Whether a high school student beginning an undergraduate degree or a working professional looking to change careers or access more opportunities, a finance degree may be the right option for you. Finance graduates can prepare for careers by crafting their resume, refining their interview skills, and searching for jobs.
Some of the best finance jobs include working as a financial advisor, analyst, trader, or investment advisor. Professionals choose to work in a variety of industries, including accounting, financial planning, and banking.
Skills Gained in a Finance Program
Finance students learn skills in school, during training, and while earning certification. Many skills contribute to a successful finance career, including strong communication skills, sharp analytical abilities, and a deep understanding of technology. When pursuing a career in finance, five key skills can help you succeed as a top financial professional:
- Personal Ethics
- Personal ethics make up the values and principles that help you distinguish between right and wrong. Financial professionals must follow regulations and earn the trust of both clients and coworkers.
- Interpersonal Skills
- Interpersonal skills can enhance healthy working relationships. Individuals with strong interpersonal skills demonstrate a friendly and approachable demeanor and interact well with others.
- Problem-Solving Skills
- Professional finance workers face different financial dilemmas every day, and problem-solving skills help them tackle those challenges and deal with other tough situations. These skills prove vital when working in stressful professional fields, such as portfolio management and stock trading where professionals cannot crack under pressure.
- Technological Expertise
- Financial professionals should maintain a thorough understanding of the rapidly changing technology field. They must understand how advancements in technology can streamline processes and ultimately improve productivity. Financial professionals must demonstrate familiarity with modern tools, platforms, and software, especially if they work in accounting and investment management.
- Analytical Skills
- Financial professionals must think logically and critically. Earning a finance degree helps you gain strong analytical skills that help in identifying patterns in data. Strong data analysis skills enable you to forecast market activities, interpret and explain data results, and draw accurate conclusions.
Why Pursue a Career in Finance?
Skilled financial professionals can pursue many career paths, including accounting and bookkeeping, asset management, investment banking, client services, sales, and trading. They might also work in a variety of environments, such as brokerage firms, banks, corporate settings, and insurance companies.
A lucrative career, financial analysts earn an average of $85,660 per year, and financial managers with the potential to earn $127,990 with experience, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also projects significant job growth for financial professionals, including 19% growth for financial managers, 15% for personal financial advisors, and 11% growth for financial analysts.
How Much Do Finance Majors Make?
Many factors affect salaries for finance graduates. Prior experience makes up a huge determinant of salary earnings, meaning you may likely earn less money than a professional with many years of experience. With more experience and credentials, you may qualify for more work opportunities.
Those in senior-level positions tend to earn higher salaries, and those with multiple credentials have a competitive edge against other candidates for the best finance jobs. Moreover, some financial services industries pay more than others. For example, financial advisors in the securities and financial investment sectors may earn higher pay than those in the insurance carrier field, according to the BLS.
Meet a Finance Professor
S. Michael Sury Chairman, INDORUS Holdings LP;
Adjunct Professor of Financial Economics, University of California
Professor Sury is the chairman of INDORUS Holdings LP. This single family office began after the sale of the investment firm he founded and ran from 2000-2009. Professor Sury remains a nationally top-ranked, multi-billion-dollar investment advisor to wealthy families, institutional investors, and sovereign entities. He has also been the executive director of Strategic Investors in Financial Innovation & Risk Management (SIFIRM).
For more than 20 years, Professor Sury has internationally recognized expertise in investment strategy and risk management. He served as a close, trusted advisor to some of the nation's wealthiest groups, including nearly a dozen of the Forbes 400.
An award winning professor, Sury taught rigorous undergraduate and MBA courses in investments, corporate finance, and applied portfolio management at institutions like the University of California, Santa Clara University, DePaul University, and San Diego State University. Professor Sury received his MBA in finance and statistics (High Honors) from the University of Chicago and his undergraduate degree in economics (High Honors) from the University of California.
- Why did you choose to pursue a finance degree?
In college, I actually began on a completely different track: pre-med/computer science. However, in college, it is a common experience to be exposed to -- and explore -- different subjects and areas of interest. Around this time, the 1987 stock market crash was a memory still fresh on the minds of many. The significance of that crash caused me to question how financial crises occur and how investors can best protect themselves from such events.
