Financial analysts held about 253,000 jobs in 2012. They work primarily in offices, but travel frequently to visit companies or potential investors.
Many financial analysts work at large financial institutions based in New York City or other major financial centers. In 2012, about 45 percent of financial analysts worked in finance and insurance industries. They worked primarily for security and commodity brokerages, banks and credit institutions, and insurance carriers. Others worked throughout private industry and for government.
The industries that employed the most financial analysts in 2012 were as follows:
|Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities||21%|
|Credit intermediation and related activities||13|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||13|
|Management of companies and enterprises||12|
|Insurance carriers and related activities||8|
Most financial analysts work full time, and about one-third of financial analysts worked more than 40 hours per week in 2012. Much of their research must be done after office hours because their days are filled with telephone calls and meetings.
Financial analysts typically must have a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree is often required for advanced positions.
Most positions require a bachelor’s degree. A number of fields of study provide appropriate preparation, including accounting, economics, finance, statistics, mathematics, and engineering. For advanced positions, employers often require a master’s in business administration (MBA) or a master’s degree in finance. Knowledge of options pricing, bond valuation, and risk management are important.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is the main licensing organization for the securities industry. It requires licenses for many financial analyst positions. Most of the licenses require sponsorship by an employer, so companies do not expect individuals to have these licenses before starting a job.
Certification is often recommended by employers and can improve the chances for advancement. An example is the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification from the CFA Institute, which financial analysts can get if they have a bachelor’s degree, 4 years of experience, and pass three exams. Financial analysts can also become certified in their field of specialty.
Financial analysts typically start by specializing in a specific investment field. As they gain experience, they can become portfolio managers, who supervise a team of analysts and select the mix of investments for the company’s portfolio. They can also become fund managers, who manage large investment portfolios for individual investors. A master’s degree in finance or business administration can improve an analyst’s chances of advancing to one of these positions.
To be successful, financial analysts must be motivated to seek out obscure information that may be important to the investment. Many work independently and must have self-confidence in their judgment.
Financial analysts typically have an interest in the Thinking, Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Thinking or Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a financial analyst, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Financial analysts should also possess the following specific qualities:
Analytical skills. Financial analysts must process a range of information in finding profitable investments.
Communication skills. Financial analysts must explain their recommendations to clients in clear language that clients can easily understand.
Computer skills. Financial analysts must be adept at using software packages to analyze financial data, see trends, create portfolios, and make forecasts.
Decision making skills. Financial analysts must provide a recommendation to buy, hold, or sell a security. Fund managers must make split-second trading decisions.
Detail oriented. Financial analysts must pay attention to details when reviewing possible investments, as small issues may have large implications for the health of an investment.
Math skills. Financial analysts use mathematical skills when estimating the value of financial securities.
The median annual wage for financial analysts was $76,950 in May 2012. 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 $47,130 and the top 10 percent earned more than $148,430.
In May 2012, the median annual wages for financial analysts in the top five industries in which these analysts worked were as follows:
|Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial
investments and related activities
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||75,920|
|Credit intermediation and related activities||75,300|
|Management of companies and enterprises||75,200|
|Insurance carriers and related activities||72,270|
Most financial analysts work full time, and about one-third of financial analysts worked more than 40 hours per week in 2012.
Employment of financial analysts is projected to grow 16 percent from 2012 to 2022, 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.
Investment portfolios are becoming more complex, and there are more financial products available for trade. In addition, emerging markets throughout the world are providing new investment opportunities, which require expertise in geographic regions where those markets are located.
The continued implementation of financial regulatory reform could constrict growth in the industry, as rule-making bodies place a greater emphasis on stability. Restrictions on trading by banks may shift employment of financial analysts from investment banks to hedge funds and private equity groups.
Despite employment growth, strong competition is expected for these high-paying jobs. Growth in financial services should 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.
For more information about licensure for financial analysts, visit
For more information about training and certification, visit