Forage puts students first. Our blog articles are written independently by our editorial team. They have not been paid for or sponsored by our partners. See our fulleditorial guidelines.
A financial analyst is a finance professional who guides business and economic decisions. Some financial analysts work at investment banks, facilitating large transactions between corporations, while others track product or service performance and make recommendations to improve profits.
What Is a Financial Analyst?
In general, a financial analyst analyzes finances, but they use this analysis to help clients and companies decide how to spend money to boost profits. For example, some analysts may help clients sell stocks and bonds to increase capital, while others may facilitate initial public offerings (IPOs) or .
Not every financial analyst works with stocks or acquisitions, though. In fact, virtually every aspect of the global economy requires financial analysts to gather, organize, analyze, and present information. For example, some analysts focus on tracking the performance of a company’s product in one specific market. They make models to predict what would happen if the company changes different aspects of its business approach.
Ultimately, analysts help individuals, companies, and organizations figure out what can happen if they spend or use money in specific ways and find the best possible outcomes.
New York Jobs CEO Council Financial Analyst
Learn about a day in the life of a financial analyst and complete work-related tasks in this free job simulation.
Avg. Time:2-3 hours
Skills you’ll build:Excel, financial analysis, problem solving, critical thinking, communication
Common Responsibilities of Financial Analysts
Some common responsibilities in this career include:
- Gather, organize, and analyze data: Analysts gather and analyze financial statements, historical financial trends, technical stock analysis details, and the performance of similar-sized companies in the same industry.
- Make forecasts: Forecasting finances is where analysts become more like psychics than businesspeople. Using past and current data, analysts predict what could happen based on specific variables.
- Build models: Analysts create models to help predict future financial performance. For example, using Excel, an analyst may build a discounted cash flow (DCF) model to see how profitable an investment might be in the future.
- Present information: Using slideshows (also called decks) and reports, analysts communicate their findings to higher-ups and clients in a concise manner.
- Maintain relationships: Internally, analysts maintain strong relationships with their coworkers and with other departments so the collection of data can be a smooth process. Some analysts also maintain relationships with external clients.
Where Do Financial Analysts Work?
Most analysts either work on the buy side or sell side of corporate finance:
|Focuses on guiding clients’ investing decisions — the clients have cash available to buy into investing options, like purchasing stocks or acquiring other companies. These clients include hedge funds, private equity firms, mutual funds, pension funds, and insurance companies.
|Focuses on selling investments, like stocks and bonds. These analysts typically work in investment banks, private corporations, and brokerage firms. Analysts then sell these securities (stocks and bonds) to buy side organizations, like mutual hedge funds.
Financial analysts may also work for government agencies and private corporations. It’s also possible for analysts to specialize in certain areas like real estate, commodities, risk assessment, and foreign exchange currencies.
JPMorgan Corporate Analyst Development Program
Discover what’s it's like to work on high priority initiatives while developing analytics, project management, and process improvement skills in this free job simulation from JPMorgan.
Avg. Time:5 to 6 hours
Skills you’ll build:Excel, data analysis, written communication, Excel charts, Tableau, data visualization, dashboards, process mapping, process improvement, storytelling
Types of Financial Analysts
Financial analyst is a broad job title that applies to various careers and industries, including roles focused on investing, budgeting, and risk management.
Financial Planning Analyst
A financial planning analyst is responsible for budgets and forecasting. This type of analyst may make models to predict how key performance indicators (KPIs) may change based on changes to the organization’s budget and spending habits.
Learn how professionals manage business KPIs, financial risks, and predict credit card sales with this free job simulation from Citi.
Avg. Time:5 to 6 hours
Skills you’ll build:Fact finding, data analysis, communication, presentation, Basel III regulation, judgment, commercial awareness
Investment Banking Analyst
An investment banking analyst facilitates transactions between large corporations, such as mergers. Analysts at investment banks may also work with client companies to source funding for long-term projects and bring private companies onto the public stock exchange through initial public offerings (IPOs).
Bank of America Investment Banking
Apply your analysis and communication skills to advise clients as part of BofA's Technology, Telecom & Media Investment Banking team in this free job simulation.
Avg. Time:4 to 5 hours
Skills you’ll build:SWOT analysis, financial analysis, M&A screening, cross-team collaboration, ECM/DCM, financial modeling, DCF valuation, communication, presentation
Private Equity Analyst
Private equity analysts work within private equity firms researching companies that are not publicly traded. Analysts in these firms assist in buyouts (purchasing a company outright) and venture capital investments.
>>MORE: Explore the difference between private equity and venture capital.
