Is Finance a Good Career Path?

Jobs in the financial sector can be very lucrative, which contributes to the explanation of why they are so in demand. Of course, getting a job in the finance industry is difficult—the entry requirements can be as high as the pay. Many professionals have advanced degrees in business, math, economics, or statistics, and the majority of jobs require at least a four-year degree.

Nevertheless, there are a variety of opportunities in the finance sector, both on and off Wall Street, that are tailored to different skill sets and interests. This includes positions such as investment banker, actuary, portfolio manager, quantitative analyst, securities trader, financial planner, financial analyst, and economic analyst, among others, with average base salaries ranging from $63,163 to $101,848 and total pay ranges between $42,000 and $283,000 when bonuses and commissions are factored in.

Key Takeaways

  • Most finance jobs require four-year or advanced degrees, especially in business, math, economics, and statistics. 
  • Finance jobs differ and include roles as diverse as an investment banker, actuary, portfolio manager, quantitative analyst, securities trader, and financial planner.
  • In 2021, the median annual wage for business and financial occupations was $30,810 higher than the median annual wage for all occupations.
  • Finance skills are in high demand, and the sector is expected to continue growing.
  • Drawbacks of a career in finance can include high stress, long working hours, continuing education requirements, and, in some cases, limited job stability.

Types of Careers in Finance

Investment Banker

  • Average investment banker base salary: $101,848 (total pay is $46,000–$283,000)1
  • Projected growth rate: 10%3
  • Investment banker education requirements: Four-year degree in finance, economics, or a quantitative or business-focused field, plus an MBA or a master’s in finance (ideally from a top school)

Types of investment banking jobs

Bankers who specialise in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) offer strategic counsel to businesses seeking to acquire rival firms or merge with them. Financial modelling is used by M&A bankers to assess these potential big deals. M&A specialists must persuade high-profile executives to agree with their ideas to successfully perform their jobs.

The underwriting division of a bank is responsible for raising capital. Underwriting experts frequently have an industry-based focus in addition to concentrating on debt or equity. These bankers frequently have client-facing responsibilities, collaborating with outside contacts to identify capital requirements and internally with traders and security salespeople to identify the best options. In recent years, underwriting has significantly expanded beyond investment banks to include larger universal banks.

Although jobs are typically found at smaller, specialised firms, many investment banks have private equity (PE) arms. Bankers in this area raise capital for businesses and non-profit organisations while keeping a portion of the profits they make from their transactions. PE professionals frequently have prior experience at investment banks in addition to having excellent academic credentials.

Venture capital (VC) firms frequently focus on lending money to start-up businesses, frequently in quickly evolving sectors like technology, biotechnology, and green technology. While many target companies eventually fail, VC firms succeed by taking a financial stake early in development and exiting, generating enormous returns on investments. Employees of VC firms are frequently skilled at dealmaking and number crunching, and they are knowledgeable about new technologies and concepts. They get excited about the possibility of finding “the next new thing.”

Portfolio Manager

  • Average portfolio manager base salary: $91,032 (total pay is $58,000–$174,000)8
  • Projected growth rate: 17%9
  • Portfolio manager education requirements: Four-year degree in business, economics, or finance, plus applicable Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) license(s)

Is a career in finance reliable?

Yes, in most cases. Even though it is common knowledge that the financial industry is highly cyclical (for example, banks and brokerages frequently reduce their staff during significant economic downturns), there is such a high demand for qualified professionals with experience in finance that it is unlikely they will be unemployed for an extended period.

The Bottom Line

Many careers in the financial sector feature high entry requirements, intense levels of competition among applicants, and a significant amount of stress. Despite this, these jobs provide a variety of benefits, such as excellent pay, the opportunity to interact with highly motivated and intelligent coworkers, a stimulating work environment, and interaction with highly motivated and intelligent coworkers. People are drawn to careers in finance because of the potential for high salaries; however, those who are most successful in this field typically have a strong passion for the work that they do.

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