Growth Trends for Related Jobs
Financial analysts enjoy excellent salary and benefits opportunities as well as good work/life balance. Some workaholic companies are high-stress to work for, but for many financial analysts, their chosen career is dependable, intellectually challenging, lucrative and enjoyable. If you are organized and gifted in communication, math, analysis and decision-making skills, it could be the right choice for you.
A financial analyst is a diagnostician for companies. By looking through the reams of financial information relating to a company, an analyst may be called upon to set share and option prices for offerings, create a plan for minimizing corporate taxation, devise systems to streamline or expand departments or project future earnings, and that's just a start. If the company the analyst works for invests in other corporations or reports on those corporations to clients, the analyst may determine whether a company's stock is underpriced or overpriced, whether to make a takeover attempt, structure a merger or split off a subsidiary.
It is a role of heavy responsibility, as jobs, careers and savings depend on the decisions the financial analyst makes. It is usually well paid, and it can be a 9 to 5 job with limited overtime and only manageable pressure from above in many companies. On Wall Street, however, a financial analyst can expect long hours, but they are accompanied by a genuinely jaw-dropping potential income.
To become a financial analyst you need at least a bachelor's degree, preferably in a field relating to business. An MBA is a definite plus, and some programs can be completed in less than two years, paying off instantly with significantly higher starting salaries.
You may also wish to be certified as a Chartered Financial Analyst through an organization such as the CFA Institute once you have at least four years of experience. This requires passing four comprehensive exams on financial analysis.
U.S. News and World Report placed financial analyst at #15 on its list of Best Business Jobs. Pay in the field is rising faster than inflation, making it even more attractive to someone with a knack for numbers.
People tend not to stay in this position for more than a decade. After 10 years, they typically segue into a related field such as corporate controller, finance director, CPA or the like. For someone with ambitions to the C suite, a position as a financial analyst is a great launching pad.
Years of Experience and Salary
A financial analyst salary is a median of $81,760, with the lowest-paid making $50,350 and the highest-paid making $165,100, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 figures. Geography strongly factors into the salary range, with San Francisco and Silicon Valley paying the most and New York coming in a close second thanks to the boost from Wall Street and the many global corporate offices there. In San Francisco, the average salary is $141,840, whereas a Wall Street financial analyst can expect to average $133,130. PayScale puts the average finance bachelor's degree salary at $58,982, less than half what the big companies in the big cities pay, but notes that this is supplemented by an average bonus of $3,940, profit sharing of $2,011, and commissions of $9,250. Analysts with MBAs are paid more.
Financial analysts with bachelor's degrees earned a median salary of $81,760 in 2016. Those with an MBA or those working in Wall Street or Silicon Valley make considerably more than that.
Years of experience are not as important for a financial analyst as performance, and payment often comes in the form of bonuses that are a substantial fraction of a year's normal salary. This is a normal procedure on Wall Street, while Silicon Valley prefers to give bonuses in the form of stock options. This is a career where your rewards depend on your output rather than your time served.
Job Growth Trend
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the field has an exceptionally rosy outlook through 2026, projecting an 11 percent growth rate, which is up nearly 30 percent from the year 2000.
If you are a highly organized, meticulous, math-savvy person with an analytical mind, communications skills, and financial or corporate ambition, a position as a financial analyst is an excellent choice. Know your exit plan when you enter the field, and you will know the additional education or on-the-job training you need, whether it's an MBA or a CFA.
Lorraine Murphy has been writing on business, self-employment, and marketing since the turn of the 21st century. Her credits include Vanity Fair, the Guardian, Slate, Salon, Occupational Pursuit Magazine, the Daily Download, and Business in Vancouver. She has been a judge and mentor at Vancouver Startup Weekend multiple times, and is an in-demand keynote speaker.