A popular entry-level role to consider in finance is the job of financial analyst. This is a sought-after position because these roles are pivotal in many organizations, from banks to research institutions. Financial analysts often play a role in interpreting financial data and guiding strategic decisions and can have many more responsibilities too depending on the company and the exact position.
For those navigating entering this competitive field, there are some key things to know. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of what a financial analyst is, the skills and experience potentially needed to apply for entry-level positions, and tips to keep in mind as you embark on this career choice.
What does a financial analyst do?
What you do as a financial analyst will largely depend on the company and team you work for. In a role as a financial analyst, you could work at a bank, brokerage, money management firm, research house, media company, or another organization.
Within these organizations, you could potentially have a range of different responsibilities, including:
- Data analysis: Analyzing financial data and trends to make predictions about the future performance of investments or markets.
- Financial reporting: Preparing reports on financial performance, including quarterly and annual reports, for management and stakeholders.
- Budgeting and forecasting: Developing financial models for budgeting and forecasting to aid in business planning and decision-making.
- Investment analysis: Evaluating investment opportunities, including stocks, bonds, and other securities, to provide recommendations on portfolio composition.
- Risk assessment: Assessing financial risks associated with investments and business operations and developing strategies to mitigate those risks.
- Market research: Conducting market research to understand industry trends and competitive landscapes, which can impact financial strategies and investments.
- Financial planning: Assisting in long-term financial planning, including setting financial goals and strategies for achieving them.
- Performance analysis: Analyzing the financial performance of different departments or products within a company to identify areas of improvement.
- Stakeholder communication: Communicating financial information and recommendations to management, investors, and clients.
- Regulatory compliance: Ensuring financial practices and reporting comply with relevant laws and regulations.
- Portfolio management: Managing investment portfolios, including buying and selling assets and maintaining desired levels of risk and return.
- Cost analysis: Analyzing costs and identifying areas where a business can reduce expenses to increase profitability.
- Mergers and acquisitions support: Providing financial analysis and support for mergers, acquisitions, or other corporate restructuring activities.
Each of these responsibilities can vary depending on a financial analyst’s specific role, industry, and level of seniority.
Given the breadth of responsibilities a financial analyst can have, there are many different specific roles for aspiring financial analysts to consider. Each of these roles represents a different specialization, reflecting the diverse opportunities for those pursuing financial analyst jobs. Here are some potential specific opportunities:
- Investment analyst: An investment analyst tends to focus on researching and analyzing market trends, individual securities and portfolios, and providing insights and recommendations to assist in investment decision-making for clients or financial institutions.
- Risk analyst: A risk analyst usually specializes in identifying and assessing potential risks that could affect a business’s or investment’s financial health, developing strategies to mitigate these risks, and protect assets.
- Corporate financial analyst: This analyst tends to work within a corporation, usually handling internal financial analyses, including budgeting, forecasting, and performance evaluation to support strategic business decisions and financial planning.
- Credit analyst: A credit analyst evaluates the creditworthiness of individuals or businesses, assessing financial histories and current conditions to determine the risk involved in lending money.
- Quantitative analyst: Often referred to as a “quant,” this analyst applies mathematical and statistical methods to financial and risk management problems, developing models to predict market behavior and inform investment strategies.
- Equity analyst: An equity analyst specializes in analyzing stock markets and individual stocks, providing investment recommendations based on their assessments of financial statements, market trends, and other economic factors.
- Mergers and acquisitions analyst: This analyst focuses on analyzing potential merger and acquisition opportunities, evaluating the financial implications, synergies, and risks associated with such business transactions.
- Government financial analyst: Working in the public sector, these analysts focus on the fiscal management and budgeting of government entities, analyzing the allocation and use of public funds.
- Real estate financial analyst: Specializing in the real estate sector, this analyst evaluates investment opportunities in properties, analyzing market trends, property values, and potential areas to drive revenue to inform buying, selling, or developing real estate decisions.
What’s an entry-level financial analyst’s salary?
Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median yearly salary for financial analysts in 2022 was $96,220. Keep in mind that this median salary is for all financial analysts, not just entry-level financial analysts. Still, this number provides some insights into salaries for this position.
Also of note, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this job is expected to grow 8% faster than average from 2022 to 2032 to give some sense of the outlook for these positions.
How to secure an entry-level financial analyst job
If this job interests you, you may want to know some of the potential requirements and nice-to-haves employers look for when hiring financial analysts.
You’ll likely need to earn at least a bachelor’s degree to be considered for most financial analyst positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that’s the typical entry-level education for financial analysts.
On top of securing a bachelor’s degree, you might consider majoring in related fields like economics, business, or finance while in school since some companies (although certainly not all) prefer candidates with this relevant experience.
If you can’t or don’t want to major in one of these related subjects, you might consider taking a few classes that can give you introductory knowledge related to finance.
For those who have aspirations for senior positions in this field, you might consider getting extra certifications or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.
Skills employers may look for
Beyond a job candidate’s educational background, employers tend to look for specific technical skills when hiring. These roles tend to demand a blend of analytical skills, attention to detail, and the ability to communicate complex financial concepts. Key skills and qualities that are often sought include:
- Analytical skills: Ability to analyze financial data and trends, interpret complex financial reports, and provide actionable insights.
- Proficiency in specific software: Familiarity with financial analysis and reporting software.
- Understanding of financial principles: Solid grasp of financial concepts, accounting principles, and knowledge of financial markets.
- Communication skills: Strong written and verbal communication abilities to effectively convey financial information to non-financial stakeholders.
Potential steps to take to secure an entry-level financial analyst job
If you want to become a financial analyst, here are some tips to consider to secure an entry-level job.
- Start early with internships: Financial institutions tend to begin their recruitment process earlier than other organizations. Sometimes, recruitment begins a year before an internship starts. Internships can be a great gateway to an entry-level job as a financial analyst, so keep this in mind if you want to secure internships.
- Attend networking events: Financial corporations sometimes partner with educational institutions to recruit talent. If you’re in college, be on the lookout for when relevant companies are on campus by contacting your college’s career office, talking to upper-level students or peers, or even talking with your professors who might also have some insights. For off-campus events, be sure to check online on company websites or social media for when companies you’re interested in may have events you can attend to network with current employees.
- Reach out to alums: If you’re in college, utilize any platforms your school may have that connect alums with current students to find alums of your school who work for companies you’re interested in.
- Study industry trends: Keep up with the latest financial news and industry trends by watching the news or reading industry journals and articles. This can be helpful when networking and interviewing for jobs.
- Prepare your resume: Your resume will need to be prepped with experiences related to the skills required for entry-level financial analyst roles. Be sure to utilize your career office on campus (if you have access to one) or have a trusted peer help you review your resume before submitting it to jobs.
- Interview prep: Some financial jobs are known for having a lengthy interview process for entry-level jobs. This interview process even has a name — “super days.” Mentally and physically, prepare yourself for a series of interviews, sometimes all within the same day, that range from behavioral to technical.
What to include on your resume if you’re applying for financial analyst roles
If you’re applying to entry-level financial analyst roles, consider tailoring your resume specifically for these roles.
Make sure to include any relevant work and internship experience you’ve had. If you’re applying to entry-level jobs, your resume might be light on work experience, so beyond work experience, you can highlight the relevant coursework you’ve taken to show your interest in the finance industry. This could include sharing that you’ve taken classes in economics, accounting, and data visualization.
It’s also important to showcase your experience collaborating with individuals to execute projects, whether in a classroom setting, a college club, or work with a nonprofit. Mentioning these experiences shows that you can be a team player and gives you the room to highlight any leadership experience you’ve had.
In addition, if you have any relevant certifications that were obtained independently, this would be good to include on your resume.
Obtaining entry-level financial analyst roles can be competitive, so getting a head start on the process can be beneficial. Prepare to be on a learning journey as you strive to obtain these positions.