Updated 16 October 2020
The finance sector offers high paying jobs, a challenging working environment, a fast pace of life and great career prospects.
It can be fiercely competitive and often difficult to break into, so a finance degree is a great starting point for those wanting to pursue a career in the field.
A finance degree course provides you with the grounding to be proficient in all areas of the subject as well as the knowledge and support to be able to make an informed decision about which area to move into once you have graduated.
Employment options for finance majors go far beyond the world of banking. Graduates can choose to specialize in a certain discipline, like insurance underwriting for life insurance, or set their sights on working in an industry far removed from finance (for example, sport).
Finance is not just suited to those who excel at math; this career requires much quantitative experience and knowledge, so is relevant to those with a background in humanities, sciences and arts as well.
Communication skills are also crucial to the majority of finance roles.
Reaching high pay grades isn’t always down to financial knowledge; some of the highest earners got there because of their ability to read people, build great rapport with clients and work long hours.
A finance degree sets you up for a wide variety of different roles and there is often no need for further study outside of professional on-the-job training, and perhaps licensing exams if you will be dealing with investments.
However, finance majors should aspire to achieve accreditation in their field; relevant credentials will give you the best possible chance of climbing the career ladder.
As a finance major, you will develop a broad range of skills and expertise to set you up for a challenging career. These include:
Deciding on a career path is difficult for any graduate but for finance majors, the long list of options can make it even harder.
Here are our top 10 finance major jobs to help you decide:
Average salary: $55,000 per year
An accountant analyzes business problems with great attention to detail, audits accounts and provides information regarding financial records. Much of the work involves presenting financial information to clients.
As part of a finance degree, students will complete an accounting module. This module covers financial statements; how to produce, interpret and critique them.
The role of accountant draws on many of the skills a finance major learns during their degree – proficiency in working with and presenting data, communication, analytical skills, problem-solving and more.
Finance majors can become accountants straight after graduating; however, when it comes to obtaining the Certified Public Accountant license (CPA), depending on the state, they may find they do not have enough semester hours to qualify.
For this reason, it can be useful to complete an MBA with a focus on accounting or a master’s in accounting before looking for that first accounting role.
Accountancy is a great starting point for progression to leadership roles with government bodies or not-for-profit organizations, as well as senior roles in corporate finance.
Average salary: $100,000 per year
Finance majors will have developed strong mathematical skills throughout their degree which are vital to a career as an actuary.
An actuary tries to predict the future and assess the likelihood of certain events to try to measure and manage risk. They do this by using existing data, statistics, past events and their judgment, wider knowledge and expertise.
To make judgments, actuaries must be able to perform calculations and manipulate software just as finance majors will have learned to do during their degree.
Communication is also key to this role; actuaries take up important leadership positions in finance-driven businesses and must not only present their findings to the senior team but also convince the team that their decisions are sound.
Outside of finance, actuaries usually work in insurance, supporting risk analysts in making recommendations to brokers by predicting what the future holds.
Average salary: $57,000 per year
Auditors examine company accounts to ensure the legality of financial records and prevent the company from breaching regulations.
These roles have become increasingly important post-2009 after the global recession; companies have had to become more diligent where the recording and reporting of finances are concerned.
The role of auditor requires an individual with a high level of integrity and strong ethical values. Given the responsibility of the role – identifying inconsistencies and mistakes, attention to detail is crucial.
A finance major should be well versed in ensuring the accuracy of their calculations and the importance of scrutinizing money going in and out of a company.
Auditors are not dissimilar to accountants, and finance majors could complete the accounting advanced degree course to improve their job prospects.
Further down the line, auditors should look to get certification as an internal auditor (CIA).
Average salary: $98,000 per year
Economists research, collate and analyze large amounts of data to produce forecasts and provide financial advice – specifically, recommendations for improving efficiency.
A finance degree provides students with the skills to conduct the level of research the role of economist demands. Finance majors will also be introduced to the various software packages used by economists to extract and analyze data.
Economists advise a wide range of organizations including banks, companies, government agencies, investment groups and higher education providers.
There is a certain expectation that finance majors should go on to obtain an MBA, MA, MSc, MPhil or PhD in economics to give themselves the best chance of securing the top roles in what is an extremely competitive job market.
This is especially pertinent if your finance degree was not a joint economics degree or heavily economics focused where modules covered were concerned.
Having said that, the majority of employers will consider finance majors when it comes to entry-level economist roles.
Average salary: $96,000 per year
A financial planner must advise a client on how best to invest and manage their money. This includes investing, saving, budgeting and strategic planning (estate planning, tax planning, retirement planning, etc.).
Finance majors will have built a good understanding of investment vehicles and be well versed in identifying trends in the securities markets. This knowledge will inform decisions should they wish to pursue a career as a financial planner, giving investors advice on where to place their money.
This role involves a high level of trust between advisor and investor, so personality, confidence and the art of persuasion are important qualities for a finance major if they are looking to move into this field.
Financial planners who provide specific advice regarding investments, or who directly buy/sell insurance policies or stocks, need to be licensed to do so and this involves taking exams.
Investment or securities firms usually sponsor a candidate's training to enable them to take them, however, there is a Securities Industry Essentials exam which anyone can take.
Finance majors who secure a role as a financial planner should look to become certified (CFP) to enhance their career prospects.
A financial planner’s income is largely based on the amount of new business they get in. Advisors are either commission-based, fee-based or both.
Average salary: $46,000 per year
Underwriters assess whether insurance cover should be awarded. They work closely with brokers, actuaries and risk/claims managers.
Decisions they make are based around striking a careful balance between attracting new business, retaining customers and ensuring that losses incurred from claims made can be covered.
These decisions carry much responsibility; if they are too cautious, they may lose business for a company, but too generous and the company will have to pay out vast sums of money in claims.
Insurance underwriters usually specialize in a certain area across four main fields:
Graduates with a degree in almost any subject may be able to secure a job as an underwriter. The majority of learning is done on the job, so finance majors will likely go into this career as a trainee or assistant.
There is a long list of certifications that underwriters can work towards; each is specific to the field of expertise, such as Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Registered Health Underwriter (RHU) and Chartered Property/Casualty Underwriter (CPCU).
Average salary: $80,000 per year
Investment bankers advise companies (and often governments and other organizations) on how best to achieve their financial goals.
An investment banker assists the client with putting into place long and short-term plans. These plans involve strategic opportunities like acquisitions and mergers, IPOs, privatizations, bonds and shares, lending, management buyouts, and more.
Number crunching features heavily in this career, so a finance major is perfectly placed for this role and can draw on the numerical and analytical skills they have learned throughout their degree.
Given the scale of the financial advice the investment banker gives a company, communication and interpersonal skills are crucial.
The role of analyst at an investment bank is a common entry point for finance majors entering the field.
Average salary: $67,000 per year
Risk managers sit within the financial services and banking sectors. It is their job to ensure companies avoid pitfalls that will jeopardize profits and growth.
Some companies are large enough to employ their own risk manager to prevent them from making the wrong investment decisions, but if not, a company will bring one in on a consultancy basis to detect fiscal risks in their operations and help them identify potential threats.
Finance majors entering into the world of risk management will soon find themselves relying heavily on the statistical models they studied during their degree. Risk managers need to have excellent quantitative analysis skills and be great problem solvers.
The Institute of Risk Management provides qualifications that finance majors may wish to take advantage of to further their careers.
The International Certificate in Enterprise Risk Management takes between six and nine months to complete, and the postgraduate International Diploma in Enterprise Risk Management takes around three years to complete; both are distance learning courses.
Average salary: $77,000 per year
Statisticians use statistical methods to gather and analyze data to create reports. Their findings influence decisions and help companies to improve their products or services.
The expertise of a statistician is required in a wide range of industries. This is an area of finance where a finance major could choose to combine their professional training with an area of interest, or even a hobby or passion.
For example, statisticians are very important to the sporting world because the information they gather and analyze provides coaches, players and alike with vital details to help inform strategies.
As a statistician, you could also find yourself monitoring disease outbreaks, measuring toxicity in foods, devising experiments to assess the side effects of certain drugs, and making recommendations for or against an additive being used in the production of a food product.
Compared to a role like investment banker, statisticians work in a much less stressful environment but the job is still very well paid.
Statisticians usually work as part of a team and must be good communicators.
This is a role that will suit those who love working with numbers, are proficient in IT and have great analytical skills.
Average salary: $62,000 per year
As a student on a finance degree, you will be expected to keep abreast of current affairs and the economy. Getting used to regularly checking news bulletins, daily newspapers and relevant websites will be beneficial should you wish to pursue a career as a tax accountant.
Tax accountants need to keep their finger on the pulse and know the law inside out where tax is concerned.
It is their job to make recommendations to companies and individuals that will help keep tax payments to an absolute minimum whilst staying within the parameters of legislation.
Attention to detail is critical to this role. Tax accountants must complete and submit tax returns on behalf of a company or individual so accuracy is crucial.
Communication skills are also key to the role; tax accountants need to perfect the art of explaining very complicated legislation in simple terms for clients.
As with the role of accountant, a finance major could become a tax accountant without further study; however, an MBA with a focus on accounting or a master’s in accounting would be beneficial and help with obtaining a CPA license long term.
Before embarking on a finance degree, it’s a good idea to give some thought to the direction you think you will go in your career.
Having some idea of the job role you want will allow you to choose modules and work experience relevant to your future plans.
If you don’t know which area of finance you want to move into after you graduate, don’t panic. Certain finance roles demand certain skills and characteristics, so you might find that a career path opens up the more you learn about your own strengths during your degree.
Think about your personality and the working conditions you enjoy.
Considering what you want from a job can help narrow your search when it comes to choosing a career in finance.
A finance degree is an excellent starting point for a plethora of opportunities across a range of different sectors and industries. Even within the top 10 jobs we have mentioned, there are a multitude of levels and specialties which are all slightly different.
Regardless of job role, finance majors should expect to train on the job, study for additional qualifications and work towards certification throughout their career.
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