The reasons to invest in a college degree are many, and one of the most common is to give yourself more options for finding a job upon graduation. Choosing finance as your major affords you an incredible number of opportunities in the professional world.
From agency work as a budget analyst to Wall Street jobs like an investment banker, the potential careers in finance are innumerable, and many of them pay higher salaries than the average for other occupations. If you don’t yet know what career in finance you’d like to enter, here are a few of the best jobs to consider.
What Are the Best Paying Jobs in Finance?
You might assume that careers in money management would pay higher than the average for most other careers, and you would be correct. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial occupations pay about 60% more than the median wage for all occupations (as of May 2021), so finance is likely to be a lucrative career path.
For those interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting, the question remains of what are the highest-paying jobs in this field. The answer — as you might also expect — is not so straightforward. Many factors influence an individual’s potential earnings including level of education, amount of experience, place of employment, and broader economic conditions.
However, certain jobs tend to pay higher and grow faster than others within the same field. These are the careers that you might consider as the best jobs to get with a finance degree.
Top Jobs in Finance to Consider
Here are some of the top-paying jobs in finance and accounting, according to occupational data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. An undergraduate degree may qualify you for entry-level positions in any of these fields, and completing a higher or more specialized degree such as a Master’s of Business Administration may further increase your earnings potential in any of these professions.
The role of an accountant is often what first comes to mind regarding careers in finance, and in fact, becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a very common way to enter the finance profession. Accountants and auditors perform a wide variety of functions and are found in sectors beyond the finance industry specifically.
Their primary responsibilities involve examining and analyzing financial statements, tax records, and other financial data. They also must be keenly aware of compliance protocols to ensure that documents are filled in correctly and businesses adhere to certain regulations.
Because accountants are so important for fundamental business processes, a wide variety of jobs are available for those who complete a Bachelor of Science in Accounting or a related degree. Although many of these jobs are entry-level, the profession can also be high paying. In 2021, for example, the median salary for accountants was $77,250 according to the BLS, and the top 10% earned more than $128,970 per year.
Accounting jobs are also projected to grow just as fast as the average for all occupations, with an estimated 136,400 openings for accountants and auditors each year through 2031.
The goal of a financial analyst is to keep a company profitable by identifying opportunities for profit and areas of risk. Financial analysts work in many different sectors, and their exact job descriptions vary accordingly. In general, the role involves creating financial plans, making projections about the future of stocks and other investments, and compiling analytical reports for investors and business leaders to review.
Amid the environment of economic uncertainty brought on by events like the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic, financial forecasting and risk analysis are particularly salient for most companies. This could be one reason the job outlook for financial analysts is projected to grow 9% from 2021-2031 — which is faster than the average for most occupations according to the BLS — and why the median income for this career is particularly high, at $95,570 per year as of 2021.
To become a financial analyst, earning a bachelor’s degree is one initial step. Taking courses in accounting, economics, statistics, and mathematics will provide the necessary knowledge for fulfilling the duties of an analyst, which are more comprehensive than the responsibilities of most accountants or auditors. Additionally, finance majors can take on internships or entry-level jobs to better understand the unique demands of an analyst’s role, and to demonstrate to potential employers that they are prepared for this type of work.
Similar to the need for financial analysts, budget analysts are highly valued by companies because they help to keep organizations healthy and identify problematic trends. Analysts do this through a combination of monitoring budgets, planning for future spending, and finding opportunities to save or cut costs.
Budget analysts are essential in many industries, including banking, manufacturing, higher education, and all levels of government. The BLS job outlook for these positions is 3% growth from 2021-2031, and the median pay is $79,940 per year. The BLS also notes that bachelor’s degrees are common among budget analysts, and employers may like to see applicants who have taken courses in accounting, economics, and statistics in particular.
Financial examiners are finance professionals who monitor the legal and ethical condition of banks and other financial institutions, or they may also work for any level of government. Examiners primarily assess risks and compliance associated with financial activities like borrowing and lending, investing in securities, and guarding against unfair practices.
The job of a financial examiner requires accounting skills similar to those of a financial analyst or budget analyst, but an examiner may need specialized knowledge of laws and regulations to perform their duties. This may require additional education or experience after completing a finance-related bachelor’s degree.
The extra effort to become a financial examiner is likely to pay off, however, as these professionals earned a median income of $81,410 in 2021, and the occupation is expected to grow at 21% from 2021 to 2031 according to the BLS.
Personal Financial Advisor
Businesses are hardly the only ones who need to manage their money. Regular people do as well — perhaps even more so than corporations — given that so many of life’s big decisions involve money management. As their name implies, personal financial advisors help individuals and families with money matters like taxes, investing, planning for major expenses, and saving for retirement.
Financial advisors may go by a variety of job titles, and there are different specialties within the profession. Wealth managers, for example, focus their expertise on investments and their clientele is typically high-net-worth individuals. On the other hand, financial advisors do not have to fall into the personal advisor category; some are employed by banks or insurance companies, while others are independent advisors and may sell a variety of financial products.
No matter the type of advisor, this career begins with a bachelor’s degree in business, accounting, or finance, and a licensure exam is then required for selling investments or managing a client’s portfolio. Once in the profession, an advisor’s salary can range as widely as their duties. According to BLS data, the median wage for advisors was $94,170 per year in 2021, but the lowest 10% earned less than $47,570 while the upper 10% made more than $208,000. The job is projected to grow much faster than average, at 15% from 2021-2031.
A career move you may consider after a few years in the financial industry is becoming a 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 $131,710 in May 2021, with the top earners securing more than $208,000. In addition to a potential 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 by 17% from 2021 to 2031, 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 a financial field before securing a manager job, as many employers now prefer candidates with this credential.
A logistician manages a company’s supply chain and storage and transportation of goods. The logistician determines how much inventory a company should keep on hand and looks for ways to minimize costs and improve the efficiency associated with procuring supplies.
Demand for logisticians is rising faster than for most other occupations, even in the financial field. The BLS projects 28% job growth from 2021-2031, which is the highest of all these top careers in finance, and the median salary was $77,030 per year as of 2021.
The duties of a logistician are ultimately concerned with minimizing risk and maximizing profits — just like other finance professions. However, to become a logistician, candidates may benefit from specialized knowledge in fields like engineering, supply chain management, or sales. This additional expertise can come from a degree in industrial distribution or coursework related to logistics within a traditional finance degree.
How To Begin a Career in Finance
No matter which of these high-paying finance jobs you wish to pursue, gaining the proper education and credentials are critical steps to success. The typical path begins with a bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting, and during these studies, you will also learn what professional certifications may be required for your industry.
After obtaining the recommended degree and necessary licenses, the next step is to gain practical experience through internships or entry-level positions as available. The highest-paying jobs require moving up the ladder, and every step along the way will further develop your expertise and expand your professional network. It may be possible, however, to accelerate your professional growth by also earning an MBA with a concentration in finance to hone your business leadership skills.
Remember that in the field of finance, as with most careers in the modern business world, a commitment to continuous learning is essential for staying on top of an ever-evolving economic landscape.