Financial analysts rate the performances of stocks, bonds and other types of investments and provide guidance to commercial and individual clients. Those considering a career in the field can expect competitive salaries and strong job growth. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of financial analyst positions to increase by 23 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is much faster than the 14 percent growth rate anticipated for all occupations. The BLS also reports that financial analysts earned an annual mean wage of $89,410 in 2012. If you're interested in a career as a financial analyst, there are specific training and skill requirements for this position.
Financial analysts need a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, statistics, economics or business administration. Specific course requirements may vary by school. At the University of Texas El Paso, for example, the financial analyst degree plan includes classes in investments, investment management, speculative markets, financial statement analysis and international finance. Business core classes include accounting, economics, business law, management, marketing, quantitative methods and strategic management.
The BLS reports that many employers also require that financial analysts have either a master’s degree in finance or an MBA. In addition, many graduates gain certification, such as the Chartered Financial Analyst certification. The CFA is a four-year, self-study curriculum that extensively analyzes 10 investment-related topics and requires students to pass three exams for successful completion of the program, according to a 2011 interview “Bloomberg Business Week” conducted with Thomas Robinson, managing director of the CFA Institute. He recommends a CFA for someone who wants to work in investment management as an analyst or a portfolio manager. However, for someone who desires a management position after she has established her career, Robinson recommends the one- to two-year MBA program. Alternately, he says, graduates may choose to obtain a CFA, work a few years, and then pursue an MBA.
Other Certifications and Licenses
The American Academy of Financial Management lists several other types of certifications in addition to the CFA. These include Chartered Wealth Manager, Master Financial Planner Certification, Accredited Financial Analyst Certification and Master Management Consultant. Additional certifications include Chartered Portfolio Manager, Chartered Trust and Estate Planner and Chartered Asset Manager. Also, many financial analysts must be licensed, but since this process requires employer sponsorship, graduates are not expected to be licensed before they start working.
Financial analysts must be detail-oriented to critically view every aspect of an investment. They need analytical skills to process a large quantity of complex financial information. Math is another important skill, and is used to evaluate the value of financial securities. After critically evaluating data, financial analysts need good decision-making skills to advise their clients to buy, sell or hold a security. They also need good communication skills to explain their decisions. And since computer software is used for everything from creating portfolios and analyzing data to making forecasts, financial analysts also need strong technical skills.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Financial Analysts
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2012 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates
- University of Texas El Paso: Financial Analyst Degree Plan
- Bloomberg Business Week: Q & A: Becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst
- American Academy of Financial Management: Featured Certifications
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