Finance Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Get the truth about salaries in the field of finance. Read the job descriptions and learn about education requirements and career prospects to decide if a finance career is right for you.
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Careers in Finance

Finance careers involve working with the investments of businesses and individuals. Take a look at a few common career choices in this field with the chart below.

Financial Analyst Financial Examiner Financial Manager
Career Overview Help individuals, organizations and businesses make investments Make sure that financial institutions and their transactions are in compliance with laws and regulations Maintain the finances and budgets of various institutions and organizations
Education Requirements Bachelor's or master's degree Bachelor's or master's degree Bachelor's or master's degree
Program Length Roughly 4 years full-time for bachelor's; 1-2 years for master's Roughly 4 years full-time for bachelor's; 1-2 years for master's Roughly 4 years full-time for bachelor's; 1-2 years for master's
Additional/Other Training None 1-12 months of on-the-job training is common None
Certification and Licensing Employer-sponsored licensure required for many positions CPA certification may be required for advanced positions CFA and other voluntary certification is beneficial
Work Experience None None Several years of experience in a financial or business position
Job Outlook (2014-2024) Rapid growth (12%)* Faster than average growth (10%)* Fast as average growth (7%)*
Median Salary (2014) About $78,620* About $76,310* About $115,320*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Financial Analyst

As a financial analyst, you'll typically be in charge of helping companies and individuals with their investment choices. You'll do this by analyzing current and previous financial data and trends. You'll often analyze documents ranging from tax forms to expense reports and earnings in order to determine a company's current and projected value. Another common job duty is preparing reports for and meeting with various company managers and officials.

Requirements

The requirements for becoming a financial analyst vary. In most cases, you'll need to earn at least a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance or a similar field. Some common classes in these programs may include business law, financial accounting, cost analysis and investment principles. Some finance programs may include concentrations, such as financial analysis or business finance, so you can further customize your curriculum to meet your career goals.

You'll often need to start out focusing on a particular investment field before advancing to higher-level positions where you can work with various types of investments. More advanced positions often require a master's degree. For many financial analyst positions, you'll be required to earn licensure from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). This licensure is usually backed by employers so you will often obtain the licensure through an employer after being hired.

Some employers sought financial analysts with the following requirements in November 2012:

  • A staffing organization in Chicago sought a financial analyst with a degree in finance, accounting or economics and 1-3 years of experience in a financial institution to perform financial accounting duties.
  • A Phoenix-based finance firm sought a financial reporting analyst with at least 2 years of experience and an accounting degree to prepare and analyze quarterly balance sheets.
  • A telecommunications company in Chicago looked for a senior financial analyst with at least 5-7 years of finance experience to gather, evaluate and present financial data to business partners. Although a bachelor's degree in finance, accounting, economics or a related discipline was required, a master's degree was preferred.

Standing Out

Although employers don't often require it, you can stand out from other financial analysts by earning certification. The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification from the CFA Institute is awarded to eligible members with bachelor's degrees, 4 years of experience and the successful completion of 3 exams. You may also find some beneficial opportunities through trade organizations, including FINRA. You may be able to attend conferences and professional development events that update you on industry trends and regulations as well as provide networking opportunities.

Financial Examiner

Financial examiners typically work to ensure that financial institutions comply with the law. In essence, they act as watchdogs to make sure borrowers don't fall prey to predatory lending and that financial institutions can make good on their loans. As a financial examiner, you may review how banks are managed, assess loan risks and analyze balance reports. Most financial examiners work for state or federal government, financial firms or insurance companies.

Requirements

Requirements for becoming a financial examiner can vary according to state and federal governments, according to the BLS. A bachelor's in accounting, finance, economics or a related subject is usually required for an entry-level position. A degree program that includes 6 credits of accounting coursework is required for financial examiner positions at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. After obtaining a position, you may participate in on-the-job training in order to get acquainted with the organization's guidelines and procedures, which can last between 1 and 12 months.

More advanced positions in the field are possible after obtaining a few years of experience; some employers may also require a master's degree or Certified Public Accounting (CPA) certification for these positions. Requirements for CPA certification vary by state, but typically require you to pass a national exam, according to the BLS. Majority of states require CPA candidates to complete 150 credits of college coursework and complete continuing education to maintain the license.

In November 2012 employers included these requirements on job postings for financial analysts:

  • A Philadelphia banking institution wanted a financial examiner with 5 years of banking or regulatory experience, strong communication and organizational skills and at least a bachelor's degree, but an advanced degree was preferred.
  • A Connecticut financial consulting firm needed a Certified Financial Examiner to ensure that insurance companies were in compliance with state regulations. An MBA was preferred along with 5-7 years of experience as an examiner, accountant or insurance company auditor.
  • A senior financial examiner with 2-3 years of experience was sought by a Minneapolis-based firm to examine financial records and perform consulting services for state insurance departments. Qualified candidates had at least a bachelor's in accounting or finance, but an MBA and/or professional certification was preferred.

