Working as a financial analyst typically requires a bachelor's or master's degree, so those are the degree options students can expect to find through distance learning programs in the field. There are also some graduate certificate programs available.
These online programs are available from four-year universities or colleges as well as private distance education institutions, and they may be offered fully online or in hybrid formats. Some certificate and professional certification courses may require students to attend classes on campus and/or take proctored exams. It is important to note that degrees and certificates in financial analysis may be formal academic programs that award college credit, or they may be self-paced in design and result in continuing education credits.
Learning & Coursework
Online students typically access coursework through a school's website. Students can communicate with instructors and classmates in this virtual environment, as well as receive assignments, turn in homework and access online lectures or study materials. In most online programs, students have access to the school's online library and databases where they can view business and financial publications and scholarly journals.
A bachelor's degree in a financial or business-related field is typically the minimum educational requirement for financial analysts, although some employers may require a master's degree. Common online programs with concentrations in finance are Bachelor of Science in Business or Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Distance learners in these programs take a combination of general education courses, such as English, science and history, and core-related courses in economics, business and math. Common online coursework can include the following:
- Business math
- Accounting basics
- Risk management
- Investment management
- Introduction to finance
- Business ethics
Many financial analysts who want management positions earn Master of Business (MBA) degrees with a specialization in finance or Master of Science in Finance (MSF) degrees. These programs are available fully online and some programs are designed to aid students in receiving professional licensure or certification.
Online schools may have rolling admissions with classes beginning every month or they may follow a traditional semester-based schedule like brick and mortar schools. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree and are often required to submit GRE or GMAT scores, resumes and recommendation letters.
Online coursework is usually completed on a schedule with certain assignments and projects due every week. Some schools offer professional mentor programs where students receive coaching from a financial professional. Distance learners in MBA programs generally complete a combination of advanced business and finance classes, while MSF programs focus solely on finance and finance management. Typical online classes can include the following:
- Financial institutions
- Financial analysis
- International investments
- Probability and costs
- Financial regulations
- Business and marketing strategies
Students are generally required to have a bachelor's or master's degree as well as professional experience in order to qualify for certificate programs in this field. Certificate programs offer courses in a variety of financial analysis specializations and are offered entirely online or in hybrid format with some classes offered online and others must be completed on-campus. These programs are shorter than degree programs and generally can be completed in 15 semester hours. Coursework in certificate programs are highly specialized and designed for working professionals. Common topics include:
- Corporate finances
- Tax management
- Investment portfolio management
- Fixed income securities
- Wealth management
- Financial modeling
Many employers prefer financial analysts who have acquired some type of professional certification. One of the most common types of certification in the world of finance is Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), which is offered by the CFA Institute ( www.cfainstitute.org). Applicants are required to possess a degree, work experience and pass three exams. Study materials may be purchased online through the institute, but the exams are proctored and must be taken in person.
Prospective students who want to become financial analysts may start by getting an online bachelor's degree in a business-related subject to cover the basics of the financial industry. From there, they may need to get a master's degree before they can seek a career in the field, and they can further boost their expertise with an online professional or graduate certificate in an advanced topic.