Equity research analysts study companies for investment purposes. Sell-side equity analysts work for companies that sell their research to clients; buy-side equity analysts are employed by banks, mutual funds and hedge funds who use their research to inform their own stock purchases. Most equity research analysts have at least a college degree, and many choose to become chartered financial analysts.
Complete an undergraduate degree program, ideally in finance, economics or business. An undergraduate degree is the minimum educational requirement for a financial analyst, and a growing number of analysts have graduate degrees.
Begin the process of earning your chartered financial analyst credential your senior year in college. Chartered means holding a charter from the CFA Institute attesting you are a fully qualified financial analyst. Becoming a CFA requires passing three comprehensive exams. The level I covers topics including economics, corporate finance and quantitative methods. The level II exam focuses on asset valuation and financial reporting and analysis, and the level III exam covers portfolio management and wealth planning. It typically takes four to six years for candidates to pass all three exams, with most reporting over 300 study hours per exam.
Apply for jobs after you have passed the CFA level I exam. Entry-level financial positions are often probationary hires, where you have to demonstrate your value to the company during the first six to 12 months on the job. Junior analysts typically start in sector or industry research and move up to individual company coverage or another specialty area after a couple of years with a successful track record.
Take and pass the CFA level II and level III exams to earn your certification during your first few years on the job. Becoming a CFA charterholder opens many doors, and some employers even assist with the costs associated with the program. Most senior equity analysts and portfolio managers are CFAs.
Consider going back to school to earn a master's in finance or business administration. Having a graduate degree will give you a leg up when applying for senior financial analyst or management positions.