How do I Become a Financial Analyst?

Nancy Walker

To become a financial analyst, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Some financial analyst positions, particularly senior financial analyst jobs, require a master’s degree. Beyond undergraduate and graduate degrees, most financial analyst positions require you to obtain certain licenses. The demand for this type of position is expected to grow at a faster pace than overall job growth. Financial analyst positions pay well, and competition will be stiff if you want to become a financial analyst.

Some financial analysts work for mutual funds.
Some financial analysts work for mutual funds.

Some financial analysts work work in banks, some work in insurance companies, others work for mutual funds, and still others work as personal financial advisors. Buy-side financial analysts buy, rather than sell, assets and securities. Sell-side financial analysts conduct and sell research to buy-side analysts so that buy-side analysts can make informed decisions about which assets and securities to buy.

A bachelor's degree in finance could help an individual become a financial analyst.
A bachelor's degree in finance could help an individual become a financial analyst.

To become a financial analyst, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in economics, finance, accounting, business or statistics. These degrees usually will be sufficient to get your foot in the door to interview for a junior financial analyst position. To be considered for a senior financial analyst position, you will need to hold a master’s degree, preferably a master’s in business administration, or an equivalent combination of education and industry experience.

In addition to the degree requirements, most positions require you to hold certain licenses, depending on the scope of your job responsibilities. To test for most licenses in the United States, you need to be sponsored by an employer that is a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the largest independent U.S. securities regulator, so employers typically do not require you to hold a license before they will hire you to become a financial analyst. Obtaining the correct license will permit you to sell most types of securities products and is a prerequisite to obtaining the other most commonly required type of license, which will permit you to accept securities orders.

While not required, more and more financial analysts who wish to progress in their careers are obtaining certification from an organization such as a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certificate. Aside from holding a bachelor’s degree, completing hundreds of hours of self-study and passing three rigorous exams, CFA candidates must also have four years of related work experience to earn the CFA designation. The self-study and exams can be completed while logging the required years of experience on the job.

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There are probably a lot of students in late high school and early college that are wondering how to become a financial analyst. As a person who has worked in this industry for a long time I would tell them to begin preparing themselves.

Realistically, they will need to go onto to grad school and get some significant experience under there belts before they take on any real responsibility in a corporate setting. But while they are still young and in school the can do a lot to improve their career later in life.

Find an industry that you are interested in and begin studying it intensely. Look up information online and follow the trade journals. Become an expert as quickly as you can.

Learn the ins and out of the financial markets and begin to study the way their influence ripples through the economy.

Finally, talk to as many business people as you can. You can learn a lot from their experience. Sometimes the best way to be an analyst is to look at what people have done before.


One thing that I have found amusing as I've watched the economy collapse over the last few years is how often financial analysts are wrong.

Think back to just a few years ago when everyone, seemingly everywhere, was saying that the economy and the stock market and the housing market would grow indefinitely. And then it all collapsed in on itself.

I think this is nothing except on an extreme failure on the part of the very people who were tasked with seeing this coming.

It makes you wonder if it is ever possible to be objective and realistic while you are also getting extremely rich?

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