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What does a Chartered Financial Analyst do?

Financial analysts help people and businesses make well-informed decisions on how to best invest or divest their money. Chartered financial analysts are financial analysts who have successfully passed the CFA Program from the CFA Institute, a global non-profit organization dedicated to advancing investment knowledge and ethics. Acing the exam is no cakewalk, either--successfully completing the CFA Program requires hundreds of hours of self-study in the following seven areas:
  • Economics
  • Accounting
  • Securities analysis
  • Corporate finance
  • Asset valuation
  • Portfolio management
  • Financial markets and instruments
In addition to earning the CFA designation, you also need to be licensed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Most financial analysts earn the CFA designation through corporate sponsorship, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports, so employers typically don't expect you to have this credential when starting with a new company.

Day in the life

As a chartered financial analyst, you probably are going to specialize in buying or selling. Buy-side analysts help well-heeled investors, hedge funds or money managers create solid investment strategies. Sell-side analysts help banks and other firms divest stocks, bonds and other investments.

Your career as a chartered financial analyst most likely is going to focus on one particular industry, geographic area or type of product, and your work day often consists of using spreadsheets and sophisticated statistical software to analyze financial data to define trends, create forecasts, and help measure financial risk. The accuracy of your work could mean large returns for your investors--or deep losses.

Education and training

A bachelor's degree is the minimum level of post-secondary education required for licensure, but many employers prefer to hire financial analysts who have completed a master's degree in business administration, finance, economics or accounting, the BLS reports. If you wish to earn the chartered financial analyst designation, you must pass a rigorous three-part, 18-hour exam. Candidates also must have completed at least a bachelor's degree and have four years of relevant work experience.

Employment opportunities and salary expectations

Employment of financial analysts is expected to increase 20 percent the BLS reports. The best way to improve job prospects, the BLS finds, is to have a strong academic background and earn appropriate credentials, such as the chartered financial analyst designation. Many chartered financial analysts move on to work as portfolio managers or research analysts, Bloomberg Businessweek finds.

The following colleges can help you earn the necessary educational requirements to become a Chartered Financial Analyst:

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