Finance is often seen as a lucrative career option, but there is more to it than money. This line of work is incredibly varied and rewarding, meaning it can appeal to many different people with a range of talents. A good grasp of numbers is key to working in finance, and if you have this key skill, there are so many choices open to you.
But what are the benefits of working in finance, and are there any downsides? Is finance a good career path for you?
In this article, we will explore these considerations; as well as the kind of salary and stability a career in finance can offer, the variety of jobs available, and the qualifications you may need to pursue this path – along with a range of other important details about this exciting career path, and whether it could be right for you.
- What are the benefits of working in finance?
- Are there downsides to working in finance?
- Salaries in finance
- Is finance a stable career long term?
- Where do finance professionals work?
- Popular jobs in finance
- How to get started in finance
- Does finance provide job satisfaction?
- What skills & qualifications are needed in finance?
- Is finance a good career path for you?
- FAQs about a career in finance
What are the benefits of working in finance?
The finance sector entices many young professionals due to the high salaries on offer, with some finance positions being among the best-paid jobs in the UK. There are also many opportunities for progression which can happen quickly.
Opportunities to build skills in the finance sector as well as further training are often provided, and you can find a variety of fascinating positions in the industry. For example, you may find that you are managing and investing large sums of money, buying and selling company businesses, or supporting the financial management of major organizations.
With so many careers available in this area, there are always opportunities to find something new and exciting, and both public and private sector financial roles can give a good amount of job security.
Are there downsides to working in finance?
Working in finance can be a fantastic career, but it’s not without its downsides. Trying to find a work-life balance can be challenging, both at the early stages of your career and as you progress. The sometimes long hours and high-stress roles can cause burnout quickly, and fast career progression can sometimes come at the cost of personal relationships and outside interests.
Another added stressor is the fast-moving nature of the industry itself. The finance sector evolves and changes almost daily, and the need to keep your finger on the pulse can be difficult. Keeping skills and education consistently updated can make it even more challenging to “switch off”. And, because the sector is impacted so keenly by world events, some roles can have less job security due to certain happenings globally. Economic conditions may impact how secure your job is, especially in banking and similar roles.
Naturally, there are some jobs in finance that are less harshly affected by the economic climate, and where consistent upskilling is not necessary – these can afford more security. On the other hand, these roles can be repetitive and boring, rather than giving you the excitement you may want in your career.
Salaries in finance
The salaries in finance can vary quite widely based on the role you take on. The average finance salary in the US is a little over $92,000. However, this data is gathered using a huge variety of positions, some of which have very high salaries and some much lower.
The average salaries of other roles in finance are:One of the highest-paid financial positions is Chief Financial Officer, with an average salary of over $421,000.
US-based financial advisors can expect to earn an average of $94,000. Entry-level finance positions can pay less but are still higher when compared to other non-finance career paths.
Some of the best paying career paths however include the likes of investment banking; this sector can offer entry level salaries of $100,000+ in the US and rise quite significantly within a few years.
Is finance a stable career long term?
Finance may be seen as one of the most stable career options, but it’s worth reflecting on the fact that this can change due to economic challenges across the globe, and certain paths within finance are more stable than others. Those in some areas of banking such as trading, for example, are often fearful of their job security due to world events.
Meanwhile, accountancy is often seen as a more “boring” finance job but also a secure choice, as there are many different avenues that a qualified accountant can pursue as a career.
Where do finance professionals work?
There are a huge amount of different organizations that require finance professionals, from the very highest positions to lower-level roles.
Commercial banks and hedge funds employ a range of finance professionals including analysts, portfolio managers, and other investment specialists.
Private and public businesses often require accountants, chief financial officers, and risk managers, as well as those involved in a range of corporate finance positions. The insurance sector is another specialized area where there is a huge demand for candidates and is more stable than the banking sector.
Meanwhile, management consultants work across a range of industries, helping their clients to meet business objectives. This is a fast-paced role with a huge learning curve. While consultants typically work for a consultancy firm rather than directly for the businesses they are helping, their skills are in demand across a variety of sectors.
There’s also scope for finance professionals to be self-employed. Accountants often set up their own practices to work with clients and private individuals, as do financial advisors and those involved in areas like private wealth management.
Popular jobs in finance
If you are good with numbers and want to pursue a job in finance, there is almost too many choices. Here are some of the most popular jobs in finance, including what makes them so rewarding and where you might find these roles.
Investment banking involves supporting larger organizations and businesses with fundraising, money management, selling or acquiring business assets. This can mean that you are dealing with mergers, advising on risk management, or underwriting for initial public offering (IPO), among other activities. You can find this position in insurance agencies or banks, as well as mutual fund companies.
Entry level roles are usually analyst positions, typically involving gathering and interpreting data to help the firm make investment decisions. Hours can be long, however salaries are typically high, with bonuses helping to make total compensation earned by those in investment banking amongst the highest in the financial sector.
