Why Pursue A Career In Finance? And What To Consider Before You Start (2024)

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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, though many positions still include financial forecasting and investments for businesses and clients.

As the finance and tech worlds overlap 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.

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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 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that business and finance jobs will be in demand from 2022 to 2032, with 911,400 openings on average each year. Certain roles within finance, like financial examiner, are expected to grow over six times faster than the rate for all occupations nationwide.

Finance professionals also earn above-average salaries. BLS data indicates that personal financial advisors earned a median annual income of nearly $95,390 as of 2022, 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 $96,220.

In fact, the BLS reported relatively high pay for business and financial occupations overall. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $76,850, or about $30,000 more than the median annual wage for all jobs in the United States.

Cutting-edge developments at the intersection of finance and tech (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

Finance professionals can work in various settings, including financial institutions, corporations and government entities. Most roles in the field offer strong earning potential.

While we provide average salaries below, those numbers don’t always tell the whole story. Finance salaries can vary widely depending on factors such as geographical location, experience, responsibilities, and company size. Additionally, many professionals in this field have variable compensation based on their employers’ or clients’ financial performance.

Finance careers can be very lucrative for high-performing workers, with management roles commonly earning over $150,000 annually and executive salaries often reaching even higher.

We sourced the below salary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Payscale.

Corporate Financial Analyst

Median Annual Salary: $96,220
Projected Growth Rate (2022–32): +8%
Job Description: Many corporations employ finance professionals for a variety of roles. Three of the more common positions include budget analysts, treasury analysts, and business development analysts.

Budget analysts, also known as financial planning and analysis (FP&A) analysts, prepare and assess annual budgets and financial performance reports. This analysis supports the decision-making process of executives and senior leadership. FP&A analysts often identify key drivers impacting profitability and may propose recommendations to address financial performance issues.

Treasury analysts assist with analyses of cash flows and financial risk, assess a company’s short-term and long-term cash needs, and devise strategies to optimize the use of cash. Treasury analysts may also be responsible for managing a corporation’s banking relationships and assisting with tracking and reporting the issuance of corporate stock.

Business development analysts support the financial analysis of new business opportunities, such as potential mergers or new acquisitions.

Many corporate finance roles work hand-in-hand to support a corporation’s financial success. Demonstrated achievement in a variety of corporate finance roles could ultimately lead to a chief financial officer position.

Investment Banking Analyst

Median Annual Salary: $95,080
Projected Growth Rate (2022–32): +8%
Job Description: These analysts evaluate financial data for individuals and businesses. They research business and economic trends, assess financial statements and make investment recommendations to maximize profits.

Investment banking 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.

Underwriters and Loan Officers

Median Annual Salary: $76,230 (insurance underwriters), $65,740 (loan officers)
Projected Growth Rate (2022–32): -2% (insurance underwriters), +3% (loan officers)
Job Description: Many banks, credit unions and insurance companies employ individuals with finance backgrounds to work as underwriters and loan officers.

Often working for commercial banks and credit unions, loan officers evaluate the creditworthiness of customers seeking loans and advise borrowers on the financial status of their loans.

Mortgage, insurance, loan and investment companies serving individuals and businesses commonly employ underwriters. Underwriters’ responsibilities vary by industry but may include reviewing applications for insurance or mortgage loans to evaluate the degree of risk involved and determine whether to accept an application.

Financial Analyst (Commercial Banking / Insurance)

Average Annual Salary: Around $70,000
Job Description: Many commercial banks employ individuals with a finance background for a variety of roles in banking and insurance. Commercial banks offer financial instruments, such as savings deposits and loans, to their customers. Bankers keep close tabs on the interest rate and monetary policies set by the central bank, and they adjust their strategies and product offerings to best meet customer needs and ensure the financial success of the bank.

Other common finance positions in commercial banking include credit analysts, mortgage underwriters, risk management analysts, and compliance analysts. Credit analysts assess the creditworthiness and financial stability of individuals or entities seeking a loan. Mortgage underwriters assess applications for home mortgages to confirm the financial stability of the customer and that they meet necessary application requirements. Risk management analysts evaluate the overall solvency or liquidity of the bank, ensuring that bank operations are conducted within a defined risk appetite. Compliance analysts assist with transactional monitoring and assessments of compliance controls to ensure banking activities are performed in line with regulatory requirements.

Similar positions (underwriting, risk management analysts, etc.) are also available at insurance companies.

Personal Financial Planner or Advisor

Median Annual Salary: $95,390
Projected Growth Rate (2022–32): +13%
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 may 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.

Financial Examiner

Median Annual Salary: $82,210
Projected Growth Rate (2022–32): +20%
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.

Financial Auditor

Median Annual Salary: $78,000
Projected Growth Rate (2022–32): +4%
Job Description: Financial auditors evaluate organizations’ financial information and accounting processes to validate the accuracy of information, conformance to policies and other reporting requirements.

Financial auditors also provide assurance to the audit committee and senior management on the adequacy of the organization’s internal control activities within key financial and accounting processes. Common roles for financial auditors include internal auditor and external auditor.

Internal auditors can work for companies, nonprofits and the government. Often, internal auditors with finance backgrounds are sought after to assist with audits of key financial processes, such as payroll, accounts payable and procurement cycles.

These professionals conduct assessments of company processes to identify deficiencies in the internal controls that would prevent or detect fraud, errors or other issues. They present audit findings to management and the board.

External auditors work in public accounting firms to conduct financial statement audits. They report their opinions or analyses to audit committees and sometimes to regulators and investors.

Finance professionals interested in external auditing careers should supplement their education with additional accounting courses to further their knowledge and understanding of relevant accounting principles, such as U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and International Financial Reporting Standards.

What To Consider Before Beginning 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. Professionals who earn an M.B.A. in finance or a similar graduate degree can 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 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?

Though requirements vary by state, some finance careers require certification or licensure. For example, certified public accountants (CPAs) must accrue significant professional experience and education before sitting for the CPA Exam and earning certification.

Other certifications, such as Chartered Financial Analyst® and Certified Financial Planner®, demonstrate dedication and knowledge of specific finance sectors and can help finance professionals qualify for certain roles. These credentials may boost earning power and job options, although they are not always required by employers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Careers in Finance

What is the highest-earning career in finance?

According to the BLS, financial managers earned the highest median annual salary of all business and financial occupations at $139,790. Chief executives, including chief financial officers, earned a median annual wage of $189,520, 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 $4,000 or more.

Is finance harder than accounting?

Both finance and accounting are technically challenging fields, so which one you find harder depends on your individual interests and strengths. Though there is some overlap between the two fields, finance typically offers a broader scope of work. Accounting focuses more on tracking income and expenses for organizations and individuals, while finance looks to the future to forecast investment returns and gains.

Why Pursue A Career In Finance? And What To Consider Before You Start (2024)
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