Do you love to strategize, crunch numbers, and identify trends? Are you a big-picture thinker with a sharp, analytical mind?
If so, a degree in finance might be for you. Known for its excellent job prospects and competitive salaries, this undergraduate specialization is one of most sought-after degrees available.
But despite a bright professional outlook, it can be difficult to know where to go after finishing a finance degree. Perhaps because finance majors master so many different skills over the course of their studies. During their four year program, they learn to analyze monetary movements and transitions, assess the potential risks and gains of investments, and understand the true value of money. They also cover the basics of credit analysis, budgeting, and the global economy, and learn to communicate, negotiate, and manage their time effectively.
If you're unsure what to do with your finance degree, read on. From banking to real estate, financial planning to education—graduates of finance programs find themselves working in a broad range of careers.
This article will be covering the following careers:
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1. Financial Analyst
Financial analysts are masters of risk and revenue. These skilled professionals assess the financial condition of stocks, businesses, or other assets to determine whether they would make worthwhile investments. Some work on the "buy side" of the equation, providing detailed financial analysis to independent clients who are interested in investing. Some work on the "sell side," offering "buy/hold/sell" recommendations about certain investments on behalf of banks and other clients. Requiring critical thinking skills and a strong understanding of markets, this career is a perfect fit for a finance major.
A financial analyst is someone who manages various aspects of other people’s money.
2. Investment Banker
Investment bankers act as capital markets advisors to clients such as large businesses, governments, and corporations. They may work in mergers and acquisitions, helping their clients determine an appropriate price when purchasing other companies or corporations. They might also provide financial advice or assist their clients in raising funds in the capital markets. Succeeding in this competitive and, at times, gruelling, line of work requires exceptional analytical skills, strong communication abilities, and a knack for networking—all qualities that finance majors possess.
An investment banker is someone who works in a financial institution or in a large bank's division that is involved in raising capital for governments, companies and other entities.
3. Financial Advisor
For individuals with a finance degree who are more interested in working with individuals than companies, a career as an advisor can be an ideal option. These personable professionals work with people from all walks of life, helping them to organize their finances, review their investments and savings, and plan for the future. In a nutshell, financial advisors assist their clients in setting financial goals and meeting them as efficiently as possible. Particularly well-suited to finance students who possess strong interpersonal skills, this can be a very rewarding career.
A financial advisor is someone who gives financial advice to their clients.
Auditors verify companies' business records and ensure their accuracy and compliance with tax laws. They are found in a variety of industries, including accounting firms as well as government organizations, such as the IRS. Highly organized and meticulous, they are responsible for maintaining clients' financial records, inspecting their accounting books, and offering suggestions for how to improve their financial practices. With their sharp quantitative skills and training in accounting, finance students are a natural fit for this challenging position.
An auditor is someone who prepares and examines financial records.
5. Business Analyst
The daily life of a business analyst can look very different from person to person. But on the most basic level, all business analysts apply some form of structured analysis to explore a company or organization's business processes, recommend options for improvement, and introduce changes that will allow it to better achieve its goals. It is a detail-oriented profession, rooted in data, observations, and figures. Armed with a finance degree, graduates can thrive in this career that lets them put their problem solving skills and business knowledge to the test.
A business analyst is someone who analyzes information and investigates the goals and issues of a company.
6. Stock Trader
For many, stock trader is the first thing that comes to mind when they hear "careers in finance." These hard-working individuals buy and sell stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments professionally—either for themselves or for a firm. To turn a profit, they take advantage of the fluctuating prices of individual stocks in the market. Success in this career depends largely on how well the trader is able to identify economic trends, make efficient yet accurate financial calculations, and strategize for the future. Cunning finance graduates are cut out for this fast-paced, dynamic role.
A stock trader is someone who works for themselves or for a firm, buying and selling stocks.
For finance majors with an ambitious, go-getter attitude, becoming an entrepreneur can be a natural next step. Entrepreneurs are the visionaries behind many of the world's businesses. They build thriving organizations from the ground up, using their knowledge of business practices, accounting, marketing, and communication to bring their entrepreneurial ideas to life. Although this profession involves more risk than the other options that are available to finance majors, for those who have the drive and passion required, it can often be of the most engaging.
The word entrepreneur refers to a person who has identified a need and has an innovative business idea to fill that void.
8. Credit Analyst
Credit analysts work with clients such as credit rating agencies, investment companies, commercial and investment banks, and credit card issuing institutions. They gather and analyze financial data such as earnings and savings information, payment history, and purchase activities to assess whether individuals are eligible for a particular loan, credit card extension, or mortgage. A degree in finance or a similar field is required to enter the career, as is a love of numbers, a rigorous work ethic, and an understanding of financial risk.
A credit analyst plays a very important role in the health of the economy.
9. Management Consultant
A career as a management consultant is an appealing option for many finance students, as it offers an opportunity to earn a high salary right out of school. Management consultants work with companies of all kinds, helping them to solve complex problems, improve their operational or financial health, or strategize for the future. They are specially trained to provide industry insights, analyze and synthesize data, and think rationally and systematically about a wide range of problems. Intellectually stimulating and financially rewarding, consulting is, understandably, a highly competitive profession. Although a degree in finance isn't required, it can be a major asset.
A management consultant is someone who proposes ways to improve an organization's efficiency.
10. Sales Manager
A less "classic" career option for a finance major, becoming a sales manager can be a desirable alternative to the hectic work life of other finance jobs. Sales managers are found in almost any industry—from fashion to software and everything in between. These creative, organized, and personable individuals oversee all the operations of the sales team, which can include tasks such as setting sales quotas and goals, crafting sales plans, analyzing budgets and data, and hiring and training staff. A finance degree will typically provide the basic knowledge needed to enter a sales career: fundamentals of marketing, principles of business, and an understanding of profits and losses. The rest can be learned with a bit of hard work and experience.
A sales manager is someone who is responsible for leading and guiding a team of sales people in an organization.
11. Operations Manager
Another people-oriented career, operations managers play a multifaceted but essential role within many of the world's companies. Their duties can include anything from hiring and training employees to managing and assessing quality assurance programs. Success in this career requires a thorough understanding of business practices, strong communication skills, an ability to assess complex data, and a passion for efficiency and innovation. Ambitious finance majors are an ideal match for this important profession.
An operations manager has a niche in companies that offer products and services, and is responsible for the aspects of operations and production within a company.
Accountants are keystones in the financial health of their employers. They work with many different kinds of businesses—including non-profits, major corporations, and government organizations—as well as for individuals. Whomever their employer, it is the accountant's responsibility to ensure that all monetary transactions have been performed and documented accurately and legally. Detail-oriented, systematic, and analytical, this profession offers a perfect option for finance graduates seeking a stable and meaningful career.
An accountant is one of the main players in any business that he or she works for, whether it is a large corporation or a small business.