Financial analysts are the analytical players in the world of accounting and finance. While accountants crunch the numbers, analysts review the numbers to make recommendations and predictions of what the future holds for the company. They typically carry more responsibility on their shoulders than staff accountants, which explains why they are paid more. Top-tier financial analysts are referred to as senior analysts. Senior analysts typically work with little oversight and command larger salaries than those just starting out as financial analysts.
Senior financial analysts review financial spreadsheets and other reports in order to predict current and future financial performance. Financial analysts work in both private and public companies in addition to government agencies and non-profit foundations. They develop financial forecasts that they present to stakeholders who use the information to make financial decisions. Senior financial analysts track the current financial progress against their forecasts to make sure that the company is on track. They often make adjustments to the forecasts and report any variances to senior management or, in some companies, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Financial analysts also research the economic climate and other investments to determine the effect that these factors will have on a company’s performance.
Knowledge and Skills Needed
Senior financial analysts often have at least five to seven years of experience before reaching a senior level. A successful senior analyst possess a superior attention to detail as well as an almost compulsive need for accuracy. Someone in this position must also be able to meet deadlines and handle stress. Equally important is the ability to hold important information in confidence. Financial analysts often deal with sensitive subjects, such as future layoffs, office closings and other issues that carry a large impact. They must be able to maintain their integrity when confronted with these situations. Senior financial analysts must also be familiar with the latest accounting software and computer systems in order to adequately perform their roles. Good communication and presentation skills are needed in order to present financial information to stakeholders within the company.
Senior financial analysts typically have a business, finance or accounting degree or even a master’s in one of these subjects. These degrees are not the only majors that gain you entry into the financial analyst realm but they are the most popular. A degree in business or other related major gives you the all-around experience needed for this position. Economics or mathematics majors also do particularly well in finance positions. In order to advance to the rank of a senior financial analyst, some companies may require you to obtain a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.
The responsibility level of senior financial analysts is reflected in their pay, which can start around $44,490. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary of financial analysts in 2010 was $74,350. Senior financial analysts may earn more because of their experience level. Top analysts can potentially earn over $141,700. Due to tight deadlines and demanding shareholders, senior financial analysts work hard for their salaries. The average work week for many analysts is between 50 and 70 hours a week.