corporate financial analyst career path

corporate financial analyst career path

A Career Path for Financial Analysts

Financial analysts need expertise in computer use.

Financial analysts examine stocks, bonds and commodities so they can advise individuals and organizations on how to buy or sell investments. They analyze data using software, and look for trends so they can predict future performance. Their employers include mutual funds, brokerage houses, insurance companies and pension funds. Career success can come from following several paths.

Individuals interested in becoming financial analysts can begin preparing for their careers by developing skills even before completing high school. Mathematical acumen is necessary because the field deals with numbers, while facility with computers makes it easier to process data. An orientation toward detail enables analysts to notice even minute changes in financial positions, which they can then examine using strong analytical skills. Good communications abilities are needed to write reports and to explain clearly the advantages of chosen investments.

Potential financial analysts must study toward a bachelor’s degree, which can take up to four years of full-time study, to apply for entry-level positions. Acceptable fields include accounting, business administration, finance or statistics. For more advanced positions, such as management or consulting, you need a master’s degree in finance or business administration. Any programs of learning must include concentrations of statistical analysis and computer programming, because analysts often write code to manipulate financial data. Depending on their positions, analysts also need licensing from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Certification, such as from the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, can enhance your job prospects.

Financial analysts can fall under one of two categories. Buy-side analysts guide individual and institutional investors on the best financial vehicles to purchase. Sell-side analysts work with brokers and agents who sell investments. You may also choose from several job titles within the field. Examples include risk analysts, who find ways to limit potential losses because of the ultimate unpredictability of financial markets. Ratings analysts assign evaluations to companies and governments to distinguish their investment suitability. Finally, portfolio managers select the best mix of stocks and bonds so that their organization’s investment pool continues to increase in value.

As of May 2011, the path for successful financial analysts led to average salaries of $87,740 per year, or $42.18 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the upper 10 percent made over $145,580 yearly, or $69.99 hourly. Most worked for other financial investment activities, which included companies specializing in portfolio management and investment advice. Average compensation here ran an annual $112,830, or $54.24 per hour. The highest wages were in advertising, public relations and related services, at a mean $129,160 per year, or $62.10 per hour.

Aurelio Locsin has been writing professionally since 1982. He published his first book in 1996 and is a frequent contributor to many online publications, specializing in consumer, business and technical topics. Locsin holds a Bachelor of Arts in scientific and technical communications from the University of Washington.

Financial Analyst: Career Path & Qualifications

Financial analysts produce financial plans, projections and analytical reports for use in investment decisions by companies, public and private organizations, and individuals. Depending on the type of analyst job, the duties can vary quite a bit.

Some financial analysts work in the securities industry analyzing stocks, bonds and other securities for banks, brokerages, money management firms and other organizations. These financial analysts typically develop expertise in a narrow category of stocks or bonds, such as Canadian corporate bonds or technology stocks, for example. Other financial analysts work for large corporations, analyzing internal financial data and producing financial plans, revenue and expense projections, and recommendations to inform budget and investment decisions by company executives. Nonprofit organizations and government bodies also employ financial analysts in this type of work.

A recent bachelor's degree graduate seeking to become a financial analyst can expect to begin in a junior position under the guidance of a senior analyst. After several years of experience, many junior financial analysts consider returning to graduate school for advanced degrees. While junior analysts are not barred from advancement, continuing progression to positions with greater responsibility usually necessitates returning to school. A graduate with a master's degree can expect to begin work as a senior financial analyst or rise to the position very quickly.

With greater experience and expertise, a senior financial analyst can continue into a supervisory position. A senior analyst in the securities industry often moves up to become a portfolio manager or a fund manager overseeing a team of senior analysts. There may also be an opportunity to enter a senior management role. In the corporate world, senior analysts can become treasury managers supervising working groups within their departments. A standout performer may rise through the ranks to become a chief financial officer (CFO) responsible for all of the company's financial activities.

While a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for an entry-level financial analyst position, data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that a master's degree is generally required for permanent and advanced positions in the field. A variety of undergraduate subjects are generally accepted by employers, including business fields such as finance, accounting and economics. Due to the importance of advanced quantitative skills in this field, bachelor's degrees in statistics, mathematics, engineering and physics are not uncommon among financial analysts. However, applicants with these degrees can benefit from business coursework, especially in accounting and finance. An advanced financial analyst position generally requires an MBA degree with an appropriate subject focus or a master's degree in finance.

Other Qualifications and Skills

Some financial analysts must obtain an appropriate license from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which is responsible for writing and enforcing rules for securities firms and brokers operating in the United States. Licensure generally requires sponsorship from the employing firm, so most financial analysts only obtain a license after starting a job. However, long-term employment may be contingent on successful licensure.

Many employers expect financial analysts to pursue certification in the field. The preeminent certification in the field is the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation awarded by the CFA Institute. It is available to financial analysts with at least four full years of qualifying work experience. Thus, it is generally considered a qualification for advancement to more senior financial analyst positions. Qualifying for the designation also requires a bachelor's degree and a passing score on a series of three exams administered by the CFA Institute.

