Finance Careers: 2023 Guide to Career Paths, Options & Salary

Finance Careers: 2023 Guide to Career Paths, Options & Salary
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

Finance is critical in nearly every industry since it empowers organizations to gain more profits, enter advantageous deals, and enhance their portfolios. As such, the financial market brings forth a wide spectrum of opportunities to graduates and provides numerous options for every type of finance degree earned. Professionals can become financial advisers, financial analysts, portfolio managers, and fund managers, among many options.

Finance careers are secure, given the stability of the global market and their high demand across many industries. In the United States alone, the finance and insurance market is valued at a staggering $6 trillion (IBISWorld, 2023). This means the financial industry generates enough money to afford professionals strong compensation packages. The numbers do agree, as finance specialists, on average, take home more than $96,000 per annum.

In this article, we will highlight the finance career paths and their average salaries. Our team of experts has compiled information on what graduates can do with finance careers and the required skills to flourish in the professional sphere.

Finance Careers Table of Contents

  1. Why pursue a career in finance?
  2. Finance Career Outlook
  3. Required Skills for Finance
  4. How to Start Your Career in Finance
  5. How can I advance my career in finance?
  6. Alternative Career Options for Finance

Why pursue a career in finance?

A career development plan in finance enables graduates to leverage their skills and knowledge in identifying profitable opportunities and activities that may adversely affect an individual’s or an organization’s financial health. The varied roles they may enter put them in a position of influence in terms of their clients’ or employers’ finances. A sound financial strategy can lead to significant growth in profits, which in turn, is rewarded handsomely by the parties they do business with. This explains the high finance major salaries.

Although finance is a part of every market and comes with high-paying jobs, there are specific sectors that compensate well over the financial industry average, thus making careers in finance particularly attractive. In the U.S., the highest-paying industry for finance specialists is information technology with an average annual salary of $130,878; followed by energy, mining, and utilities ($128,316); arts, entertainment, and recreation ($120,101); insurance ($118,080); and financial services ($115,043) (Glassdoor, 2022)

Source: Glassdoor, 2022

Finance Career Outlook

Finance is applicable to any profit-oriented field or industry, which lends to its high demand on the market. Many organizations have a dedicated finance department, which is in charge of managing a firm’s finances, while others patronize the services of professionals like financial analysts, financial advisers, and securities analysts. Career goals in finance in the corporate world have buoyed the outlooks of major finance-related jobs past the national average of all occupations.

For instance, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022) anticipates personal financial adviser jobs to grow by 15%, financial management jobs by 17%, financial examiner occupations by 21%, and financial analyst occupations by 9% from 2021 to 2031. The respective outlooks of these professions are notably higher than the collective average of all U.S. occupations, 5%, over the same period.

Finance Careers Median Salaries and Demand

RoleSalaryJob Outlook
Financial Manager$131,71017%
Financial Analyst$95,5709%
Project Management Specialist$95,4007%
Personal Financial Advisor$94,17015%
Financial Examiner$81,41021%
Budget Analyst$79,9403%
Insurance Underwriter$76,390-4%
Purchasing Agent or Manager$75,410-6%
Compensation and Benefits Specialist$64,1207%
Loan Officer$63,3804%

Source: BLS, 2022

Required Skills for Finance

A career in finance requires more than simply knowing how cash flows and investments work. Professionals are also able to identify which potential deals and investments add significant value to an organization in the long run as well as point out the ones that could stunt its growth. In addition, financial analysts and portfolio managers assess the financial data and portfolios of companies and match them with existing business and financial trends to come up with insights on potential investments. A finance specialist’s skills can make or break an organization’s financial health.

With 7,605,892 professionals employed in the U.S. finance and insurance sectors and the increasing demand for finance specialists, graduates need to hone their skills to have an easier time landing ideal roles or positions (IBISWorld, 2023). Moreover, they need to expand their proficiency in properly managing organizational finances and the technology involved, given the growing importance of financial management in today’s corporate realm.

A 2022 study called “Optimization of Enterprise Financial Management and Decision-Making Systems Based on Big Data,” published in the Journal of Mathematics, found that in today’s information age, “Financial management is the core element of the overall strategy of enterprises; enterprises can analyze a large amount of data to make more accurate decisions. Financial personnel must master more advanced technology to cope with the challenges brought by big data; financial managers and decision-makers of enterprises should re-examine and rethink the impact of big data on financial work and improve the decision-making ability to cope with environmental changes (Ren, 2022).”