In the process, I began eagerly reading everything I could find on the subjects of finance and economics and taking more and more classes in the economics department. Ultimately, I changed my major to economics. My own experience included an undergraduate liberal arts degree (BA) in economics, combined with a more specifically focused graduate degree (MBA) in finance and statistics.
- What were the strongest skills you developed or built upon throughout your degree program?
In college, I learned that a successful undergraduate career is rooted in being open to exploring broadly different areas, modes of thinking, and subjects. It is a truly invaluable experience.
Unlike the career path for a more scientific or technical discipline, I have found that the best training for a successful career in business -- specifically finance -- is a general liberal arts education grounded in economics or finance and perhaps supplemented by further upper-division elective courses in finance.
The areas of study during my degree program that I have found most beneficial to my career include the development of critical-thinking and analytical skills, interpersonal and teamwork skills, and a broad education of the social sciences, including psychology, sociology, and philosophy. Success in business, and finance careers in particular, require not only a strong command of various techniques, but also robust social skills and the ability to relate to others.
Alternatively, students that have dual passions (e.g., in engineering and business) may consider a technical undergraduate degree supplemented with a later graduate degree (MBA) in finance. Indeed, it is very common for students with an undergraduate degree in a social science (e.g., economics or philosophy) or in the traditional sciences, to continue their training with an MBA, after a few years in the workforce.
In my many years recruiting professionals into investment banking and investment management, I have found that our best candidates have had varied undergraduate backgrounds -- some motivated by an interest in the social sciences, others motivated by interests in other disciplines -- but shared the important skills outlined above. In fact, the combination of either a scientific or liberal arts degree, paired with an MBA (after a few years of work experience) tends to produce the most successful professionals in the business.
- What was the job outlook like after you graduated? How long did it take you to establish your career?
I graduated from the University of California in 1992. At the time, the U.S. was just beginning to emerge from a recession, and job market prospects were mixed. I ended up doing consulting work for the U.S. government and then utilized those contacts to secure a position in law enforcement. I was able to combine my interest in law enforcement with my training in finance and economics. After the police academy, I was recruited to help develop and grow a new task force to combat white collar and economic crimes. It was one of the first of its kind in the nation. The lesson here was that opportunities can be created in unexpected ways.
After a few years, I decided to advance my career prospects by furthering my training and obtaining my MBA at the University of Chicago. Although the job market prospects were again mixed upon graduating, I quickly learned about the "golden rule" of securing a job: network, network, network!
I called upon undergraduate professors that had Wall Street experience, former consulting contacts, and even law enforcement colleagues to find people in common that could connect me with a job opportunity. By doing so, I was able to secure an internship (between my first and second year at the University of Chicago) with Goldman, Sachs & Co. on Wall Street. The internship was essentially a three-month interview. Ultimately, I landed a permanent position with Goldman Sachs at the end of the summer. This made my second year at grad school much less stressful.
I treasure my experiences at Goldman Sachs. Given their extensive (eight months) training program, I learned a lot about various facets of the investment management and banking business. I grew to become an important contributor to the firm and was named one of its youngest vice presidents. Where else can you network with prominent CEOs, help companies raise capital, orchestrate a leveraged buyout, or manage hundreds of millions of dollars -- all while making seven figures at the tender age of 25?
It also allowed me to create my own firm in 2000, which quickly rose to manage several billion dollars -- and was ranked the number one wealth management firm by Bloomberg Wealth Manager by 2006 and again in 2007.
- As someone who has worked both in academia and in a firm, what advice would you give students considering different career paths in finance?
There are a number of paths available to students who choose a career in finance. Among these are investment/money management (working with investors), investment banking/corporate finance (working with issuers), financial operations, internal finance (working in a finance function within a company and sometimes called financial planning and analysis/FPA, treasury, or project management), commercial banking, real estate, teaching/research/academia, or working for a governmental agency.
Finance is a tremendously exciting career path as it permeates nearly every facet of business and is an essential personal, corporate, and governmental function. Moreover, the financial capital markets are ever-changing, allowing for dynamic and diverse experiences as professionals progress through their career.
