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Best Careers in Finance

Finance can be a lucrative field that produces some of the highest-paying business careers at both the bachelor's and master's levels. Though a career in finance is quite competitive for job seekers, there are countless industries that employ finance professionals and many diverse roles to choose from. 

To be considered for one of these coveted positions, candidates must hold at least a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, or business management. Most finance jobs will require professionals to have an expert command over financial management, so a top-tier education and excellent job experience are ideal for success in this career. 

The salary opportunities make it well worth the effort it takes to complete the education requirements, with average base salaries for these professions ranging between $63,320 and $120,190, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These estimates don’t include annual bonuses, which are often equal to or greater than the base salaries. Moreover, experts predict job opportunities in business and finance careers to increase by 7% between 2021 and 2031, producing more than 715,100 new jobs each year, on average. 

This article dives into some of the best finance career options, including important details on in-demand skills, job responsibilities, salary expectations, and more.  

In-Demand Finance Skills

Certain financial skills are highly marketable and impressive to potential employers. With the global prevalence of e-commerce, all industries are experiencing unprecedented changes and economic reforms that require the work of skilled finance professionals to carry out and sustain.

Some of the most useful and sought-after skills for finance professionals include:

  • Accounting skills: Knowing the concepts of assets, liabilities, equity, bank reconciliation methods, balance sheets, and business ethics, auditing, financial recording, taxes, payroll, financial planning, and other essential accounting principles are invaluable to finance professionals.
  • Mathematics: Financial planning demands budgeting skills so that finance professionals can create extra cash flow for investment. Finance is a numbers game, so strong mathematical skills are a must.
  • Data management: Financial data is an important tool for professionals to perform analyses, advise stakeholders, and make smart decisions about a company’s capital. 
  • Cash flow management: Finance professionals employ this skill to manage cash flow to ensure that their clients have enough money to pay expenses, debts, and themselves.
  • Business intelligence: Business intelligence, which leverages software to transform data into actionable insights, helps a finance professional access real-time data to gain insights into a company’s finance performance and make recommendations based on those insights. 
  • Analytical thinking: Developing this skill helps finance professionals effectively analyze data by using a variety of tools and techniques to make better business decisions.
  • Financial management: Excellent financial wealth management skills are central to a finance professional’s role within a company. Businesses and individuals rely on their expertise to manage capital and make smart investing decisions.

Best Careers in Finance

Finance offers a great number of opportunities for people who are interested in the field. Taking into consideration current trends in salary, job outlook, and education requirements, we suggest checking out the following roles:

1. Investment Banker

Investment bankers manage the portfolios of businesses and of government agencies that make strategic, profitable investments in different businesses. Investment bankers’ work involves conducting strategic research and due diligence investigations, issuing debt and selling equity to raise capital, managing IPOs and private equity placements, finding and closing potential investors, and facilitating mergers and acquisitions.

Investment bankers earn a median base salary of $134,821 per year in the U.S., with a total annual compensation of $288,674, on average. Overall employment of financial analysts is projected to grow by 9% from 2021 to 2031, which will yield an average of 32,000 new job openings per year over the course of the decade.

2. Compliance Analyst

Also known as “compliance managers,” compliance analysts ensure that an organization's operations and procedures meet government and industry compliance standards. Their main responsibilities include maintaining legal and regulatory compliance, researching industry compliance regulations and policies, developing and executing new compliance policies and procedures, and training employees on industry compliance requirements.

Compliance analysts make $59,108 per year on average in the U.S. The BLS projects a 6.2% employment growth rate for compliance officers between 2020 and 2030. 

3. Financial Advisor

Financial advisors recommend long-term strategies to clients who want to build wealth and manage financial risk. Their work involves tracking, managing, and balancing a person’s investment portfolio. They also regularly provide helpful advice on a spectrum of financial issues and decisions such as insurance coverage, financial objectives, wealth management, tax status, risk tolerance, and more.

Financial advisors make an average salary of $297,810 in the U.S. Depending on a variety of factors including industry, geographical location, and years of experience, this career can range between $56,940 and $538,679 in annual salary. The BLS reports that employment of personal financial advisors is expected to grow by 15% from 2021 to 2031, which will produce an average of 30,500 new jobs each year over the course of the decade. 

4. Insurance Advisor

Insurance advisors provide specialized guidance for investment in various insurance schemes. These finance professionals perform a variety of functions such as intermediation, sales, and other services for various transactions, compliance management, consulting, and more.

The average salary for an insurance advisor is $72,934 per year in the U.S. Employment of insurance sales agents is projected to grow by 6% from 2021 to 2031, creating 52,700 job openings each year on average. 

Best Entry-Level Finance Positions

When you’re joining the financial workforce for the first time, you’ll need to explore entry-level positions so you can build your skill set and gain important experience. Luckily, there are many different options in a variety of fields for you to earn your stripes in the finance world. Some of the best entry-level finance jobs include:

  • Bank teller: These professionals provide account services to customers by fulfilling account transactions, taking deposits and loan payments, cashing checks, issuing account withdrawals, and recording mail deposits. 
  • Insurance agent: Insurance agents provide consultation services to individuals and businesses, developing the right coverage plans for each client's needs. Their work involves helping owners and employees wade through the sometimes-intimidating world of insurance.
  • Financial clerk: Financial clerks maintain and update financial records for different types of organizations. They also do administrative work and help customers carry out transactions.
  • Real estate broker: Real estate brokers help to buy and sell a household’s most expensive asset: their house! A broker’s main responsibilities include marketing properties, writing up contracts, representing buyers or sellers, and managing real estate agents.
  • Bookkeeper: Bookkeepers oversee the tracking and reporting of accurate, up-to-date financial information about a business. Most often, their reports go to business owners and managers to help them make decisions. Some bookkeepers are even involved in strategy development.

How to Build a Career in Finance

If you’re interested in a career in finance, there are some educational requirements you must first fulfill. Depending on which career path you pursue, the necessary prerequisites may vary. 

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, or a similar field. 

A bachelor’s degree in finance or a related field like accounting is essential to beginning your career. In either of these degree programs you’ll learn all the necessary skills to land a job right out of school. You’ll learn fundamentals for success in business, principles of financial and managerial accounting, interpersonal skills for business, finance skills for managers, and principles of economics, which will prepare you to have a successful career.

2. Get certified for your chosen area. 

To achieve your maximum potential in a finance career, you may need more than a degree. Certain finance jobs will require professional certification. Depending on your goal, there are many different certifications to choose from. Some finance exams you may take to advance your career include the CFP exam, the Financial Risk Management (FRM) exam, or others.

3. Apply for an entry-level job. 

Entry-level jobs in finance are known to pay well and offer high bonuses, and they’re great experience-builders for finance professionals who have sights set on a big career. You don’t need to land your dream job right out of school—an entry-level position will give you the opportunity to develop the qualities you’ll need to secure mid- and upper-level positions later in your career.

4. Consider obtaining a master’s degree in finance, accounting, or similar.

Finance professionals who are hungry for more information and want to accelerate their career growth should seek a master’s degree in finance or accounting. Master’s students apply the knowledge gained from bachelor’s programs to advanced business strategies and leadership techniques, which help them advance to more prominent, higher-paying managerial roles.

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