What is Implied Volatility & How is it Calculated?

By Intrinio
July 24, 2023

Understanding market volatility is crucial for investors and traders (especially this year!). Implied volatility is a key concept that helps assess the market's expectations of future price fluctuations. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of implied volatility, explain how it works, delve into the methods used to calculate it, discuss the pros and cons of implied volatility, examine different types of implied volatility models, provide insights on how to use implied volatility in trading and investing, and introduce Intrinio's Option Data for accessing implied volatility information.

What is Implied Volatility?

Implied volatility is a financial metric used to estimate the expected future volatility of a financial instrument, such as a stock or an option. It represents the market's perception of how much the price of the underlying asset is expected to fluctuate over a specific period. Implied volatility is derived from option prices, as options reflect market participants' expectations of future price movements.

How does implied volatility work?

Implied volatility works by utilizing option prices to gauge market expectations of future price volatility. Options are derivative contracts that give the holder the right to buy (call option) or sell (put option) an underlying asset at a predetermined price within a specified period. The prices of options are influenced by several factors, including the underlying asset price, time to expiration, interest rates, and volatility.

Implied volatility measures the volatility component embedded in option prices. Higher implied volatility indicates that market participants anticipate larger price swings, while lower implied volatility suggests expectations of smaller price fluctuations. Traders and investors use implied volatility to assess the potential risks and rewards associated with an option or a specific trading strategy.

How is implied volatility calculated?

Implied volatility is not directly observable and cannot be calculated using a simple formula. Instead, it is determined by using various mathematical models, such as the Black-Scholes model, which are based on option prices and other market inputs. 

Intrinio, unlike most providers, provides two different calculation options for implied volatility: the Black-Scholes model and the Bjerksund-Stensland model. We’ll explain the different ways to calculate IV later in this article, but just know that this increased flexibility and optionality makes Intrinio’s options data feed one of the most sought-after on the market.

These models use an iterative process to estimate the implied volatility that would make the model's calculated price match the observed market price of the option.

The calculation of implied volatility involves trial and error until the model's output matches the observed option price. This iterative process considers factors such as the option's strike price, time to expiration, current underlying asset price, interest rates, and the option's market price. The result is an estimated implied volatility, representing the market's expectation of future price volatility.

Trust us when we tell you that you want your data provider to calculate this - not you! More to come on that…

What are the pros and cons of implied volatility?


  • Expectations-based metric: Implied volatility reflects the market's expectations of future price volatility, providing insights into sentiment and market anticipation.
  • Risk assessment: Implied volatility allows traders and investors to assess the potential risks associated with options and trading strategies. Higher implied volatility suggests higher uncertainty and potential for larger price swings.
  • Pricing efficiency: Implied volatility is used in option pricing models, such as the Black-Scholes model, to calculate fair values for options. It contributes to pricing efficiency by incorporating market expectations.


  • Subjectivity: Implied volatility is influenced by market participants' perceptions and expectations, making it a subjective measure. Different market participants may have varying interpretations of future price volatility.
  • Historical vs. implied volatility: Implied volatility focuses on future expectations, while historical volatility looks at past price fluctuations. Implied volatility may not always align with historical patterns, introducing potential discrepancies.
  • Assumption of efficient markets: Implied volatility calculations assume efficient markets and rational pricing behavior. In reality, markets may be influenced by behavioral biases and irrational investor behavior.

What are the types of implied volatility models?

Different types of implied volatility models are used to estimate future volatility expectations. Some commonly used models include:

  • Black-Scholes Model: The Black-Scholes model is a widely used options pricing model that estimates implied volatility by considering factors such as the option's strike price, time to expiration, current underlying asset price, interest rates, and option market price. Intrinio offers this model.
  • Bjerksund-Stensland Model: The Bjerksund-Stensland model is a popular option pricing model that takes into account the early exercise feature of American-style options. It provides a method for calculating the implied volatility of an option by utilizing a closed-form solution for the option's price. The model considers the interplay of factors such as the underlying asset's price, strike price, time to expiration, risk-free interest rate, dividend yield, and the option's current market price. By iterating through a range of implied volatility values and comparing the calculated option price with the market price, the Bjerksund-Stensland model helps determine the implied volatility that would result in a match between the calculated and observed option prices. This method provides a valuable tool for investors and traders to assess the market's expectations for future price movements and uncertainty surrounding an option contract. Intrinio offers this model.
  • Binomial Tree Model: The binomial tree model is a discrete-time options pricing model that divides the time to expiration into multiple periods. Implied volatility can be estimated by iteratively adjusting the volatility parameter until the model's calculated option price matches the observed market price.
  • Implied Volatility Surface: The implied volatility surface is a three-dimensional representation of implied volatility values across different strike prices and expiration dates. It provides a visual depiction of implied volatility patterns and can be used to identify volatility skews or smiles.
  • GARCH Models: Generalized Autoregressive Conditional Heteroskedasticity (GARCH) models are statistical models that capture volatility clustering and time-varying volatility. They can be used to estimate implied volatility by fitting the model to historical price data.

How To Use Implied Volatility

  • Option Pricing: Implied volatility plays a crucial role in options pricing models, allowing traders to calculate fair values for options and assess their relative expensiveness or cheapness.
  • Volatility Trading: Traders may use implied volatility to identify opportunities for volatility trading strategies. For example, they may buy options with low implied volatility and sell options with high implied volatility, anticipating reversion to the mean.
  • Risk Management: Implied volatility helps in assessing the potential risks associated with options positions. It aids in determining appropriate position sizes and adjusting risk exposure based on market volatility expectations.
  • Event Analysis: Implied volatility can be useful for analyzing market expectations around specific events, such as earnings announcements, economic data releases, or geopolitical events. Higher implied volatility ahead of such events may indicate increased uncertainty.

Access Intrinio's Options Data

Intrinio provides comprehensive options data that includes implied volatility information. Through Intrinio's Option Data, traders, analysts, and researchers can access real-time and historical option prices, including implied volatility estimates. Intrinio's data offerings provide reliable and accurate information to support quantitative analysis, strategy development, and risk management.

By utilizing Intrinio's Option Data, market participants can access the implied volatility data they need to make informed trading and investment decisions. We take care of all the heavy lifting and the math for you!  Intrinio's user-friendly data platform and powerful API integration ensure seamless access to reliable option data, including implied volatility, to meet various analytical needs.

Implied volatility is a crucial metric used to assess market expectations of future price volatility. It is derived from option prices and helps traders and investors evaluate risks, determine fair option values, and identify potential trading opportunities. While the calculation of implied volatility involves mathematical models and iterative processes, it provides valuable insights into market sentiment and volatility expectations.

Understanding implied volatility and its calculations empowers market participants to make informed decisions and navigate the complexities of options trading. Intrinio's Option Data offers a reliable source for accessing implied volatility and other essential option information. 

Working with a reliable financial data provider like Intrinio means you waste less time trying to calculate things on your own end, and you can bank on quality metrics to power your analysis. By leveraging Intrinio's data offerings, traders, analysts, and researchers can gain a competitive edge and make data-driven decisions in the dynamic world of finance. Chat with us or request a consultation to take a free trial of our options and implied volatility data!

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