It is very difficult to generalize or quickly summarize the difference between the various finance subsectors. The best way to learn about them is to interview professionals, build a network, and try to secure internships during your summer years. During these internships, you get a visceral feel for whether you want to work in high pressure/high energy trading environments where second-to-second decisions can mean the difference between success or failure; or whether you would rather spend hours poring over accounting statements and running valuation analyses to determine how best to merge two companies. There are few substitutes for genuine work experience.
It is also important to note that you should view your undergraduate -- or to some extent, your MBA -- training as simply preparatory training for your career. Very likely, you will learn much more specific techniques and strategies on the job. For example, as a finance professor today, I teach the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) as part of the introductory finance course for undergraduates. The reality is that CAPM is not used in this "textbook" way at most institutions. However, the general idea and economic themes that underlie the model do carry forward to the workplace.
So, I strongly encourage students to view their undergraduate education in finance as developing their analytical framework and "modes of thinking," as opposed to simply memorizing or collecting highly specific techniques that will be used verbatim once they are in business. That said, please study the course material so that you can get a good grade. Finance careers are highly competitive, and grades matter.
- What type of person excels in this field?
Once again, it is difficult to generalize as to what specific type of person excels in finance. During my term at Goldman Sachs, and again when I ran my own investment management firm, I interviewed, recruited, and hired many, many different types of candidates. Some of our most successful candidates were, variously, music majors, U.S. Navy SEALs, philosophy professors, ex-CIA officers responsible for "disrupting hostile foreign regimes," and of course finance majors and finance MBAs.
As opposed to a specific degree or experience, these successful professionals have cultivated and have the following personal characteristics: a highly analytical mind, a love of numbers, creativity and innovation, a competitive streak while also maintaining an attitude of teamwork, constant curiosity (in terms of trying to always understand the "how" and the "why" of an event), a "never give up" mentality, "thick skin," and the ability to work long hours and still maintain discipline.
- What additional advice would you give to prospective finance students?
A career in finance is absolutely exciting, dynamic, and constantly challenging. Your adrenaline will run high, you will meet interesting and fascinating people, and you will be at the nexus of economic, political, and social events. In many areas of the industry, it is also a true "meritocracy," where your upside in terms of job mobility, compensation, and exposure can be potentially unlimited.
I have never regretted my choice to enter the wonderful world of finance.
How to Work in the Finance Field
Earn Your Degree
Graduates with an associate degree may qualify for jobs as bookkeepers, accounting clerks, auditing clerks, bill and account collectors, or financial clerks. They could also land a junior accounting position and eventually advance to an accountant position after many years of experience.
For most positions, however, you must hold at least a bachelor's degree to work in the financial industry. Most financial positions -- including budget analysts, cost estimators, financial analysts, management analysts, and personal financial advisors -- require at least a bachelor's degree in a major related to finance. A master's degree can give you a leg up against other job candidates and improve your chances to advance within your current job.
In addition to a bachelor's degree, accountants and auditors who pursue certified public accountant (CPA) certification may also improve their job prospects. To advance to a financial manager position, you need at least five years of professional experience in addition to your bachelor's degree.
Different types of finance jobs, such as economist and statistician, require a master's degree. Those hoping to pursue careers in finance should take courses in financial planning, economics, accounting, business, mathematics, investments, taxes, internal auditing, and risk management. Finance degrees also give you the opportunity to gain practical experience through internships. Earning a bachelor's or master's degree in accounting, finance, economics, or business administration can suit those pursuing careers in the financial industry.
How Many Years of College Does It Take to Be a Finance Professional?
Most programs to receive an online associate degree in finance require two years of full-time study to complete, while online bachelor's degrees in finance take approximately four years for full-time students. Part-time students may take 3-4 years to earn their associate degree and 5-6 years to earn their bachelor's degree.
Cohort-style programs require online students to complete their coursework at a specific, predetermined pace with a group of other students. This type of program comes with a fixed length. On the other hand, individually paced online programs allow students more flexibility to decide how many classes they want to take at once and in what order they want to take them. Students who prefer to take courses at their convenience typically opt for self-paced online programs.
Concentrations Available for Finance Majors
- Financial Planning
A concentration in financial planning equips students with the knowledge and expertise to help clients with issues related to their investments, tax, insurance, retirement, employee benefits, and estate planning. This concentration prepares a student to become a certified financial planner (CFP) through the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.
