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 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.
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.