How to Become a Financial Analyst [+ Salary & Career Guide]

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If you’re interested in juggling numbers, the inner workings of a business, and helping to maintain the financial health and wealth of a company, consider a career as a financial analyst. This important position is a popular one that ranks #13 in U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best Business Jobs for 2022 and #66 in 100 Best Jobs of 2022.

In this career guide, we outline everything from skills needed to companies that are hiring for this type of position (hint: there are many!).

What is a Financial Analyst?

The role may sound simple — a person who analyzes finances — but the responsibilities of a financial analyst are many and will vary depending on the industry, the company, and the specific position. Here are a few definitions from top sources: 

“The main role of a financial analyst is to pore over data to identify opportunities or evaluate outcomes for business decisions or investment recommendations. Financial analysts can work in both junior and senior capacities within a firm, and it is a niche that often leads to other career opportunities.” Investopedia 

“Financial analysts keep their fingers on the pulse of the economy. They help their clients by recommending when to buy and sell investments and by staying current on economic trends, business news and company strategy. They also write reports that explain their analyses, share their expertise with colleagues who aren’t financial experts and sometimes communicate their perspectives to the public and financial media.” U.S. News & World Report

What Does a Financial Analyst Do?

Now let’s explore the typical responsibilities of the position, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists as the the following:

  • Make recommendations for individual investments and 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 reports

In other words, there’s more to this position than just crunching numbers.

We also turned to LinkedIn to look for real-life examples of financial analyst job responsibilities. Here’s a sampling:

  • Generate reports to evaluate business performance results
  • Participate in the annual budget process
  • Evaluate requests for budget revisions
  • Help prepare a long-term financial plan
  • Develop financial models and pricing proposals 
  • Communicate findings to upper and executive management

Paths to Becoming a Financial Analyst (Degree vs. Non-Degree)

In most cases, a bachelor’s degree is required for this type of position. In terms of gaining experience, an internship is a great way to learn the ropes and get your foot in the door — plus, many companies are hiring financial analyst interns. One of the big benefits is that interns often become entry-level hires, which saves companies from spending time, money and resources trying to fill particular roles. According to The Balance, “many Fortune-500 companies retain over 80% of their interns as entry-level hires.”

For those interested in this career, Kaplan Schweser, a leader in financial education, recommends pursuing a finance-related undergraduate degree, completing an internship, and seeking out entry-level or junior financial analyst positions. You may also want to pursue certifications and/or an advanced degree. For example, the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification is a popular choice that may also be required for some positions. 
Glassdoor provides a similar career path for prospective financial analysts, recommending a bachelor’s degree in math, statistics, business management, accounting, finance, economics, or a related subject. Some professional licenses and certifications, such as those issued by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), may also be required.

Financial Analyst Hard Skills

A financial analyst should be extremely comfortable with handling all types of finance-related information and large amounts of data and numbers, but let’s dive into the specifics. CareerBuilder lists the following desired skills: 

  • Financial modeling
  • Financial analysis 
  • Data analysis
  • Marketing
  • Enterprise Resource Planning systems

Indeed’s list of 10 Skills Financial Analysts Need to Master includes things like financial literacy — in other words, do you understand the current investment market? Are you familiar with interest rates among lenders? Up to date on financial industry current events?

Technical skills are also important since financial analysts will typically use advanced accounting and bookkeeping software. And accounting skills — understanding budgets, managing cash flow, reconciling bank statements, etc. — are a must.

Financial Analyst Soft Skills

Soft skills are increasingly prioritized by employers. Take this information from the Indeed article 10 Reasons Why Soft Skills are Important to Employers: “Though hard skills show off your experience and understanding of a particular, measurable ability, soft skills often indicate your ability to work with others and grow within a company. Soft skills help you build relationships and solve problems to use your hard skills to their full extent.”

The 10 Skills Financial Analysts Need to Master include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Organizational skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Leadership and management

Other soft skills desired in the workplace, no matter the position or industry, include: 

  • Being a team player
  • Good work ethic
  • Communication skills
  • Detail-oriented
  • Adaptability

Certifications Required

Certifications are a great way to gain experience and boost your resume, and in some cases, they may be required. Popular finance certifications include: 

  • Certified Financial Planner 
  • Chartered Financial Analyst 
  • Certified Management Accountant
  • Certified Fund Specialist 
  • Chartered Financial Consultant
  • Chartered Investment Counselor
  • Certified Investment Management Analyst
  • Chartered Market Technician
  • Certified Public Accountant and Personal Financial Specialist
  • Chartered Life Underwriter
  • Certified Treasury Professional
  • Certified Government Financial Manager
  • Certified Healthcare Financial Professional 
  • Certified International Investment Analyst
  • Certified Merger & Acquisition Advisor 
  • Chartered Economic Analyst
  • Energy Risk Professional
  • Financial Risk Manager 

Another certification is Series 7 — known as the General Securities Representative Qualification Examination. Required for entry-level stockbrokers, it is earned by passing an exam administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. The Series 63 license, known as the Uniform Securities Agent license, allows you to sell securities in a specific state.