This underscores the importance of learning skills not only in finance but also in financial technology. To illustrate a clearer picture, the following abilities should be developed and mastered by all finance students.

Essential Skills

  • Database Management. The financial data of organizations are typically found on spreadsheets or software solutions with databases. In knowing database management, finance professionals can monitor transactions, mine data, identify potential trends, and even spot suspicious external activities. Moreover, they can isolate relevant information on a database when making recommendations.
  • Analytical Skills. For finance professionals to make recommendations, they should have sharp analytical skills to see which assets and deals would deliver the most value to an organization. In addition, an aptitude for numbers and a vast knowledge of financial markets are necessary to come up with the most ideal financial solutions.
  • Portfolio Management. Finance professionals are tasked to lead the investment activities of organizations or assist the finance department in such by making expert recommendations. With this, they should know how to leverage financial tools, analytics, the latest business trends, and their financial knowledge to beef up company portfolios that will likely yield growth. Having strong organizational skills also helps in this regard.
  • Financial Planning. Financial planning is one of the fundamental skills of finance professionals. With planning, finance specialists can manage an organization’s payouts and purchases while negotiating financial barriers that could appear. Knowing the latest business and financial trends is an advantage since an organization can capitalize on possible shifts in buying preferences of its target market.
  • Risk Management. Every investment comes with the risk of not delivering considerable returns or at least not earning back the amount invested. Finance professionals should be able to assess which potential investments have fewer risks or can potentially result in big gains for their clients or employers.

General Skills

  • Communication Skills. Finance professionals routinely explain to clients and employers the benefits of their recommendations and the risks involved in potential investments. They must have the ability to clearly communicate the merits of their decisions even to people who are not financially literate.
  • Problem-solving Skills. There are instances when organizations are placed in a financial bind, with every scenario seemingly leading to a loss. In this case, finance professionals navigate the possibilities and find the paths with the least financial resistance and the most opportunities for gains in the long run.
  • Research Skills. Research is a constant in a finance professional’s line of work. Specialists perform their due diligence when it comes to the latest legislation, trends, potential tie-ups, and possible additions to their client’s portfolios. It also is key to ensuring that business operations are compliant with all the policies to be encountered.

number of employed finance professionals in the US

How to Start Your Career in Finance

The realm of finance offers a plethora of jobs at every level, even to those who only earned a certificate. After all, data from the BLS show that the number of business and finance occupations is bound to grow by 7% from 2021 to 2031, which translates to around 715,100 new jobs in this decade. However, the prestige and salaries of available roles rise considerably as a graduate’s educational attainment goes higher. And most jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify.

To qualify for a degree or online degree program in finance, applicants must submit several requirements, which include the following:

  • Transcripts from high school and other previous schools attended if any
  • Standardized tests: Many schools require these
  • GPA:  A lot of schools require an average of around 2.0 to 2.5

What Jobs Can Finance Majors Get?

 Financial Analysis PathRecordkeeping PathFinancial Planning PathTeaching Path
The practice of analyzing financial data and recommending worthwhile investments.Recording and verifying the accuracy of financial transactions
Provides clients advice on investments, taxes, insurance, and mortgagesTeaches the fundamentals and advanced principles of business finance. Involves academic research in the middle and senior levels.
Entry Level JobsFinancial Clerk ($44,760)Bookkeeper ($45,560)Real Estate Broker ($48,770)Teaching Assistant of Finance ($29,600)
Junior Management JobsFinancial Analyst ($95,570)Financial Examiner ($81,410)Personal Financial Advisor ($94,170)Assistant Professor of Finance ($82,356)
Middle Management JobsFinancial Manager ($131.710)Hedge Fund Manager ($119,000)Investment Banker ($134,000)Full Professor of Finance ($94,227)
Senior Management JobsChief Financial Officer ($320,362)Chief Compliance Officer ($240,401)Vice President of Finance ($316,831)Senior Professor of Finance ($213,830)
*Values are estimates.

Sources: BLS, 2022;, 2022; Payscale, 2023;, 2023

What can I do with an associate’s degree in finance?

Billing and Posting Clerk

Billing clerks ensure that the records of organizations like healthcare facilities and insurance companies are accurate. They are tasked to prepare invoices, verify the accuracy of billing statements, and manage the recording of transactions. In addition, billing clerks communicate payment updates and outstanding balances to clients.

Median Salary: $38,330


Bookkeepers are in charge of recording a company’s financial transactions, producing financial statements and reports, and reconciling recorded amounts with receipts and other proof of purchase. The records are entered into spreadsheets or accounting software, so knowledge of spreadsheet formulae and accounting principles is required in this job.

