Working a career in finance requires long hours, lots of schooling, and a strong mathematical inclination. For those with the chops, these careers can pay off handsomely thanks to high salaries and tons of benefits. But unfortunately, not everyone’s cut out for the work.
Working a finance career path can provide personal and financial rewards if you can handle the long hours and high stress. They’re also in demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 750,000 new finance-related job openings are expected to open up between 2020 and 2030.
On the whole, finance is a competitive career. That’s surprising given that the median salary ranges from $60,000 to $94,000, depending on your specialty. That’s about half as much as the average dentist and in line with most veterinarians. By comparison, the average annual salary for other occupations averages just $45,800.
That said, you might not start earning six figures immediately, and you may have to work to achieve your dream job. So, if you’re wondering, “Is finance a good career path for me?” — it helps to know what you’re getting into.
Is finance a good career path?
The average finance career revolves around — you guessed it — money. Everything from acquisition and growth to management and expenditure falls under this umbrella. Because money is required for almost everything most people and businesses do, the expectation is the field will only continue to grow.
Broadly speaking, you can sort financial careers into three categories:
- Public careers. A finance career in the public sector mostly involves working with nonprofits and/or city, state, or federal governments.
- Corporate careers. As a corporate finance employee, you’ll primarily work in the business sector and assist large and small companies with their balance sheets, profit margins, and the occasional merger.
- Personal careers. If you decide to stick with a personal career, you’ll mostly work with individuals. This may be as an accountant or an investment or financial advisor.
Together, these fields encompass everything from bank tellers and budget analysts to high-profile investment managers and tax attorneys.
Looking at a public finance career
Public finance revolves around managing a nonprofit or government’s revenue, expenditures, and debt load. Jobs vary from financial analysts and financial accountants to financial risk managers. A nonprofit’s chief financial officer (CFO) also falls under this umbrella.
The work itself may include tracking and managing spending, preparing or auditing budgets, or planning how to fund new programs. Some individuals may specialize in tax collecting while others dive into risk management.
The corporate finance industry
The corporate finance industry involves helping corporations address or manage, among other things:
- Cash flow statements
- Capital structures
- Accounting practices
- Investment decisions
Often, corporate financiers are concerned with maximizing shareholder value through growth and expansion activities and tax strategies. You may audit a company’s financial statements, go through financial records, or focus on financial reporting.
Corporate finance can also encompass working in private equity firms, venture capital firms, investment banks, and hedge funds. Job titles include investment banker, financial analyst, financial manager, portfolio manager, and financial accountant.
The personal financial sector
Personal finance is a bit different. Instead of working with big entities and tons of cash, your clients can range from schoolteachers to high-paid precious metal workers.
That means personal finance advisors can see average earnings or be some of the highest-paying finance jobs out there. You may advise on budgets and financial maneuvers, recommend or manage investments, and help individuals attain long-term financial security.
As a career, personal finance can be flexible, as you can choose between working for large financial institutions or hanging out in your own home. That said, the field is also highly competitive, and keeping your clientele depends on your ability to produce results.
Financial career paths to consider
As we’ve noted, a variety of financial career paths exist today. Generally, they fall into one of seven buckets:
- Asset management includes investment managers and investment advisors
- Investment banking includes investment bankers, stockbrokers, hedge fund magnates, and venture capitalists
- Commercial banking includes financial analysts, loan officers, financial managers, and bank managers
- Corporate financial includes CFOs, accountants, tax attorneys, and portfolio management finance professionals
- Personal financial planning includes financial advisors, planners, and financial analysts
- Insurance includes insurance agents, underwriters, and claims adjusters
- Real estate includes real estate agents and mortgage brokers
As you can see, financial careers run the gamut from entry-level to high-flying specialists. With so many choices, it’s possible to pick one field or bounce around for a range of experiences.
Educational requirements for a career in finance
A few decent-paying finance jobs, such as mortgage brokers and real estate agents, may not require a finance degree. However, most modern financial professionals need at least a bachelor’s degree in a finance major, while some jobs strongly encourage a master’s or higher.
Common pathways include a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, economics, or business administration.
You might also consider a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance (BBA). This three-year undergraduate program allows business students to specialize in financial management.
After you’ve obtained your bachelor’s as a finance major, you can generally start to move into the workforce as a low-level financial manager, investment banker, financial accountant, or other finance professional.
But if you intend to chase promotions — especially in careers like investment banking — you may need to go back for your master’s. These two-year degrees allow you to specialize in specific areas of business or finance, such as financial planning, financial analysis, investment projection, or risk management.
If you decide to pursue a doctorate, you can reasonably work in almost any career in finance, including instruction and research. Many doctorate graduates earn at least $180,000 to $200,000 a year, making these ten-year degrees one of the best ways to access the highest-paying financial professions.
Certifications and licenses
Most finance jobs require at least a bachelor’s. However, adding extra certifications and licenses can open more doors and help you learn the necessary skills to excel in your career.
- Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). The CFA route is ideal for anyone who wants to work in asset management, investment banking, or hedge fund management. Obtaining your CFA requires working at least 4,000 hours in relevant investment-related work and passing three exams.
