You may have watched one of the drama-filled investment banking or wall street movies, and it intrigued you enough to desire a career in finance. Or, you genuinely love cranking numbers and have a passion for money and investment.
Either way, you are considering a career in finance, and you wonder what your options are and how much they pay? A career in finance is versatile with above-average pay. To get started, you will need a finance degree and, in some cases, a master’s degree, professional certificates, or licenses.
This article will look at the benefits of getting a finance degree and the educational requirements for a successful finance career. It will also discuss the various types of finance jobs, the top 8 highest-paying jobs in finance, and the overall career growth prospects of jobs in this industry. We also discuss some of the upcoming high-paying jobs in finance
Benefits of a Finance Degree
The top benefits of getting a finance degree include:
A Career in Finance Can Be Incredibly Lucrative
Finance is a high-paying industry with top earners making up to six or seven figures in salaries and bonuses. Notably, entry-level professionals make a higher average median income than their colleagues in other Industries.
You Do Not Need to Be an Ivy-League Graduate to Land a Well-Paying Finance Job
The good thing with a finance career is that you do not need to have pursued a finance degree from one of the most famous universities to land a high-paying job. As long as your school is and you had a good GPA, you are set on a good career growth path.
Increases Your Financial IQ
By the time you complete and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in finance, you will have acquired vital financial knowledge and skills such as:
- Having a clear understanding of the stock market, investment banking, and trading
- Understanding the different types of financial instruments
- An understanding of how individuals and businesses create wealth and utilize it
- How to make strategic investment decisions ability to analyze different financial information and to communicate the findings
Offers Numerous Career Opportunities
A bachelor’s degree in finance will get you started in your career. The finance industry is quite vast, and the opportunities are unlimited. For instance, you can niche down to a specific industry, say banking or investment, or you can move around from one industry to another.
You Can Work Anywhere
A degree in finance is as marketable in the US as it is worldwide. As such, you can choose to work in the US or other parts of the world. Organizations that have branches worldwide allow their employees to choose a location that they would like to work.
Education Requirements for a Career In Finance
At the bare minimum, you require an undergraduate degree in finance or a related field. The bachelor’s degree demonstrates your understanding of finance principles, numbers, knowledge of Economics, applied mathematics business theories, and accounting.
Finance programs usually equip students with both technical and theoretical knowledge, including:
- Basic finance skills
- Macro and microeconomics
- Information technology
- Mathematical methods
- Accounting Theory
- Financial law
- Business and employment law
- Risk management
- Business strategy
Admission Requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance
The entry requirements for a finance degree vary from university to university. Students have to have a strong academic background, especially in mathematics, to study finance. Some universities also conduct aptitude tests in English and communication.
In some cases, all you have to do is identify a university you’d like to join, apply to their finance program, and if you qualify, you will be accepted and sent an admission letter. On the other hand, the finance program in some universities is quite competitive, and students have to undergo a rigorous interviewing process to be admitted.
What Does a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance Entail?
A bachelor’s degree in finance is usually offered in business school and takes about 3 to 4 years to complete. The curriculum incorporates coursework, practical seminars, and case studies. Students are assessed through written exams, group project work, and individual assignments. Most schools also require that students undertake internships as part of the course.
Graduating with a bachelor’s degree and finance will give you access to entry-level jobs. However, you will need to further your studies to demonstrate your commitment to the sector, rise through the ranks, and be able to bargain for better pay.
Licenses and Certifications for Finance Professionals
There are different finance-specific courses and certifications that you can pursue depending on your area of specialization. These include:
- The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
- Certified Public Accountants (CPA)
- Certified Financial Planner(CFP)
In the US, finance professionals who intend to deal with investments and finances must pass a series of licensing exams. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) offers the Security Industry Essential Exam (SIE).
Initially, this exam was only open to finance professionals who were sponsored by financial institutions. However, in 2018, FINRA opens up the exam to anyone who is above 18 years old. The exam is designed to demonstrate to potential employers that you understand the finance and Investments industry.
Master’s Degree in Finance
You can get decent jobs in finance with only an undergraduate degree. If you’re looking to advance your skills and expertise in the industry, you must pursue a master’s degree in finance.
