Becoming a Financial Specialist: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a financial specialist career? Get the truth about education requirements, career outlook information and salary statistics to decide if a career as a financial specialist is right for you.
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The Pros and Cons of a Financial Specialist Career

A financial specialist might serve as a financial analyst for a large organization, work as a personal financial advisor, or sell services to clients on behalf of a financial institution. To learn more about the pros and cons of a financial specialist career, just keep reading.

Pros of a Financial Specialist Career
Solid projected job growth (16% for financial analysts, 27% for personal financial advisors from 2012-2022)*
Above-average salary (average annual salary around $92,000)*
Results-oriented nature of work**
Job location flexibility*

Cons of a Financial Specialist Career
Highly competitive work atmosphere for certain positions**
Long hours are common*
Extensive travel may be required*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online

Essential Career Information

Basic Job Duties

If you work as a financial analyst, you'll advise businesses and individuals on investment decisions by evaluating current trends and historical data. Financial analysts also study companies' financial statements to report assets and project future earnings. Working as a personal financial advisor places emphasis on a client's individual financial goals. Personal financial advisors educate clients on investment opportunities, help them plan for retirement and work to improve the performance of their financial accounts.

Working as a financial services sales agent involves buying and selling stocks and commodities, selling services to prospective clients and advising companies on possible mergers and acquisitions. They might sell services like loans, individual retirement accounts, credit cards and checking accounts. A career as a financial services sales agent is typically highly competitive and stressful.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

As of May 2014, the BLS reported an average annual salary of about $71,000 for occupations in the Financial Specialists, All Other category. The BLS also projected average or better job growth for many financial occupations. Overall employment of financial analysts is expected to increase by 16% from 2012-2022, while employment of personal financial advisors is projected to grow by 27% for that same time period (www.bls.gov). The BLS also projected 11% employment growth for financial services sales agents from 2012-2022, which is about the average rate of increase for all occupations.

Requirements

A bachelor's degree in a finance-related field is typically required for entry-level positions in the financial industry. Finance degree programs are available, and most business administration programs offer finance concentration options. Having knowledge in a wide range of financial products and services is important to succeed as a financial specialist, and a bachelor's degree program in finance can provide you with the necessary tools. A degree in economics, business or accounting may also be good preparation for a career in the financial industry. Licensing is also required for many financial analyst and financial advisor positions.

For most financial specialist positions, you'll need sharp analytical skills along with well-developed interpersonal abilities. In order to effectively explain and sell financial services, you'll also need to be a good speaker and have a detail-oriented mindset. A good amount of initiative will be required if you plan to pursue a career as a financial services sales agent.

What Are Employers Looking For?

If you have a degree in finance or a related field, you can find job opportunities in a wide variety of industries. A few job postings open as of December 2012 might give you an idea of the current job market for financial specialists.

  • A precision technology firm in Pennsylvania is looking for a strategic finance specialist to help improve the company's commercial planning functions. The position involves finding new market opportunities and presenting them to executive leadership. A bachelor's degree and five years of related experience are requirements of the position.
  • A pharmaceutical company in Missouri seeks a financial analyst to ensure proper financial reporting and develop budget forecasts. A bachelor's degree in finance or accounting is required, and the successful candidate will also have at least seven years of experience.
  • An Air Force base in Nebraska is looking for a financial specialist to develop financial plans, update budget estimates in response to program revisions and prepare financial analyses on the impact of funding cuts. A bachelor's degree is required.

Standing Out in the Field

Earning an advanced degree such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or Master of Financial Management (MFM) can be a good way to set yourself apart from other candidates in the competitive financial industry. Having advanced knowledge in areas such as risk management, taxes, estate planning and investments can make you a more attractive candidate for many employers.

Certification is also a good way to enhance your qualifications. If you want to work as a personal financial advisor, the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) credential can demonstrate your competence and help draw clients. You'll need a bachelor's degree, three years of experience and to pass an exam to earn CFP certification. The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification can help advance your career as a financial analyst. You'll need to pass three exams, hold a bachelor's degree and have four years of experience to qualify for the CFA credential.

Alternate Career Options

A career as an economist might be a good option if you want to pursue an advanced education in finance or economics. A master's degree is typically required for most economist positions. Working as an economist involves studying historical trends and using them to make economic forecasts in a wide range of fields and industries. The BLS projects sluggish job growth for economists over the coming years, with overall employment expected to increase by just six percent from 2010-2020. As of May 2011, the BLS reported a median annual salary of about $91,000 for economists.

If you'd like to focus on improving the financial outlook and overall efficiency of an organization, you might want to consider a career as a management analyst. Controlling costs and increasing revenues are the primary concerns of a management analyst. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree to become a management analyst, and many employers prefer to hire candidates with advanced degrees. The BLS projected a 22% job growth for management analysts from 2010-2020. As of May 2011, the BLS reported a median annual salary of about $78,000 for management analysts.

Popular Schools

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    1. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Finance
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
      • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate
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    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Finance - Financial Analysis
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      • BSFIN Accelerated MS Finance
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      • Associate: Accounting
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      • Executive Leader Graduate Certificate
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    3. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Johns Hopkins University

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    Master's
      • Master of Science in Government Analytics
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Herzing University

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    Master's
      • MBA
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    6. Northcentral University

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    7. Grand Canyon University

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    Doctorate
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  • Online Programs Available
    8. City University of Seattle

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    Doctorate
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    9. Benedictine University

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Featured Schools

Georgetown University

  • Master of Science in Finance
  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate

What is your highest level of education completed?

Kaplan University

  • MS in Finance - Financial Analysis
  • BSFIN Accelerated MS Finance
  • Associate: Accounting
  • Executive Leader Graduate Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

George Mason University

  • Master of Business Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Science in Government Analytics

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA
  • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
  • Associate of Science - Accounting
  • Diploma: Bookkeeping and Payroll Accounting

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Business Admin - Financial Management
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Financial Management
  • MBA - Financial Management
  • Master of Business Admin - General Business

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • DBA - Management
  • MBA: Finance
  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education

What is your highest level of education?

City University of Seattle

  • Doctor of Business Administration
  • Master of Professional Accounting
  • B.S. Business Administration
  • Finance - Graduate

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