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Career in Finance


From Personal to Corporate: Finance Career Paths and Job Description

The best things in life may be free, but money powers the world. How do you choose what to invest in? How can you gauge your financial decisions when conditions are constantly changing? These are the essential questions of the finance industry. The three main categories of finance are public, corporate and personal finance. Because most businesses realize the value in mindfully managing their assets, there will always be work for financial planners, analysts, managers, and executives. Their expertise and guidance can pave the way for a company's or an individual's fruitful future. Read all about these different finance careers.

What education and certification will I need to work in finance?

Earning a bachelor's degree is the first step in pursuing any finance career. Programs will typically focus on giving you a comprehensive understanding of financial management, technological expertise, interpersonal skills and professional insight. Learn more about finance curriculum on WhatYou'llStudy.

There are two popular types of advanced degrees: a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a focus in finance, and a master's degree in finance. While they each provide students with the skills needed for managerial positions in the field, they do differ. The MBA degree gives students a broader knowledge base of business skills that are transferable to other positions. The master's in finance is highly specialized, focusing almost exclusively on finance-related issues.

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Several types of certification exist for financial workers, depending on their area of study and expertise.

For example, becoming a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is possible through the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. They uphold a standard of excellence in personal financial planning. You can also become recognized as a Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) through the CFA Institute.

Various certifications exist for stock brokers and securities traders, through organizations including the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA).

While not necessary to begin your finance career, it's a good idea to join professional organizations in order to network and continue learning. The American Bankers Association and the Association for Financial Professionals are two of these.

What does a finance worker do?

Let's look at the job descriptions of the three main finance careers areas, to learn about the daily concerns and tasks of each.

In personal finance, decisions are made about paying for education, financing goods such as real estate and vehicles, buying health and property insurance, and investing and saving for retirement. According to the Financial Planning Standards Board, the six key areas of personal financial planning are:

  • Financial position: understanding what resources are available by looking at the net worth and cash flow of a household

  • Adequate protection: the analysis of how to protect a household from unforeseen risks

  • Tax planning

  • Investment and accumulation goals

  • Retirement planning

  • Estate planning

Corporate finance is all about providing the funds for a business' activities. Finance managers:

  • Balance risk and profitability

  • Study and forecast economic trends

  • Review company reports and suggest efficiencies

  • Work to maximize stock value

  • Manage funds, including choosing a portfolio of investments

  • Apply principles of financial risk management

Public finance is concerned with the financial dealings of states, as well as related public entities such as school districts or government agencies.

Some typical arenas for working in finance include in actuary (insurance), corporate finance or real estate, financial planning, investment banking and money management. Many of the skills and abilities needed for each area overlap and can benefit you as you move further in your field, or decide to change your focus.

What career paths can I take in finance?

It's important to choose your focus in finance—although many of the principles, skills and abilities you learn will be useful across the board. Most people who earn a bachelor's in finance work in areas including commercial banking, financial planning, investment banking, money managing, insurance and real estate. Other areas of interest are finance include private equity, commercial lending and sales and trading.

There's great opportunity for upward mobility when you work in finance. Starting off as an assistant or junior executive, it's possible to work up to more senior positions in your sector. If you enter the field with an MBA, you're primed to succeed. Financial analysts, planners and bankers can move up their respective ladders to positions of significant power, such as chief financial officer.

If you'd like to enter academia, doctorate programs in finance are available. By imparting a deeper understanding of financial methods, technologies and trends through applied research and studies, these programs prepare students for careers in academic assisting, research and publishing.

Learn about Pay&JobProjections for financial analysts. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' current Occupational Outlook Handbook states that employment of financial analysts should grow by 11 percent through 2026, faster than average for all occupations. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

Do money and business matter to you, but you're not sure finance is your field? Check out similar careers involving economics and operations like businessadministration, accounting and humanresources.

Finance Career and Degree Guide

Finance Jobs Overview

The finance industry spans a wide variety of careers, including those related to individual investors, corporations, banking and stocks. If you're interested in careersinfinance but aren't sure about the particulars of the available jobs, you're in luck! Below, you'll find jobs outlined based on broad categorizations that will help you decide which career is best for you.