Average Salary: $62,372
- Corporate Finance
A concentration in corporate finance focuses on financial statement analysis, valuation, financial modeling, and credit analysis. This type of concentration benefits students who want to pursue careers in project management, financial analysis, insurance, real estate, commercial banking, or public finance.
Average Salary: $63,941
- Investments and Securities
A concentration in investments and securities prepares students to help people and organizations increase and raise capital. Students in this concentration explore portfolio theory; investment strategies; policies; regulations; analyzing assets, debt, and equity; and market analysis. Graduates often go on to pursue careers in finance as investment bankers, financial analysts, financial examiners, financial managers, and risk managers.
Average Salary: $61,472
- Financial Accounting
A concentration in financial accounting focuses on accounting, accounting information systems, and communications. This concentration provides students with a strong understanding of financial statements and financial reporting. Financial accounting concentrations may prepare students to sit for the certified management accountant or certified public accountant (CPA) examinations. Professionals can pursue careers in corporate, public, government, and individual accounting.
Average Salary: $54,78
- Risk Management
Risk management comprises a vital element of the financial industry. Students in this concentration explore different variables that may influence potential losses or gains, including market uncertainties, legal issues, workplace accidents, and even natural disasters. Students in this concentration gain expertise in how to mitigate or capitalize on risks.
Average Salary: $85,773
What Can You Do with a Finance Degree?
Graduates need a minimum of an associate degree to become a bookkeeper, accounting clerk, or junior accountant. Most other financial positions, including budget analyst, cost estimator, financial analyst, management analyst, and personal financial advisor, require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a finance-related major, such as accounting, finance, economics, or business administration.
Economists and statisticians usually hold a master's degree that gives them a competitive edge in the job marketplace. Finance students take courses in financial planning, economics, accounting, business, investments, taxes, internal auditing, and risk management.
Associate Degree in Finance
Most jobs in finance require at least a bachelor's degree, but some positions only require an associate in finance. You can start working as a bookkeeper, accounting clerk, auditing clerk, bill and account collector, financial clerk, or junior accountant with an associate degree. Earning an associate degree also helps students gain foundational knowledge of finance and accounting, and many associate in finance students continue on to pursue bachelor's and master's degrees.
- Senior Loan Processor
Loan processors manage administrative tasks, such as background and credit checks, loan application verification, and data entry. Loan processors communicate with applicants and ensure that documentation is completed properly. The majority of loan processors work in the car or real estate industries. Loan processors need at least a high school diploma, but some employers prefer an associate or bachelor's degree with a finance-related major.
Average Annual Salary: $52,123
- Property Manager
Property managers oversee residential and commercial property operations, including accounting and sales. They interview, hire, train, and supervise the groundskeeping department and relevant contractors. Property managers complete periodic inspections of their properties and manage the budget to help keep costs low and increase sales. They often deal with customer complaints. Property managers typically hold a bachelor's degree.
Average Annual Salary: $49,244
- Account Manager
Account managers develop relationships with customers to ensure their satisfaction with products and services. They help increase sales by making pitches for existing and future accounts. Account managers often travel to participate in meetings and product demonstrations. They typically need at least a bachelor's degree in a finance- or business-related major.
Average Annual Salary: $53,276
- Pricing Analyst
Pricing analysts help determine the best pricing strategies, products, and services. They collect and graph data about past and future trends, examine competition and industry standards, and track consumer habits and internal costs. They use their analysis to make recommendations to top executives about when to roll out new products or services. Pricing analysts typically hold a bachelor's degree in business or finance.
Average Annual Salary: $55,980
- Investment Representative
Investment representatives sell personalized investment solutions to develop and meet long-term financial goals. They help their clients make financial decisions by presenting investment strategies, discussing their portfolio performance, and recommending different products. They also help firms acquire new clients. Some employers prefer a bachelor's degree, while others simply accept financial sales experience.
Average Annual Salary: $43,770
Bachelor's Degree in Finance
From accounting to financial analysis, bachelor's degree in finance graduates can work in a variety of careers across many different industries. Earning a bachelor's degree in finance can help advance your career, opening doors to job advancement and higher pay. Most careers in the financial industry, including budget analyst, cost estimator, financial analyst, management analyst, and personal financial advisors require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a finance-related major. Pursuing a bachelor's degree can help you develop a solid understanding of investments, accounting, risk management, and financial planning. While earning your undergraduate degree, you can refine your problem-solving, critical-thinking, analytical, and communication skills.
