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Your Finance Career: What You Need to Know

Career in Finance

Your Finance Career: What You Need to Know

The finance industry is seeing unprecedented growth, in the U.S. and around the world. And the industry extends far beyond Wall Street investment banks with professionals working in insurance, risk management, compliance, government, and a host of other areas.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in finance or want to know more about what various finance careers offer in terms of opportunity and salary, then Wiley’s Ultimate Guide to a Career in Finance is for you!


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 a 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.

finance career graphs

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 center 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 long-term commitment.

Financial Analyst

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.

Job Outlook (U.S. Only): Financial Analyst

2016 Median Pay $81,760 per year, $39.31 per hour
Entry-Level Education • Bachelor’s degree
• Recommended Licenses/Designations:
– Financial Industry Regulator Authority (FINRA)
– CFA charterholder
Number of Jobs, 2014 277,600
Job Outlook, 2014-24 12% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 32,300

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 2017

Global Median Salaries:

Hong Kong: $65,320 ($509,065 Hong Kong Dollars)
Singapore: $67,107 ($92,908 Singapore Dollars)
Sydney: $103,069 ($136,878 Australia Dollars)
New Delhi: $10,600 (682,544 Indian Rupees)
Frankfurt: $72,917 (65,130 Euro)
London: $78,939 (61,913 British Pound)

Source: Economic Research Institute, June 2017

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.

Job Outlook (U.S. Only): Financial Advisor

2016 Median Pay $90,530 per year, $43.53 per hour
Entry-Level Education • Bachelor’s degree
• Recommended Licenses/Designations:
– Financial Industry Regulator Authority (FINRA)
– CFA charterholder
Number of Jobs, 2014 249,400
Job Outlook, 2014-24 30% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 73,900

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 2017

Global Median Salaries:

Hong Kong: $53,443 ($416,508 Hong Kong Dollars)
Singapore: $54,905 ($76,015 Singapore Dollars)
Sydney: $84,329 ($111,991 Australia Dollars)
New Delhi: $8672.85 (558,445 Indian Rupees)
Frankfurt: $59,592 (53,228 Euro)
London: $64,586 (50,656 British Pound)

Source: Economic Research Institute, June 2017

Portfolio Manager

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.), 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.

Job Outlook (U.S. Only): Portfolio Manager

2016 Median Pay $123,000 (at least 5-7 yrs experience), $59.13 per hour
$83,761 per year(includes entry-level), $40.27 per hour
Entry-Level Education • Master’s degree
• Recommended Licenses/Designations:
– Financial Industry Regulator
Authority (FINRA)
– CMT designation
– CFP designation
– FRM designation
Job Outlook, 2014-24 27% (Much faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 2017

Global Median Salaries:

Hong Kong: $50,524 ($393,757 Hong Kong Dollars)
Singapore: $51,927 ($71,893 Singapore Dollars)
Sydney: $79,721 ($105,872 Australia Dollars)
New Delhi: $18,044 (1,161,859 Indian Rupees)
Frankfurt: $51,909 (46,365 Euro)
London: $68,844 (53,996 British Pound)

Source: Economic Research Institute, June 2017

Investment Banker

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.

Job Outlook (U.S. Only): Investment Banker

2016 Median Pay $104,970 per year, $50.47 per hour
Entry-Level Education • Bachelor’s degree
• Recommended Licenses/Designations:
– Financial Industry Regulator
Authority (FINRA)
– CFA charterholder
– CAIA designation
Number of Jobs, 2014 255,400
Job Outlook, 2014-24 4%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 2017

Global Median Salaries:

Hong Kong: $71,713 ($558,892 Hong Kong Dollars)
Singapore: $73,700 ($102,037 Singapore Dollars)
Sydney: $113,134 ($150,245 Australia Dollars)
New Delhi: $26,065 (1,678,327 Indian Rupees)
Frankfurt: $79,567 (71,069 Euro)
London: $106,404 (83,454 British Pound)

Source: Economic Research Institute, June 2017

Risk Manager

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.

Job Outlook (U.S. Only): Risk Manager

2016 Median Pay $121,750 per year, $58.54 per hour
Entry-Level Education • Bachelor’s degree
• Recommended Licenses/Designations:
– CMT designation
– FRM designation
Number of Jobs, 2014 555,900
Job Outlook, 2014-24 7%
Employment Change, 2014-24 37,700

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 2017

Global Median Salaries:

Hong Kong: $58,169 ($453,335 Hong Kong Dollars)
Singapore: $69,986 ($96,882 Singapore Dollars)
Sydney: $91,802 ($121,915 Australia Dollars)
New Delhi: $16,348 (1,052,640 Indian Rupees)
Frankfurt: $74,367 (66,425 Euro)
London: $89,443 (70,152 British Pound)

Source: Economic Research Institute, June 2017

Credit Analyst

A credit analyst is responsible for assessing the credit worthiness 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.