- Certified Financial Planner (CFP). CFPs work can work as stockbrokers, personal and corporate financial advisors, and in insurance and investment firms. To become a CFP, you must have a bachelor’s degree in a finance-specific field. You’ll also need to complete 4,000 hours of apprenticeship or 6,000 hours of financial planning experience. Regardless of which path you choose, you’ll then need to pass a grueling 6-hour exam. Once you receive your certification, you’ll need to supplement with 30 hours of continuing education every two years.
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA). The CPA certification prepares you for a career in accounting and tax planning and allows you to chase higher-paying careers in management. While requirements to take the CPA exam vary by state, all require a bachelor’s degree with at least 150 credit hours.
If school financing is stopping you from continuing your education, consider taking out a student loan to help with the costs.
Pros and cons of working in the finance sector
The financial industry can make a good career choice if you have the skills, desire, and education to succeed. On the other hand, finance isn’t for everyone. Before jumping into a career, consider the downsides, too.
Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.
- Lucrative work. Finance careers offer high earning potential. For instance, personal financial advisors saw a median pay of $94,000 in 2021. Meanwhile, the national average for financial services professionals hit nearly $87,800 in 2022.
- Wide range of possibilities. Finance’s variability means that you can specialize in a particular field you’re passionate about. From financial analysts to accountants to tax lawyers, the world is your oyster. You can also “toe the line” between multiple fields in roles like financial executives or management.
- Job mobility. Working in finance presents plenty of opportunities to dictate the course of your career. After you’ve gained education and some experience, you may switch careers, chase promotions, or move into private finance.
- Future job security. Finance professionals, like doctors, will never “go out of style,” so to speak. While specific careers and roles may change, finance positions are considered mission-critical in both private and public organizations. Even if your job isn’t exactly what you went to school for, working in a high-demand career offers unique stability that other professions can’t.
- Schooling required. Many employers now require a higher-level finance degree to get a good job. While a bachelor’s degree starts you off, making the big bucks may mean going back for your master’s, doctorate, or a specialty certificate. Unfortunately, added educational requirements may involve taking on more debt or pausing your career — which, ironically, can set you back financially.
- Barriers to entering or switching companies. Even with a finance degree, it’s not easy getting a foot in the door of more lucrative jobs. Nowadays, even entry-level financial positions require prior experience, such as through college internships. And while you can switch careers or employers, many companies enforce non-compete agreements that hinder your flexibility.
- Competition. Though the field of finance is predicted to keep growing, it remains a highly competitive field. There’s a huge difference in responsibility, skill level, and pay between a bank teller and a Wall Street investment manager. And the competition shows.
- Long hours and stressful environments. It’s not uncommon for even mid-tier financial professionals to spend 60 to 80 hours per week (or more) in the office. Giving up weekends, traveling frequently, and attending “optional” client functions can all make starting a family or enjoying hobbies difficult. Not to mention, the pressure of staying on your game 24/7 can lead to mistakes or burnout.
Is finance a good career now?
Answers to this question vary widely, from “absolutely” to “absolutely not.” It all boils down to personal preference.
Some believe finance to be a good career path for its job security, dynamic career options, and high salaries. You may also have the opportunity to do good in the public sector, work for prestigious organizations, or start your own business.
Others believe that finance is too competitive and comes with a poor work-life balance. While hours can range from part-time to overtime, the highest-paying careers often require more hours in the office than out. You also need to have strong mathematical and organizational skills and be able to communicate effectively with clients, colleagues, and bosses.
Overall, whether or not finance is a good career path depends on your wants, needs, and preferences. If you’re looking for exciting, challenging careers with high-earning potential, the financial field boasts plenty of options.
Does finance have a good future?
Yes, it does! Financial careers are expected to add around 750,000 jobs between 2020 and 2030.
What is the best career in finance?
“Best” is subjective depending on if you prioritize work-life balance or the highest-paying job. Some of the best financial careers include investment management, personal financial advisors, and accountants.
What career path can I take with a finance degree?
Finance degrees can get you almost anywhere in finance, especially if you specialize in accounting or investment management.
Which field of finance pays the most?
Personal financial advisors and investment managers often stand to make the most in the financial fields. However, that largely depends on your degree, experience, location, employer, and/or clientele.
- The answer to “Is finance a good career path?” is highly personal and based on your skills, education, and interests.
- Finance is a big field that runs the gamut from entry-level bank teller jobs to mid-tier financial analyst positions to lucrative investment banker careers.
- Some positives of finance sector positions include high salaries and bonuses, job security, and dynamic work atmospheres.
- However, the downsides include long hours, high stress, competition, and the possibility of frequent travel.
- Most “good” finance careers require at least a bachelor’s degree in finance, business, or economics.
- If you really want to get ahead, honing your finance skills with a master’s degree or extra certifications can open unique job opportunities.
View Article Sources
- Business and Financial Occupations — U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- CFA® Program Requirements — Soleadea
- How Much Do Mortgage Brokers Make? — SuperMoney
- What Is The Average Tax Attorney Salary? — SuperMoney
- How Much Do Veterinarians Make? — SuperMoney
- How Much Do Dentists Make? Average Salary by State — SuperMoney
- Top 20 High Paying Jobs in America — SuperMoney
- Best Paying Jobs In Precious Metals Industry in 2022 — SuperMoney