Standing Out

Demonstrating a high level of analytical skill as well attention to detail are often important to potential employers. Strong interpersonal skills are also important as you may be required to maintain relationships with various companies, banks and regulatory agencies. In order to move up through the ranks, it helps to be able to educate and train others.

Many employers also prefer to hire candidates with professional certifications, such as the CPA or Certified Financial Examiner (CFE). The Society of Financial Examiners (SOFE) offers the CFE designation along with other relevant credentials, including the Accredited Financial Examiner (AFE). To obtain the AFE designation, you must earn a bachelor's in accounting or a related field with specific coursework, gain employment in a relevant position at an insurance company or department, pass 4 exams and become a member of the SOFE. The CFE credential requires you to obtain the AFE credential first; additional requirements include taking 3 college credits of management coursework, completing 3 exams and acquiring professional experience.

Financial Manager

As the job title suggests, financial managers are typically in charge of the finances of an organization. As a financial manager, you'll maintain an organization's fiscal health through financial forecasting, planning and analysis. You'll help set short- and long-term goals and ensure those goals are met. Financial managers are also responsible for knowing and complying with relevant laws and regulations.

Requirements

To become a financial manager, a bachelor's degree in finance, business, economics or a similar field is typically the minimum requirement. The BLS reported that many employers want candidates with master's degrees in one of these fields. A Master of Business Administration program often teaches core business principles, such as management strategies, data analysis and economics, in addition to allowing you to choose from several concentration options that may include finance-related subjects. At least 5 years of experience in another finance or business position is typically required before you can obtain this executive-level position, according to the BLS.

The following requirements for financial management positions were posted online in November 2012:

  • A construction company in New York sought a financial manager with database management expertise, a bachelor's in accounting or finance (an MBA was preferred) and 3-5 years of real estate experience. Job duties included financial analysis, budget reporting and developing compliance methods.
  • A consulting group in Virginia looked for a public sector financial manager with finance, federal government and defense experience to provide a variety of budgetary services to clients. Job candidates needed an MBA or MPA, and certifications, such as the Government Financial Manager (CGFM) or Certified Defense Financial Manager (CDFM), were a plus.
  • A Fortune 500 company in Virginia hired for a financial manager with at least 8 years of experience, minimum of a bachelor's in finance or accounting (an MBA was preferred) and professional certification. Candidates needed extensive knowledge of the federal financial sector.

Standing Out

A high level of computer literacy and technological prowess are valued by a many employers in this field. Data analysis is typically very important, so having skills with software like Microsoft Access and Excel is often attractive to potential employers. Database management is also an important job duty so look for degree programs that emphasize this concept. Professional certifications, such as the CFA, can also help boost your hiring potential.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    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
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Post University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Finance
      • B.S. in Business Administration / Accounting
      • B.S. in Finance / Corporate Finance
      • B.S. in Finance / Personal Financial Banking
      • B.S. in Accounting
    Associate's
      • A.S. in Accounting
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Finance - Financial Analysis
      • MS in Finance
      • MS in Finance - Financial Planning
      • MBA: Finance
      • Master - Accounting
      • MS in Accounting- Tax Specialization
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Finance - Accelerated MS in Finance Option
      • BS in Finance
      • BS in Finance - General Finance
      • BSBA in Financial Analysis
      • BS in Finance - Investments
      • Bachelor: Accounting
    Associate's
      • Associate: Accounting
      • Associate: Business Admin.
      • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt
    Certificate
      • Executive Leader Graduate Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Accounting
      • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business
      • Master of Business Administration: Taxation
      • Master of Science in Taxation
      • Master of Business Administration: Risk Management & Insurance
  • Online Programs Available
    5. George Mason University

    Program Options

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

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Government Analytics
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Baker College Online

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Business Administration - DBA (Doctorate)
    Master's
      • Finance - MBA (Master's)
      • Accounting - MBA (Master's)
      • General Business (MBA)
    Bachelor's
      • Finance - Bachelor
      • Accounting - Bachelor
    Associate's
      • Accounting - Associate
      • Business Administration - Associate
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Business Admin - Financial Management
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Financial Management
      • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Advanced Accounting
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Management
    Master's
      • MBA - Financial Management
      • Master of Business Admin - General Business
      • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
      • MS - Accounting
      • MBA - Management
      • MBA - International Business
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Finance
      • Master of Professional Accounting
      • MS - Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Accounting
      • BS - Business Management
    Certificate
      • Graduate Specialization - Accounting
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Management (Spanish)
    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Business Admin: Finance
      • B.A. - Accounting
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Accounting

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?

Post University

  • B.S. in Finance
  • B.S. in Business Administration / Accounting
  • A.S. in Accounting

Education Level:

Kaplan University

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

Which subject are you interested in?

Saint John's University

  • Master of Science in Accounting
  • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business
  • Master of Business Administration: Taxation

What is your highest level of education?

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?

Baker College Online

  • Business Administration - DBA (Doctorate)
  • Finance - MBA (Master's)
  • Finance - Bachelor
  • Accounting - Associate

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?