Businesses rely on sound financial data. The role of a financial analyst is to generate reports summarizing financial data for use by executives, managers and other stakeholders when making business decisions. These professionals require a combination of business and financial knowledge, which may be obtained through a bachelor’s in business administration program with a specialization in accounting.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of financial analysts nationwide will grow by 12% between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than the average growth rate for all occupations during the same period. Employment of financial analysts should rise as a result of the need for accurate interpretations of financial data in an increasingly diverse and complex global business environment.
The 2017 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting & Finance notes financial analysts as a “hot position,” saying firms are looking for financial analysts to increase sales and cut costs.
Financial Analyst Job Duties
Typical job duties for financial analysts include evaluating financial reports, such as income statements, cash flow statements and balance sheets, and determining how a company’s finances will impact business operations. They may also facilitate decision making by finance and operations personnel or investors by presenting data analysis and interpretation in clear, compelling ways.
Financial analysts are often required to make recommendations for action by synthesizing financial information and trends. They may predict future business activity to assist product developers or sales teams. Some financial analysts create tools or systems, including databases and spreadsheets, to improve financial data analysis and reporting.
Other responsibilities can include keeping financial data secure, and documenting activity and procedures for future reference. Financial analysts help others understand how new laws, regulations and developments will impact businesses in the finance and banking sector.
National data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that financial analysts earned an average annual wage of$97,640 as of May 2016. Recent graduates of bachelor’s degree programs may start out toward the lower end of the salary range and increase their earnings as they gain experience and/or advanced educational qualifications.
Potential salary ranges and employment opportunities are determined by multiple factors, including a candidate’s education and work history, local market conditions, and the type and size of industry. For example, according to the Robert Half guide, a manager-level financial analyst earned a range of $104,000-$141,750 in 2017. Compare that to an entry-level financial analyst’s salary range at a small company: $47,500-55,750.
Education and Training
Entry-level financial analyst jobs generally require a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or business administration, and some employers may prefer candidates with relevant work experience.
The path to a financial analyst career can begin with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a specialization in accounting. Coursework typically includes intermediate accounting, essential business skills, accounting information systems and applied decision methods for business.
Graduates of a business administration program with a specialization in accounting should be able to:
- Assist the decision-making processes for various business needs
- Apply core management skills, such as organizing and planning
- Understand and use fundamentals of statistical data analysis
- Implement internal and public auditing knowledge in evaluating reports
With continuing education opportunities available through some employers, it may be possible for individuals to attain an entry-level position with a bachelor’s degree and then use tuition assistance to further their education.
What Skills Are Required for a Financial Analyst Career?
Individuals who are detail-oriented, analytical thinkers with excellent communication and documentation skills may be suited for a career as a financial analyst. Proficiency in Hyperion, an enterprise resource management software, is in demand for financial analysts, according to the Robert Half 2017 guide. If you have an interest in statistics, data valuation and business, and are good with computers and software programs, a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a specialization in accounting can help prepare you for this career.