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Financial Analyst Job Description, Skills And Prospects | Career Breakdown

What's included in a financial analyst job description? With enviable salaries and career progression opportunities, the financial analyst career path is attractive for b-school students

Wed Jul 10 2024

If you're intrigued by the world of finance and have an affinity for numbers, then a career as a financial analyst might just be the right path for you. 

Financial services is a hugely popular career choice for business school students, especially the younger generation—finance is second only to consulting amongst Gen Z candidates, according to the 2024 Prospective Students Survey carried out by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).

Financial analysts play a pivotal role in the business world. From Wall Street giants to small startups, they help companies navigate the complex world of finance and investment.

But the fundamental question is: what does a financial analyst do? Here you will find out all about the financial analyst job description, including their key roles and responsibilities. You'll also learn about financial analyst salary prospects and the potential trajectory of this exciting career path.  

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Financial analyst job description 

At the core of the financial analyst job description is the task of guiding businesses and individuals in decisions about spending money to attain profit. They analyze data, evaluate investment opportunities, and provide recommendations to clients or stakeholders. 

Kynan Lee, assistant director, Employment Engagement at INSEAD, lays out what  financial analysts do and how they differ from business analysts–two roles which often get grouped together.  

“Financial analysts look mainly at evaluating investment deals and the processes around them, while business analysts mainly look at operations and management of businesses.”

In general, financial analysts assess the financial health of companies, industries, or even entire economies. 

While there are common responsibilities across all financial analyst job descriptions, what your daily work looks like will depend on your level of experience. 

Younger financial analysts typically do a lot of data gathering, financial modeling, and spreadsheet maintenance, and more senior analysts spend time developing investment proposals, speaking with company management teams and investors, and marketing ideas. 

Financial analyst jobs are popular among business school students for two reasons, according to Kynan. 

“They provide the basic foundational skills and experience to eventually progress in the investment space across both public and private markets, and they are typically high paying jobs even at the entry level roles,” she explains. 

Financial analyst salary and career prospects

As Kynan points out, one of the most enticing aspects of a career as a financial analyst is the competitive pay. 

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for financial analysts in the US exceeds the national average, at $99,010 in May 2023.

The lowest 10% earned less than $60,830, and the highest 10% earned more than $175,840. Financial analysts also have a strong projected employment outlook, with the employment of the position projected to grow 8% from 2022 to 2032—faster than the average for all occupations.

This makes the financial analyst career path attractive for recent graduates and seasoned professionals alike. 

However, financial analysts do pay the price for their security and sizable paychecks by working long hours: one in three put in between 50 and 70 hours a week.

READ: 10 Best MBAs For Finance Careers In 2024


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Top financial analyst skills 

To excel as a financial analyst, certain skills will bolster your chances of success. 

Industry-specific skills such as financial modeling and competency with data analysis software are highly valued in this field. Additionally, strong interpersonal skills, including the ability to collaborate and communicate effectively are crucial. 

While jobs in the finance industry are often considered to be heavily analytical, Shuqi Chen, an INSEAD MBA graduate and senior financial analyst at the startup Code Inc., has a different perspective. 

“In my view, two essential qualities for a successful financial analyst are attention to detail and creativity. Attention to detail ensures comprehensive information processing, leaving no room for oversight. 

“Meanwhile, creativity enables analysts to think outside the box, offering fresh perspectives when tackling complex problems.”

Kynan agrees with Shuqi and highlights some additional skills that will elevate your chances of succeeding as a financial analyst.

“On top of the usual financial literacy skills that b-school candidates get in the course, having a strong personality, networking, and value-pitching would be the best way to elevate their chances,” she explains.

“Thinking out of the box and having creativity is key, but the best is if the candidate doesn’t have a box to constrain them in the first place.”  

Financial analyst jobs: What are the challenges? 

While the financial industry is renowned for its fast-paced environment and long hours, many companies strive to maintain a healthy work-life balance for their employees. 

Centerview Partners and Evercore are the best banks to work for in 2024, and both offer unique benefits including Ubers home and gym membership and have top development opportunities. 

While financial analysts may find themselves working to tight deadlines and under pressure to deliver accurate insights promptly, organizations increasingly recognize the importance of employee well-being. 

Many companies offer perks such as flexible schedules, remote work options, and wellness initiatives to promote work-life balance.

For Shuqi, the biggest challenges she has faced are working with companies outside her field of expertise. She cites an example when she was assigned to work with an engineering team and struggled to understand the technical terminology they used. 

However, by reaching out to her manager, who provided her with a list of technical terms and extensive research, she was able to better engage in the discussions. 

“Through proactive problem-solving, I was able to engage in the technical discussions in the meetings which allowed for a smooth project progression,” she explains. 

“What I learned from those challenges is the importance of asking questions without hesitation and actively seeking solutions.”

With competitive salaries, ample opportunities for advancement, and a dynamic work environment, it's clear to see why the financial analyst career path remains a top choice amongst b-school students. 

To give yourself an edge in this competitive and lucrative career path, Shuqi advises keeping on top of both your hard and soft skills, which are equally important across the field. 

“A solid technical skill set, such as proficiency in accounting and analytical tools, would make you stand out among others in the field. Additionally, I think communication skills are as important as technical skills,” she says.

For more info about what it's like to work in finance, the perks and salaries you could gain, and tips on how to successfully land jobs in finance, download our BusinessBecause Careers In Finance Guide