A master’s degree in finance will open up opportunities to earn higher salaries and help you advance your career in a management-level position. It also provides increased job security and offers you the flexibility to move from one industry to another.
A master’s degree is also an opportunity for you to specialize in a specific area of interest. It will also demonstrate to your clients and employers that you are committed to the financial sector.
A master’s in finance usually lasts one or two years. It is open to students who have complete an undergraduate in finance or any other related field. Some universities require prospective students to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
Master’s in finance programs are designed to prepare students for middle and senior-level management. They also provide specialized skills and knowledge. Most master’s degree programs offer general courses in the first year and then specialization courses in the last year. Students are required to attend classes and seminars and produce a thesis.
Ph.D. Degree in Finance
In most cases, a Ph.D. is not required for most finance high-paying jobs. However, if you want to better understand economics, finance, and mathematics, you could enroll in a finance Ph.D.
You can also undertake a Ph.D. in finance as a way of pivoting into consulting, teaching and research. However, according to payscale.com, there is no direct correlation between salary increment and pursuing a Ph.D. in finance.
Types of Finance Jobs
Finance jobs can be categorized according to the area of specialization and where finance professionals work.
Where Do Finance Graduates Work?
Finance graduate can work in different settings, including:
- Banks – commercial and investment
- Financial Planning companies
- Insurance companies
- Real estate
- Small and medium-sized businesses
- Fortune 500 companies
- Fintech companies
Types of Finance Jobs According to the Area of Specialization
The following all the various types of finance jobs according to the area of specialization:
Corporate finance deals with the management of funds in organizations, both private and public. Corporate finance professionals need to have an understanding of how businesses operate overall. Employers are often looking for trustworthy corporate finance professionals who will have extensive experience and skill levels. You must also have excellent organizational skills and communication skills, as well as a high financial IQ.
A crucial part of corporate finance is accounting. Therefore, organizations hire accountants to handle the financial processes, including updating financial records and ensuring that they adhere to the financial laws.
Some common corporate finance jobs include:
- Finance analyst
- Finance manager
- Chief Finance officer
Financial Planning and Consulting
Financial planning and consulting professionals help their clients to create functional plans for their finances. Your main role is to utilize your financial expertise to help clients with real finance issues.
You need to have a clear understanding of the financial law, best investment practices, and insurance. If working as a personal financial advisor, you have to have a clear understanding of personal finances. Additional skills necessary for this type of job include attention to detail and excellent communication skills.
Common job titles for financial planning and consulting include:
- Financial consultant
- Personal financial adviser
Traditionally, banking was the most well-known financial job. It is still relevant and a great entry-level option for postgraduates. Banking professionals often work in banks to provide a wide range of financial services, including opening checking accounts or savings accounts and providing loans, among others.
To work in the bank, you need to have been detail-oriented, have excellent interpersonal communication skills, administrative skills, and customer service skills.
The most common banking jobs include:
- Bank teller
- Loan officer
- Compliance officer
- Branch manager
Investment professionals primarily serve as facilitators to link up individuals or companies who need resources with investors who can supply them. The Investment professional has compensated adequately for serving as a facilitator.
Hedge funds are becoming popular as a channel of investment as more people look for ways to invest their money. Hedge fund managers pull resources from different investors and buy or sell a wide range of financial products or assets to make significant profits.
Another aspect of investment banking is private equity. In this case, private equity professionals work with businesses or startups to help them find capital for expansion or support current operational expenditures.
As an investment professional, you should have a-a high financial IQ and be up to date with trends in the investment market. Clients and firms rely on your knowledge and guidance to decide where to put their money. Therefore, you should be able to analyze various financial information to make strategic investment decisions.
A professional investment expert should also have excellent communication skills, critical thinking, and negotiation skills. In the US, investment professionals are required to obtain a license to practice.
Investment professionals can work as:
- Investment advisors
- Investment brokers
- Investment analysts
- Hedge fund managers
- Quantitative analysts
- Portfolio managers
Insurance offers finance graduates versatility in the range of jobs they can do, including sales, customer service, and underwriting, among others. You require high-level analytical skills as well as communication and interpersonal skills.
