A Bachelor’s degree, preferably with a major in economics, finance, or statistics, has become the de facto requirement for individuals entering the financial analysis industry. Other majors that are looked upon favorably are accounting and math. Coursework in these programs commonly includes mathematical statistics, managerial finance, investment analysis, accounting, international business, business law, marketing, and ethics.

A recent graduate with a Bachelor’s degree can expect to begin in a junior position under the guidance of a senior analyst. After several years of experience, many financial analysts pursue a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA), since continuing progression to more senior roles usually necessitates a graduate degree. At this level, students study advanced business and management theories and typically concentrate on one specific financial sector, such as international investment or project management.

Some financial analyst jobs require licensure from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Many employers expect analysts to pursue certification. The preeminent credential in the field is the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) awarded by the CFA Institute.

Within the financial analysis industry, there are two major categories of analysts:

Buy-side financial analysts

The majority of financial analysts work on what is known as the buy side. These analysts work for organizations – known as ‘institutional investors’ – that have money to invest. Examples of institutional investors are mutual funds, pension funds, hedge funds, insurance companies, hospitals, and universities. Buy-side analysts help their employers make decisions on how to spend their money, whether that means investing in stocks and other securities for an in-house fund, buying income properties for a real estate investment firm, or allocating marketing dollars.

Financial analysists who work on the buy-side of the industry rarely have the final say on how their employers or clients spend their money. However, the trends they uncover and the forecasts they make are invaluable in the decision-making process.

Sell-side financial analysts

These analysts help companies price and sell their own investment products. Perhaps the most prestigious and highest-paid financial analyst job is that of a sell-side analyst for a large investment bank or securities firm. In this role, analysists compile data on stocks and bonds and use quantitative analysis to project how these securities will perform in the marketplace. Based on this research, they make buy and sell recommendations.

These analysts may also play a role in determining whether or not certain deals between companies (IPOs, mergers and acquisitions) are feasible, based on corporate fundamentals.

Within these two specialties, there are subspecialties. Analysts may choose to focus on stocks or on fixed-income instruments. They may also specialize further with a specific sector or industry, such as energy or technology.

How long does it take to become a Financial Analyst?

Most prospective financial analysts spend between four and six years studying before entering the field:

Bachelor’s Degree – four years
Master’s Degree – two years

Following their formal education and after earning their license to practise (licensure is mandatory for most analysts working on the sell side of the industry), analysts may pursue optional certification. The exams, which are administered by the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, can be taken concurrently with the required work experience. The process typically takes between two and five years.

Steps to becoming a Financial Analyst

The route to becoming a financial analyst is both typical and atypical. It is the former because it calls for a commitment to formal education. It is the latter because licensure requirements vary between sectors of the industry and the certification process is particularly rigorous.

Get an early start in high school. Get the right undergraduate degree. Get a job. Get licensed. Get certified. Get a Master’s degree.

1 High School

Individuals who wish to work in finance should lay a career foundation by taking related courses in high school. Classes in applied mathematics, accounting, economics, and business will ease the transition to university level courses.

2 Bachelor’s Degree

Most financial analysts have a Bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance, economics, statistics, or accounting. Standard courses include:

 Managerial finance
 Investment analysis
 Statistics
 Financial markets
 International business
 Marketing
 Accounting
 Business law and ethics

3 Employment

Recent graduates who wish to work on the buy side of the industry should pursue positions with a mutual or pension fund, investment bank, or insurance company. Those interested in a role on the sell side should concentrate on finding opportunities with securities firms.

Financial analysts often specialize in a specific financial product, geographic region, or industry. For example, they might focus on the options market, deal in primarily Asia-based investments, or work solely in the telecommunications field.

Even entry-level positions are very competitive. In these roles, financial analysts commonly work under the guidance of a senior analyst. Their tasks often include analyzing income statements, maintaining files, processing client financial statements, and analyzing plans and forecasts. Employers generally run in-house training programs for their newly hired analysts.

As analysts move into more senior positions, they may become:

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

Fund managers
Like portfolio managers, fund managers make buy or sell decisions in reaction to quickly changing market conditions. These managers, though, work exclusively with hedge funds or mutual funds.

Ratings analysts
These 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.

Risk analysts
These analysts assess the risk in investment decisions. They manage unpredictability and limit potential losses in a portfolio by selecting dissimilar stocks or a combination of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.

4 Licensure (mandatory for some roles)

Some financial analysts are required to obtain one or more licenses, especially if they deal with securities firms on the sell side of the industry. Licensure is overseen by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers generally sponsor their employees’ licensure. If analysts change employers they must renew their license.

