According to "Career Discovery Encyclopedia" (2009), financial analysts have an undergraduate degree in business, finance, accounting, economics, mathematics, or computer science. Graduate degree programs teach topics such as financial analysis. Financial analysts work in many industries, including commercial banks, insurance companies, investment banks, asset management, broker-dealers, and hedge funds. They also work in most other industries, such as consumer goods and health care. A financial analyst evaluates and extrapolates financial information.
Financial analyst -- within the financial industry -- may describe an analyst focused on the operations of the organization. A financial analyst may be called a budget, credit, or auditor. She works within the firm's accounting, operations and financial departments. She compares financial statements, check records, accounts payable/receivable, and financial performance. She may be involved with the company's financial reporting.
A career path for the financial analyst includes a promotion to senior analyst. He will then identify opportunities within the organization's finance department or the treasury. As an assistant treasurer, he may ultimately seek the treasurer's post.
He may then vie for the company's most senior finance position: the chief financial officer (CFO). A successful CFO develops a close working relationship with the chief executive officer (CEO). Some CFOs eventually transition to the top leadership position.
Investment Analaysts: Buy-side
A financial analyst who analyzes investments has a different career path. She analyzes stocks, bonds, options, or other assets in which her employer invests.
Financial analysts working for a buy-side firm have fewer potential conflicts than sell-side counterparts. A buy-side firm -- asset manager, money manager, private investment or proprietary investment firm -- does not publish client recommendations. In exchange for professional investment management, clients pays fees. Fees are charged as a percentage of assets under management, performance, or both.
The financial analyst on this path will pursue more education or credentials. She may want to pursue the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. With only 89,000 CFA charterholders in the world and a challenging pass rate, CFAs remain in strong demand.
Investment Analysts: Sell-side
The sell-side financial analyst performs similar tasks to the buy-side analyst. A sell-side firm charges commissions and fees for financial products sold.
The analyst may analyze balance sheets for senior analysts. In addition to stocks, bonds, and money market instruments -- the three main asset classes -- he may analyze alternative-assets like real estate. If employed by an investment bank, he must remain impartial and avoid touting the firm's clients unless their securities possess superior potential.
The financial analyst may be promoted to senior financial analyst within three years. He may later pursue a proprietary investment post. Proprietary portfolio managers direct sell-side firm capital. The FA's ability to evaluate investments meshes well with portfolio management.
The next career move for the financial analyst might include establishing his own money management or hedge fund. As a heralded financial analyst/portfolio manager/trader with an audited track record, he obtains client funds to start a new business.
According to PayScale.com, CFAs earn between $48,808 to $72,748 as financial analysts. Investment analysts, portfolio managers and CFOs earn higher compensation with increasing levels of experience.
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