According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the minimum educational requirement is a bachelor's degree, although many employers require students to have a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. There are also associate's degree, doctoral degree and certificate programs in relevant subjects.
Top 10 Finance Schools
Students considering a career as a financial analyst have a number of highly-rated schools to choose from, including the following:
|University||Location||Institution Type||Degrees Offered||Tuition (2015-2016, Undergrad in- & out-of-state)*|
|University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||4-year, Private||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Postgrad certificate||$49,536|
|New York University||New York, NY||4-year, Private||Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Postgrad certificate||$47,750|
|University of Michigan - Ann Arbor||Ann Arbor, MI||4-year, Public||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral||$13,856; $43,476|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Cambridge, MA||4-year, Private not-for-profit||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral||$46,704|
|University of California - Berkeley||Berkley, CA||4-year, Public||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral||$13,431; $38,139|
|University of Texas - Austin||Austin, TX||4-year, Public||Undergrad certificate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral||$9,806; $34,676|
|University of Virginia||Charlottesville, VA||4-year, Public||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral||$15,192; $44,365|
|Carnegie Mellon University||Pittsburgh, PA||4-year, Private||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral||$50,665|
|University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill||Chapel Hill, NC||4-year, Public||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral||$8,591; $33,673|
|Indiana University - Bloomington||Bloomington, IN||4-year, Public||Undergrad certificate, Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Postgrad certificate||$10,388; $33,741|
*Source: National Center for Education Statistics
School Selection Criteria
Students interested in financial analyst programs may want to keep these considerations in mind:
- Students may want to look for programs that prepare students to take the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification exam, which is recommended by many employers.
- Prospective MBA student may want to find out the school has ties to financial industry organizations, which can provide valuable networking opportunities.
- Prospective students may want to find out if the school facilitates internships with working financial analysts.
- It can be helpful to look at the job placement and CFA exam pass rates for graduates of the school.
Associate's Degree Programs
Although most financial analysts need a bachelor's degree in order to get a job, associate's degree programs in finance of business can provide a valuable educational background. Over the course of these two-year programs, students learn about the basics of accounting, marketing, economics, banking and financial planning. They also complete general education requirements. Graduates may pursue entry-level jobs in the field or transfer credits to bachelor's degree programs that can further prepare them for financial analyst careers.
Bachelor's Degree Programs
There are many relevant undergraduate majors for aspiring financial analysts, including economics, business, finance, statistics and mathematics. Business-focused Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) programs can provide particularly relevant coursework for the career. There are also economic programs that provide specific training for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam, which is recommended by many employers.
Master's Degree Programs
Aspiring financial analysts can boost their career prospects by earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree with an emphasis in financial analysis. Some schools offer specific tracks for students who plan to take the CFA exam. Another option is a dual degree that combines an MBA with a Master of Science (MS) in Financial Analysis. These programs allow students to undertake advanced studies in both the mathematical and business-related aspects of the field. There are also one-year professional Master of Finance (MFin) programs, which provide a series of advanced courses that directly prepare students for careers in the field.
Doctoral Degree Programs
Students who are interested in conducting advanced research in finance can enroll in PhD programs. In these programs, students take high-level courses and conduct independent research in both the theoretical and empirical aspects of finance. They may be able to choose a specialization track, such as corporate finance or asset pricing. Prior to graduation, PhD candidates must submit and defend a dissertation.
Relevant certificate programs are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Undergraduate certificates typically cover the basics of the field, and some are designed specifically to prepare students for the CFA exam. There are also graduate certificates that enable experienced financial analysts to specialize their expertise in a particular area of the field, such as corporate finance or investment banking.
Program quality is an important consideration when choosing a finance program, as a job applicant who has an undergraduate degree in finance from a top-ranked business school may be looked at just as favorably as an MBA graduate from an average-to-good business school. In addition to quality, prospective students may also want to consider factors such as location, career goals, and cost when selecting a school.