The 12 Best Finance Jobs Today

Top Jobs in Finance

“Finance” is an all-encompassing industry that covers all sorts of careers and educational backgrounds. Generally, people who pursue careers in finance are interested in math, statistics, and/or business. Careers in finance involve the creation, liquidation or change in ownership of financial assets, from bank accounts to investments to insurance, as well as the facilitation of financial transactions. In simpler terms, finance professionals look after money for both individuals and businesses, whether that means fundraising, budgeting, planning, filing taxes, or hundreds of other functions. Many finance jobs come with both high paychecks and high responsibility, and most involve doling out advice to adoring clients. (Well, they’ll adore you more if your advice is solid.) Another perk? Common sense suggests that developing your knowledge of money and investing is a good way to ensure your own financial future. Here are 12 of the best jobs in finance today, all of which require nothing more than a Bachelor’s degree, and which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates will grow as fast or faster than the average occupations through 2020:

Job #1: Personal financial advisor

This job title is also sometimes called financial planner. In an ideal world, everyone would employ the services of a financial advisor to sort through the fine print and legalese of investments, taxes, and insurance. As it stands, there is a huge market for solid financial advice and, therefore, personal financial advisors. If you want to help people meet their short- and long-term financial goals, this is a great career option. The best part? The better your clients do financially, the better you do financially, meaning your relationship is a symbiotic and well-intentioned partnership that can often turn into a career-long connection. This is also one of the fastest-growing jobs in the country; the BLS predicts that the field will grow by 32% by 2020 — much faster than average — and the median pay in May 2010 was $64,750.

Job #2: Financial analyst

This job title is also sometimes called securities analyst or investment analyst. Like financial planners, financial analysts assess the performance of investments, study economic and business trends, and prepare reports to help their clients choose the best option for their financial assets. They work in banks, pension funds, mutual funds, securities firms, insurance companies, and other financially oriented companies, and their clients may be either individuals or businesses. The BLS predicts the job outlook for financial analysts is very bright: the field will grow by 23% (faster than average) between 2010 and 2020. Many financial analysts work more than 40 hours per week, but the median annual wage was $74,350 in May 2010 — which is a pretty good incentive to put in your hours at the office!

Job #3: Accountant or auditor

If you’ve excelled in math class since your earliest years, a career in accounting could be a great option. Accountants and auditors examine financial records, perform audits, and prepare tax returns for both individuals and businesses. And the career is virtually recession-proof: Taxes need to be filed every year, regardless of whether financial growth occurred. Unemployment among accountants and auditors was less than half of the overall national rate in 2011. The BLS predicts this field will grow 16% between 2010 and 2020 (about average), and the median pay in May 2010 was $61,690.

Job #4: Market research analyst

Market research analysts study market conditions in a specific area — your hometown, your state, or the whole country — and help companies forecast potential sales of a product or service. They perform research and collect data to help companies understand what products people want, who will buy them, and at what price. In other words, they help companies use their advertising and distribution dollars wisely, targeting the most receptive audience with sales plans and product promotions. Before a new soft drink goes on sale in Poughkeepsie or Iowa City or Hollywood, a market research analyst would have prepared a report suggesting it was a good idea. The job can be risky: You must both interpret what raw data means in reality and also forecast future trends. But the rewards are big: The BLS predicts job growth for market research analysts between 2010 and 2020 at 41% — much faster than average — and the median salary in 2010 was $60,570 per year.

Job #5: Actuary

Actuaries evaluate the financial cost of risk, and they are an essential component of the insurance industry. They are employed by businesses to assess the risk that an event will occur — for example, a competitor buy-out, a product flop, a personal illness — and develop policies that minimize the cost of that risk. Most actuaries are employed by insurance companies, where they help design policies and set premiums, but they may also work for other types of businesses; for example, actuaries work with market research analysts to forecast demand for new products, or they may work with individuals to develop investment strategies that manage risks and maximize returns. The BLS estimates that between 2010 and 2020 this field will grow 27% (fast than average), and the median pay in 2010 was a whopping $87,650 per year. The BLS also advises that students with internship experience who have passed at least one actuarial exam while in school have the best prospects for entry-level positions.

Job #6: Budget analyst

If you’ve ever created a budget to keep yourself from over-spending on ice cream, you’re familiar with what budget analysts do. They help companies organize their finances by preparing budgets and monitoring spending. Though the company’s top executives make the actual decisions regarding how money is spent, they rely on a budget analyst (or a team of them) to keep a finger on the purse strings and make ongoing recommendations to better orient the company toward a profit-earning future. The BLS estimates that the field will grow 10% (about average) between 2010 and 2020, and the 2010 median pay was $68,200 per year. The growing complexity of budget analysis will no doubt require more professionals in the field, but it is tempered by limited government spending.

