Updated: Mar 26
Are you contemplating the prospect of becoming a financial analyst? Perhaps you are a student and don’t have any work experience? Or you are a seasoned professional who would like to change careers? Whatever the case, if the question “Can I become a Financial Analyst?” has ever crossed your mind, this article is for you!
To give you a data-supported answer, we conducted a thorough research into 510 publicly listed financial analyst LinkedIn profiles. The information that was gathered is about education, previous work experience (if any), country, company of employment, professional skills, and post-graduate qualifications. We screened financial analysts from the USA, UK, Europe, India and the rest of the world. 293 of them work in Fortune-500-listed companies. The rest are employed in other large or mid-sized firms. We collected industry data by dividing our cohort into 5 major sectors – Technology/IT, Healthcare, Energy, Industrial, and Finance. We didn’t pre-screen financial analysts based on biological sex. Profiles information was randomly collected regardless of gender. We found out that 61% of the professionals included in our research are male, and 39% female.
Also, we need to make the following specification. We used LinkedIn because it is a professional social media that allows a somewhat unbiased assessment of a person’s professional career path and accomplishments. The publicity of LinkedIn profiles makes data fabrication almost impossible. After all, you risk too much by putting false or questionable information on your LinkedIn Profile.
And when it comes to the sample size, we believe that reviewing 510 profiles was just enough to come up with some of the main features of the typical financial analyst profile.
Our results show that the typical financial analyst is male, as men accounted for 61% of the individuals in our sample. However, the difference of 61% to 39% isn’t as overwhelming compared to some other popular fields such as IT, data science, and engineering. Finance and the financial analyst role seem to be an accessible field for women too and it will be interesting to see if this trend continues to improve the next time when we conduct the study.
Another factor we examined is knowledge of a foreign language. Most financial analysts speak 2 languages. In the majority of cases speaking English is an absolute must considering today’s multicultural working environment and the fact that English is the official language of the business world.
Our numbers showed that on average, a person needed 4 years of prior working experience to get to the ‘financial analyst’ job title. This isn’t too much, right? In the majority of cases, they hold a bachelor’s degree in Finance or any other related field (Business, Accounting, etc.) and possess certain technical skills.
Level of Education
Surely, education is crucial when it comes to embarking on a financial analyst career path. Yet, our research shows that you don’t have to be overly ambitious with respect to the education level factor. Around 70% of the financial analysts in our study (68.2% to be precise) have a Bachelor’s degree, while 30.2% hold a Master’s degree. Only 3 people out of 510 had a PhD degree (and this is why PhDs along with MBAs were added together and represented as ‘Other’). Yet, it is important to note that you need to study hard even if you opt for a BA program only.
Some financial analysts have supplemented their education by completing post-graduate programs and online courses. But we will discuss this in more detail a bit later on.
Another interesting finding is that Europeans tend to be more inclined towards pursuing a master’s degree. In fact, 51.5% of European financial analysts have a master’s degree compared to 25.2% of the financial analysts working in the USA.
So, it turns out that academic titles are important, yet a Bachelor’s degree (sometimes combined with additional qualifications and technical skills) can be perfectly sufficient to get you the financial analyst job.
University Ranking and Employment
Moreover, our study suggests that you don’t have to earn a degree from a top-ranked university. More than 43 % of the financial analysts we analysed studied in non-ranked universities and only 14.3% graduated from a top-100 university.
Previous Work Experience
You might wonder: What is the career path of a typical financial analyst? As per our research, the most frequent previous position of current financial analysts was an intern (24.3%) or a financial analyst (22.2%). A substantial number of people had an accountant (7.3%) or auditor (6.5%) working title as well. Less often people who were employed as a manager left their job to become a financial analyst (5.9%).
(1 job ago)
(2 jobs ago)
And what about early work experience? What did financial analysts do “2 jobs ago”?
Again, the most frequently held job positions were Intern (29.2%) and Financial Analyst (10%). Relatively few individuals were employed as managers (3.7%), accountants (3.5%), or consultants (1.4%).
