5 Top-Paying Careers in Finance

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Our nation suffers from a lack of financial literacy: 56% of Americans don’t have a budget, and 29% don’t make all their payments on time or have debts in collection, according to a 2021 survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). Individuals and organizations need strategies to stay financially healthy, and they need financial professionals to help them manage these strategies.

Understanding how planning, budgeting, and risk assessment can affect short- and long-term prospects is critical to a successful financial career. Individuals earning a bachelor’s degree in finance or a related field are taking the first step toward a fulfilling profession, and there are a number of high-paying jobs in the finance industry that graduates can aspire to pursue.

Why an Undergraduate Education Is Important

An undergraduate education is vital to a financial career. Graduates gain a foundational understanding of how financial systems function, as well as the knowledge and skill set to navigate these systems as finance professionals. A degree in finance, accounting, or business administration can help individuals flourish in a variety of financial management-related careers.

Those looking to begin a career in the financial industry should keep in mind the differences between business versus finance degrees, so they can master the right skills for their chosen path.

A financial advisor works with a client.

Exploring the Top-Paying Careers in the Finance Industry

Many of the top-paying careers in finance require a bachelor’s-level education. However, certifications, licenses, and higher education options such as a master’s degree can help graduates advance further to take on leadership roles in the industry. Top-paying roles include the following:

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts advise their clients on how to spend their money to maximize earnings. They also assess the performance of various investments, such as stocks and bonds. They need to comprehend how variables impacting investments interact and how to anticipate them, such as changes in economics, foreign policies, and political stability.

Individuals typically need a bachelor’s degree to begin a financial analyst career. Receiving certifications may also be required, depending on the desired career level, such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification from the CFA Institute. The median annual salary for a financial analyst was $81,410 as of May 2021, and the projected employment growth is 6% from 2020 to 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Financial Advisor

Personal financial advisors advise individuals on investments, insurance, mortgages, estate planning, taxes, and retirement. These advisors often plan with their clients for either short- or long-term financial growth and base their recommendations on clients’ goals. Many personal financial advisors are licensed to buy and sell financial items directly with clients and, with their clients’ approval, even directly on their behalf.

Individuals interested in becoming financial advisors should achieve the core competencies of:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Math skills
  • Sales skills
  • Speaking skills

A financial advisor job candidate typically needs a bachelor’s degree. Certification, such as Certified Financial Planner (CFP) credential, or a master’s degree may also be helpful depending on the field of interest. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for a financial advisor was $94,170 as of May 2021, and the projected employment growth is 5% from 2020 to 2030.

Loan Officer

Loan officers examine, approve, or advocate approval of personal and corporate loan applications. Loan officers use their own experience with computer software to determine evaluations for applicants. Those interested in becoming loan officers should achieve the core competencies of:

  • Decision-making skills
  • Detail orientation
  • Initiative
  • Interpersonal skills

Individuals typically need a bachelor’s degree to begin a loan officer career, usually in the field of business or finance. Certain licenses or certifications may also be required, depending on the field of interest, such as a mortgage loan originator (MLO) license. The median annual salary for a loan officer was $63,380 as of May 2021, according to the BLS, and the projected employment growth is 1% from 2020 to 2030.

Accountant

Accountants create and review financial records, identify possible areas of potential in a market and associated risks of investing, and help firms and individuals in need of financial assistance. They oversee financial records and tax payments to help their clients work with the most accurate data.

Those interested in becoming accountants should achieve the core competencies of:

  • Analytical thinking skills
  • Communication skills
  • Detail orientation

Applicants typically need a bachelor’s degree to begin an accounting career, with some fields requiring certain certifications, such as licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for an accountant was $77,250 as of May 2021, and the projected employment growth is 7% from 2020 to 2030.

Insurance Underwriter

Insurance underwriters decide whether and under what conditions to issue insurance. They use specialized software to assess the ideal insurance coverage limits and prices for applicants. Underwriters need to balance risky and conservative decisions for which applicants will receive coverage, making the use of financial software a critical component of the future of finance.

Those interested in becoming insurance underwriters should achieve the core competencies of:

  • Analytical skills
  • Detail orientation
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Math skills

To become an insurance underwriter, individuals typically need a bachelor’s degree, some experience in the insurance field, and familiarity with computer software. Underwriters would need certification to advance to senior positions, such as the Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF) certification from the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for an insurance underwriter was $76,390 as of May 2021. An average of 8,300 openings for insurance underwriters are expected each year between 2020 and 2030 as workers shift to other occupations or leave the labor market for different reasons, such as retirement.

The Essential Skills for a Career in Finance

The following soft skills are fundamental to any career path that incorporates financial tasks:

  • Analytical skills: The practice of reviewing data to find trends, anomalies, or additional funds in the client’s finances
  • Budgeting: The skill to manage finances and allocate funds to the appropriate areas for the client over a set period of time
  • Risk analysis: The skill to examine a client’s financial documents and identify potential financial risk factors
  • Cash flow management: The ability to monitor a client’s capital at any given time and forecast the amount of funds that will be accessible to the company in the future
  • Problem-solving: The ability to think of creative solutions when approaching difficult financial situations
  • Decision-making: The ability to make educated business decisions, particularly when the pros and cons of each decision aren’t immediately clear
  • Communication: The ability to explain useful financial plans and budgeting approaches to clients that you believe will benefit them
  • Detail orientation: The ability to help a company maintain its financial accuracy by identifying potential discrepancies and mistakes

Build a Path Toward a Satisfying Career

Many viable career paths in the financial sector can be in top-paying fields, and many can lead to advanced leadership positions in one of the top-paying careers in finance. Traveling that rewarding pathway with confidence involves receiving an education that equips you to excel. Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Finance program helps equip graduates with the skills and knowledge to pursue their career goals as financial professionals, including advanced roles in business and finance.

Recommended Reading

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Good Investment Tips for College Students

How the Future of Fintech Is Shaping Financial Services

Sources

National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 2021 Financial Literacy and Preparedness Survey

Indeed, Finance Skills: Definition and Examples

Indeed, Loan Officer Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Indeed, Underwriter Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Investopedia, “Accountant: Job Description and Average Salary”

Investopedia, “Strategic Financial Management”

Investopedia, “What Do Financial Advisors Do?”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accountants and Auditors

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Insurance Underwriters

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Loan Officers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Personal Financial Advisors