I worked as a successful financial analyst for 10+ years. First you must have a strong background in numbers, math, finance and preferably accounting. It will be critical that you perfect your Microsoft Excel skills and your access database skills. Next, I would recommend working on your presentation (speaking, leading meetings) and PowerPoint skills. 95% of my work was for executive level presentations that needed to be clear and understandable. Its not enough to be able to compute the numbers, you have to be able to summarize and explain the results and how they will affect the business.
Many companies hire financial analysts directly from undergrad programs, but they do look for finance or business related majors or degrees. If you want to advance within the career, plan on going further and getting a graduate degree - MBA in Finance. Some people choose to do this straight after undergrad school, some choose to wait and let their company help them pay for grad school. A lot of the bigger companies offer tuition assistance if you are studying a degree that will further your learning in your current job title.
If you are a very good student in college, a few of the Fortune 500 companies offer a financial ROTATION program. That is a program where you come into the company, they move you from job to job and teach you every aspect of finance and at the end of 3+ years, you get a promotion. These are great ways to build your financial career and will sometimes also help you find a mentor within the company. I did such a program and I had rotations in Budgeting, Financial Analysis and Long Term Planning. And my last rotation assignment was in an international city in Europe which my mentor helped to obtain.
Kathleen recommends the following next steps:
- Research the colleges with the best undergrad business programs and apply to those programs. Look for the Top 50 schools in Forbes or Fortune magazine articles.
- Just for fun and so you understand what the requirements of the job are, sign up for Monster.com or Glassdoor.com (job search websites) and search for job listings with the key words financial analyst in your city. You will be able to see what types of companies are looking for that title and also what they list as the important skills needed. This will give you some goals to reach for when you are in college.