Education Requirements for Finance Jobs

While you can enter the career field of finance without a formal business education, you will likely have much better prospects with at least an undergraduate degree in business, finance, economics, or related degree area, as many finance career paths are lucrative and highly competitive.

Financedegrees are available at every level, and those who wish to advance in their careers and their financial know-how may want to consider further education in the form of a master's degree, such as a Master's in Finance (MSF) or MasterofBusinessAdministration(MBA), or certification, becoming a CertifiedFinancialPlanner(CFP) or CertifiedFinancialAnalyst(CFA).

Skills Acquired by Finance Majors

Finance is quite a broad field, so the skills you might learn in a program will depend on the degree, the school and any concentrations you choose. However, there are some skills that are common to most programs.

  • Analytical skills. Students are taught how to take in data, interpret it and rearrange it to forecast trends, spot problems and help clients quickly visualize it. Programs will incorporate a range of courses in statistics, advanced math and analytics.

  • Problem-solving skills. Programs in finance aim to help students use creativity and outside-the-box thinking to solve complex problems. Professors might look at real-world examples, throw in a number of variables and ask students to figure out how to manage resources, make profits or evaluate potential opportunities.

  • Communication. You might think crunching numbers all day would require few communication skills. In fact, programs in finance emphasize communication because professionals in the field need to be able to express complex ideas in simple terms.

  • Software skills. Finance professionals use a wide range of data visualization and analytical software to manipulate numbers so programs in this field typically include classes on Excel and other relevant apps.

Salary and Job Outlook for Finance Careers

Professionals in the financial sector are often well-compensated but salaries can vary widely by career. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2018 that the median annual salary for all business and financial occupations was $68,350.

Job growth -- the number of new jobs a career field is expected to add -- can be quite different from career to career. The broad field of business and financial occupations is projected to add 591,800 new jobs between 2018 and 2028, which represents a job growth of 7%. This is higher than the average for all occupations, which is currently 5%.

In the table below are some popular job titles, their corresponding duties and their median salaries and job growth data.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Types of Careers in Finance

Corporate Finance Jobs

Corporate finance, as you may have guessed, involves work with corporations to handle financial affairs. Most positions within corporate finance requires at least a bachelor's degree, and master's degrees or MBAs are often preferred. Corporatefinancecareers have a high earning potential, and many corporations provide significant benefits to their employees.

Some careers you might consider in corporate finance include:

Banking and Finance Jobs

The banking sector offers many interesting career positions, and several careersinbankingandfinance are experiencing job growth. Because you would be working with money and other people's finances, you should have a strong aptitude for math and likely need good interpersonal skills as well.

You may want to consider jobs like:

Investment Careers

If you're interested in money management but want a customer-focused career dedicated to growing assets, you should strongly consider a career in investment. Investment career positions are involved with the management of assets for individual and corporate clients and make suggestions as to ways these individuals and corporations can maximize their gains and avoid costly financial errors.

Careers in finance and investment include:

Entry-Level Finance Jobs

If you're just starting your career in finance, you will likely begin with one of several entry-level finance positions . These careers require little, if any, previous work experience and will include some level of professional learning and job training. While a degree is not necessarily a pre-requisite for these jobs, most employers prefer candidates with some college education,, such as an associate or bachelor's degree. The following careers are well-suited for those at the outset of their professional practice in finance:

Highest-Paying Finance Jobs

Many careers within the field of finance are lucrative, with salaries well above the median for U.S. wage earners in the United States. However, if you only want to pursue careers that are considered the cream of the crop you may want to consider the following:

Other high-paying finance careers to consider are typically at the management level, which may necessitate more education, such as an MBA.