Insurance professionals can work as:
- Insurance Agents
- Insurance underwriters
- Insurance sales agents
Highest paying finance jobs
Below is a look at the highest-paying finance jobs according to the US Bureau of Statistics, Indeed.com, Salary.com, and Payscale.com
Chief Financial Officer
Average annual salary – $104,690
A Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is one of the top-level management executives in an organization who is tasked with overseeing a company’s finance department. They report to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Although their particular responsibilities may vary from one organization to another, typically, the roles of a CFO include:
- Planning a company’s finances
- Analyzing a company’s financial strengths and weakness
- Tracking cash flow
- Overseeing in taxation issues
- Doing cost-benefit on for investment opportunities
- Ensuring that the company affairs to the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) that are established by the securities and exchange commission (SEC)
- Setting up financial policies
Chief Compliance Officer
Average annual salary- $239,701
A Chief Compliance Officer CCO is one of the highest paid financial professionals in the US. According to Salary.com, the median annual wage for a COO is $239,701, with the lowest-paid earning $157,170 and the highest paid earning $336,752.
This is a top management position requiring a bachelor’s degree in finance and over eight years of experience.
The CCO is responsible for ensuring that an organization complies with its financial policy and the regulatory bodies’ regulations. This position requires a good understanding of the specific industry that the business is operating in and the various financial laws
The roles and responsibilities of a CCO include:
- Directing an organization’s programs, practices, and policies to ensure that the entire organization complies with the regulatory requirements
- Ensuring that the company adheres to the legal and ethical requirements while meeting its business goals
- Identifying any laws and regulations that may affect an organization’s policy and implement any changes.
- Developing compliance programs for an organization
- Reviewing a company’s policies to ensure they are in adherence with the various regulations
- Assessing the company policies and operations for compliance risk
- Advising the top management on regulations that may put the business at risk
- Educating employees on the latest regulations
Private Equity Senior Associate
Average annual salary – $158,021
A private equity senior associate works in private equity firms to help clients raise capital to expand or support a company’s operations. These professionals identify private investors such as pension funds, families, high-net-worth individuals, insurance companies looking for opportunities to invest their money and link them up with businesses looking for investors.
Typically, this is a high-pressure job that requires you to work for long hours. It requires excellent communication skills, negotiation skills, critical and analytical thinking skills, and attention to detail. You should also have a high financial IQ and be up to date with financial trading trends.
The role of a private equity senior associate includes:
- Identifying potential investors
- Doing due diligence for investors to ensure that the investment opportunities are viable
- Helping organizations meet their financial objectives
- Working with investors to close a deal
- Conducting market research to identify new opportunities for investing
- Participating in industry events and conferences
Hedge Fund Manager
Average annual salary- $145,279
Hedge funds work such that hedge fund managers and associates find several investors and they put their money together in a fund. They then use these funds to make strategic investments that promise high returns. Over time, they pay the investors an interest rate periodically.
A hedge fund manager needs to have the financial acumen and a wide network of investors and other investment professionals. This position pays well but also requires a high-risk appetite and resilience.
To get started in a career as a hedge fund associate, you require a degree in finance and, in some cases, a master’s degree in an investment-related course. You will also need to get licensed. To grow to a management position, you need extensive experience and proof of a portfolio that has good returns.
The roles and responsibilities of a hedge fund manager include:
- Identifying potential investors
- Pulling investor resources into a fund
- Making investment decisions
- Assessing risk in the various investment opportunities
- Sustaining a given risk-reward ratio
- Paying out interest to investors
Average annual salary– $129,890
Finance managers work in different industries, including banking, investment, insurance, government, and not-for-profit. In organizations with a CFO, a financial manager works directly with the CFO to oversee its financial department. In other companies or organizations, the finance manager serves as the CFO.
This position typically requires a bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting and five years of experience in positions such as accountant, financial analyst, or securities sales agent.
The main roles of a financial manager include:
- Preparing financial reports
- Forecasting a company’s financial trajectory
- Monitoring financial processes and procedures to ensure that they are in adherence with the legal requirements
- Reviewing financial reports to seek opportunities for cost reduction
- Helping the management in making financial decisions
- Assessing an organization’s risk for financial loss and taking measures to mitigate the risk
- Monitoring cash flow
Average annual salary – $108,350
Actuaries utilize financial, mathematical, and statistical theories and methodologies to analyze the financial cost of risk. They often work in insurance companies to help them in coming up with insurance products. Usually, they collaborate with other finance specialists, including risk assessors, accountants, and financial analysts.
