Business Finance Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a career in business finance? Get real job descriptions and career and education requirements to see if a career in business finance is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Business Finance

The industry of business finance encompasses a few different careers for you to choose from in business finance include accountant, financial analyst and financial examiner. The following is a glance at each position to give you a general idea about all three:

Accountant Financial Analyst Financial Examiner
Career Overview Accountants are typically in charge of preparing, analyzing and maintaining financial records. Financial analysts help individuals, organizations and companies make investment choices. Financial examiners help companies and individuals ensure that their finances are in accordance with federal regulations.
Education Requirements At least a bachelor's degree; master's may be preferred At least a bachelor's degree; master's may be preferred Bachelor's degree
Program Length Usually 3-5 years for a bachelor's and two more for a master's degree Usually 3-5 years for a bachelor's and two more for a master's degree About 3-5 years
Certification and Licensing Licensing is required for Certified Public Accountants (CPA) Company-sponsored licensing is often mandatory Licensing not required
Work Experience 2-4 years 2-4 years 2-5 years
Job Outlook for 2012-22 Average growth (13%) compared to all occupations* Above average growth (16%) compared to all occupations* Slower than average growth (6%) compared to all occupations*
Mean Salary (2014) Approximately $73,670* Approximately $92,250* Approximately $86,460*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Accountant

A wide variety of industries and different businesses, organizations and individuals are in need of accountants. Typically, an accountant is responsible for examining, preparing and assessing financial operations and records. You'll also be held accountable for and required to explain your financial findings in this position. According to the BLS, there are three primary kinds of accountants: public, management and government.

Requirements

To become an accountant, you'll need to earn at least a bachelor's degree in accounting, business or a related field. Bachelor's degree programs in these fields offer courses in financial and managerial accounting, statistics, operations management and business dynamics. The BLS reports that for many positions, a master's degree is preferred. Students can find both Master of Business Administration programs with accounting specializations or Master in Accounting programs.

If you're planning on pursuing a career that requires filing reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Committee, you must become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to do so. To become a CPA, you must pass the American Institute of CPAs' official exam and obtain a license from your state. In most states, pursuing a CPA license requires taking 30 credits of coursework beyond a bachelor's program, the BLS reports.

The following job opportunities for accountants were posted online in November, 2012:

  • A test preparation company in New York City sought an accounting associate with a bachelor's degree and 2-4 years of experience. A CPA was preferred for this position.
  • The medical center of a university in New York City was seeking an accountant with knowledge of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and a master's degree in accounting, finance or a related discipline.
  • A real estate firm offered a senior accounting job in New York City. Candidates were required to have a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance and at least four years of experience in real estate accounting.

Standing Out

In order to stand out as an accountant, you might consider pursuing voluntary certifications. For example, the Institute of Management Accountants offers a certification for professionals with a bachelor's degree and two years of experience in management accounting. To become a Certified Management Accountant, you'll need to pass the institute's exam.

Financial Analyst

As a financial analyst, you'll typically help people, organizations and businesses make decisions about investments. In many cases, you'll be a financial guide who is relied on for budgetary judgment and risk assessment skills. Often, you'll be in charge of evaluating and recommending investments. Financial analysts work in such industries as banks, insurance companies and securities firms.

Requirements

As is the case for accountants, a bachelor's degree in a finance-related discipline is the minimal requirement to become a financial analyst. Bachelor's degree programs in finance teach students about money and banking, portfolio management, financial modeling and business law. The BLS reports that an MBA or similar graduate degree could be needed to obtain a financial analyst position. Students can find several options at the master's level, including MBA programs in finance or Master of Science programs. These programs cover advanced topics in financial theory, business applications, investment principles and financial policies.

Here are a few job opportunities for financial analysts that could be found online in November 2012:

  • A venture-backed company in New York was looking for a financial analyst with 2-4 years of experience, including experience with financial models. Software development experience, while not required, was considered a bonus.
  • A bachelor's degree in economics, accounting or finance was required for a position at a medical clinic in Cincinnati, Ohio. Strong communication, analysis and data collection skills were all required.
  • In New York City, a pharmaceutical company was seeking a financial analyst with at least a bachelor's degree, although an MBA and 2-4 years experience was preferred.

Standing Out

Consider becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) to stand out in the job market. If you have at least four years of job experience in the field and a bachelor's degree, you can take the three exams offered by the CFA Institute to become an official CFA. It should be noted, however, that to earn this credential, you'll be expected to participate in training that can take up to four years before you'll be eligible for the exams. Obtaining certification through the CFA Institute is a solid way to bolster your resume and may be attractive to possible employers, according to the BLS.

Financial Examiner

Financial examiners are responsible for ensuring that the transactions of financial institutions and companies are in accordance with laws and regulations. You'll typically be responsible for monitoring the management of banks, looking over balance sheets and determining loan risks. As a financial examiner, it's common to find employment with the federal government, state governments, insurance companies and more.

Requirements

Although educational requirements vary, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree to work as a financial examiner. A bachelor's degree in business or a related field offers training in accounting, finance, operations and economics that may be useful to financial examiners. The BLS reports that aspiring financial examiners can expect to undergo on-the-job training after acquiring a position. Newly hired examiners usually report to a senior examiner, but you can advance to a senior-level position with work experience, although many employers prefer that you have a master's degree or a CPA license to pursue advanced positions.

Here are a handful of jobs posted online for financial examiners in November of 2012:

  • A North Carolina government banking firm was hiring a financial examiner with a bachelor's degree in business, banking or finance. In addition to this, candidates were asked to have at least four years of experience analyzing financial institutions for a government regulatory department.
  • In Philadelphia, a federal bank was hiring a financial examiner with a bachelor's degree and five years experience regulating or working within financial institutions or companies.
  • A Connecticut-based consulting firm was hiring a senior financial examiner for their regulatory insurance consulting department. Although candidates with bachelor's degrees would be considered, an MBA and professional certification were preferred.

Standing Out

In order to stand out in today's job market, staying on top of the latest financial technology can be helpful. Employers often look for applicants with computer applications and software experience. You might consider becoming proficient in software such as Microsoft Office and Oracle. Excel skills in particular are important not only for financial examiner positions, but many other careers in business finance. Some employers also want applicants with project planning or presentation software experience.

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Grand Canyon University

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Penn Foster

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Penn Foster High School

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Liberty University

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Full Sail University

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