"A financial analyst provides guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions. They assess the performance of stocks, bonds and other types of investments."1 They carry out financial research and analysis, which they use to provide investment suggestions to clients. Financial analysts evaluate the economic outlook of different sectors and industries for organizations that wish to invest. A financial analyst might work for a corporation or a public entity managing funds and studying risk and profitability.
Financial Analyst → Senior Financial Analyst → Finance Supervisor → Finance Manager → Finance Director → Finance Vice President and CFO
Various financial corporations
A bachelor's degree is sufficient to enter the field. You may later obtain an MBA with a finance emphasis or a master's degree in finance. You may also become a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) after four years of experience. Financial analysts have excellent quantitative reasoning, statistics and mathematic skills. They are strong communicators, both orally and through writing.
National Average Salary:
How will your economics degree help in this field?
Like economists, financial analysts research and work with data analysis. Financial analysts study market trends and help corporations and public entities make decisions based on their data analyses.
Financial Director Bio:
Kent Okeson, a BYU economics alumnus, has worked in a variety of financial and operational roles at Melaleuca since 2006. Currently, he is the Senior Director of Global Finance. For his start in finance, he realized that he was drawn to the field because of the way he was taught to think and analyze while in the economics program. "I thoroughly enjoy the broader implications of the analyses, such as a person's motives and the unintended consequences of a decision."
One of the things he enjoys most about corporate finance is the variation in his everyday work. Okeson explains, "In just the last week or so, I've had the opportunity to evaluate North American and international financial results and research key drivers of year-over-year changes, work with executive management to develop employee compensation benchmarks, and interview several candidates for a financial analyst position that is currently open."
Okeson says he has really enjoyed his various positions in his career so far and is grateful for his experience in economics. "My economics background has provided a strong foundation to evaluate options and try to optimize outcomes."
For those thinking of becoming a financial analyst, Okeson says he has observed similar traits in many successful analysts: curiosity, brightness, strong communication skills and passion. "[Financial analysts] want to understand why something works (or doesn't work) and how to make it better. They are sharp, intelligent individuals."
He also mentions that he has thoroughly enjoyed his career so far, citing that growing companies have kept him most fulfilled. "I've found that I enjoy working at growing, vibrant companies where I have the opportunity to work closely with the operating team, driving strategic decisions and implementing process improvements, which is why I've stayed at my present company for almost nine years."
He does mention that though a degree is extremely helpful for success in any career, real world experience is invaluable, and Okeson knows since he looks for new financial analysts on a regular basis. "Though companies may have different suites of products to manage their data, strong Excel and SQL query skills can set one apart from other potential analyst candidates."
For the corporate finance career ladder, Okeson explains that companies will typically hire undergraduates as an associate financial analyst or as a financial analyst. After starting in finance, some may move to more "operational types of roles in companies, given their knowledge of the business and processes they have gained while in the organization." For graduate degrees, Okeson says that it depends on the company.
"For some companies, a grad degree and/or certifications are very important, while other companies are not as concerned about them. I think they can be important in the earlier stages of one's career, especially as a signal of the type of employee you will be. However, I think as one's career matures, the accomplishments in one's career becomes more important than additional degrees."