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Finance covers a lot of ground and includes not only how money is managed but also the process of how funds are acquired. It is commonly broken into three subcategories—personal finance, corporate finance and public finance-each of which requires a different skillset and mindset; however, the principles remain similar and each role requires familiarity and comfort with certain aspects of accounting. The management of money requires sourcing money, which can be done personally or through a bank or through corporate funds, depending on the financing being handled. So, a job in finance requires not only understanding accounting principles, but also a clear understanding of the best tactics for raising and investing capital.
This guide is meant to provide you with a quick overview of potential careers in finance, including their salaries and job outlooks, and detail how you can best position yourself to land a great job. This guide also includes background information on educational programs, scholarships and professional certifications.
Why Choose a Career in Finance?
A career in finance offers high pay and fast career placement after graduation. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the number of financial analyst jobs, which enjoyed a median pay of more than $81,000 in 2016, will grow by more than 12% through 2024, well above most categories.
For personal finance advisors, the growth rate over the same period is nearly 30%, so there is no shortage of opportunity for people interested in finance as a career, especially in the United States. Elsewhere, finance jobs are growing at equal or faster rates in parts of Europe and Asia, outpacing most industries.
And for those with a solid background and/or professional credentials, job opportunities are especially good. Finance related positions are viewed as crucial organizational functions and are a profit centre within corporations, not just for Wall Street investment houses.
Finance Industry Jobs, Salaries & Outlooks
Most people have heard about investment banking due to its renowned competitiveness and high pay, but not everyone realizes there is wide range of finance careers that extend beyond supporting banks—and which still offer similarly impressive pay packages. Some finance positions require skills similar to accountants but, even though accounting is certainly part of the job, there is clearly a focus on managing and investing as compared to auditing how money is used.
Common job titles within investment banking include Financial Analyst, Financial Consultant, Portfolio Manager, Investment Banker, Financial Advisor, Risk Manager, and Credit Analyst, among many others. Each has its own career path; however, in general, it takes two years or more to move to a higher-level position, so substantial career progression requires a long-term commitment.
All financial analysts analyze financial information, however, this position differs greatly by organization and industry. Within a corporation, you may be analyzing the financials of your company and its investments. You could be looking for financial issues, running the numbers for new projects, or simply doing ad hoc reporting and analysis.
If you are a financial analyst within an investment organization, you’ll likely be tasked with examining the financials of outside companies you’re looking to invest in, buy and sell. This requires a broad base of knowledge about different kinds of companies within industries as well as understanding how and why investments are made.
Financial Consultant or Financial Advisor
A financial consultant or advisor generally works with companies or individuals concerning their financial situation. Most consultants or advisors focus on specific offerings to differentiate themselves from others. Potential consulting can be on topics that include taxes, investments and insurance decisions. Personal financial consultants or advisors work closely with clients to offer personalized financial advice, and may direct the buying and selling of stocks and bonds on behalf of clients. Some financial advisors work for large banks but many work in smaller organizations. If a financial consultant works within a consulting firm, he/she often focuses on the financial needs of a specific business or industry, such as hospitals.
A portfolio manager makes investment decisions for an individual’s or business’s portfolio. This professional often has years of prior experience as a financial analyst and knows intimately how to value and choose investments. A portfolio manager often manages investments toward a clearly defined client objective or portfolio focus (i.e., growth, small-cap, value, etc.), an acceptable level of risk, and desired return goals. A portfolio manager can manage investments for one person, a group of people or for an institution. Institutional roles could include the management of retirement funds, endowments, foundations or some other pool of money.
An investment banker is in the business of raising money for companies, governments or other entities. The investment banker can work within a financial institution or for a division of a large bank. Investment bankers will be involved with large and potentially complicated financial transactions. They help shape financial deals to raise money for expansion, acquisition, merger or sale of a business. This also includes the initial public offering of a company’s stock, as this is done to raise money for the company to meet its objectives.
Risk managers monitor and mitigate financial risk within a company. Specifically, they identify and assess threats to the company, put plans in place to combat such threats, and decide how to avoid, reduce and transfer risks from the company. For a finance professional, the focus is on utilizing financial instruments to manage the organization’s exposure to risk, which can include a multitude of exposures, including operational, credit, market, foreign exchange, etc. Various industries utilize risk managers as they are valuable to protect the company’s interests, so jobs for these professionals span the financial, insurance, loss control, legal, and accounting spaces.
A credit analyst is responsible for assessing the creditworthiness of a business or person. Usually, a credit analyst will work for a commercial or investment bank and be responsible for performing various financial and ratio analyses. Within the scope of investing, a credit analyst will look at potential fixed income investments and analyze whether they are suitable for purchase or sale, depending on the business objectives. These professionals often have a background in accounting, finance, statistics or economics.