What Does a Financial Analyst Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

A financial analyst guides companies or individuals on business investment decisions by analysing economic trends, current business news, and the company’s overall business strategy.

[Featured image] A financial analyst goes over a report with company stakeholders at a conference table.

A financial analyst helps make business or investment decisions for companies based on their industry knowledge and assessments of market trends, business news, and the company’s financial position. 

Financial analysts can work for financial companies like banks or investment companies or within businesses. They commonly have academic backgrounds in finance, economics, accounting, or statistics. 

In this article, you’ll learn about what financial analysts do, the education needed, and potential salaries.

What does a financial analyst do?

A financial analyst works with financial data to help organisations make business decisions. Though the specifics of what a financial analyst does can vary, a financial analyst is often expected to perform the following tasks:

  • Build financial models to perform financial forecasts, predict business scenarios, and provide other data analysis to help make business decisions

  • Study economic and business trends to provide context around business decisions

  • Support budgeting efforts at organisations

  • Compile written reports on financial statuses and recommendations

Financial analyst salary and job outlook

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a financial analyst is £42,309 a year plus £4,595 in additional cash compensation [1]. This amount can vary based on your location, education, and experience.

Types of financial analysts

Financial analysts are sometimes classified into buy-side analysts and sell-side analysts. 

  • Buy-side analysts create investment strategies for companies that purchase securities and other assets for money management. These companies, commonly called institutional investors, include mutual funds, hedge funds, insurance companies, independent money managers, and nonprofit organisations. 

  • Sell-side analysts assist and guide financial services sales agents who sell stocks, bonds, and other investments.

How to become a financial analyst

To become a financial analyst, you need to have some basic qualifications. These can include both education and certifications.

Education:  Acquiring a degree in finance, accounting, economics, or a related field can set you up for a career as a financial analyst. If you are looking for a broader scope of opportunity or a higher salary, getting your master's degree in finance or a master of business administration (MBA) may be helpful.

Certification: Some companies prefer hiring financial analysts with certifications from the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, a global organisation. ​​If working in the UK, forms and individuals also need a licence from the Financial Conduct Authority. 

Financial analyst skills

Financial analysts generally have the following skills to perform well in their tasks:

Technical skills

  • Accounting knowledge

  • Analytical ability

  • Financial literacy

  • Data analysis

  • Corporate finance knowledge

  • Financial software knowledge 

  • Budget management training

  • Financial reporting skills

  • Research skills

  • Financial analysis skills

Workplace skills

  • Communication

  • Negotiation

  • Influencing

  • Critical thinking

  • Flexibility

  • Resilience

  • Collaboration

  • Problem-solving

  • Dedication

  • Relationship-management

Tips for becoming a financial analyst

Becoming a financial analyst starts with the proper education, certification, and experience. Consider these tips to begin your first job as a financial analyst:

1. Take a course. Upskill your knowledge of a particular skill by taking a course. Consider the IBM Data Analyst Professional Certificate to sharpen your data analysis skills or Yale University’s Financial Markets course to improve your understanding of finance.

2. Become an intern. You can apply for an internship with a company that matches your industry interest. Interning can give you experience, knowledge, and networking opportunities within the financial field to help you land a job afterward. You can look for internship opportunities on job sites like LinkedIn or Indeed.

3. Prepare for your interviews. Be prepared for interviews by anticipating questions and having answers ready. Potential interview questions might include: 

  • What is your experience with data analysis?

  • What do you do to stay informed about this industry?

  • How would you create a quarterly sales report?

  • What would you do if you found an inconsistency in a financial report?

  • What is EBITDA?

  • Describe a time you accomplished something as a team.

Financial analyst career paths

These careers can be viable options for people who have skills similar to those needed for financial analysts: 

  • Portfolio managers study the current state of the market and work with other financial professionals to determine the best investment opportunities and decisions for a company’s business portfolio. They also have a deep and active understanding of current business trends, allowing them to predict the market's future better. Portfolio managers use this knowledge to guide businesses and individuals' investment decisions.

  • Fund managers work primarily with hedge funds or mutual funds. They stay informed on the overall goals of the fund as well as market trends to help make sound decisions.

  • Rating analysts evaluate and assess the market and a company’s financial abilities and strategies to make educated recommendations on how a company should proceed.

  • Risk analysts use business and financial knowledge to assist companies in determining the amount of risk in possible investment decisions. They make recommendations based on their analysis findings and help track and minimise a company’s financial loss. Risk analysts are often responsible for assessing and reporting asset losses, staying current on investment trends, and collecting and analysing data.

Senior roles

Financial analysts may go on to work in the following senior positions:

  • Senior financial analysts may manage a group of analysts and oversee larger financial analysis projects to assist a company’s executive-level team.

  • Finance managers are responsible for a business's financial health and develop plans for its long-term financial goals. 

Executive-level positions

Significant experience in finance and management is usually necessary for people to advance to executive-level positions like director or chief financial officer.

  • A finance director uses the experience gained in financial analysis to help oversee a company's financial activities.

  • Chief financial officer is the highest executive financial role and oversees the company’s business strategy, direction, and financial activities.

Getting started.

Take the next step towards a career in finance with a Course like Financial Accounting Fundamentals from the University of Virginia or the multi-course Fundamentals of Accounting Specialisation from the University of Illinois—both available on Coursera. 

Article sources

1. Glassdoor. “Financial Analyst Salaries in United Kingdom, https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Salaries/uk-financial-analyst-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN2_KO3,20.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed  May 8, 2024.

2. City University of London. “How to become a financial analyst, https://www.city.ac.uk/prospective-students/career-development/pathways/how-to-become-a-financial-analyst.” Accessed May 8, 2024. 

3. London School of Finance and Law. “Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)https://courses.lsfl.org.uk/professional-exam-preparation/chartered-financial-analyst-cfa/.” Accessed May 8, 2024.

4. Financial Conduct Authority. “Welcome to the financial conduct authority, https://register.fca.org.uk/s/.” Accessed May 8, 2024.

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