So, you have decided to become a financial analyst. As a financial analyst, there will be a plethora of opportunities for you that you simply cannot experience in other areas of the finance and accounting industry. Whether you are about to enter college as a freshman, or you are looking to diversify your career prospects, becoming a financial analyst is a completely attainable goal.
Work on Your Soft Skills
As with any career, it is important to have certain inherent skills that you can refine to make you a better financial analyst. Some of these include technical abilities such as computer and math skills. Other talents that you need to be successful are more interaction-based and include developing your financial analyst personality, the ability to see the “big picture,” excellent organization, and strong communication skills. Without these, it will be difficult to navigate the industry with math skills alone. Identify what you may need to work on and use your education and internships to train these skills.
Get a Degree
It is a prerequisite for any job in finance to obtain a four-year degree. Typically, financial analysts will earn a degree in accounting or finance, but many analysts will get a degree in statistics, mathematics, or engineering as well. It is crucial to start your path in finance as soon as possible, lest you spend over four years bogged down in coursework. In case you are gunning for some of the top universities in the country, New York University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Pennsylvania are some of the best and most competitive schools. Although it is not entirely necessary, you will find that in this competitive industry you may want to get your master’s degree as well. Do not hesitate to invest in your education. Arming yourself with knowledge and expertise will make you an invaluable resource for potential employers.
Get a Job
Break into the industry as soon as possible. The more experience you gain, the more prepared you can be to get one foot in the door. While working an entry-level position, you can gather information to decide which path you prefer: the buy side or the sell side. On the buy side, you can work with an investment bank, insurance company, mutual fund, or pension fund. Working in the sell side includes working at a securities firm. As you form more skills, you will be able to explore where you would like to create your niche. Over time, opportunities will open up where you can specialize in a particular industry or product. Perhaps you’ll want to become an economist for the government; in this case you want to network with your local government or mayoral office. Getting your first job can be very competitive, but once you get in it is important to learn as much as you can and network with your peers.
Earn Your License
There are different licenses for different industries, and you will likely earn more than one during the length of your career. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is in charge of dealing out licenses to professional financial analysts involved in securities. If you move up within the company or firm you work for, they will likely pay for your license. Keep in mind that if you work in stocks, bonds, insurance, or legal advising, you will likely be required to obtain a license to continue.
Obtain a Certification
While it is optional, if you want to stand out among your colleagues to employers, there is almost no better way than to gain a certification as Chartered Financial Analyst. The CFA Institute mandates at least four years of work experience and passing a CFA exam. The CFA has a reputation for being incredibly difficult, so it is best to plan accordingly and study hard. The exam itself consists of three parts and many do not have success the first time they take it. Use various methods of studying in order to prepare, including taking a class and a CFA mock exam.