A ratings analyst typically works in insurance or lending, assessing the credit ratings of various companies and organizations. These analysts are responsible for determining the financial stability of companies and figuring out how likely a company is to repay its debts.
Research analysts have a broad job description. Some research analysts focus on disseminating information to colleagues regarding market trends, historical performance of companies of interest, and important micro- and macroeconomic events that are affecting the markets.
Other research analysts may have roles more closely related to investment banking analysts and private equity analysts — doing the research but also assisting in the execution of decisions based on their findings.
Risk analysts look at what risks are involved in various aspects of business and investing. This includes calculating risks that exist in the market, chances of return on investment, broad economic shifts that could create future risky situations, and the potential risk involved with business decisions like mergers and acquisitions.
Quantitative analysts deal with the technical aspects of financial analysis. A quantitative analyst may build an algorithm to help their company or bank make faster trades on the public exchange market. On the other hand, a quantitative analyst might focus on pricing stocks and bonds based on vast amounts of risk data and historical trends.
JPMorgan Quantitative Research
Explore the quantitative research and analysis behind product innovation, valuation, risk management, portfolio optimization, electronic trading, and market making in this free job simulation from JPMorgan.
Avg. Time:6 to 7 hours
Skills you’ll build:Programming, data analysis, Python, derivatives, critical thinking, statistics, credit, dynamic programming
How Much Do Financial Analysts Make?
The average salary for financial and investment analysts at all experience levels is $108,790, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, the average financial analyst salary for those specializing in securities and other investment activities is $134,060, while those working in the insurance industry have average salaries of $101,120. Experience level and industry are key factors in how much an analyst can make.
Even more important, though, is where the analysts work. At big investment banks on Wall Street, even analysts just beginning their careers may see big paychecks. In 2021, CNBC reported that Goldman raised first-year analyst base salaries to $110,000, and rival investment banks offer similar salaries.
Alongside those base salaries, analysts often receive other forms of compensation, such as starting bonuses, performance bonuses, commission, and profit sharing.
>>MORE: Check out some of the best-paying finance career options.
How to Become a Financial Analyst
For those interested in becoming a financial analyst, what degree provides the best chances of success? Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer. While finance, economics, and statistics degrees can give analysts a good foundation to work from, a degree in accounting or business can equip analysts with different skills to bring to the table. Additionally, specialized degrees in areas of interest can give analysts a way into more specialized roles.
Many analysts also choose to get an MBA at some point in their careers, which opens more opportunities for advancement within financial institutions. Some may even get a Ph.D. in finance, statistics, or economics to make themselves more marketable.
Find your career fit
Discover if this is the right career path for you with a free Forage banking and financial services job simulation.
The chartered financial analyst (CFA) designation from the CFA Institute is the most highly sought-after certification for financial analysts. However, this charter isn’t required, and there are many other certification options available for prospective and current analysts.
Some of the most common certifications include:
- Certified management accountant (CMA): Shows the analyst has a strong understanding of accounting principles and can apply that knowledge to corporate strategy and budgeting
- Financial risk manager (FRM): Displays high-level knowledge of risk analysis, credit and market risk, investment management, and creation of risk models
- Certified financial planner (CFP): Signifies the analyst is skilled at giving financial advice to clients in a holistic and ethical manner
- Certified fund specialist (CFS): Proves working knowledge of mutual funds, fund analysis, and portfolio management
- Certified government financial manager (CGFM): Denotes competency in governmental accounting, financial reporting, and managing budgets for local, state, and federal government agencies
- Certified international investment analyst (CIIA): Broadly recognized certification in Europe and Asia that shows the analyst understands corporate finance, fixed income and equities, portfolio management, market structures, and ethics
JPMorgan Global Finance and Business Management
Learn the fundamentals of data analysis through practical tasks that strengthen your ability to draw business-relevant applications in this free job simulation.
Avg. Time:5 to 6 hours
Skills you’ll build:Excel, data analysis, pivot tables, written communication, Tableau, data visualization, dashboards, storytelling, variance commentary
Licenses and Registrations
Analysts who work directly with buying and selling securities must pass exams and obtain licensure with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). These exams focus on the regulatory structures of securities markets and ensure only qualified analysts and securities brokers are active.
The FINRA exams financial analysts take most commonly include:
- Securities industry essentials (SIE) exam: This introductory exam for prospective traders and analysts focuses on fundamental information like the structure of the markets, regulatory agencies, and industry ethics. This exam is often a prerequisite for other tests.
- Series 7 exam: Also called the General Securities Representative exam, this test is the base-level test for registering with FINRA and becoming licensed to work with public markets.
- Series 79 exam: This is a specialized exam for investment banking activities, including issuing debt, facilitating mergers, and handling corporate restructuring.
