If you are analytical in your thinking, enjoy troubleshooting and solving high level problems, and have a knack for high finance, perhaps a career as a financial analyst is right for you. A financial analyst is like a consultant, but one whom corporate executives trust to advise them on many important financial decisions when they are not sure which way to go. They tend to have a strong background in business and finance, and are confident in how to handle money and make investments on a very large scale.
To be a financial analyst, you should be very good with money and making assumptions about the future regarding potential income, revenue, and expenditures. A financial analyst is among the most trusted minds in a company to lead them in the right direction. A Bachelor’s and/or a Master’s degree is preferred.
Typical EducationThe traditional route to becoming a financial analyst is a Bachelor’s degree in Finance, Business Administration, or Economics, with a four-year institution of higher learning. Additionally, a Master’s in Business or related field would put you ahead of the crowd with many career opportunities due to the way an advanced degree means you will have more knowledge to make difficult decisions within a corporation.
An Alternate Route
If you do not obtain a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, at the very least, you should have a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) program certificate, to show you have passed the essential training required to fill this complex position. In order to participate in the CFA program, you are required to have a sponsor (a bank or other financial institution) who is willing to sponsor you to obtain the credentials. So, if you do not go through the educational requirements first, you may obtain a contingent position with a corporation wanting to hire you, who may sponsor you to obtain these credentials before you start to work in this capacity.
Steps to Becoming a Financial Analyst
To become a financial analyst, get your degree first then certification in the required areas, always seeking out work opportunities where you can learn the most skills in this complex career. Here are some general steps you could take to reach this goal:
1) Get a Bachelor’s degree in Finance, Economics, or Business Management. This will give you the necessary background to pursue a career in this field. A financial analyst is expected to know a lot about economics in general, as well as money management and how it applies to high levels of business. Choose a degree program which gives you the broadest background in all of these areas, but focuses on the specific skills too.
2) Get experience in financial or economic positions. Work in a bank, credit bureau, or other fiduciary institution will give you the background needed to work as an analyst in financial environments. You should have a strong sense of the responsibilities required of managers too, since you will be thinking more like a manager and making decisions that affect big business. So try to move into a managerial position if possible.
3) Take the CFA exam. You are required to take and pass the CFA exam if you do not have a college degree. You need a sponsor for this. So you could get work experience as a financial employee in a bank or other financial related job, and ask one of them to sponsor you, or get a contingent position with a big corporation who could sponsor you to take the exam before officially hiring you.
4) Build your own financial portfolio. Like other positions in the financial field, the better you take care of your own finances, the more corporations and businesses will trust you to look after theirs. So start your own financial portfolio and learn to make wise investment decisions, then show it to potential employers.
5) Work on analytical thinking skills. Since the world of finance is so unpredictable, it is imperative that you be a high thinker, always able to look at other options and get an intuitive sense of what lie down the road. Build up your inference skills with a number of tasks such as puzzle games, reading difficult literature, and taking tests which all test your ability to think of new and different ways to reach a goal or solve a problem. Financial analysts are problem-solvers. Not only do they have to solve an immediate problem, but they must always be able to look ahead to what lies beyond the horizon and plan for every contingency.
The financial analyst is, in many ways, the economic "brains" of a corporation, the Nostradamus of big business whom corporate executives rely on to help them make major decisions on what they should do next. While financial analysts do not make the final decision on many issues, they are the one the CEO or managers turn to when they need an opinion of what the best move would be in matters of financial concern.