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What Financial Analysts Do About this section

Financial analysts
Financial analysts work in banks, pension funds, insurance companies, and other businesses.

Financial analysts guide businesses and individuals in decisions about expending money to attain profit. They assess the performance of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments.

Duties

Financial analysts typically do the following:

  • Recommend individual investments and collections of investments, known as portfolios
  • Evaluate current and historical financial data
  • Study economic and business trends
  • Examine a company’s financial statements to determine its value
  • Meet with company officials to gain better insight into the company’s prospects
  • Assess the strength of the management team
  • Prepare written reports

Financial analysts evaluate opportunities to commit money for the purpose of generating profit.

Financial analysts can be divided into two categories: buy-side analysts and sell-side analysts.

  • Buy-side analysts develop investment strategies for companies that have a lot of money to invest. These companies, called institutional investors, include hedge funds, insurance companies, independent money managers, nonprofit organizations with large endowments, private equity firms, and pension funds.
  • Sell-side analysts advise financial services sales agents who sell stocks, bonds, and other investments.

Analysts may work for the business media or other research houses, which are independent from the buy and sell side.

Financial analysts generally focus on trends affecting a specific geographical region, industry, or type of product. For example, they may focus on a subject area or a foreign exchange market. They must understand how economic trends, new regulations, policies, and political situations may affect investments.

Investing has become more global, and some specialize in a particular country or world region. Companies want these specialists to understand the business environment, culture, language, and political conditions in the country or region that they cover.

The following are examples of types of financial analysts:

Financial risk specialists, also called financial risk analysts, evaluate threats to investment decisions and determine how to manage unpredictability and limit potential losses. They make investment decisions such as selecting dissimilar stocks or having a combination of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds in a portfolio. They also make recommendations to limit risk.

Fund managers work exclusively with hedge funds or mutual funds. Both fund managers and portfolio managers frequently make buy or sell decisions in reaction to quickly changing market conditions.

Investment analysts assess information involving investment programs or financial data of institutions, such as business valuation. They also respond to queries from clients and client advisors regarding asset allocation and alternative investment topics including hedge funds, real property, and venture capital.

Portfolio managers select the mix of products, industries, and regions for their company’s investment portfolio. These managers are responsible for the overall performance of the portfolio. They are also expected to explain investment decisions and strategies in meetings with stakeholders.

Ratings analysts evaluate the ability of companies or governments to pay their debts, including bonds. Based on these evaluations, a management team rates the risk of a company or government not being able to repay its bonds.

Securities analysts evaluate securities markets and trends to identify high-yield assets for clients and companies. They may use resources such as bond performance reports, daily stock quotes, market and economic forecasts, and other financial statements and publications.

Work Environment About this section

Financial analysts
Financial analysts may work at institutions that are based in large cities.

Financial analysts held about 487,800 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of financial analysts were as follows:

Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities 18%
Credit intermediation and related activities 15
Professional, scientific, and technical services 12
Management of companies and enterprises 11
Insurance carriers and related activities 6

Financial analysts work primarily in offices but may travel to visit companies or clients.

Work Schedules

Most financial analysts work full time and some work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become a Financial Analyst About this section

Financial analysts
Financial analysts must process a range of information in finding profitable investments.

Financial analysts typically need a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation.

Education

Most entry-level positions for financial analysts require a bachelor’s degree. Appropriate fields of study include accounting, business, economics, finance, mathematics, and statistics. Some employers prefer to hire applicants who have a master’s degree.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is the main licensing organization for the securities industry. A license is generally required to sell financial products, which may apply to some positions. Because most of the licenses require sponsorship by an employer, companies do not expect individuals to have these licenses before starting a job.

Employers often recommend certification, which may improve the chances for advancement. An example is the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification from the CFA Institute. Financial analysts can become CFA certified if they have a bachelor’s degree and several years of work experience and pass multiple exams. They also may choose to become certified in their field of specialty.

Advancement

Financial analysts typically start by specializing in an investment field. As they gain experience, they may become portfolio managers and select the mix of investments for a company’s portfolio. They also may become fund managers of large investment portfolios for individual investors. Having a master’s degree in finance or business administration may improve an analyst’s chances of advancing to one of these positions.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Financial analysts must evaluate a range of information in finding profitable investments.

Communication skills. Financial analysts must be able to clearly explain their recommendations to clients.

Computer skills. Financial analysts must be adept at using software to analyze financial data and trends, create portfolios, and make forecasts.

Decision-making skills. Financial analysts must reach conclusions so that they can recommend whether to buy, hold, or sell a security.

Detail oriented. Financial analysts must pay attention when reviewing a possible investment, as even small issues may have large implications for its health.

Math skills. Financial analysts use mathematics to estimate the value of financial securities.

Pay About this section

Financial Analysts

Median annual wages, May 2020

Financial analysts

$83,660

Financial specialists

$73,840

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for financial analysts was $83,660 in May 2020. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $48,760, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $159,560.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for financial analysts in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities $98,850
Professional, scientific, and technical services 86,300
Management of companies and enterprises 86,000
Insurance carriers and related activities 82,190
Credit intermediation and related activities 79,270

Fund managers are typically compensated by fees, usually structured as a percentage of assets under management and a percentage of the fund’s annual return.

Most financial analysts work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.

Job Outlook About this section

Financial Analysts

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Financial analysts

5%

Total, all occupations

4%

Financial specialists

4%

 

Employment of financial analysts is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. A growing range of financial products and the need for in-depth knowledge of geographic regions are expected to lead to strong employment growth.

Demand for financial analysts tends to grow with overall economic activity. They will be needed to evaluate investment opportunities when new businesses are established or existing businesses expand. In addition, emerging markets throughout the world are providing new investment opportunities, which require expertise in geographic regions where those markets are located.

Demand is also projected to increase as the growth of “big data” and technological improvements allow financial analysts to access a wide range of data and conduct high-quality analysis. This analysis will help businesses manage their finances, identify investment trends, and deliver new products or services to clients.

Job Prospects

About 38,600 openings for financial analysts, financial risk specialists, and financial specialists, all other are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Despite employment growth, competition is expected for financial analyst positions. Growth in financial services is projected to create new positions, but there are still far more people who would like to enter the occupation than there are jobs in the occupation. Having certifications and a graduate degree can significantly improve an applicant’s prospects.

Employment projections data for financial analysts, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Financial and investment analysts, financial risk specialists, and financial specialists, all other

13-2098 487,800 514,600 5 26,800 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about licensure for financial analysts, visit

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)

For more information about training and certification, visit

CFA Institute

For more information about certifications in financial analysis, visit

Global Academy of Finance and Management

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