Financial analysts gather information, assemble spreadsheets, write reports, and review all non-legal pertinent information about prospective deals. They examine the feasibility of a deal and prepare a plan of action based on financial analysis. Being an analyst requires a vigilant awareness of financial trends. Analysts have a heavy reading load, keeping abreast of news stories, market movements, and industry profiles in financial newspapers, magazines, and books. Most analyst jobs are in banking houses or for financial-advising firms, which means following corporate culture and wearing corporate dress. If a deal demands it, they must be prepared to travel anywhere for indeterminate lengths of time. Those who wish to rise in the industry should note the necessity of significant “face time,” attending social events and conferences and spending downtime with people in the profession, which can be expensive; this social circle tends to gravitate to high-priced attire and costly hobbies, habits, and diversions.
Analysts sacrifice a lot of control over their personal lives during their first few years, but few other entry-level positions provide the possibility of such a large payoff come year’s end.
Many employers use bonuses, which can be equal to or double the beginning analyst’s salary, to attract and hold intelligent personnel. Successful financial analysts become senior financial analysts or associates after three to four years of hard work at some firm. Those with strong client contacts and immaculate reputations start their own financial consulting firms. Many work as analysts for about three years and then return to school or move on to other positions in banking.
Financial analysts work long hours, and deadlines are strict. “When you have to get the job done, you get the job done. Period,” emphasized one. The occasional fifteen-hour day and night spent sleeping in the office is mitigated by the high degree of responsibility these analysts are given. The long hours breed a close kinship. Over 65 percent called their co-analysts extremely supportive, and many labeled them a “major reason” they were able to put up with the demanding work schedule. Most people become financial analysts because they feel it is the best way to immerse themselves in the world of finance and a great way to earn a lot of money. They’re right on both counts, but be aware that the immersion is complete and somewhat exclusive, and although people earn a lot of money, few have the free time to spend it all how they’d like to.
Entry-level positions are highly competitive. A bachelor’s degree in any discipline is acceptable, so long as the potential analyst’s course of study demonstrates an ability to understand and work with numbers. Those with computer science, physical science, or biological science backgrounds may find the field more welcoming than do liberal arts majors. Business majors don’t necessarily have an advantage; each company trains the incoming class of financial analysts before they begin the job. To become a financial analyst you need to have a strong sense of purpose-it is not a job for those who are uncertain that their future lies in the financial world. Candidates must be able to meet and interact with clients, handle a heavy work load, prioritize and complete work under strict deadlines, work as part of a team, and work with computer spreadsheet and valuation programs. Many find the travel stimulating initially, but “after your third week in Jopbsug, Tennessee, at the ball-bearing plant, it gets old.”
Those who progress along corporate financial-analyst tracks can expect to eventually find different jobs in the financial community, perhaps as investment bankers, investment advisors, or financial consultants. Those who enjoy the more interpersonal side of finance move into management consultant positions, where they can use their people skills as well as their financial skills. Over 45 percent head to business school within five years and another ten percent go to law school. A few become in-house financial advisors or officers in the industries they covered as financial analysts.