Financial analysts are often expected to present and explain their work to clients and superiors, so strong communication and presentation skills are crucial. Analytical and critical thinking skills are essential in evaluating alternatives and settling on a final recommendation. In addition to knowledge of statistics, mathematics and finance, experience using software tools associated with these disciplines is valuable. While it's not uncommon for employers to use highly specialized technology and proprietary tools that aren't available outside the firm, learning and relying on complicated quantitative software provides skills that translate well to other systems.

What is the typical career path for a financial analyst in the corporate world? I know it depends on the company but just take a generic F500 company.

Senior analyst ----- then what?

Also what is the typical pay like for these different stages?

Then Manager. usually 90

Then Sr. Mgr, Director, Sr. Director, VP, SVP, CFO

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The survey should give you a general sense of how this works, but it's obviously more nuanced than that.

From what I've observed, Associate positions after SFA are typically in the range of 80-100K. After that, management roles (AVP, VP) usually start around 120K. Anything higher than that (MD, ED, C-level) tends to vary from firm to firm.

Financial Analyst Pay by Location According to the BLS Survey:

Financial Manager Pay by Location According to the BLS Survey:

"He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man." -- William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

Slightly unrelated, but at when position would it be best for someone in Big 4 audit to come over? I.e. Associate to Financial Analyst, Senior Associate to SFA, or Manager to Manager?

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Discover your financial planning and analysis (FP&A) career path.

Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) Overview

FP&A is an in-house finance role on the corporate side. FP&A analysts, managers, and directors are responsible for providing senior management and executives with the analysis and information they need to make major operational, financial, and strategic decisions. The group is responsible running the annual budgeting process as well as managing cash flow forecast models, variance analysis, and other financial performance tools. An FP&A analyst will often liaise with treasury staff to discuss cash flows and expenditures. They may also get pulled in to work with corporate development on acquisition opportunities.

The personality of someone who would thrive in a financial planning and analysis role at a corporation often has the following character traits:

  • Analytical
  • Inquisitive
  • Detail oriented
  • Self-motivated
  • Good a managing internal stakeholders
  • Strong communicator
  • Enjoys using Excel and PowerPoint
  • High attention to detail

Preparing for an FP&A interview requires a thorough knowledge of both technical and behavioral questions. In terms of technical side questions, they may be skewed towards financial analysis, accounting, and financial modeling. Questions such as: how do you evaluate the financial performance of a company and how do you build a financial model would be common examples.

For a full list of questions and answers please see our FP&A interview questions and answers.

People typically enter financial planning and analysis from a public accounting firm or by moving up internally from an accounting position on the corporate side. The entry-level position is an FP&A analyst, and they can then move up to be a manager or director. It can take anywhere from 2-5 years to move up through the positions, and unlike investment banking or other capital markets positions, you may stay at a certain level for most of your career.

Fnancial planning and analysis roles are common for a B.Com career path.

Most people stay on the corporate side once they’re working in FP&A and opportunities are either to move up internally or switch to another corporation. Moving up could be all the way from Analyst to Director of FP&A, and from there VP of Finance, VP of Corporate Development or Chief Financial Officer (read our guide on what does a CFO do). are the tops of the career tracks.

Here is a breakdown of what you can expect to earn as an FP&A Analyst, Manager, Director or VP. Generally speaking, FP&A analysts / managers are well paid when considering the work-life balance that they usually enjoy in their job.

Analyst: $50,000 to $80,000 (base salary plus bonus)

Manager: $60,000 to $120,000 (base salary plus bonus)

Director/VP: $100,000 to $250,000+

Working in financial planning and analysis can be a very exciting career path. Analysts get to perform extremely detailed and important financial modeling used for executive decision making. The group typically works very closely with the CFO and helps support decisions around capital spending, operating budgets, long-term planning, and sometimes may be pulled in to support mergers and acquisitions (depending on the size of the company).

The financial planning and analysi department is typically a stable place to work as they are required in good times and in bad, and teams don’t tend to massively fluctuate in size (the way more sales oriented jobs like investment banking can).

Key FP&A Analyst Job Responibilities:

  • Performs quantitative analysis of operational and financial data
  • Builds and manages financial databases by organizing and analyzing a wide range of data sources
  • Prepares financial reports for internal use at the company by collecting, analyzing, formatting and presenting information
  • Evaluates new projects and investment opportunities by comparing them against each other
  • Values the company’s assets by appraising their current condition and useful life
  • Recommends financing structures (debt and equity) and considers the company’s cost of capital
  • Building budgets and forecasts of future company performance
  • Builds and maintains a corporate financial model that details the entire company’s operations and future performance
  • Performs ad hoc analysis for executives as required

Taking financial analysis courses is the fastest way to learn what’s required in a financial planning and analysis job before you get hired.

