Stock analysts, or securities analysts as they are also known, spend their time researching and examining financial data on stocks and companies so they can then advise businesses on how best to invest their money. They normally work in banks, stock brokerages, insurance companies, government agencies and in large corporations.
Through spreadsheets and other forms of software, stock analysts examine the securities of companies in various industries. They look at the financial results, market prices, and industry factors that might affect the price of a company's stock. They then use this data to try to predict the future earnings of the company and advise their clients if it is wise to buy or sell stocks in that business.
To become a stock analyst you'll need a university degree in something related to business, such as economics, accounting and finance, mathematics, law or statistics. Many employers also look for candidates with a master's in business administration (MBA). Most companies provide in-house training for new stock analysts so that they are able to analyze financial documents and statements.
Stock analysts will find that much of their work is carried out independently in the office. This may be broken up from time to time with visits to other companies or to conferences. In general a stock analyst will work more than 40 hours a week, with overtime required frequently. The job is highly pressured as analysts are expected to be able to predict the movement of the markets and the economy. Those who are unable to predict market movements successfully the majority of the time will not be promoted.
Stock analysts earn a good salary by average standards. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2008, the average salary of a stock analyst was $73,150, with the top 10 percent taking home more than $141,070 a year. Of course, the amount an analyst earns depends on the firm he works for, with those working at large firms earning even more.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2008, stock analysts totaled 250,600 in 2008. The rate of job creation in the sector is expected to grow 20 percent up to 2018, faster than the national average for all jobs. Job growth depends on the health of the economy, with firms investing in stocks in times of economic certainty increasing the demand for analysts.