Job Outlook (U.S. Only): Credit Analyst

2016 Median Pay $69,930 per year, $33.62 per hour
Entry-Level Education • Bachelor’s degree
• Recommended Licenses/Designations:
– CMT designation
– FRM designation
Number of Jobs, 2014 34,300
Job Outlook, 2014-24 8%
Employment Change, 2014-24 37,700

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 2017

Global Median Salaries:

Hong Kong: $40,719 ($317,344 Hong Kong Dollars)
Singapore: $57,998 ($80,286 Singapore Dollars)
Sydney: $64,297 ($85,388 Australia Dollars)
New Delhi: $9,076 (584,022 Indian Rupees)
Frankfurt: $70,438 (62,915 Euro)
London: $57,744 (45,590 British Pound)

Source: Economic Research Institute, June 2017

Steps to Starting Your Finance Career

1. Get the right degree

You may think you don’t have to possess a degree to get a job in finance, but you’d be wrong. A bachelor’s degree is now the bare minimum requirement for almost any financial job. So, choose your degree and university carefully as some companies or banks limit their hiring to specific universities. Make sure the college or university you choose has a solid business school and strong reputation in the finance industry. Also, if you want to move to a new location, ensure that your university has a large footprint that is recognized in the area you wish to find a job. While science and engineering degrees are popular options, especially outside the U.S., know that you will need to supplement your undergrad degree with further finance-related education. Earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is the most common and direct route. An MBA is also fast becoming a basic requirement to land a job on Wall Street.

Popular U.S. Universities for Future Finance Professionals

School Location In-State Out-of-State Enrollment Acceptance Rate
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA $51,464 $51,464 21,395 10%
New York University New York, NY $49,062 $49,062 50,027 33%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA $48,452 $48,452 11,331 8%
University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI $13,856 $43,476 43,651 26%
University of Texas Austin, TX $9,806 $34,676 50,950 39%
University of California Berkeley, CA $13,509 $40,191 38,204 15%
Indiana University Bloomington, IN $10,388 $34,246 48,514 78%
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, NC $8,834 $33,916 29,084 30%
University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA $15,722 $45,066 23,883 30%
Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA $52,040 $52,040 13,648 24%

2. Pursue a specialty

As you can see, finance is a wide-ranging industry and earning a degree targeted toward this area of business presents you with a lot of options. Graduates can find jobs in accounting departments, finance departments, education, sales, banking, financial advising -the list of career options is endless. Most entities need someone with an analytical mind who can read financial data, interpret it and communicate findings and recommendations. During your education, you will have a few years to decide, but ensure you research the types of jobs you find most interesting. You should eventually specialize in one facet of finance as specialization is the best strategy for a long and successful career. This is where earning one or more specialized credentials—such as the Charted Financial Analyst® (CFA), Charter Market Technician® (CMT) or Financial Risk Manager (FRM) designations—can truly help you to stand out and advance in your career.

3. Get a job

After you’ve completed your post-secondary education, it’s now time to get a job. Remember it’s not just what you know, it’s also who you know—so put much effort into building and leveraging personal connections by going to conferences, job fairs, educational seminars and other networking events. In order to continue to differentiate yourself, try to gain early career experience through internships. You may think it’s too early to start, but earning a professional credential can be a dramatic help in landing your first few jobs out of college. It may seem like your learning is done when school is, but it’s only beginning. Those who succeed never stop learning.

finance annual mean wage

Certification and Licensure

Employers are now looking for job candidates who have additional credentials that demonstrate they have the prerequisite skills and knowledge necessary for a specialized job in finance. Every university is different in their teaching methods and the materials, so professional credentials are seen as a great way to level the playing the field and ensure candidates have the basic knowledge to do the job on day one.

Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA)

Considered the “gold standard” in the investment industry, professionals who pursue the CFA Program charter are generally from the corporate and investment worlds—financial advisers, investment banking analysts, portfolio managers, private bankers, research analysts, and traders. The CFA Program charter is issued by the CFA Institute. For those finance professionals who may decide to pursue a career specializing as a risk manager, financial advisor, or chief executive, the CFA Program charter may be a good option.

The CFA Program exam is offered only on certain dates. Level I is offered twice a year, a single day in June and a single day in December. Level II and Level III are offered only once a year, on the same date in June. The CFA Program exam is a pencil-andpaper exam.