- Financial Analyst
Financial analysts study marketplace trends and microeconomic factors. They consider short- and long-term growth expectations and assess current and future stocks, bonds, and other methods of investment. They make recommendations to their clients based on their findings and provide information and advice on financial positioning and mitigating risks. Financial analysts typically hold a bachelor's degree in finance or a related field.
Average Annual Salary: $59,787
- Finance Manager
Financial managers conduct financial planning, research, and analysis to help their clients identify weaknesses and mitigate financial risks. Financial managers make decisions and recommendations about how to lower costs, increase profits, and set short- and long-term financial goals. They perform audits to ensure compliance. Financial managers typically need at least a bachelor's degree in finance or a related field, plus professional experience.
Average Annual Salary: $89,981
- Senior Investment Analyst
Investment analysts review investment products, provide advice, and make recommendations to fund managers, stock market traders, and stockbrokers. They conduct research, collect data, write reports, and deliver presentations on their findings surrounding asset allocation, portfolio management, and investment products. Investment analysts typically hold a bachelor's degree in a finance-related field.
Average Annual Salary: $85,139
- Financial Advisor
Financial advisors assess their clients' financial needs and help them determine short- and long-term financial goals and make financial decisions. They conduct research on money markets, stocks, bonds, and real estate investments. They explain relevant tax, insurance, and retirement rules and regulations to their clients. Financial advisors typically hold a bachelor's degree in a finance-related field.
Average Annual Salary: $57,904
- Credit Analyst
Credit analysts evaluate and assess their clients' credit worthiness. They examine financial statements, prior credit history, credit purchases, and current cash flows to determine the likelihood of repaying financial obligations. This helps determine whether someone qualifies to receive a new loan. Credit analysts typically hold a bachelor's degree in a finance-related major.
Average Annual Salary: $50,264
Master's Degree in Finance
The more credentials you hold, the more likely you stand out against other job candidates for high-paying jobs. Earning a master's in finance, an MBA in finance, or a graduate certificate in finance can open the door to more job opportunities in the financial industry. A master's degree can also improve your chances for advancement within your current company. While earning your master's in finance degree, you may choose to specialize in financial planning, economics, accounting, investments, taxes, internal auditing, or risk management.
- Senior Financial Analyst
Senior financial analysts serve as top-level leaders who demonstrate proficiency in financial analysis. They assess marketplace trends and microeconomic factors to determine risks and rewards. They conduct research on current and future stocks, bonds, and other investments. Senior financial analysts also manage teams of other analysts, assign tasks, train team members, and present findings to top executives. Senior financial analysts typically hold at least a bachelor's degree, but most employers give preference to those with a master's degree, plus several years of experience.
Average Annual Salary: $79,313
- Financial Controller
Financial controllers manage financial departments, including accounting, budgeting, and auditing teams. Financial controllers create balance sheets, financial reports, and profit and loss statements. They explain complex financial concepts to executives and help companies predict future financial performance. Financial controllers typically hold a bachelor's degree in a finance-related field, but most employers give preference to those with master's degrees and at least seven years of professional experience.
Average Annual Salary: $81,627
- Corporate Controller
Corporate controllers oversee a corporation's accounting and financial functions. They act as financial managers, making decisions regarding the company's financial and accounting procedures, including accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll processing, budgeting, and financial forecasting. They file quarterly and annual reports and often assume the role of chief financial officer. Controllers typically need a CPA credential and a degree in finance.
Average Annual Salary: $96,444
- Portfolio Manager
Portfolio managers help individuals and businesses invest money, manage assets, and handle mutual funds. Portfolio managers work closely with risk and investment researchers to process analyses and seek out new investments. They help their clients develop and meet long-term financial goals, such as mitigating tax burdens and building capital. They make financial decisions based on findings. Portfolio managers typically need a minimum of a bachelor's degree, plus the CFA credential.
