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Individuals with analytical minds and strong attention to detail make good candidates for in-demand careers in finance. This field offers many roles beyond trading on the stock exchange floor, although many positions still include financial forecasting and investments for businesses and clients.
As the finance and tech worlds overlap more and more, professionals in these sectors can maximize returns on investments for individuals and organizations. This guide explores whether finance is a good career path, including salary data for finance jobs, projected employment growth rates and answers to frequently asked questions.
The Benefits of Working in Finance
Finance degree jobs can provide relatively high pay, stability, opportunities for advancement and consistent demand projections. Careers in finance may also offer flexibility for employees by allowing them to work remotely or in hybrid environments.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that business and finance employment will grow by 8% from 2020 to 2030, matching the average projected growth for all US occupations. Certain roles within finance, like financial examiner, are projected to grow by more than double the national average.
Finance professionals also earn above-average salaries. BLS data indicates that personal financial advisors earned a median annual income of nearly $95,000 as of 2021, more than double the median annual salary for all occupations nationwide. Financial analysts—among the most common careers in finance—earned a median annual salary of $81,040.
In fact, the BLS reported relatively high pay for business and financial occupations overall. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $76,570, or nearly $31,000 more than the median annual salary for all jobs in the United States.
Cutting-edge developments at the intersection of finance and technology (fintech) allow finance professionals to stay up to date in an evolving field. The need for knowledgeable workers to assess investment opportunities will continue to drive demand for careers in finance.
Finance professionals can also pursue advanced roles in the field to take on more responsibilities and increase their pay. With more education, experience or certification in specific areas of finance, professionals can work in finance degree jobs as portfolio managers, chief financial executives and senior financial analysts.
Careers in Finance
Median Annual Salary: $77,250
Projected Growth Rate (2020-2030): +7%
Job Description: Accountants maintain financial records for public and private organizations. They keep detailed, organized reports that comply with regulations and legal standards. Accountants need strong communication skills to report their findings to decision-makers and stakeholders. Individuals in this finance career can specialize their work to focus on certain sectors, including healthcare, insurance and tax preparation.
At every level of government, these professionals track agencies’ spending and examine records to maintain compliance with tax laws. Accountants also work with private businesses to oversee cash flow, analyze risk, improve efficiency and suggest changes to increase profits.
Median Annual Salary: $77,250
Projected Growth Rate (2020-2030): +7%
Job Description: Auditors evaluate organizations’ finances to ensure their compliance with government regulations. Like accountants, these professionals provide decision-makers with suggestions for financial improvements and solutions for conforming to tax law. This finance degree job typically appears in two forms: internal auditor and external auditor.
Internal auditors maintain employment with the companies they examine, overseeing their financial records to assess risk, compliance and potential fraud. These professionals present their findings to management and may make recommendations to improve company processes or best practices.
External auditors work with outside companies to check organizations’ financial statements. They report their analysis to regulators and investors to ensure that the company correctly tracks and maintains its financial records.
Median Annual Salary: $81,410
Projected Growth Rate (2020-2030): +6%
Job Description: These analysts evaluate financial data for individuals and businesses. They research trends in the economy and business, assess financial statements and make investment recommendations to maximize profits.
Financial analysts typically work as either buy-side analysts or sell-side analysts. Buy-side analysts help companies acquire investments through mutual funds, pensions and hedge funds to receive a return. They assess each client’s investment selection, known as a portfolio, based on the client’s long-term plans and goals.
Sell-side analysts research stocks and investments within specific sectors to create financial forecasts for potential investors. They communicate with industry stakeholders to craft investment projections, which financial professionals often aggregate into a consensus estimate.
Other finance degree jobs under the financial analyst umbrella include fund manager, portfolio manager, securities analyst and financial risk specialist.
Personal Financial Planner or Advisor
Median Annual Salary: $94,170
Projected Growth Rate (2020-2030): +5%
Job Description: Personal financial planners meet with individuals and families to provide financial services and assess financial goals. These professionals offer guidance regarding taxes, estate planning, investments, mortgages and other monetary concerns.
Families seek assistance from these professionals amid significant life events such as retirement, marriage and pursuing higher education. Financial planners help individuals assess risk associated with investments to meet short-term and long-term goals. Clients receive suggestions to maximize returns. Financial planners can make investments for clients through stocks, bonds and annuities.
Financial planners also advise clients on filing taxes, buying insurance and personal budgeting. These professionals oversee individuals’ accounts to understand if they are on track to meet financial goals and provide suggestions for changes when necessary.
Median Annual Salary: $81,410
Projected Growth Rate (2020-2030): +18%
Job Description: Financial examiners keep an eye on banks and financial institutions to ensure that customers and borrowers remain protected from unexpected losses and predatory lending tactics. As one of the most in-demand careers in finance, these professionals typically work in either consumer compliance or risk assessment.
In consumer compliance, financial examiners assure customers that their lenders are held to high standards. This keeps institutions from offering loans with unreasonably high interest rates that borrowers cannot pay back. These professionals also oversee lending practices to restrict banks from discrimination based on ethnicity, race, sex and disability.
Examiners working in risk assessment review banks and institutions’ income and expenses to secure stability across the entire financial system. They also create and present reports about financial institutions’ overall fiscal health.
What to Consider Before You Begin a Career in Finance
What degree do I need for the career I want?
To pursue an entry-level career in finance, an individual typically must possess a bachelor’s degree in business, accounting, finance or a related field. Master’s degrees in these fields allow professionals to pursue more advanced careers in finance, insurance, investment and the government.
Are there available careers in my city?
Individuals looking for or currently working in finance degree jobs can seek local career opportunities through sites like Indeed, LinkedIn and Glassdoor. Careers in finance are typically more abundant in major metropolitan areas that host more financial institutions, insurance companies, banks and trading organizations.
Can I work remotely?
Finance professionals can find employment in fully remote and hybrid jobs. Some common remote careers in finance include risk monitor analyst, revenue accountant, accounts payable specialist and accounting policy specialist.
Do I need an additional certification for the career I want?
Although requirements vary by state, some finance careers require certification and/or licensing. For example, certified public accountants (CPAs) must acquire significant professional experience and education before sitting for the CPA Exam and earning certification.
Other certifications demonstrate dedication and knowledge of specific financial sectors. These credentials may help increase professionals’ earning power, but they are not usually required by employers.
Frequently Asked Questions About Careers in Finance
What is the highest-earning career in finance?
According to the BLS, personal financial advisors earned the highest median annual salary of all business and financial occupations at $94,170. Chief executives, including chief financial officers, earned a median annual salary of $179,520, as per BLS data.
What pays more: finance or accounting?
BLS data indicates that median salaries for finance careers like personal financial advisor, financial analyst and financial examiner are higher than median salaries for accountants by nearly $5,000 or more.
Is finance harder than accounting?
Finance offers a broader scope of work than accounting, which some professionals and students may find easier. Although there is some overlap between the two fields, accounting focuses more on tracking income and expenses for organizations, while finance looks to the future to forecast investment returns and gains.