When it comes to career paths and the jobs we aspire to, it’s easy to feel like there are only a few options on the table. But actually, there’s a whole world of different types of jobs and roles out there, and we’re on a mission to bring them to light and explain what they actually involve. Ahead, a look at financial analysts—and over here, we’ve also got pharmacists, marketing managers, and physical therapists.
There are plenty of movies that take us into the world of financial analysts, and if we are to believe what Hollywood shows us, it can be a pretty bizarre world. (Think George Clooney in Money Monster.) But as we all know, Hollywood doesn’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.
So, what does the role of a financial analyst really entail?
A financial analyst uses data to evaluate a financial situation and then makes appropriate recommendations based on their findings. Financial analysts can work in a variety of areas. You might work as an investment advisor at a brokerage firm or you may work for a bank or insurance company.
Interestingly, this kind of role can serve as a stepping stone to a variety of jobs, some in entirely different industries. Megan Gorman, managing partner at Chequers Financial Management, notes that your experience as a financial analyst teaches you how to “digest and present data in an efficient and accurate manner,” which is a skill as integral to the role of fashion merchandisers as it is to the role of a CFO.
Here’s what you need to know about becoming a financial analyst.
Let’s take a closer look at the role.
So, what are the typical duties of a financial analyst?
According to Gorman, the type of work you perform day-to-day will vary depending on the stage of your career as a financial analyst.
In the early stages of your career, she says, you’ll be focused on “data gathering, managing spreadsheets, and financial modeling.”
As you begin to gain experience, you’ll develop what Gorman calls an “investment thesis.” This will be specific to the area you work in. For example, if you’re working for a buy-side or sell-side firm, you might “develop a forecast on where the firm should consider investing.” To put it simply, you’ll start to use the data you’ve collected to create recommendations.
Who is this job ideally for?
In terms of personality traits, you’ll likely excel in your role as a financial analyst if you enjoy a fast-paced environment and a certain amount of risk. You’ll also need a good reserve of grit, as we all know that the finance industry can experience some extreme highs and low lows.
According to Gorman, you’ll be well-suited to the role of a financial analyst if you are accurate and willing to take feedback and look at data critically.
“Keep in mind that while being analytical is an important trait, some of the best analysts are able to sit back and challenge what the data is showing,” she says. “Sometimes having the ability to see things that others don’t allows an analyst to grow and develop a special skill set.”
What are the usual job requirements?
Generally, you’ll need to obtain a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, business administration, economics, statistics, or a related field—at the very minimum. Once you have graduated, you should be able to obtain an entry-level position as a financial analyst.
If you want to further your career as an analyst or pursue more senior roles—such as that of a finance director or chief financial operator—you will likely need to obtain a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.
What’s the average salary like?
Glassdoor reports that the national average salary for a financial analyst is $64K. Of course, this will vary based on your location and employer. Glassdoor also notes that financial analysts receive an average of $6K per year in additional compensation. This may include bonuses and/or commissions.