Average Annual Salary: $84,656
- Valuation Analyst
Valuation analysts use various metrics to appraise products, services, properties, risks, industry trends, budgets, and timelines. They conduct research to create complex valuation reports and present their findings. They provide advice surrounding transactions, negotiations, and acquisitions. Valuation analysts typically hold at least a bachelor's degree in a finance-related major.
Average Annual Salary: $62,435
Doctoral Degree in Finance
Earning a doctoral degree in finance prepares you for a career in research and teaching at a postsecondary institution. Academic careers in finance provide intellectual freedom and the chance to work with other researchers. Ph.D. graduates perform scholarly research in corporate finance, risk management, economics, micro- and macro-econometrics, capital formation, and portfolio management.
Doctoral candidates study both modern innovations and contemporary theories of savings behavior, portfolio choice, economic systems, and asset pricing techniques. Starting salaries for finance Ph.D. graduates can reach $210,000, with many job opportunities available.
- Chief Financial Officer
Chief financial officers (CFOs) oversee the financial operations of an organization. They manage accounts payable and receivable, investments, tax, debt, pricing, and purchasing. CFOs focus on the budget and finding ways to cut costs and increase profits. They create reports and make presentations to upper management about the financial outlook. CFOs typically hold at least a bachelor's degree in finance and several years of professional work experience.
Average Annual Salary: $130,872
- Finance Director
Finance directors manage the finance department of a company. They perform financial analysis to draw conclusions about their company's financial outlook and create strategic plans to increase profits, make new investments, and mitigate risks. Finance directors create financial reports and make presentations to the rest of the upper management team. They often perform some human resources duties, such as hiring, training, and scheduling employees. Most finance directors hold a master's degree in finance or a related major and boast several years of experience.
Average Annual Salary: $111,719
- Vice President of Finance
Vice presidents (VPs) of finance are top leaders in a business. VPs may direct the finance department and make decisions regarding accounting and financial operations. VPs manage financial reporting, set short- and long-term financial goals, and plan budgets to keep costs low and profits high. They often handle their companies' taxes and work to make sure their companies comply with regulations. VPs of finance typically hold a master's degree in finance, business, or accounting, and boast several years of professional experience.
Average Annual Salary: $135,334
- Financial Research Analyst
Financial research analysts collect and interpret financial data to help organizations make financial decisions. They provide guidance on market trends and traffic, investments, and financial portfolio management. Financial research analysts typically hold at least a bachelor's degree in finance or business, but employers often prefer job candidates with master's degrees and extensive research experience.
Average Annual Salary: $61,294
- Senior Finance Manager
Senior finance managers oversee financial operations and make decisions regarding an organization's budget, costs, investments, and assets. They create financial forecasts, prepare financial statements, review business activity reports, and analyze market trends. As senior employees, they may supervise other staff in the financial department. Senior finance managers typically hold a bachelor's degree in a finance-related major and possess many years of experience in the industry.
Average Annual Salary: $118,692
Unexpected Careers for Finance Majors
Finance students gain expertise in financial management, economics, accounting, financial markets, stocks, bonds, and investments. This prepares them for careers in the financial industry, but their strong financial and analytical skills can apply to jobs in other industries, as well. For instance, financial expertise can translate into a career in real estate, sales, marketing, business development, nonprofit work, or teaching. It also lends itself to entrepreneurship or to a career in federal or state government.
- Real Estate Analyst
Real estate analysts manage real estate holdings, watch real estate markets, and research new investment areas. They prepare reports to communicate findings for upper management to help them make decisions about how to capitalize on positive shifts in the market, increase holdings, minimize risk, and ensure the stability of investment portfolios. Real estate analysts typically hold a bachelor's degree in finance, business administration, or a related field, plus a few years of experience in the real estate industry.
Median Salary: $59,449
- Compliance Officer
Compliance officers supervise and handle all issues related to staying compliant with company, state, and federal rules and regulations. They conduct internal audits, reviews, and investigations, wherein they assess operational risks and create risk management strategies. Compliance officers report findings and make recommendations to upper management. They ensure that their clients remain up to date with licenses, if applicable. They typically hold a bachelor's degree.