Financial Analyst vs. Other Similar Titles

Financial analyst is a common job title, but in your search you may also find related positions and similar titles. These include:

  • Senior Analyst
  • Financial Project Analyst
  • Business Intelligence Analyst
  • Portfolio Analyst 
  • Financial Data Analyst

Other related job titles, courtesy of Corporate Finance Institute, include: 

  • Junior Financial Analyst
  • Senior Financial Analyst
  • Analyst Level I, II, III or IV
  • Manager
  • Director
  • Vice President
  • Corporate Development Analyst
  • Equity Research Analyst
  • Research Analyst
  • Quant Analyst

Education Requirements for a Financial Analyst

Education requirements typically include a bachelor’s degree with a focus in economics, finance, or statistics. An advanced degree can help, in addition to certifications and licenses. 

While an MBA is common for this type of position, a master’s in data science, finance, or a math-related field would also prove beneficial.

‘Buy Side’ vs. ‘Sell Side’ Analysts

As you explore this position, you may come across the terms “buy side” or “sell side.” The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics explains the difference between the two positions: 

  • 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.”

How to Move up the Financial Analyst Ranks

An entry-level position is an excellent way to explore the wide world of business and finance. To do so, we recommend obtaining a related bachelor’s degree and participating in an internship. Adding certifications and a master’s degree will increase your knowledge and can help you move up the financial analyst ranks. As with most types of positions, experience will allow you to move on to bigger — and more lucrative — roles.

Companies Hiring Financial Analysts (By Industry)

Financial analysts are in demand across all industries — from business and banking to health care, education, and all types of retail. A recent LinkedIn search of “financial analyst” found more than 120,000 positions in the following industries and for the following companies:

Finance, Business, Banking & Insurance

  • Fidelity Investments
  • Liberty Mutual 
  • Barclays Bank
  • Sallie Mae
  • Bank of America
  • M&T Bank
  • Robert Half

Information Technology & Services

  • Google
  • Apple
  • Oracle
  • Zoom
  • General Dynamics Information Technology

E-Commerce & Retail

  • Amazon
  • Talbots
  • Bass Pro Shops
  • Sleep Number Corporation
  • Target
  • Bath & Body Works
  • Colgate-Palmolive
  • Williams-Sonoma, Inc.
  • Lowe’s

Media, Sports & Entertainment

  • The Walt Disney Company
  • NBA
  • NFL
  • WarnerMedia
  • NBCUniversal
  • Netflix 
  • Ticketmaster
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • SiriusXM


  • University of Kentucky
  • Harvard University 
  • Perkins School for the Blind 
  • Denver Public Schools 
  • The New York Public Library

Health & Wellness 

  • Boston Medical Center
  • Phoenix Children’s Hospital
  • Kaiser Permanente 
  • Peloton
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield

Hospitality & Travel

  • MGM Resorts International
  • Disney Vacation Club
  • Marriott Vacations Worldwide 
  • Royal Caribbean Group
  • Hertz
  • Tripadvisor 

Food & Beverage

  • Almond Board of California
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Molson Coors Beverage Company
  • Krispy Kreme 
  • Red Bull
  • Nestle
  • Wendy’s


  • Federal Aviation Administration
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • FEMA
  • IRS
  • EPA
  • Federal Reserve Board 
  • City of Seattle


  • American Red Cross 
  • American Heart Association
  • The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation 
  • Boys & Girls Club of America
  • Jewish Community Center of San Francisco

Financial Analyst Career Outlook

The job outlook for financial analysts is expected to grow 6% between 2020 and 2030, which is on par with the national average. This position was ranked #13 (out of 30) for Best Business Jobs by U.S. News & World Report.

How Much Does a Financial Analyst Make?

Like every position, your salary will depend on a number of factors, including your specific responsibilities, experience, education and the company/industry itself. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a financial analyst in 2020 was $81,410. 

A recent search on Indeed revealed that about 2,000 posted positions made $95,000+; the bulk of the postings were in the $60K+ to $80K+ range.

Financial Analyst Career FAQs

What are the main responsibilities of a financial analyst?

Your exact responsibilities will depend on the position, but a financial analyst does everything from evaluating financial data and making related recommendations to working on budgets, reconciling statements and expenditures, and preparing financial reports.

Where can I work as a financial analyst?

The short answer — practically anywhere! Financial analysts are needed in almost every type of business and industry. Whether you’re interested in working in sports and entertainment or insurance, technology, or retail, the opportunities are abundant.

Do I need a master’s degree?

While many people pursue a financial analyst career through an MBA, there are other advanced degree options. For example, a master’s degree in applied data science can also provide you with the experience and industry knowledge needed for these types of positions.

What are the highest paying financial analyst jobs?

These positions likely come with years of experience, but roles like Senior Financial Analyst or Associate Director of Financial Analysis, Senior Manager, and Director typically net larger paychecks.

This career guide was brought to you by the University of San Diego — a highly regarded industry thought leader and nationally ranked education provider that offers an innovative, online Master of Science in Applied Data Science degree program featuring practical, cutting-edge curriculum taught by expert instructors

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