- Series 86 & 87 exams: As specialized exams for research analysts, these cover the analysis and reporting of equity securities and industry research.
At a certain point, analysts may need to register with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). However, this is typically for analysts who’ve become advisors and have more than $100 million in assets under their control.
Citi Markets and Trading
Analyze the outcomes of an FOMC meeting and pitch a trade to your client with this free job simulation from Citi's Markets Sales & Trading team.
Avg. Time:6 to 7 hours
Skills you’ll build:Written communication, market research, summarization, research, critical thinking
Skills for Financial Analysts
Regardless of degrees or certifications, what ultimately matters is that you have the quantitative and analytical skills needed to do the job.
Some of the most valuable skills for every type of financial analyst include:
- Understanding the equity and debt capital markets
- Familiarity with financial models like the capital asset pricing model (CAPM)
- Knowledge of specific performance metrics, such as the price-to-earnings ratio
- A general idea of different business valuation approaches
Kick-start your finance career and get noticed by top companies with Forage’s Investment Banking Career Path.
Image credit: Canva and Alexmit/Depositphotos.com
Read more from McKayla Girardin
McKayla Girardin is a NYC-based writer with Forage. She is experienced at transforming complex concepts into easily digestible articles to help anyone better understand the world we live in.
As an expert and enthusiast, I have access to a vast amount of information and can provide insights on various topics, including financial analysis. I can help answer questions and provide information based on my knowledge and access to search results. Let's dive into the concepts mentioned in this article.
A financial analyst is a finance professional who guides business and economic decisions. They analyze finances to help clients and companies decide how to spend money to boost profits. Financial analysts can work in various areas, such as investment banking, tracking product or service performance, and making recommendations to improve profits [].
Common Responsibilities of Financial Analysts:
Financial analysts have several common responsibilities, including:
- Gathering, organizing, and analyzing financial data [].
- Making forecasts based on past and current data [].
- Building models to predict future financial performance [].
- Presenting information to higher-ups and clients in a concise manner [].
- Maintaining relationships with coworkers, other departments, and external clients [].
Where Do Financial Analysts Work?
Financial analysts can work in different sectors, including:
- Buy Side: Guiding clients' investing decisions, such as hedge funds, private equity firms, mutual funds, pension funds, and insurance companies [].
- Sell Side: Selling investments like stocks and bonds, typically in investment banks, private corporations, and brokerage firms [].
- Government Agencies and Private Corporations: Financial analysts can also work for government agencies and private corporations [].
- Specializations: Some financial analysts specialize in areas like real estate, commodities, risk assessment, and foreign exchange currencies [].
Types of Financial Analysts:
Financial analyst is a broad job title that applies to various careers and industries. Some types of financial analysts include:
- Financial Planning Analyst: Responsible for budgets and forecasting [].
- Investment Banking Analyst: Facilitates transactions between large corporations, such as mergers, and sources funding for long-term projects [].
- Private Equity Analyst: Researches companies that are not publicly traded and assists in buyouts and venture capital investments [].
- Ratings Analyst: Assesses the credit ratings of various companies and organizations [].
- Research Analyst: Disseminates information regarding market trends, performance of companies, and macroeconomic events affecting the markets [].
- Risk Analyst: Analyzes risks involved in business and investing, including market risks, return on investment, and potential risks with mergers and acquisitions [].
- Quantitative Analyst: Deals with the technical aspects of financial analysis, such as building algorithms and pricing stocks and bonds based on risk data and historical trends [].
Salary of Financial Analysts:
The average salary for financial and investment analysts at all experience levels is $108,790, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, salaries can vary based on specialization, industry, and experience level. Financial analysts working in securities and investment activities have an average salary of $134,060, while those in the insurance industry have average salaries of $101,120 [].
Education and Certifications for Financial Analysts:
The educational requirements for financial analysts can vary. While degrees in finance, economics, and statistics provide a good foundation, degrees in accounting or business can also be beneficial. Some analysts choose to pursue an MBA or a Ph.D. in finance, statistics, or economics to advance their careers [].
Certifications can also enhance the credentials of financial analysts. The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation from the CFA Institute is highly sought-after. Other certifications include Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Financial Risk Manager (FRM), Certified Financial Planner (CFP), and more [].
Skills for Financial Analysts:
Quantitative and analytical skills are crucial for financial analysts. Some valuable skills include:
- Understanding the equity and debt capital markets [].
- Familiarity with financial models like the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) [].
- Knowledge of specific performance metrics, such as the price-to-earnings ratio [].
- Understanding different business valuation approaches [].
These are some of the key concepts related to financial analysts. If you have any specific questions or need further information, feel free to ask!