Median Salary: $67,607
- Vendor Manager
Vendor managers oversee the relationship between a business and its suppliers. They conduct financial analysis, identify trends, oversee costs, and manage the terms of contracts. Vendor managers need strong interpersonal skills to build relationships with new vendors and maintain good relationships with existing ones. Generally, vendor managers hold at least a bachelor's degree.
Median Salary: $75,391
- Business Development Manager
Business development managers develop business plans and solutions. They manage client accounts and execute sales objectives. Business development managers research and evaluate products and relevant competition. They strive to help companies generate new leads, improve existing customer satisfaction, and increase revenue. As managers, they need leadership skills to supervise other team members. Business development managers typically hold a bachelor's degree and a few years of experience in their industries.
Median Salary: $71,785
- Marketing Specialist
Marketing specialists develop marketing and advertising strategies for various products and services. They help determine target audiences and figure out how to market to those demographics. Marketing specialists help create marketing campaigns through digital and web content, TV or radio commercials, or billboard advertising. They work with marketing managers and brand managers in marketing and creative departments. Marketing specialists typically hold a bachelor's degree.
Median Salary: $50,332
Licensure and Certification
While not all finance careers require certification or licensure, many do. Certified public accountants, for example, require state licensure, while financial professionals working in the securities, commodities, and financial services must obtain credentials from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
Additional certifications and licensure for financial planners, analysts, and researchers build knowledge and skills needed for marketability and career advancement. Whether just entering the field or looking to move into leadership and executive positions, advanced finance credentials demonstrate dedication and expertise in the field.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
With certified public accounting credentials, finance professionals demonstrate to colleagues and clients an expertise in their field. CPA requirements vary by state, but the uniting elements in all certifications emphasize auditing and attestation, financial accounting and reporting, business management, and regulation competencies.
CPA candidates complete education coursework in the discipline before taking a series of exams within a set timeframe. CPAs gain knowledge and skills to apply and enforce standards of accounting practice essentials while simultaneously building career opportunities and earning potential.
Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
Financial planners can earn credentials through the CFP Board. Candidates must meet education requirements before registering to take the CFP Board exam. The exam emphasizes principle knowledge in eight areas of financial planning, such as education, retirement, and risk management and insurance. Alongside successful completion of the exam, candidates must possess 6,000 hours of experience for standard certification or 4,000 for an apprenticeship pathway. The final step in the process requires candidates to agree to the standards of professional conduct put forward by the CFP Board.
Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
To become a chartered financial analyst (CFA), finance professionals enroll in the CFA program offered through the CFA Institute. Participants must hold a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, be in their final year of study, or meet professional experience hour requirements to register for one of three competency exams. Candidates must also complete a professional conduct standards form prior to taking an exam.
CFA exams include content in 10 areas of emphasis, including quantitative methods, corporate finance, and portfolio management and wealth planning. With a financial analyst charter, investment management professionals demonstrate ethical and content expertise while building networks and exploring opportunities for career growth.
Professional Researcher Certification (PRC)
With a professional researcher certification (PRC) offered through the Insights Association, market analysts gain insights into new techniques and technologies of market research while advancing their knowledge of ethical standards and data analytics. The PRC includes 12 hours of education requirements learners complete before taking an online test preparation course.
The PRC exam emphasizes principles of market research, and successful completion of the program allows finance professionals to register as a professional researcher. To maintain the certification, professional researchers complete 20 credit hours of continuing education requirements every two years.
Where Can You Work as a Finance Professional?
The multifaceted finance industry presents many career options to professionals with finance degrees. When assessing career options, consider both location and industry, both of which affect salary and job opportunities. For example, locations and industries with greater need for new professionals tend to offer higher pay.
The state in which you live can affect your finance career because different states have different licensing and credential requirements, risk populations, and quality of life. Location may also affect your salary potential and job availability. Jobs in big metropolitan areas, with a higher cost of living, tend to pay more than jobs in small rural towns. While bigger cities may offer more work, this could mean more competition from other highly qualified job candidates. Research various locations to find the financial job that best matches your skills, interests, and pay and location requirements.
- Financial Services
The financial services industry manages money, equity, and investments. This includes private, commercial, and investment banks; hedge, mutual, and private equity funds; and insurance companies.
Average Salary: $68,060
The banking industry emcompasses financial institutions that supply banking services, such as depositing, withdrawing, and transferring money. Financial institutions hold and invest financial assets with the goal of creating more wealth.