The three levels of the CFA Program exam do not test subject matter separately. Instead, each level of the exam builds on the prior exam and covers many of the same subjects but at broader and deeper levels. Some of the areas covered are ethics, economics, financial statement analysis, equity valuation, fixed income, portfolio management, etc.

You can expect to spend about $3,000 on exam fees for all three levels, which does not include your review materials. The CFA Institute recommends you commit to at least 300 hours of studying for each level of the exam, or 15-20 hours a week for four to six months. You need a bachelor’s degree or four years of professional experience to sit for the exam. You also need four years of experience to become a CFA charterholder.

Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

The CFP designation is another highly regarded professional designation. That’s because Certified Financial Planners have completed extensive training and are held to rigorous ethical standards. They typically excel as financial advisors or consultants and/or working in insurance, brokerage houses, or the banking industry. Having a financial background is a great fit, as the knowledge and analytical skills are a must for any advisor.

To obtain the CFP designation, a bachelor’s degree is required as well as three years of professional experience in the financial-planning process, or two years of apprenticeship experience that meets additional requirements. In addition, completion of the CFP Board’s coursework component is required. After successful completion of the education component, the candidate can sit for the CFP exam.

The CFP exam is offered three times a year, each over a five-day period. The CFP exam is offered in two three-hour sessions at Prometric testing centers. The exam fee is around $600, which does not include costs of your coursework or review materials.

Financial Risk Management (FRM)

As businesses become increasingly competitive and concerned about managing risk, earning the FRM designation is an excellent way to distinguish yourself and your ability to add value to an organization. Offered by the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP), the FRM designation is viewed as the globally recognized standard for risk professionals and signals to employers that you are serious about risk management and that you have had your knowledge validated against international professional standards.

To earn this designation, you must pass two separate FRM exams, and complete a minimum of two years of fulltime work experience in the field of financial risk. Only finance-related vocations are considered as acceptable work experience.

The two FRM exams (Part I and Part II) are computer-based and only offered one day in May and one day in November. You must pass Part II of the exam within four years of passing Part I. The total exam fee is roughly $700 but that does not include the cost of coursework or review materials or annual membership dues.

Chartered Market Technician (CMT)

The Chartered Market Technician® (CMT) credential is the preeminent, global designation for practitioners of technical analysis. Administered by the Accreditation Committee of the Market Technicians Association (MTA), Inc., the designation is awarded to those who demonstrate mastery of a core body of knowledge of investment risk in portfolio management settings.

The CMT exam consists of three separate levels and each of the exams is computer-based and administered at Prometric test centers around the world. The Level I and II exams are multiple choice and machine graded, and then the results go through a psychometric review. This process requires candidates to wait approximately four weeks before receiving their final scores.

The total cost for all three levels of the exam approaches $1,500, which doesn’t include the $675 cost of program coursework, annual MTA membership fees or any additional review materials.

Certification and Licensure Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA)

Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) is a professional designation offered by the CAIA Association to investment professionals who specialize in “alternative investments” such as hedge funds, private equity, real assets, commodities, and structured products. The CAIA curriculum is designed to provide finance professionals with a broad base of knowledge in alternative investments.

The CAIA program is divided into two levels and the CAIA Association recommends at least 200 hours of study to pass the exam for each level. Level I focuses on the fundamentals of alternative investment markets, while Level II concentrates on advanced topics in alternative investments. Both levels take a global perspective and incorporate issues of ethics and professional conduct. Candidates can take both levels of the CAIA exam via computer anywhere in the world and at any time.

The total cost for both levels of the exam approaches $2,500, which doesn’t include the $400 cost of program enrollment, annual CAIA membership fees or the cost of any review materials.

Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA)

CIMA professionals integrate a complex body of investment knowledge, ethically contributing to prudent investment decisions by providing objective advice and guidance to individual investors and institutional investors. The CIMA certification program is the only credential designed specifically for financial professionals who want to attain a level of competency as an advanced investment consultant.

The CIMA certification program takes most candidates nine months to a year to complete. Candidates must first pass a background check and pass a two-hour qualifying exam before enrolling in an in-person or online program with a business registered with the IMCA. After completing the course, candidates must then pass a comprehensive four hour qualifying exam.

According to the IMCA, the total cost for certification ranges between $5,000 and $8,000, depending on the options chosen.

Investment Banking

For a career in investment banking, there are no specialized credentials required (though many expect you to eventually earn the CFA charter to advance), but you will need to have advanced knowledge of financial modeling and valuations.

While some of these concepts are covered in undergraduate or MBA curriculums, it can often be helpful to extend your knowledge and comfort with valuation models by pursuing outside education opportunities.

Internships offer a route into the industry, but competition is fierce and the interview process tough. In addition to acquiring the right technical skills, be sure to think through how you might answer typical behavioral interview questions, and there’s no excuse for not doing your homework on the hiring company and their recent deals and transactions.

