to college. Here are a number of examples:

Arts and Humanities

  • Arts
  • History
  • Languages
  • Literature
  • Music

Math

  • Algebra
  • Calculus
  • Computer Science
  • Logic
  • Statistics

Natural Sciences

  • Astronomy
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Environmental Science
  • Physics

Social Sciences

  • Anthropology
  • Economics
  • Government
  • Psychology
  • Sociology