To become an actuary, you need a bachelor’s degree in finance, statistics, or mathematics. Some universities offer business courses with a major option for actuarial science.
With the current advancements in Fintech, actuaries don’t need to do the computations and analysis manually. They use database software to compile information, draw probabilities, and assess potential risk costs to help in decision-making.
This role involves:
- Compiling statistical data
- Analyzing the compiled data
- Determining the probability of a risk and its cost
- Designing and testing insurance policies, pension plans, and run investments
- Coming up with proposals to minimize risk and maximize profitability
- Creating assessment reports finding the findings to the top management.
Personal Financial Advisor
Average annual salary – $87,850
Personal financial advisors work with their clients to help them manage their finances and plan for their financial future. Most of them work in banks, investment companies, or insurance companies, while others have a private practice.
Typically, you only need a bachelor’s degree in finance or a related course to become a personal financial advisor. However, a master’s degree and professional certifications can improve your credibility and career growth.
The roles and responsibilities of a personal financial adviser include:
- Meeting clients to discuss their financial positions and goals
- Educating clients about the different types of financial investment options
- Recommending investment opportunities to clients
- In some cases, selecting Investments on behalf of the clients
- Helping clients plan for their financial future
- Monitoring client investments to determine if any changes need to be done to improve investment returns
- Researching investment opportunities
Average annual salary – $152,107
Tax directors are responsible for an organization’s tax objectives and policies. They monitor a company’s compliance with the applicable tax statutes. They also ensure accuracy in tax reporting and identify opportunities to minimize that organization’s tax obligations.
A tax director is a top management position that requires a minimum bachelor’s degree in finance or other relevant fields and at least five years of experience in a management position. You also need a high-level knowledge of no integration law and taxation procedures.
The roles and responsibility of a tax director include:
- Preparing tax reports
- Being custodians of tax documents
- Ensuring taxes are filed accurately
- Resolving tax-related issues
- Having a clear understanding of the relevant domestic tax laws
- Training the organization staff on tax laws and taxation procedures
- Coming up with strategies for maximizing credits and tax incentives
Upcoming High-Paying Finance Jobs
As with most other industries, the finance field is also evolving. This has created rising demand for finance professionals across-the-board. Some of the new finance positions to keep an eye for include:
As blockchain currencies continue to gain popularity and find acceptance in the mainstream economy, there is an increasing demand for financial specialists in this form of currency.
Such a professional would need to have extensive knowledge of blockchain systems. They should also have extensive blockchain development skills, including technical knowledge in the various programming languages.
Although no university offers a bachelor’s degree or higher degrees in blockchain technology, several universities in the US are now offering short courses in digital currency or blockchain technology.
These programs include:
- Digital Currency Initiative by MIT
- Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technology Program by the Princeton University through the Coursera online learning platform
- Online Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Course by the Stanford University
- Blockchain at Berkeley by university of California at Berkeley
Financial Data Specialist
Financial institutions often need a specialist who can mine data, analyze it and make recommendations regarding various financial decisions. Such information would help institutions remain competitive.
The financial data specialist should have skills in data communication, data visualization, and better intuition skills.
You can find free or paid finance Data Analytics courses online or consider pursuing an MSC finance course with a data analytics specialization for better credibility.
For instance, the Harvard Online Business School offers a course in Data Science for Business.
What Do Projections Show Concerning Job Growth in the Finance Industry?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for finance jobs is expected to continue growing. You can also anticipate an increase in the average salary for most finance jobs. However, there will be an increased demand for specialty skills to make the changing dynamics innovations in the industry.
Will a bachelor’s degree in finance give you a return on your investment? Yes. It will also provide you with numerous job opportunities and a promising career. As long as you are good at mathematics, you will find a finance career enjoyable and fulfilling.
You will be set for a good start with only a bachelor’s degree in finance, and you can continue to rise through the ranks even without further education as long as your track record is excellent. You can work in a wide range of settings and make more than $100,000 per year within a few years of your career.
However, if you are eyeing a mid-level and senior management position, it is best to pursue a master’s degree in finance and get the necessary licenses. A Ph.D. in finance is not mandatory for career progression, but it is crucial to go into academia, research, or consulting.