Accounting is one of the most popular and widely held positions in finance. There are a few paths that those working in the sector can follow including working for a specialist firm such as one of the Big Four, through to working within an internal accounting department in an organisation.
Though the salary may be a little lower than some of the best paying financial roles, accountancy is a secure and steady career with many options for where you pursue it.
An accountant provides advice to a company or client, carries out financial audits, and develops and manages processes to ensure that best practice is followed in accounting. You may work for a government organization such as a local council, an independent business, a large national or international company, or even private individuals. There are so many opportunities and organizations that require accountants, which makes it a flexible choice for finance professionals.
A financial analyst needs a real grasp of the current state of the economic climate. As an analyst, you will provide guidance on where a client or business may wish to invest their money, giving them an accurate idea of how this might be a positive choice for them.
Financial analysts need to have their finger on the pulse of the market and have a strong understanding of the financial industry at large. This will help you to advise organizations on how to grow, using your knowledge of current financial and world news, ongoing and emerging trends, and data analysis.
A financial analyst may work for an investment bank, insurance company, for an individual, or for a large corporation.
Portfolio management is a role which specializes in developing investment strategies for investment and building portfolios – sometimes from the ground up. They are especially focused on deciding when to make investments and when to sell them.
As such, a portfolio manager may work for a private individual to help them achieve their investment goals with well-thought-out and managed processes, but may also work for pension funds, hedge funds, or wealth management organizations with active or passive portfolios.
Portfolio managers can typically expect to earn an average of $124,000 in the US with a few years experience, excluding a bonus component which is dependent on fund performance.
While a management consultant doesn’t strictly deal with finance (unless it specializes in financial sector where its clients are banks, insurance firms etc), it’s a key element of the role. This position involves supporting businesses in finding solutions for ongoing issues, and strategizing with them to achieve growth and better performance. Part of this will inevitably mean organizing their financial matters for improved return on investment and overall profit.
A management consultant may be a specialist in a certain industry, such as the medical or software field, but may also be a qualified finance professional. They take their own specialist knowledge into an organization which can be of any size, and in a variety of industries.
Consulting can be a financially rewarding career, particularly at top firms. For example, in the US entry level analysts at good consulting firms would expect to take home up to $130,000 inclusive of bonuses, with salaries increasing quite significantly with experience.
A hedge fund is an investment fund where investors pool assets for trading purposes. As one of the most prominent roles in the finance sector, working at a hedge fund requires you to oversee investments, make decisions, and continuously assess the operations of the hedge fund itself.
Managing a hedge fund is a high-pressure but lucrative job – you may be working on behalf of companies or private individuals. Competition for jobs at the top funds can be strong as this is amongst the best paid careers in finance, with entry level analysts able to earn well over $100,000 in their first year in the US.
Working in corporate finance revolves around supporting businesses in finding funding options, decisions regarding investment, and how capital is used. The aim is to increase the company value to benefit shareholders, minimizing costs while building profits. A range of businesses require support with corporate finance, with some employing a finance professional directly. You can also work independently as a corporate finance consultant.
Corporate finance covers quite a broad range of roles, and salaries can vary depending on the size of the company you work for and your experience; average salaries in the US are $70,000+ for corporate finance jobs.
As a risk management professional in finance, your role is to understand financial risk through close analysis of economic markets. This includes anticipating changes and designing strategies to futureproof the finances of an organisation.
You may mitigate financial risks for multinational corporations or smaller businesses – these can include charities and government bodies or as part of a compliance and governance team. You can also work for a consulting firm. While not typically the very best paid career in finance, entry level junior analysts in the US can expect to earn an average of around $60,000 to start, with average salaries comfortably exceeding $150,000 at more senior levels.
How to get started in finance
With a wealth of opportunities in finance, how do you get started in your career? There are some qualifications and skills you may need to pursue in order to apply for entry-level roles, though bear in mind that some of these positions will also provide training on an ongoing basis.
Some finance professionals have degrees in finance, while others pursue on-the-job training to progress to higher-level positions such as risk management.
You should also ensure that you are seeking out internships or apprenticeships as a positive way to develop skills and learn more about this sector. This can help you to decide what area of finance most interests you, and where you might like to work.
Building connections is essential, and internships can be an excellent way to do this, as well as networking at professional events. Even basic skills such as knowing how to handle a telephone interview can go a long way to securing an entry-level position in finance, starting at the internship level.
Does finance provide job satisfaction?
Job satisfaction is an important part of deciding on a career, and the finance sector has both pros and cons when it comes to this.
Finance roles can provide a high level of job satisfaction, especially for those who value continuous development and a dynamic and fast-paced environment. Due to how the finance world is so closely connected with world events, this level of excitement and challenge can be immensely satisfying.