Median Salary: $45,560

Real Estate Broker

An associate degree in finance can also lead to a job as a real estate broker, tasked to promote and offer properties to clients. Although this job is mainly associated with sales, finance graduates can leverage their knowledge of the financial market and worthwhile investments to point potential buyers to ideal purchases. The salary might not be the highest among finance jobs, but these professionals can earn a hefty commission per sale.

Median Salary: $48,770

What can I do with a bachelor’s degree in finance?

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts help individuals and businesses make the most profitable investments and identify the opportunities that they should pursue to gain considerable returns. These professionals also assess historical financial data to identify trends through which they can provide insights and recommendations to enhance an organization’s financial health.

Median Salary: $95,570

Personal Financial Advisor

Financial advisors are relied on by their clients for advice on which companies, assets, and instruments to invest in. They also assess the risks of each potential investment and can walk clients through their options for any given scenario. Advisors are all about sharpening the financial literacy of their clientele and the best options available to expand their portfolios. Moreover, some of them are tasked to manage client portfolios.

Median Salary: $94,170

Financial Examiner

Financial examiners ensure that the transactions of an organization are compliant with state laws, local laws, and other relevant legislation. They also check if the financial statements released are accurate and compliant with the accounting standards set by governmental institutions. To excel in this position, finance graduates should hone their knowledge of business and financial laws for different types of organizations and industries.

Median Salary: $81,410

Can you get a finance job with just a certificate?

The finance industry has a handful of jobs on offer for certificate holders. A popular option is to become an insurance agent. Like with real estate brokers, the job involves proficiency in sales and knowledge of the financial markets, with the agents receiving an income boost per sale. The median annual salary is $49,980 (BLS, 2022). Another worthwhile option is to enter a profession in claims management. Claims adjusters and examiners assess insurance claims and discern if a company must settle a claim. These professionals’ median annual pay is $64,710 (BLS, 2022).

Source: BLS, 2022

How can I advance my career in finance?

Although committing to the professional world does have its merits, pursuing one’s education after gives them access to the most prestigious and highest-paying jobs in the finance industry. In fact, a 2022 survey found that 51.5% of chief financial officers (CFOs) have master’s degrees (Crist|Kolder Associates, 2022). Earning a doctorate degree gives one an even bigger advantage since it ascertains one’s mastery of the general aspects of finance and the ability to lead a financial organization.

Of course, this does not mean that pursuing higher educational attainment is the only way to achieve the highest financial positions available, as numerous CFOs and finance managers only have bachelor’s degrees, but having a master’s or a doctor’s degree makes the path to becoming an esteemed finance executive significantly smoother.

What can I do with a Master’s in Finance?

Finance Manager

By observing cash flows, assessing financial reports, and reviewing investment activities, finance managers can steer organizations toward a far more profitable direction with their expert recommendations. They find ways to decrease costs, lead investment initiatives, analyze trends that can be capitalized on, ensure the financial compliance of operations, and create plans for companies to meet their financial goals.

Median Salary: $134,000

Investment Banker

Investment bankers help their clients increase their money in capital markets. This can come in the form of sold stocks and bonds or purchasing shares of entities that will likely increase their value in the long run. They also assess investment risks and sometimes assist with acquisitions and mergers.

Median Salary: $134,000

Hedge Fund Manager

Hedge fund managers must be knowledgeable in risk management, portfolio management, and investment trends to flourish. Their responsibilities include managing hedge funds, which is a pooled amount from various investors, making big investment decisions, and building a sound investment strategy. They often hire analysts and portfolio managers to help create hedge funds before leading investors to huge gains.

Median Salary: $119,000

What kind of job can I get with a doctorate in Finance?

Chief Financial Officer

The chief financial officer is one of the highest and most prestigious roles in an organization. As such, CFOs have the highest average salary in this space. Professionals who hold this position are in charge of the most crucial financial decisions and oversee all the financial operations of an enterprise. They decide which projects should be financed, how much each investment budget should be, and which organizations to acquire or merge with. A company’s finance managers and the vice president of finance report to the CFO.

Median Salary: $320,362

Vice President of Finance

The vice president of finance assists the chief executive officer or the CFO in making financial decisions for the entire organization. Finance VPs oversee all of the financial and accounting operations, ensuring that the company has a healthy cash flow and is attaining its financial goals. They also develop or enhance tracking methods for expenses and revenues as well as approve or create financial plans for future investments.