Besides these somewhat expected results, we found out that 47.8% of our cohort had only one job prior to becoming financial analysts or held totally unrelated positions. Some would work as cashiers or sales assistants and others earned a living by being lifeguards or playing as a professional tennis players! Yet, there were people who previously had very demanding jobs such as a system engineer or university tutor.
If factors as important as university ranking and professional background are of slight relevance, what is the thing that really matters when it comes to working as a financial analyst?
Skills, of course! Undoubtedly, employers prefer hearing about what you can do for them rather than where you studied or how exactly you earned a living in the past.
Surely, one cannot do the job without extensive theoretical knowledge in Finance, Accounting and Business. In addition, there are some technical skills that financial analysts should possess. Let’s try to understand this a bit better.
Undoubtedly, you need to be good at Excel. 71% of the financial analyst LinkedIn Profiles we reviewed were endorsed for Excel or Financial Modeling. And of course, one can imagine that there were a few good Excel modelers who did not list their endorsements because they believed this is a very basic skill. So, the number of financial analysts who are advanced Excel users is probably even higher than 71%. One way to stand out on the job and at interviews is to be an advanced user who really knows how to work with Excel and is able to take full advantage of it. There is an important difference between an intermediate and an advanced Excel user.
Some 14.3% of financial analysts in our cohort use the ERP system SAP. Such kinds of software are of crucial importance, given the increasing complexity of operations of large multinational corporations and the scale of the transactions they record.
We also dug for any other technical skills that might be useful and learned that 10.4% of the financial analysts in our study are on good terms with SQL. However, in total, only 15% of them code (using Python, R, C or any other coding language). And surprisingly, those who do, work mostly for firms that are not part of the Fortune 500 list.
The programming languages financial analysts use most often are C++ and Python.
Another interesting finding that came as a surprise to us is that, 95% of financial analysts don’t use one of the two most popular business intelligence visualization software – Power BI or Tableau. This is strange because in our day and age the next big trend shapes to be interactive data visualization and drag and drop dashboard construction.
Online Courses & Certificates
Earlier we said that theoretical, soft, and especially technical skills would make a significant difference if you want to become a financial analyst. In the digital age we live in, taking an online course is one of the most efficient and effective ways to acquire such skills. Usually, online courses come with completion certificates and are often self-paced, which makes them a good education and career advancement tool. Such courses can be useful to a beginner who wants to see if this is a career path they would like to pursue, as well as for a person who is already on the job and who would like to learn advanced topics a bit faster.
On average, 13.9% of the financial analysts in our sample posted that they took an online course.
When it comes to professional designations, we found out that 22.5% of the financial analysts in our sample hold one of the four most popular finance professional designations. 12.7% of the financial analysts we considered are CFA charterholders, but there are also professionals who earned CIMA (2.4%), ACCA (2.5%) and CPA (4.9%) designations. Holding one of these professional designations is a clear signal to potential employers that you are motivated, well prepared, and willing to learn and go the extra mile.
Country of Employment and Industry
Another interesting factor we were very curious to explore is the relationship between country of employment and industry. Thus, we found that in the USA 52.5 % of financial analysts are employed in the Industrial sector, while only 2.9% work in the Energy field. In Europe, most financial analysts work in the Financial (45.6%), Health (10.3%) and Technology/IT (10.3%) sectors. Financial analysts in India work mostly in the Financial (51%) and Industrial sectors (25.5%).
Rooting for YOU!
So, we took the pains to show you that becoming a financial analyst is something totally doable! On average, you will be able to start a career with a Finance-related bachelor’s degree, proficiency in Excel and English (as well as solid understanding on finance fundamentals such as accounting, financial math, and corporate finance) and about 4 years of previous work experience. Of course, additional qualifications are always beneficial and make your applications so much stronger. Yet, it all boils down to the skills you can bring to the job and to your willingness and determination to improve them.