You excel at crunching and interpreting numbers and calculating solutions with them. You’re comfortable working on team projects, sometimes guiding them to completion within a hectic academic schedule. You relate well to people, can communicate with them effectively, and earn their trust easily. You want to apply your skills in a career that will reap a high immediate payoff and offer plenty of opportunities for advancement.
And you want to start now, while you’re still pursuing your undergraduate degree in finance, business, or economics. Or perhaps you’re considering switching careers.
Financial analysis may be the ideal career choice.
As a financial analyst, you’ll go to work with an asset management company, a corporate enterprise, or a nonprofit institution with ample endowments—where you’ll guide their investment decisions, whether they’re on the buy or sell side of investment vehicles.
This post provides a list of requirements—academic, intellectual, and personal—that you have to have under your belt before applying for a financial analyst position. It also gives you some guidelines for working toward a financial analyst career as an undergraduate, so you’ll have a head start over all others who also want to pursue this exciting, lucrative position.
The career outlook for financial analysts is rosy. BLS projections suggest that financial analysis employment will grow by 11 percent from 2016 to 2026. Compensation for financial analysts ranges from $72,000 to $106,000 annually in salary and bonuses.
*Note: salaries shown here may have updated from the time of publication.
Financial Analyst at a Glance
Financial analysts advise corporations or institutions that either acquire investment vehicles for their asset portfolio or sell investment vehicles as part of their business. The investments range from bonds, notes, stocks, and money-market and mutual-funds accounts to options, futures, foreign exchange, and swaps.
You’ll be responsible for monitoring and calculating the performance of investment vehicles under different economic and business scenarios, opting for the most promising return on investment over different lengths of time, depending on the needs of the company. That also means you’ll have to know the financial position of a corporation or institution inside and out, and how to monitor and track those numbers statistically against the financial potential of the investments themselves.
You’ll work closely with third-party investment vendors or sellers as your client base, and with executive-level staff who are responsible for the bottomline performance of their companies. You’ll have to know when to listen and digest information, and how to explain your investment recommendations clearly.
The responsibilities of a financial analyst are demanding. You’ll need a definite set of skills—some inherent and some acquired—to be successful. But success breeds self-gratification and rewards—in the form of pursuing your passion, and getting paid well for it. You can find out more about whether financial analysis is the right career for you here.
The Personal, Soft Skills You’ll Need
The chaotic, fast-paced environment of acquiring or selling investment vehicles requires strength of mind, body, and character. You’ll be responsible for the financial welfare of corporations and institutions, so you’ll have to develop a trusting rapport with investment vendors and purchasers, and you’ll have to engender trust from those you’re representing analytically.
The corporations or institutions that will hire you expect the following soft skills from a financial analyst:
- Self-assurance and conviction—making calm, decisive evaluations in pressure-packed situations, building a sense of trust by exuding poise and confidence.
- Meticulous communication skills—influencing and persuading others to follow your lead with attentive listening and articulate presentation, including flawless written skills.
- Dedication and commitment—prioritizing tasks and meeting deadlines without fail, and maintaining a constant eye on economic and business trends even when not at the workplace.
- Energy and stamina—working between 80 to 100 hours a week, including continuous multitasking, shifting effortlessly from numbers crunching to investment monitoring to client and executive meetings.
- Self-sacrifice—immersing yourself totally as a team player in the company and its culture, including after-hours social events.
Many of these personal traits may be inherent. But they can also be acquired—with self-help books, a lot of repetitive practice or training, or even physical exercise to help sustain grueling hours.