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Overview

Financial analysts recommend to clients when to buy and sell investments by staying current on economic trends, business news and company strategy. They also write reports that explain their analysis, share their expertise with colleagues who aren’t financial experts and sometimes communicate their perspectives to the public and financial media. Many work for financial companies, including those in the financial services and insurance industries.

A financial analyst researches macroeconomic and microeconomic conditions along with company fundamentals to make business, sector and industry recommendations. They also often recommend a course of action, such as to buy or sell a company’s stock based upon its overall current and predicted strength. An analyst must be aware of current developments in the field in which he or she specializes as well as in preparing financial models to predict future economic conditions for any number of variables.

Education

While a bachelor’s degree is preferred (usually in a finance-related field), many financial analysts also earn master’s degrees in finance or business administration and take additional financial analyst courses. If you are still an undergraduate student who is considering a career as a financial analyst, it is best to take courses in business, economics, accounting and math. Other majors that are looked upon favorably include computer sciences, biology, physics and even engineering. Many of the junior analysts hired by firms have these backgrounds, while MBA graduates are often hired as senior analysts right out of business school.

There are also ways of acquiring a financial analyst job without attending college, taking a Series 7 and 63 exam or joining the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Program. These exams can be extremely advanced and may be beyond anyone who has never taken any economics related schooling or worked in a financial environment. There are many practice exams and programs available to help students learn the material, and some institutions also offer training for the right candidates. Most students right out of college have a great chance of swiftly entering a successful financial analyst career. The beginning position is a junior analyst, and with several years of experience, a junior can become a senior analyst.

The Series 7 exam  is administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) (previously the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) and provides an individual with the qualifications necessary in order to make different types of trades with all types of corporate securities, excluding commodities and futures.

The Series 63 exam is also administered by FINRA. Completion of the exam will entitle an individual with the qualifications necessary to become a limited registered representative who solicits orders for corporate debt and equity securities such as common and preferred stock, bonds, warrants, and more.

Employment

Financial analysts tend to specialize based on the type of institution they work for. Analysts are hired by banks, buy- and sell-side investment firms, insurance companies and investment banks. Within the investment industry, most analysts tend to work either for buy-side investment firms, where they research stocks for an in-house fund, or sell-side firms that write research reports for buy-side firms. Buy-side firms are investment houses that manage their own funds. At a sell-side firm, analysts evaluate and compare the quality of securities in a given sector or industry. Based on this analysis, the analysts then make reports with certain recommendations such as: buy, sell, strong buy, strong sell or hold.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2012 that the median salary for financial analysts was $76,950 with a Bachelor’s degree. The expected job growth/change rate is 16% or 39,300 jobs change from 2012 to 2022.

The caveat to this well-paying occupation is that these analysts frequently work more than a 40 hour work week. Money.usnews.com reported that one in three analysts work 50 to 70 hours a week!