Career Paths for Someone With a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance

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If you’re a data-driven individual who works well with numbers, you might have considered pursuing a career in finance. A bachelor’s degree in finance could be the right step to help you gain expertise in business and corporate finance. The high-level subject matter and rigorous coursework can help you prepare for a rewarding career in business and financial management.

Person in a suit pointing to a screen full of numbers and charted lines.

There are many different career paths you can pursue once you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree in this field. Depending on the type of work you’d like to do on a daily basis and your ideal work environment, you have many options in terms of how you’ll use your finance degree. The main careers we will touch on are:

  • Financial analyst
  • Personal financial advisor
  • Financial manager

Financial analyst

One of the most popular careers you can pursue with bachelor’s degree is a position as a financial analyst. These finance professionals offer guidance to businesses and investors on stocks, bonds, and other investment opportunities. The day-to-day tasks of a financial analyst typically consist of:

  • Evaluating current and past financial data
  • Recommending different individual investments and portfolios
  • Assessing the quality of management teams
  • Preparing written reports on financial analysis
  • Studying business and economic trends

There are a variety of specialized career paths financial analysts can pursue. Depending on what area of finance they’d like to work in, these professionals can choose one of the following specializations:

  • Portfolio managers curate collections of investments for their companies. They are responsible for the performance of portfolios.
  • Fund managers focus on hedge funds or mutual funds. They may be expected to make quick buy-and-sell decisions in response to changing market conditions.
  • Ratings analysts review companies on their ability to remain profitable and successful. Their analyses can help inform management teams on whether or not they should invest in select companies.
  • Risk analysts review specific investment decisions to determine their risk levels. They will then develop a plan on how to limit potential losses and deal with unpredictable circumstances.

Beyond these specific titles, financial analysts may focus on the buy or sell side of investment opportunities. A financial analyst on the buy side will work with companies with large budgets such as hedge funds, insurance companies, nonprofit organizations with endowment funds, and independent money managers. An analyst on the sell side will work with financial services sales agents, informing this salesperson about investment opportunities like stocks and bonds.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for financial analysts was $85,660 in May 2018. The top 10% of earners in this field made more than $167,420 during that year. The median wages for financial analysts in the top industries can be broken down as follows:

 

  • Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments: $101,410
  • Professional, scientific, and technical services: $84,540
  • Management of companies and enterprises: $83,640
  • Credit intermediation: $81,420
  • Insurance carriers: $78,870

Aside from salary potential, the financial analyst career path may be a good choice based on its demand. The number of jobs for financial analysts is projected to grow 6% between 2018 and 2028, per the BLS, at a rate similar to all occupations. The reason for this increase is the expanding economy, which allows for more investment opportunities and more investors who need the expertise of financial analysts. Additionally, as international markets fluctuate, investors will turn to knowledgeable analysts to help them navigate complicated investment areas.

If you’ve decided that this is the right career for you, you might be wondering exactly what you’ll need to do to become a financial analyst and how much time it will take. Typically, entry-level financial analysts are required to have a bachelor’s degree. To progress in their careers, financial analysts might also work to achieve their Chartered Financial Analyst certification, a distinction that requires a bachelor’s degree, four years of experience, and passing grades on three exams. Many financial analysts go on to pursue a master’s degree in finance or accounting to improve their knowledge and increase their credibility.

Aside from degrees and certifications, financial analysts should have excellent analytical, communication, decision-making, technical, and math skills. A bachelor’s degree in finance can help students develop these skills through high-level courses and hands-on experience through internships.

Personal financial advisor

If you’d rather work with individuals instead of businesses and investors, you might prefer becoming a personal financial advisor. These professionals offer advice on smaller-scale investment options, such as taxes, retirement, insurance, mortgages, estate planning, and college savings. In their day-to-day careers, personal financial advisors will perform the following functions to accommodate individuals’ long- and short-term goals:

  • Meeting with clients to discuss financial goals
  • Educating clients on investment opportunities and possible risks
  • Explaining different types of financial services to clients
  • Recommending investments to clients based on their personal information
  • Helping clients prepare for certain events, such as retirement or the pursuit of higher education
  • Observing clients’ data to see if any changes should be made based on altering life situations, such as marriage, new children, or loss

As a personal financial advisor, you could work with clients on all types of investment options. However, you might decide to focus on a specific area of personal finance, such as risk management or retirement. If you choose to go the latter route, you will be called upon by clients who want high-level expertise on that specific concentration area.

Financial advisors will typically meet with their clients once a year to update them on possible investment options and adjust their financial plan based on the client’s personal circumstances. While many personal financial advisors consult with their clients before making decisions on their behalf, many clients give their advisor the autonomy to buy and sell stocks and bonds as they best see fit.

If this career sounds interesting to you, you may be curious about what you can expect for earnings in this position. The median salary for personal financial advisors was $88,890 in May 2018, according to the BLS. The top 10% of earners in this field made more than $208,000 during this time.

 

Just as you need a bachelor’s degree to become a financial analyst, you will most likely need one to become a personal financial advisor. A degree in finance, economics, business, or accounting can provide adequate preparation for the work you’ll be doing in this role. You can begin a career as a personal financial advisor with this degree alone, but many professionals choose to earn further certifications and degrees to enhance their skill set and make themselves more marketable to potential clients. A master’s degree in finance, business, or a similar field is not necessary to secure a job in this field, but will improve your professional reputation.

Financial manager

A rewarding career you may consider after a few years of work in the financial industry is financial manager. These professionals perform similar duties as financial analysts, but in addition, they are in charge of overseeing teams of financial professionals and making large-scale organizational decisions.

With more responsibility comes a higher salary potential. The BLS reports that the median salary for financial managers was $127,990 in May 2018, with the top earners securing more than $208,000. In addition to a median salary that is much higher than the national average, you might be drawn to a role as a financial manager as a result of the significant employment opportunities. Hiring for this position is expected to increase 16% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average growth. Specialties in cash management and risk management are anticipated to be in high demand during this period of time.

 

According to the BLS, financial managers typically need to have a bachelor’s degree and five years of experience in another financial occupation. This means that after a few years of work as a financial analyst, you have the choice of staying put or moving upward. However, you may need to earn a master’s degree in finance or a similar field before securing a job as a financial manager, as many employers now prefer candidates with this credential.

How a bachelor’s in finance can set you on the right path

Whether you’re interested in becoming a financial analyst, personal financial advisor, or financial manager, it’s important that you have the right education. The Bachelor of Science in Finance program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham offers you the education you’ll need to get started in these roles. This 100% online program can enhance your problem-solving and analytical skills, making you a well-rounded candidate in a plethora of finance careers. In addition, UAB provides plenty of collaboration opportunities among peers, colleagues, and alumni in the Collat School of Business’s network.

To find out how UAB’s Bachelor of Science in Finance program can prepare you for a career as a financial analyst, personal financial advisor, or financial manager, reach out to an enrollment advisor today.

Recommended Reading:

Work toward a credit analyst career after earning a finance degree

How a finance degree can put you on the path to a career as a real estate broker

Sources:

Online Bachelor of Science in Finance

Financial Analysts by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Financial Managers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Personal Financial Advisors by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics