Education and Training Requirements
Since investment professionals work with numbers and compile data, you should take as many math classes as you can. Accounting, business, economics, and computer classes will be helpful as well. A good grasp of computer spreadsheet programs such as Excel is vital. Take extra care as you research and write reports in any subject matter or in public speaking, and it will pay off later when you must conduct investment research and write and present investment recommendations.
Most employers require that investment professionals hold a bachelor's degree in accounting, business administration, finance, or statistics. Other possible majors include communications, economics, international business, and public administration. Some organizations will hire you if you hold a bachelor's degree in another discipline as long as you can demonstrate mathematical ability. In college, take business, economics, and statistics courses. Since computer technology plays such a big role in this work, computer classes can be helpful as well. English composition classes can prepare you for the writing you will need to do when preparing reports. Some employers require a writing sample prior to an interview.
Most colleges offer degree programs related to investment management or banking, and many also offer master's degrees. For advanced or executive positions in the field, a master's degree is often required.
The Investments & Wealth Institute (formerly the Investment Management Consultants Association) offers the Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA), Certified Private Wealth Advisor (CPWA), and Retirement Management Advisor (RMA) certifications. Contact the organization to learn more.
Other Education or Training
Staying up to date with industry developments is key to success for investment professionals. Associations often provide continuing education opportunities. For example, the Investments & Wealth Institute offers webinars such as Ethics, Critical Thinking and Decision Traps, Endowments & Foundations Consulting, Essentials of Investment Consulting, and an Introduction to Alternative Investments. The CFA Institute, CFA Society New York, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association also provide continuing education opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Financial analysts can earn the title chartered financial analyst (CFA). While certification is not required, it is recommended. The CFA program, which is administered by the CFA Institute, consists of three levels of examinations. These rigorous exams deal with such topics as economics, financial statement analysis, and portfolio management. Before taking the exams, you must already have a bachelor’s degree (or four years of professional experience) and have four years' of work experience.
For certain upper-level positions, some organizations may require that you have a certified public accountant license. The Association for Financial Professionals offers the certified treasury professional credential to its members. You must have at least two years of experience as an investment professional and pass an exam.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Since most of these jobs are considered mid-level rather than entry level, candidates are expected to have some previous experience in the investment industry. Most positions require at least one to three years in a related field such as loan officer, securities sales agent, etc. For more responsible and senior positions, candidates will need one to three years of previous investment management experience.
Supervisory and management positions will require three to five years past experience, as well as a proven track record in successful portfolio management.
Beside investment savvy, the most successful investment professionals have excellent leadership and organizational skills, as well as a keen eye for detail. They are also able to be firm, yet tactful, when dealing with clients. Investment professionals should be able to clearly communicate ideas, both verbally when making presentations and on paper when writing reports.