Median Salary: $316,831

Senior Professor of Finance

Senior professors of finance hold some of the highest positions in a school’s finance department and are often selected as deans of colleges. Besides teaching finance courses, they are in charge of coursework development, the establishment of teaching methodologies, creating materials for instructors, and supervising teams of finance educators.

Median Salary: $213,734

Which certification is best for finance?

Finance is a broad practice that branches out to multiple subdisciplines, reflected by the breadth of occupations graduates can enter and the number of certifications available. There are at least 18 financial certifications available, each ascertaining mastery of a financial subdiscipline (Financial Management Association, n.d.). Being certified comes as an advantage, as potential employers recognize certifications as confirmations of proficiency and reliability from aspiring professionals.

Ideally, finance graduates and professionals should earn certifications that are relevant to their specializations in finance. But to be on the safe side, a worthwhile option is to become a Certified Financial Analyst (CFA). This certification centers on portfolio management and the assessment of investments. Highly sought-after, the CFA charter requires applicants to have at least three years of professional experience and accomplish three comprehensive exams.

Another option that can help aspirants enter competitive jobs and raise finance major salaries is the Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA) certification. The program enables aspirants to gain more knowledge and skills in financial analysis, building financial models, the best practices of business valuation, mergers and acquisitions, and using spreadsheets and similar software. Although it does not require work experience, the certification entails 120-200 hours of study time and completing an exam, which has a 70% passing rate (Corporate Finance Institute, 2022).

Alternative Career Options for Finance

Earning a broad and flexible degree like finance affords graduates access to professions that are not completely finance-oriented. While many alternative jobs are more suited to other degrees, there are professions in which finance graduates carry an inherent advantage, thus allowing them to comfortably enter, albeit with some training in the other competencies required. Some of these alternatives are as prestigious and high-paying as the occupations readily available to bachelor’s degree holders of finance.

What else can a finance professional do?

Management Analyst

Management analysts, also known as management consultants, are responsible for maintaining and enhancing the operational efficiency of organizations. They identify problem areas, formulate action plans, and then expedite solutions. Finance graduates are poised to excel in this role since they can leverage their financial knowledge to ensure that a company’s operational goals align with their financial ones.

Median Salary: $93,000

Labor Relations Specialist

Labor relations specialists analyze contracts, office policies, and work practices and then determine if there are concerns regarding salaries, benefits, and employee welfare. These professionals create proposals that resolve worker concerns so that organizations can make the necessary amendments. Finance graduates are suitable for this position, given their ability to discern and weave solutions regarding salary- and finance-related issues.

Median Salary: $77,010


Accountants prepare financial statements, assess financial records to cut costs and improve financial gains, and ensure that an organization’s financial operations are running smoothly. Even though finance and accounting are different disciplines, finance graduates are suited to be accountants since their competencies revolve around financial analysis, financial planning, and risk assessment.

Median Salary: $77,250

annual salaries of alternative career options for finance

The Road to Solid Financial Career Is Paved

Finance comes as a flexible practice that offers plenty of opportunities to graduates and lucrative careers to those who pursue higher levels of education. Aspirants with certificates and associate degrees are afforded access to a wide range of finance careers from bookkeepers to brokers, many of whom have annual salaries that are above $40,000.  Meanwhile, professionals with bachelor’s degrees can start their careers as analysts or advisers as they make their way up the corporate ladder by acquiring experience and advancing their education until they become finance managers or even part of an organization’s top management.

The road to financial success in the professional realm has already been paved for finance students, provided they take their studies seriously and acquire the mastery to apply what they learned in all money-related scenarios. The challenge now is to adapt to the modern practices of the discipline, with technology gaining value not just in the world of finance but in business operations as well.

In fact, many executives have cited the custody of digital assets (45%) as a factor that will gain the highest importance in the future of financial services, followed by new payment channels (42%), portfolio diversification (41%), decentralized finance platforms (39%), and the tokenization of assets (39%) (Insider Intelligence, 2023). The challenge for businesses, finance professionals, and educational institutions is to adapt to the ongoing and upcoming tech-related sea change. Colleges and universities will have to incorporate a larger share of technology in their curricula to thoroughly prepare learners.

Fortunately, many postsecondary institutions and certifications already do so as they prime students into becoming modern finance professionals and eventual thought leaders in the practice with impressive finance major salaries.

To know more about the online options for advanced studies of finance graduates, you can check our detailed guide on the best online master’s degrees in finance. It tackles the costs, coursework, admission requirements, and things to expect from online finance programs.


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