It’s important, to start with a strong understanding of accounting fundamentals and reading financial statements. From there you should have a solid Excel crash course under your belt, which will teach you the basics including shortcuts, formulas, and functions. Beyond that, you can progress to more advanced courses, which will teach you how to perform valuation and financial modeling.

If you want the best value for a wide range of courses, check out CFI’s Full Access Bundle.

We hope this has been a helpful guide to being an FP&A Analyst or Manager. To continue planning your career path we highly recommend these additional resources:

The Career Path Of Corporate Financial Analyst

The Career Path Of Corporate Financial Analyst

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This is a true story as told to JustJobs Academy which houses career interviews and job search advice for professionals in any industry.Visit to read about how to get promoted by blogging the right way outside of work.

I am a corporate financial officer (CFO) with a midsized manufacturing company. I’ve been with this company for nearly ten years, but I held the same position with a professional association for several years before moving to the manufacturing side of the same industry.

The work I do consists of three distinct components, involving controller, treasury, and economic strategy responsibilities. The controller aspect consists mostly of reporting the company’s financial standing, essentially reporting the past.

As CFO, I am the one who ultimately is responsible for the company’s financial statements. The treasury aspect of my position focuses on the present and includes investing the company’s cash in ways most advantageous for the company and its stakeholders, as well as determining what our capital structure will be and then maintaining it. Capital structure is the balance between cash, debt, equity and internal financing, and that has to be managed well to return the greatest stakeholder benefit.

Finally, as CFO I also am responsible for establishing economic forecasting and strategy for the future, as they apply to my company’s business.

There is one common misunderstanding about my type of responsibilities, which is the image of the “fat cat” businesses that is so common today. Since no one knows the future, we have to plan well for it. My colleagues and I strive to give our companies’ employees reasonable assurance of continued employment, not only because they count on their jobs to sustain them, but also because their employers also count on them to do what needs to be done. More than at any other time in memory, financial officers must be extremely cautious in their decisions and actions in today’s business environment.

The work can be stressful, but on a one–to–ten scale for job satisfaction, I’m very nearly at a nine level. My job certainly would be easier with less economic uncertainty, but it still is gratifying. My work does indeed move my heart, particularly when I see it in light of my company’s stakeholders, especially employees. Balancing risk and stability always is a challenge.

Career Path Of Corporate Financial Analyst

I got started in this field by gaining a business degree and a license as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and then going to work in the financial reporting area of my current position. That led to work in optimizing capital structure, which in turn needs information that comes through economic forecasting and trend analysis. With solid work history in all three of the areas that a CFO must manage, I was prepared to take on the CFO role.

If there’s anything I could change, I would be more open to the new challenges that arose in the early years. Too often, I saw them as burdens at the time, yet meeting those challenges well was what propelled me to the CFO position I hold today.

There have been many things that I’ve learned the hard way! Likely, the most important of those lessons has been to surround myself with highly competent people and then get out of their way. By nature and by training, accountants sometimes are too detail-oriented. That is a necessary trait, but it is also necessary to know when it is appropriate to reign in that characteristic.

The single most important thing I’ve learned outside of school about the working world is that everything is done by individuals, each of whom is unique. Processes are important – particularly in financial reporting – but people comprise the most important factor of any process. Managers must remember that any workforce, department or team is made up of individuals, all with their own personalities and with their own stories.

The key is to lead groups to a desire to pursue a common goal. One of the things that has been a great source of personal pride in my job is that I was able to make a solid business case for keeping my present company’s manufacturing efforts within the United States, rather than using offshore contract manufacturers. The numbers never would have worked without the dedication of the company’s employees, though. Again, the “numbers” got all the attention, but it was the company’s employees that made them work.

One of the ongoing challenges in my position is the pressure to go offshore with most or all of the company’s manufacturing. As our domestic efforts progress and our great employees continue to demonstrate that they are indeed competitive with the lower labor costs of employees in other countries, the argument becomes easier. It never goes away, however. Keeping our manufacturing domestic is a conscious and ongoing effort.

The job is stressful in many respects, particularly in identifying emerging trends and trying to forecast and plan for the economic future. In companies large enough to maintain dedicated CFOs, the CFO position is one of the highest-paid in the company. The CFO of a midsized company earns a salary well into the six figure range, so there are no negative financial issues that affect family or personal financial goals.

It can be difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance, however. It is crucial for senior management personnel to strike that balance and maintain it, but it does require conscious effort. I have three weeks’ vacation time each year. I take all of that time, but only in one-week intervals. It can be difficult to turn off the cell phone and to stay out of email during those weeks, but my family provides strong motivation.

The job is stressful at times, but it always is rewarding. Overall, I am quite happy with the CFO position I currently hold and have no plans to do anything else. Challenges arising from the clash of business needs and the needs of stakeholders can be expected to intensify in the future. Successful navigation of those challenges can produce beneficial outcomes for all stakeholder groups, and delivers immense personal satisfaction.

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