5 Certification (recommended / optional)

Many employers expect financial analysts to pursue Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification through the CFA Institute. Analysts with at least a Bachelor’s degree (or in the final year of a Bachelor’s program) and four full years of qualifying work experience are eligible to sit for the Institute’s three exams. Passing the exams – which test competency in corporate finance, financial markets, economics, accounting, and portfolio management – is commonly considered a qualification for advancement to more senior financial analyst positions.

It is recommended that candidates study at least three hundred hours for each of the three CFA exams. Only one in five students passes the full set of exams.

6 Master’s Degree (recommended / optional)

While an undergraduate degree is sufficient for many positions, Master’s level education is quite common among financial analysts. Employers seeking to fill advanced roles often prefer candidates who have earned a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA).

Should I become a Financial Analyst?

To compete effectively in their industry financial analysts need a wide range of skills:

Math skills
A financial analyst’s job involves making complex mathematical calculations to estimate and project the value of financial securities.

Research and analytical skills
Financial analysts must be able to research and interpret copious amounts of information from various sources; break it down into simpler components; and make decisions that improve market share and maximize profits.

Attention to detail
A mistake made by a financial analyst can result in a significant financial loss. At the core of the analyst’s work is paying attention to the smallest details in financial reports and models.

Decision-making skills
A financial analyst often serves as a firm’s decision-maker concerning company finances and the buying, selling, and holding of securities.

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

Communication & marketing skills
Analysts in the finance industry must regularly collaborate with others, present their findings, explain their recommendations, and create related reports.

Ability to manage stress
Long working hours, tight deadlines, and periodic sacrificing of work-life balance are characteristics of a career in financial analysis. Successful analysts have the capacity to manage the resulting stress.

It takes years to become an expert in financial analysis. Patience and long-term commitment are called for.

Ethical standards
Even though a particular action may not be illegal, it still may not be moral. Financial analysts who uphold ethical standards do not simply follow the letter of the law; they follow the intention and spirit of the law.

Additional information to help you answer the question, ‘Should I become a financial analyst?’
The financial analysis industry offers high wages, advancement opportunities, and the possibility of working in several different fields. Jobs for analysts exist with securities and investment banking firms; accounting firms, banks, and trust companies; insurance companies; mutual and pension funds; investment counseling firms; and large private corporations.

What are Financial Analysts like?


Based on our pool of users, financial analysts tend to be predominately enterprising people. The work of producing in-depth financial plans, projections, and analytical reports for use in investment decisions by companies, public and private organizations, and individuals is, without doubt, an enterprising undertaking.

Financial Analysts by Strongest Interest Archetype

Based on sample of 1151 Sokanu users

Are Financial Analysts happy?


Financial analysts rank among the least happy careers. Overall they rank in the 17th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. Please note that this number is derived from the data we have collected from our Sokanu members only.

While not based on hard evidence or statistics, it is possible to surmise that the extreme competition, high stress, and work-life balance challenges associated with this career may contribute to its low happiness quotient.

Financial Analyst Career Satisfaction by Dimension

Percentile among all careers

Education History of Financial Analysts

The most common degree held by financial analysts is Finance. 19% of financial analysts had a degree in finance before becoming financial analysts. That is over 9 times the average across all careers. Economics graduates are the second most common among financial analysts, representing 14% of financial analysts in the Sokanu user base, which is 3.6 times the average.

Financial Analyst Education History

This table shows which degrees people earn before becoming a Financial Analyst, compared to how often those degrees are obtained by people who earn at least one post secondary degree.

Degree % of financial analysts % of population Multiple
Finance 18.5% 2.0% 9.3×
Economics 13.8% 3.8% 3.6×
Business Management And Administration 11.9% 6.5% 1.9×
Accounting 6.9% 1.7% 4.0×
Business 5.0% 2.3% 2.1×
Mathematics 2.7% 1.8% 1.5×
International Business 2.1% 1.0% 2.1×
English Literature 1.8% 4.9% 0.4×
Business Economics 1.7% 0.7% 2.3×
Political Science 1.6% 2.9% 0.6×
Marketing And Marketing Research 1.2% 2.2% 0.6×
Communications 1.1% 3.3% 0.3×

Financial Analyst Education Levels

62% of financial analysts have a bachelor's degree. 35% of financial analysts have a master's degree.

No education 0%
High school diploma 0%
Associate's degree 2%
Bachelor's degree 62%
Master's degree 35%
Doctorate degree 0%

How to Become a Financial Analyst

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Further Reading

  • How To Become A Financial Analyst www.bls.gov

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

  • What Do I Need To Be A Financial Analyst? everydaylife.globalpost.com

    Financial analysts study investments, such as stocks, bonds and commodities. They then recommend what options to buy, if their clients are individuals or organizations who want to grow their money, or what options to sell, if their clients are businesses that sell investments.

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