The financial services industry is a broad field with lots of career opportunities. If you’re a business or finance major, or just interested in exploring this field, you might be thinking about becoming a financial analyst. What is a financial analyst? It’s someone who carries out financial analyses and makes business recommendations based on these analyses. Although analysts typically work for banks or insurance companies, this role can be found in almost every industry so it’s a great way of combining a numbers-driven skill set with some of your other passions.
Here are the steps you need to take to become a financial analyst.
1. Know the different types of financial analyst positions
Your day-to-day activities as an analyst will vary greatly depending on what industry you choose to work in. For example, analysts working in investment banking will largely be reviewing financial statements and creating financial models while analysts working for an insurance company might be more focused on creating and analyzing budgets. By knowing what industry you want to work in, you’ll be able to get a better sense of what the position will look like and the unique challenges and benefits associated with that particular kind of role.
Pro Tip: Even within a particular industry, there are different kinds of analyst roles. For example, if you’re working as an analyst in investment banking, you could be working for a buy-side firm (where you’ll be doing research on stocks owned by the company) or for a sell-side firm (where you’ll be evaluating securities for a particular industry). In order to find a role that fits you, it’s important to know not only the specifics of the industry but also those of the firm you’ll be working for so be sure to do some extra research on any company you’re applying to.
2. Take relevant classes and read as much as you can about the financial services industry
Building your knowledge of the financial services industry is not necessarily difficult, but it will take some time. If you’re a business, finance or accounting major, you’re likely already taking classes that will be directly relevant to this industry but it’s important to supplement this knowledge with additional reading on sites like DealBook and Investopedia. This is especially important if you’re not currently majoring in a related discipline since it will give you a good overview of the industry and help you decide whether it’s something you want to pursue.
Pro Tip: If you’re not a business or finance major, don’t worry. You can still build up your knowledge base by taking some accounting or economics classes to supplement your education. This is a great way of learning more about the field while still primarily focusing on classes related to your major.
3. Develop your skills by taking on an internship
Doing an internship is important for several reasons such as building relevant skills and gaining professional experience. It’s also a great way to learn more about a particular industry and to get a sense of whether you want to continue working in that industry after graduation. Since analyst roles vary depending on the field you choose to work in, having hands-on experience of a particular role will go a long way towards helping you pick an industry that’s right for you.
4. Build your professional network
Having a strong professional network is important in any field but it’s especially important in the financial services industry which relies heavily on networking throughout the recruitment process. To build a solid network that will serve you well throughout your career, it’s important to attend networking events, stay in touch with managers from your internships and to develop strong bonds with peers in your intern class.
Pro Tip: Another great way to build your professional network is by reaching out to alumni working in your field and setting up an informational interview. Most alumni are very happy to set time aside to have these meetings with students and recent grads from their schools and as an added bonus, you’re likely to find out about additional job opportunities.
Being a financial analyst can be as wonderful as it is challenging, giving you the opportunity to learn a lot very quickly and to gain a big-picture understanding of how businesses function. The best way to find out if being an analyst is right for you is by doing an internship and testing out the role first hand. And if you want to build some skills and confidence before applying for that internship, we recommend diving right in by looking at the quarterly earnings of several public companies and seeing how they’re performing. Even better? If you’re able to do so, we recommend putting aside a small amount of money and investing in some stocks. This will help you get your feet wet in the world of finance and it will also help you talk about investing like a pro.
Next, get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as 6 Things to Do in Your First Week at a New Job and find answers to common interview questions such as If You Could Invest in One Stock, Which Stock Would it Be?