Master's in Finance Jobs

A master's degree or MBAinfinance opens the door to new job opportunities or career advancement within a finance profession. Oftentimes, professionals who obtain a master's degree move into management roles. If you're looking for jobs with a master's in finance , you may want to consider:


Internships are a fantastic way to gain real-world experience and prepare yourself for working in the field. Many degrees in finance either require or offer relevant internships; some of these are paid, most are not. If you're on-campus, your school will typically have opportunities nearby. If you're online, you may have to travel, though some online schools can help you arrange for an internship in your area.

Some of the most popular and best internships in finance are:

  • AT&T Financial and Leadership Development Program

  • Northwestern Mutual Financial Network

  • Credit Suisse

  • Lazard

  • J.P. Morgan's Investment Bank

Finance Career Path

As you begin considering a finance degree and looking at schools with finance programs, you should strongly consider the career you're most interested in, as you may want to tailor your studies to the career paths you want to pursue. The field of finance contains many institutions and career trajectories, so you might first decide what industry you want to work in and then look at specific roles within those industries. Some popular industry choices include banking, insurance, and corporate finance, and the career choices available within these industries vary.

If you have no education or industry experience, it is still possible to obtain an entry level job in finance and work your way up. However, you'll likely have a higher chance at obtaining employment with an associate degree, or, even better, a bachelor'sdegreeinfinance. With more experience, you may choose to obtain a certification or graduate-level degree in order to increase your salary or take advantage of career advancement opportunities. Finance professionals with more experience and education can move into more complex finance roles or become managers who oversee operations and employees in entry-level positions.

Career Tracks & Salaries In Finance

Most finance specialists are in it for the thrill of the chase but, let’s face it, the money’s good too, very good. But before you scan this page for numbers, let’s understand some concepts first.

The remuneration of a finance specialist almost always involves a bonus or a commission component, which is added to your salary or ‘base pay’. Bonuses are a larger part of one’s paycheck at investment banks, asset management firms and brokerages than they are in banking and insurance.

Also, as you move up the ladder, a greater percentage of your wages will come in the form of bonuses, which are driven by a combination of your department’s profits and those of the company. Unlike bonuses, commissions are formulaic.

Employees like financial advisors who receive commissions tend to work in sales positions. Revenues generated by their clients as well as other key metrics such as the value of their clients’ accounts drive your commission.

Now, if you’re looking for actual numbers, here they are. At the bottom of the heap, a Financial Analyst draws a salary of around $80,000 a year, more than the Branch Manager of a retail bank, who earns $62,000 at the entry level, going up to $154,000 at the senior level.

But there is some consolation in this relatively ‘safe’ job. A Branch Manager earns more than an Insurance Manager, whose annual remuneration including bonuses is around $103,800.

If you’re in it as a Trader, expect to earn $70,000 at the entry level, going up to $200,000 as an Associate Trader. Jobs in derivatives are even more lucrative.

But here’s where the stakes are really high – investment banking. Junior staff such as sales, trading, research and M&A staff, draw as much as $195,000 a year, while Associates reel in around $270,000.

At senior levels, such as Vice-President, salaries go up to $460,000, while Directors or Executive Directors snap up a cool $700,000 a year.

Outlook Of Financial Services Sector

The financial services sector in India is robust and, even more importantly, growing. The country has a burgeoning middle class, which, according to research by Deloitte, is projected to grow to 20 per cent of the total population by 2016, and 37 per cent by 2026.

Even better – India has a very young population, with a projected median age of 31 in 2025 and 38 in 2050.

Translated, this suggests a population that has more money, and a large portion of it owned by young people, who love to spend and want to grow their money by investing it.

More great news for wealth managers and investment bankers – according to Deloitte, the number of high net-worth individuals ($1 million) will increase 58 per cent from 2015 to 2020.

As for the banking and insurance sectors, well, they too can raise a toast. It is estimated that only 35 per cent of households in India have bank accounts and 10 per cent life insurance policies.

This suggests considerable growth potential. Also, with credit card usage on the rise, mobile banking fast catching on and remittances from NRIs steadily flowing in, the banking industry has plenty to shout about.

Roles in Finance

Read more about specific roles and occupations in Finance.

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