Top 15 U.S. Finance Scholarships

AFWA Undergraduate Scholarship Program

Amount Varies
Requirements Applicants must have completed at least their sophomore year, have a minimum of 60 college credits, carry a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, and be attending a senior university in the United States.
Deadline April 1st
Contact (800) 632-2163


ALPFA National Hispanic Scholarships

Amount Up to $10,000 annually
Requirements Eligible candidates must be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, be attending a four-year accredited university, have at least junior-level status, and possess a minimum overall GPA of 3.0.
Deadline January 31
Contact (213) 243-0004


AXA Achievement Scholarship

Amount $10,000 one-time award (52 available)
Requirements Eligible applicants must be U.S. citizens, be graduating high school seniors, represent ethnically diverse backgrounds, demonstrate outstanding achievement in school, and exhibit the ambition to excel in college.
Deadline December 15
Contact (800) 537-4180


Daniel B. Goldberg Scholarship

Amount $12,000 for graduate students
Requirements Candidates must already possess a bachelor’s degree, have citizenship in the U.S. or Canada, and exhibit a strong dedication to a government career plan. Students must supply a personal statement, official undergraduate transcript, current resume, letter of recommendation, and list of all government finance courses they’ve completed.
Deadline February 20
Contact (312) 977-9700 ext. 2273


Financial Women’s Association Graduate Scholarships

Amount $10,000 merit-based
Requirements To qualify, candidates must be currently enrolled in the second or final year of an MBA program at Columbia University, Fordham University, Baruch College, or New York University with demonstrated academic achievement.
Deadline Varies
Contact (212) 533-2141


FWSF Scholarship Fund

Amount $10,000
Requirements Qualified applicants must reside or attend school in the San Francisco Bay Area, have at least junior-level standing, have a declared major in finance, maintain a minimum GPA of 3.4, and enroll in an independently accredited university.
Deadline March 27
Contact (415) 586-8599


George Harding Scholarship Program

Amount $1,000
Requirements Applicants must be enrolled full-time with 12 or more credits per term, be legal Michigan residents, attend an accredited Michigan or out-of-state university, have a minimum overall GPA of 3.0, and show leadership qualities through involvement in campus or community activities.
Deadline July 15
Contact (517) 485-3600


John B. Lilja Undergraduate Scholarship

Amount $1,000 annually
Requirements To qualify, candidates must be currently enrolled in a four-year bachelor’s degree program with a major in finance, government finance, or accounting at an accredited university in Minnesota.
Deadline April 15
Contact (952) 563-4930


J.P. Morgan Launching Leaders Scholarship

Amount Up to $15,000
Requirements Eligible candidates must be enrolled as sophomore or junior undergraduate students, attend an accredited U.S. university, carry a minimum overall GPA of 3.2, and show a clear interest in a financial services career.
Deadline January 17
Contact (800) 345-1833


Ludwig Alumni Business Scholarship

Amount $1,500
Requirements Qualified candidates should have maintained a minimum high school GPA of 3.0, be currently active in the academy, and plan to continue involvement in a local NAF academy.
Deadline March 15
Contact (212) 635-2400


Mid-Atlantic Security Traders Foundation Scholarships

Amount $2,500
Requirements Eligible applicants must be currently enrolled at a four-year public or private university, have U.S. citizenship, submit at least two letters of reference, carry a minimum overall GPA of 3.0, and be actively involved in professional extra-curricular activities.
Deadline April 30
Contact (410) 908-6230


Mid-Atlantic Security Traders Foundation Scholarships

Amount $7,000
Requirements Eligible candidates must be currently enrolled in a degree program in governmental accounting, finance, economics, business administration, or public administration with the goal of starting a career in state and local government finance.
Deadline February 20
Contact (312) 977-9700 ext. 2273


NAFA Corporate Aviation Business Scholarships

Amount Up to $5,000
Requirements Eligible candidates must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours per semester, have U.S. citizenship or permanent residency, carry a minimum overall GPA of 3.0, and exhibit potential in the aviation business.
Deadline April 1
Contact (410) 571-1740


New York Financial Writers’ Association Scholarships

Amount $3,000
Requirements Eligible candidates must be attending an accredited four-year university, be in good academic standing, and show promise for leading a career in financial journalism.
Deadline April 15
Contact (201) 612-0100


Richard “Dick” Wiegers Scholarship Fund

Amount $1,000 annually
Requirements This program is open to all Illinois residents who are pursuing an undergraduate college education in business administration, finance, or law with the goal of entering a career in the real estate industry.
Deadline April 1
Contact (866) 854-7333