The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of financial analysts in the U.S. will increase by 15.5 percent by 2020. At a median pay range of $78,380 and with superb perks in the forms of bonuses and other incentives, it’s a highly lucrative – albeit fiercely competitive –  career path.

While working as a financial analyst requires constant preparation and hard work, it has the potential to deliver not just attractive monetary rewards, but also the genuine satisfaction that comes from being an integral part of the global business landscape. There are numerous steps you can take to groom yourself as a leading candidate.

The Best Background

The right academic background is essential to your career as a financial analyst. Professional certification is an added plus.

  • Junior analysts typically have bachelor’s degrees, while senior analysts often are MBA graduates. Optimal majors include business, economics, accounting, math, computer science, biology, physics and engineering.
  • Consider FINRA certification. FINRA is the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the largest independent regulator for all securities firms driving U.S. business. The most common FINRA qualifications are the Series 7 General Securities Representative Qualification, the Series 63 Uniform Securities Agent State Law Examination and the Series 65 and 66 Uniform Investment Adviser Law and State Law Examination.
  • Another FINRA option is Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification. The CFA is globally recognized by employers, investors and investment professionals. You must have at least a bachelor’s degree to sit for the exam. The CFA offers a broad financial curriculum on economics, financial reporting and analysis, corporate finance, equity investment, fixed income, derivatives, alternative investments, portfolio management and wealth planning.

The Right Skills

The best financial analysts excel in soft, nontangible skills as well as hard technical capabilities.

  • Be well read. Stay up to date on The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, The Economist and financial websites. Be vigilant about gathering information on the macro economy, as well as specific companies and the fundamental micro economy within their balance sheets.
  • Have cutting-edge technical finesse. This includes proficiency with statistical software and spreadsheets, as well as relational databases and graphics packages. You’ll need to develop detailed presentations and reports that include forecasting, cost benefit analysis, trending, and results analysis.
  • Communication and interpersonal skills are key. Employers are looking for strength in analytical and decision making, teamwork and collaboration, influencing others, flexibility, and the ability to achieve results and take initiative.

Optimize Your Face Time

It’s critical to network and build relationships within the financial services field.

  • Something as simple as working with an established pro for five to ten hours a month while you’re still in school can make a major difference. In the words of Marisha Thakor, founder and CEO of MoneyZen Wealth Management, “Keep one hand in the books and one hand out shaking new ones.”
  • Attend social events and participate in professional associations and conferences. Spend your downtime with people in the business. It will be worth the sacrifice made during your early years as you establish career-long partnerships.

The specialized recruiters at Magellan Search & Staffing can partner with you to achieve your career dream to become a financial analyst. From day one, we’ll work with you – measuring our success by yours. Read our related posts or contact us today to learn more.