However, it can also be harmful to overall job satisfaction if you find that this environment is stressful and too challenging on a day-to-day basis. The impact that finance has on the world is undeniable, but it does lead to huge amounts of competition and pressure. The long hours necessary in some roles can be a big downside. For the right kind of person, though, finance can be one of the most satisfying careers to pursue.
What skills & qualifications are needed in finance?
While it is not always necessary to enter the finance world with a roster of qualifications under your belt, there are some skills and educational achievements which can be highly beneficial. We take a look at the different qualifications you may need to secure your dream job, or to take your first steps into the finance sector.
An undergraduate degree is often necessary to apply for finance roles. While this does not necessarily have to be a finance-specific qualification, a BSc or BA in finance, economics or accounting can help you to understand the basics of finance.
A Master’s degree in a finance-related field can give you a deeper knowledge of the financial sector and help you to narrow down your areas of interest.
It can also make you stand out when applying for finance roles, where you may be competing for jobs with others who only hold undergraduate degrees.
Completing a master’s degree in a finance related field of study can show commitment and dedication to working in the sector, which can be valuable particularly if you’re looking to move into finance from another career path like engineering.
MBA in finance provides you with education in finance in a way that is not specific to a certain industry or even country. It can help you to learn more about leadership in business and management in a variety of disciplines.
Not only will you learn intricate details of this kind of work, but you will also stand out when applying for roles, particularly at executive or management level, and can make valuable industry connections while studying.
The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) qualification is usually best undertaken once you have achieved an undergraduate degree in finance. This is an additional certification for those interested in pursuing careers in areas like wealth management, portfolio management and investing.
Awarded by the CFA Institute, it provides you with the highest qualification in managing investments. A CFA can be a valuable asset for a range of financial roles, and can help you to earn a higher salary.
The exams are considered some of the most difficult in the world, being a CFA charterholder will equip you with in-depth knowledge on a range of areas including portfolio management, valuation and financial statement analysis.
The Financial Risk Manager (FRM) certification is vital for risk management professionals. This is a globally recognized qualification and is expected if you work in a bank or a global company.
The FRM is a demanding certification, which is often pursued as part of professional development and by those looking to further their career. It’s not usually required at the entry level, as you need at least two years of relevant experience to pursue this qualification. However, for risk professionals who want to increase their value, the FRM can be a good choice.
If you want to work in alternative investments then the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) certification is a good place to start. You may be starting out and looking to pursue hedge funds or venture capital positions, or perhaps you are already established and want to develop your knowledge.
CAIA is great for building your professional CV and has options for those learning the fundamentals, as well as higher-level professional development.
Is finance a good career path for you?
Finance can be a satisfying and rewarding career path, especially if you have excellent mathematical and analytical skills. It is also helpful if you have good communication skills, willingness to learn and work hard on the job to provide your own insights and knowledge.
A dedication to learning and evolving is essential, as is the ability to do well under pressure. Those who can devise strategies and solutions, and keep up with current trends, will really flourish in financial careers.
With so many different opportunities and roles available globally, finance can be a fulfilling and varied choice of career for those who are willing to pursue the right training and development, and are excited by fresh challenges.
FAQs about a career in finance
Does finance pay well?
Depending on the type of role you wish to pursue, finance can be a top-paying career in many areas of the world, but especially at top financial hubs like London, New York, Frankfurt, Zurich, Beijing, Tokyo and Hong Kong. The lower end entry level salaries for most finance professionals are typically higher than the national average salary across all sectors.
Are finance professionals in demand?
Finance professionals remain in demand, with some roles such as accounting and banking always needed by a range of organisations. The outlook for most areas of finance looks strong for the coming years, and with sectors like Fintech continuing to grow, there is more demand for talented finance professionals.
What is the highest-paying job in finance?
The highest paying finance job at many organisations is often the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). However, industries like investment banking and hedge fund management are also particularly lucrative, with seven or eight figure salaries not uncommon.
Is finance a stable career?
While some roles in finance depend heavily on overall global economic performance or individual success, certain sectors such as accountancy and insurance are more stable.
Is finance a stressful career?
Finance is not always a stressful career, but for the highest-earning jobs it can be. Long hours and an “always on call” mentality can be extremely stressful for finance professionals, especially those dealing with global markets.
Is finance hard to get into?
Entering into a career in finance can seem like a challenge for those at entry level. However, it is made easier if you are able to pursue career-enhancing qualifications and take opportunities such as internships to develop connections and learn the basics.
Phew, we hope the above gave you a good overview and framework to decide if finance is the right career for you.
Meanwhile, here are some related articles that may be of interest:
- Finance Career Quiz: Which Career Fits Your Skills & Personality?
- CFA Careers: What Are Typical Job Opportunities for CFA Charterholders?
- ESG Certifications That Can Boost Your Finance Career
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