Finance Analyst Jobs: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements to become a financial analyst. Get the facts about education requirements, certification and licensure, job duties, and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Finance degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Financial Analyst?

Financial analysts play key roles in helping companies and individuals decide how to invest money and take profitable risks. They generally help manage a client's portfolio, which is comprised of all of their investments. Financial analysts keep a close watch on the market in order to predict financial trends and base their advice on these predictions. The table below outlines the general requirements to become a financial analyst.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Accounting, economics, finance, mathematics
Key Skills Analytical thinking, communication, decision making, detail oriented
Licensure/Certification Required after initial hiring by most employers; certification is optional
Job Growth (2014-2024) 12%*
Mean Annual Salary (2015) $95,320*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Education Do I Need to Work as a Financial Analyst?

Most of these professionals hold at least a bachelor's degree in finance, accounting, economics or a related business field. Bachelor's program courses will help you learn the foundational principles of business analysis, financial accounting, investments and portfolio management.

In some cases, a master's degree may be required. After completing a bachelor's program, you might consider pursuing a Master of Science in Computational Finance or a Master of Business Administration. These programs can provide you with an advanced understanding of statistical analysis, financial reporting and market economics.

Completing a graduate certificate program in finance and accounting or financial analysis can also prepare you for work in this field. These programs are primarily geared towards working professionals who hold a bachelor's degree.

Is Licensure or Certification Required?

Financial analysts who sell stocks and bonds need to be licensed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). You'll need to take a FINRA exam in order to obtain licensure. Common exams include the Series 7 - General Securities Representative and the Series 87 - Research Analyst.

Though not required, earning professional certification may improve your job prospects. You could pursue the Chartered Financial Analyst credential offered by the CFA Institute. Requirements for this designation include completion of a bachelor's degree, four years of industry experience and three exams. Related certifications are available through other organizations, like the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts or the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst Association.

What Jobs and Duties Might I Have?

Professionals in this field often work as either buy side or sell side analysts. Buy side analysts help organizations with a large amount of money, like insurance firms and hedge funds, make investment decisions. Sell side analysts help banks and similar organizations sell stocks and bonds.

You could also specialize as a budget or ratings analyst, as well as a portfolio manager. Budget analysts help companies allocate resources and perform future financial planning. As a ratings analyst, you may evaluate the debt repayment capability of companies and governments for large investment firms or credit rating bureaus. A career in portfolio management involves managing a group of analysts and making decisions on how to diversify assets in a company's portfolio.

What Salary Can I Expect to Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial analysts earned a mean annual salary of $95,320 as of May 2015. Salaries in these fields can vary depending on your level of education, industry and geographic location. For example, the BLS reported that financial analysts in Illinois earned an average salary of $96,000 per year as of May 2015, while analysts in New York made an average annual wage of $122,170 at the same time.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You may also be interested in becoming a budget analyst, a career that would require a similar skill set. These professionals work with individuals and businesses and help them develop and manage their yearly budgets by keeping track of spending and income. If you desire a more managerial position, you could become a financial manager. These professionals have generally the same responsibilities as financial analysts, though they hold a more senior role in the organization. A bachelor's degree is the essential academic requirement for these careers, though financial managers typically have quite a bit of relevant work experience as well.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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