How do I grow my career in the fixed income space, especially in going into fixed income research?

Hello guys, I am at a crossroad in my life and need to make a decision on how to develop my career for the next 10-20 years. Most of my prior work experience has been related to fixed income. Recently, having spoken with a few close friends on this, they suggested, based on my background and personality, that I should look into fixed income research related roles. So So if anyone can kindly give me some advices on the below questions, I would really appreciate it!

Below is a brief summary of my background:

Academic degrees: BS in Finance and Master of Science in Finance.

Work experience: 2 years in a financial control role at a global investment bank, doing PnL/valuations on fixed income derivatives and financial reporting. 7 years of product specialist experience at a bond analytics platform company, managing clients and analyzing their portfolios' risk and returns, stress testing...etc. Also I've been dealing with fixed income indices and have been involved in the construction of several custom FI benchmarks. My most recent corporate title is VP.

Certification: I have passed the CFA Level 2 exam.

Kindly appreciate your advice on the below questions:

  1. How far am I from applying directly for fixed income research related roles? (Do I already have what it takes?)

  2. What are the skill sets and certifications I need to acquire at this point in my career, in order to become a fixed income research analyst?

  3. Related to the above question, would it help a lot if I complete my CFA Level 3 exam and obtain the certification?

  4. What's the general career path options for fixed income research analyst like? Is the ultimate goal always to become a portfolio manager or are there other options?

  5. I did some research online on what fixed income research entails but got many different impressions. Some say it's about being good at quant/math, while others say it's about credit research and involves analyzing balance sheets. Does different firms have different definition of what fixed income research is?

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