Job #7: Cost estimator

This job title is pretty self-explanatory: Cost estimators estimate the time, money, resources, and labor required to do something. They are usually employed by companies to estimate the cost of large-scale undertakings, like product manufacturing or construction projects. They have to take into account a number of uncertain factors, like bad weather, shipping delays, and wasted resources. They often specialize in one industry in order to develop their specific expertise. The BLS predicts that the field will grow 36% — much faster than average — between 2010 and 2020, and the median pay in 2010 was $57,860 per year.

Job #8: Financial examiner

Financial examiners ensure their company complies with laws governing financial institutions and transactions. They typically work for banks, lenders, government agencies, and other financial institutions. Their goal is to ensure their employer is not putting itself at financial risk, and that they have enough money on hand to handle unexpected losses; in this way, their role is similar to that of an actuary. Financial examiners also look out for borrowers by helping them avoid “predatory loans” — those that generate profit for banks through high interest payments but cost the borrower more than they can handle. As financial laws get more complicated, the need for examiners will continue to grow; the BLS predicts growth of 27% (faster than average) between 2010 and 2020. In 2010, financial examiners earned a median pay of $74,940 per year.

Job #9: Logistician

This is a great finance career option for military veterans in particular. Logisticians analyze and coordinate a company’s supply chain. They are in charge of the system that gets a frozen meal from the warehouse of the manufacturer to the microwave of the consumer, or the raw pieces of a military weapon to the hangar of the Air Force. It’s a fast-paced job, as items must often be moved at the quickest possible pace, and they oversee acquirement, distribution, allocation, and delivery. They develop business relationships, design strategies to minimize cost, and make sure all necessary functions are running efficiently. Logisticians are most commonly found in federal agencies (specifically military), manufacturing, and professional, scientific, and technical services. Experience in logistics is helpful; because military operations require a large amount of logistical work, some logisticians gain experience while serving in the military. The BLS predicts the field will grow 26% between 2010 and 2020 (faster than average), and the median pay in 2010 was $70,800 per year.

After a few years of experience in the field, you may consider one of these higher-level roles in finance:

Job #10: Management analyst

This job title is sometimes called management consultant. They are in charge of helping companies improve efficiency by identifying ways to reduce costs and/or increase revenues. Management analysis requires charisma and communication skills, as management analysts frequently travel to work sites, observe on site, and interface with clients to make suggestions. Most work on a contractual basis, either for a consulting company or for themselves, and they are paid by various clients to analyze financial data, as opposed to working within the one company they’re analyzing. Their main goal is to help their client remain competitive in the marketplace. The BLS predicts this field will grow 22% (faster than average) between 2010 and 2020, and the 2010 median pay was $78,160 per year. Many analysts enter the occupation with at least a few years of work experience in management, human resources, or information technology.

Job #11: Sales manager

The sales manager — you guessed it — manages the sales team. This is a supervisory management role, meaning you’re in charge of lower-level staff and you lead them by setting goals, analyzing data, and making recommendations at the highest level. You may be in charge of specific territories, like the Midwest or the eastern seaboard, and you may also be in charge of developing training programs for your sales representatives. To become a sales manager, you’ll generally have worked as a sales representative for a few years; promotions come quicker in large organizations, which have more managerial roles. Sales managers may work long hours, including nights and weekends, but the median pay in 2010 was $98,530, which may put the spring back in your step during the hours you’re not at the office. The BLS predicts this field will grow 12% (about average) between 2010 and 2020.

Job #12: Top executive

The highest salary on this list — in 2010, a median of $101,250 per year — top executives are found in the highest tier of every company in every industry. They are the highest-level manager, ensuring that the company meets its goals in operations, budgeting, marketing, and more. In small organizations, the top executive may be in charge of day-to-day activities like supervision, purchasing, hiring, training, and so forth. In large organizations, those duties are assigned to general and operations managers, and top executives are high-level policymakers and strategic planners, like Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs). The CFO is in charge of the company’s financial goals, objectives, and budgets. But every top executive has a hand in financial operations. Because of high competition for the top spots, this field is predicted to grow slower than average — 5% between 2010 and 2020 — and the job involves long hours and high stress due to the pressure to lead the company to success. But if you want to be the top dog, don’t be afraid to set your sights high!

Online Graduate Programs in Finance

Walden University PhD - Mgmt: Finance DBA - Finance MBA - Corporate Finance Walden University – Walden University, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, is one of the most popular schools for students seeking online graduate degrees. The school has a PhD and DBA in Finance available as well as an MBA in Corporate Finance if that better suits your career goals. Length of study can vary from two to three years.
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Northcentral University PhD - Business Admin: Financial Mgmt DBA - Financial Mgmt MBA - Financial Mgmt Northcentral University – Northcentral University is an Arizona-based school with accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. NCU is ideal for students seeking an online education from a smaller school with more personal attention from professors. NCU has online degrees for a PhD, DBA, and MBA in Financial Management.
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