How to Become a Research Analyst: A 2024 Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Check out our helpful steps on how to get started in a research analyst career.

[Featured Image] A research analyst examines data for accuracy.

A research analyst assesses financial data to understand market trends, save money, and make predictions about company assets, investments, and financial stability. As well as being financials-based and requiring math skills, this role focuses on consumer psychology and customer behavior in general. 

In this article, you’ll learn more about the role of a research analyst, including duties and responsibilities, salary, and job outlook. With our steps below, you’ll learn how to become a research analyst and the various positions that may interest you.

What does a research analyst do?

As a research analyst, you are an expert in working with data, collecting, analyzing, and interpreting it in a way that adds value to the company or organization you work for. Your role is understanding and presenting the data to optimize business operations, which can include aiding financial processes, determining good investment opportunities, informing policy-making, finding ways to save money and improve processes, and assessing customer behavior.

Types of research analysts

Research analysts often work in the financial industry for banks, insurance companies, private equity, and asset management firms. However, you can also work in the finance departments for a range of industries, including health care, manufacturing, marketing, aviation, public policy, technology, government, and many more.

You may also choose to specialize in a particular type of research analytics. Consider the following types of research analysts and the roles you would play in these positions:

  • Financial research analyst: Perform financial forecasting by analyzing trends

  • Market research analyst: Optimize marketing efforts by analyzing customer data

  • Social science research analyst: Assist in social science lab work, surveys, and research

  • Operations research analyst: Help companies improve operational costs and efficiencies

  • Government research analyst: Analyze data to influence public policy

  • Economics research analyst: Inform economic decisions involving goods and services

  • Investment research analyst: Gather data to inform buying, selling, and merging decisions

  • Equity research analyst: Research for buy-side and sell-side securities industry firms

Duties and responsibilities of a research analyst

The duties and responsibilities of a research analyst vary according to the industry you work in, your title, and the company's objective. However, in general, a research analyst is responsible for the following:

  • Collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data to support company aims

  • Using statistical modeling to find patterns and trends 

  • Understanding and using data analytical tools and research software

  • Conducting analysis of historical data to highlight trends 

  • Presenting data and preparing reports that are accessible to all

  • Interpreting data in order to predict, forecast, and implement change

  • Making recommendations and developing strategies based on the data

  • Monitoring the progress of data-related strategies

How to become a research analyst

As a research analyst, you are highly skilled in math and statistics and have a good understanding of business and consumer behavior. This skill set comes with a range of education and experience, as well as an understanding of your industry. 

Follow our steps below to understand how you can become a research analyst. 

Step 1: Study for a degree.

A bachelor’s degree in a business-related subject, math, economics, or social science is typically the entry point to work as a research analyst, with some employers asking for a master’s degree. According to Zippia, 70 percent of research analysts have a bachelor’s degree, with a further 18 percent going on to study for a master’s degree [1]. The most popular majors are business, finance, economics, and political science [1]. 

Step 2: Gain experience.

Experience is important when applying for a role as a research analyst. You must prove you have analysis skills and a good understanding of business and finance. Depending on the industry you choose to work in, you might also benefit from experience in that field. For example, if you plan to work for a retail company, experience in customer service or as a retail assistant may also be beneficial.

If you can take an internship as part of your bachelor’s degree, it’s a great way of gaining relevant on-the-job experience. Other options include entry-level positions such as a research assistant or a position in finance.

Step 3: Earn a CFA certification.

As working as a research analyst is often a financial role, you may find it beneficial to earn a certification in finance, particularly if you are working within the financial industry. A popular step is earning a chartered financial analyst (CFA) certification. You’ll find this compulsory for some positions, and it can lead to higher salaries. Becoming a CFA charter holder requires passing three exams, having qualified work experience, supplying letters of recommendation, and becoming a member of the CFA Institute.

Research analyst skills

Working as a research analyst means mastering a range of both technical and workplace skills. Examples include the following:

Technical skills

  • Research

  • Data analysis

  • Financial analysis

  • Financial modeling

  • Industry analysis

  • Math and statistics

  • Forecasting

  • Business acumen

  • Business productivity software

  • Data visualization

  • Consumer psychology

Workplace skills

  • Critical thinking

  • Problem-solving

  • Communication

  • Organization

  • Attention to detail

  • Curiosity

  • Working under pressure

  • Interpersonal skills

Research analyst salary and job outlook

Research analysts earn a good salary, which varies according to your industry and the type of analysis you do. According to Glassdoor, the average annual research analyst salary is $72,087 [2]. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the average salary for a market research analyst specifically is $68,230, with a job outlook of 13 percent growth, which is much higher than average [3]. Additional average salaries based on specialization include the following:

  • Financial research analyst: $79,808

  • Market research analyst: $69,780

  • Social science research analyst: $79,171

  • Operations research analyst: $124,559 

  • Government research analyst: $100,202

  • Economics research analyst: $86,186

  • Investment research analyst: $87,069

  • Equity research analyst: $87,323

*All annual base salary data is sourced from Glassdoor as of March 2024.

Research analyst career path

You’ll find a number of possible career paths when becoming a research analyst. A popular starting point is with entry positions such as research assistant. As discussed, you can specialize and also pick an industry that suits your interests and experience. You may also move into positions such as senior research analyst or chartered financial analyst. The following represent possible career paths you might choose, but your options are numerable:

  • Research internship→Investment banking analyst→Research analyst→Credit analyst

  • Marketing research analyst→Loan servicing specialist→Research analyst→Marketing consultant

  • Risk management internship→Research coordinator→Research analyst→Data analyst→Product manager

  • Economic research assistant→Marketing research internship→Research analyst→Business analyst→Fund accountant

  • Investment banking internship→Operations research analyst→Research analyst→Investments manager

Getting started with Coursera

If you'd like to start your career as a research analyst, get started on your bachelor's degree by considering an online Bachelor of Science in General Business delivered by the University of North Texas on Coursera.

Article sources


Zippia. “Best Colleges and Majors for Research Analysts,” Accessed March 4, 2024.

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