Average Salary: $70,495
- Software Service Development
The software service development industry includes computer systems design, electronics, software development and installation, data processing, and technology consulting. Professionals use computers and computer networks to store and retrieve data.
Average Salary: $77,227
- Healthcare Services
The healthcare services industry comprises organizations that maintain and improve people's health, including hospitals, doctor and dentist offices, laboratories, drug manufacturers, biotechnology firms, and companies that provide medical equipment and research.
Average Salary: $72,605
The manufacturing industry includes companies that prepare and transform goods and materials to produce merchandise for use and sale. This includes the fabrication of machines, equipment, metals, foods, textiles, chemicals, and commodities.
Average Salary: $75,559
Workers in the consulting industry, often known as management consulting, help organizations improve operations through problem-solving tactics and strategy development. Consultants help companies with organization-wide change, management policies, and the implementation of new technology.
Average Salary: $71,617
- Accounting, Auditing, and Tax Services
The accounting industry involves the measurement and processing of financial information. This includes booking, billing, payroll, and taxes. Auditing and tax services specifically include tax return preparation and compliance with tax law and regulations.
Average Salary: $61,670
How Do You Find a Job as a Finance Professional?
When preparing for the job hunt, craft a well-written resume that demonstrates financial expertise and industry experience, including any internship and volunteer experience. Tailor your resume and cover letter to each specific job. Make sure to research prospective companies and arrive to your interviews prepared with questions for the hiring managers.
You should also consider obtaining additional certification to boost your credentials and gain a competitive edge against other job candidates. Additional certification opportunities include those for CPA, CFA, financial risk manager, certified financial planner, certified credit professional, and certified internal auditor. Look into various industries, as well, including securities, banking, consulting, and accounting. Consider each potential industry's projected job growth.
Professional Resources for Finance Majors
eduCBA provides skill-based online courses and job-oriented training programs. With courses specifically in finance, business, and management, students with finance majors may find this resource especially helpful when looking for a job. eduCBA also offers useful content, including information about various certification options for finance professionals.
Financial Job Bank can help individuals interested in pursuing jobs in the finance industry find work. From accounting and banking to cost analyst and account manager positions, finance professionals can narrow down their job search and focus on a specific finance career path. The site also offers practical job-hunting tips on its blog.
eFinancialCareers is a job-searching site that focuses on the financial industry, which includes investment bankers, asset managers, financial analysts. This job board features opportunities in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific region. The site also offers career management advice.
Investopedia is a comprehensive educational website devoted to the financial industry. It provides information on mutual funds, personal finance, trading, investment strategies, bonds, and wealth management.
AFP is a professional society committed to advancing finance and treasury. Members of this organization benefit from networking conferences and seminars, an online community of finance and treasury professionals, and professional tools, including a global career center and market data. Members can access exclusive research and publications. AFP administers the certified treasury professional and certified corporate FP&A professional credentials.
Founded in 1939, the AFA is an academic organization committed to financial economics. The AFA promotes public understanding of financial problems and enhancing the study of finance in higher education institutions. The association publishes the Journal of Finance and sponsors many workshops, symposiums, summits, meetings, events, and conferences for finance professionals around the world each year.
IFAC is a global organization founded in 1977 in Germany. It represents more than 130 countries and focuses on promoting the accounting and economics fields. IFAC treats accounting as a critical component of a strong economy and financial market.
EO is an influential global network of entrepreneurs from 54 countries. The organization educates professionals through leadership development programs, peer-to-peer learning experiences, and online forums. It also offers executive education and mentorship opportunities, plus the Global Entrepreneur Indicator, a global economic outlook that projects profit and job growth.
PASA benefits entry- and mid-level finance professionals who work in American public accounting firms. PASA offers useful information on the CPA exam, plus a job board and a CPA exam achievement award. The organization also provides useful tips for new professionals, including advice on navigating a new job. Membership is free.
ABA supports the banking industry by being a collective voice of America's banks. ABA advocates for the banking industry's role in job creation and economic growth. The organization offers many free resources, including research and economic tools; information on liquidity, fair lending, and data breaches; and resources for professionals in accounting and auditing, compliance, insurance, and risk management.