How To Become a Financial Analyst

A Career Guide for Financial Analysts on Education and Certification

The results are in and “financial analyst” is listed at number nine on the list of “500 Best Jobs Overall” for the 21st Century (JIST Works). As companies review their financial practices and policies in order to stay afloat during the recession and hopefully bounce back completely when it’s all over, financial analysts are being called upon, in the highest numbers ever, to lend a hand. According to, in 2009 alone there were nearly 30,000 openings for financial analysts across the U.S., representing a 33.8% increase over 2008. Not only this, but financial analysts are also in high demand in areas outside of the immediate corporate world. Individuals, extremely well off or not, are now looking to financial analysts for advice and to assist in helping them plan for the future.

Financial analysts, also called “securities analysts” and “investment analysts,” assist public and private institutions by conducting analyses of information, forecasting, and following current technology, finance, and economic events. These individuals may work for mutual funds, banks, securities firms, insurance companies and federal, state, and local departments, to name a few. While financial analysts are number nine on the list of “500 Best Jobs Overall,” which also includes securities and commodities sales agents (7) and network systems and data communication analysts (8), at an average salary of $70,400, financial analysts earn more per year than 5 of the top ten jobs on the list.

Step 1

Business analyst in the officeFinancial analysts may be in high demand, but companies won’t hire just any old financial analyst. Companies are always on the look out for the very best. This usually means individuals with a master’s degree or higher from an accredited institution of higher learning and a professional designation. So, to get started on a career as a financial analyst, you should enroll in an accredited undergraduate program and major in accounting, business, finance or statistics. Fortunately, just about every college or university offers a bachelor’s degree in these areas. To search for a suitable program, a great place to start is the U.S. News&World Report website, specifically, the “Rankings” section (link available at bottom of this article). Here you can find dozens of top programs in your chosen field.

Step 2

After finding a suitable undergraduate program, it is important to maintain a high GPA, successfully complete an internship, and get involved with as many industry related clubs and organizations as possible. This will only strengthen your graduate school application. After graduating from an accredited undergraduate program, it is certainly possible to obtain an entry-level position in the field, but you should continue to work towards completing your master’s degree. Remember, several years experience in the field and a master’s degree in finance or business administration will dramatically increase your chances of obtaining a lucrative position with top firm.

Step 3

At least 4 years’ experience and a bachelor’s degree will satisfy the requirements needed to obtain an application for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. The designation is offered through the Association of Investment Management and Research. According to, in addition to a bachelor’s degree and 4 years’ experience, CFA applicants must also pass three essay tests. The tests are taken each year and they include topics such as accounting, asset valuation, economics, portfolio management, and securities analysis.

Step 4

To search for financial analyst job openings, there are literally dozens of places to look. For federal openings, visit This is the official job site of the U.S. Federal Government. For positions in the public and private sector, try,, Yahoo! or

Step 5

When applying for open positions, follow the instructions to the letter. If a company says apply online -- apply online. If a company says do not send attachments, do not send attachments. And if a company says submit a cover letter, resume and salary history, submit a cover letter, resume, and salary history. Remember, your resume, professionalism, and the ability to follow directions will go a long way.


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