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Is Finance a Good Career Path?

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A career in finance can be personally and financially rewarding. It can also require long hours and high stress. We spoke to industry experts to determine: Is finance a good career path? In this guide, we explore:

What Do Finance Jobs Pay?

A career in finance can be lucrative. For instance, the median pay in 2021 for a personal financial adviser was $94,170, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says. Overall, the median pay for business and financial occupations was $76,570 in 2021. That figure is well above the median annual pay for all occupations of $45,760.

The bureau expects the number of business and financial jobs in the U.S., such as insurance underwriter and loan officer, to grow 8% from 2020 to 2030.

Types of Careers in Finance

A variety of careers in finance are available. Among them are:

  • Bank manager
  • Budget analyst
  • Business banker
  • Chief financial officer
  • Chief investment officer
  • Controller
  • Financial analyst
  • Financial examiner
  • Financial planner
  • Hedge fund manager
  • Insurance agent
  • Insurance underwriter
  • Investment banker
  • Investor relations manager
  • Loan officer
  • Real estate agent
  • Stockbroker
  • Tax examiner
  • Treasurer
  • Venture capitalist

Generally, these jobs fall into one of seven buckets: asset management, commercial banking, corporate finance, insurance, investment banking, personal financial planning and real estate.

A bachelor’s degree in finance is typically required to enter this career field. To advance in the finance sector, somebody might need to earn a master’s degree in finance or an MBA.

Entry-Level Finance Jobs

Entry-level finance jobs include positions that handle administrative tasks in areas like client accounts and industry regulations, says Kimberly Foss, founder and president of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, California. In addition, some employers in the finance sector hire administrative assistants to organize workflows, manage calendars, and even help with client communications and relations. Some other entry-level finance jobs are:

  • Actuary
  • Bank teller
  • Budget analyst
  • Compensation and benefits specialist
  • Credit analyst
  • Financial analyst
  • Insurance claims adjuster
  • Insurance underwriter
  • Payroll clerk
  • Personal banker
  • Personal financial adviser
  • Tax associate

Not sure which role might be best for you? Experience a day-in-the-life  at some of the nation’s top financial firms by enrolling in one of Forage’s finance virtual work experience programs.

Pros and Cons of Finance Careers

As with any career, a career in finance encompasses both pros and cons.

Pros of Finance Careers

  • Good compensation, including benefits and bonuses
  • Opportunities for growth
  • Job stability

Finance careers generally pay well, including attractive benefits and bonuses. In addition, a job in finance frequently offers diversity in your day-to-day duties.

Pursuing a finance career path can give also someone a sense of accomplishment. For nearly two decades, Foss has reaped personal and financial rewards as a certified financial planner. She previously worked at a large brokerage firm.

“My deepest sense of satisfaction comes when these two priorities intersect—when doing really excellent work for a client enables me to further establish and solidify my professional reputation and independence,” Foss says.

Working in finance also presents opportunities to move up the career ladder or into different segments of the sector. Foss’s experience shifting from a big brokerage firm to her own financial planning firm demonstrates this ability to switch gears.

“I moved into the independent advising part of the industry because I believed—as I still do—that this was the best way to provide the kind of client-focused service that people need,” she says.

Certified financial planner Josh Hargrove, a financial adviser with Insight Wealth Partners in Plano, Texas, emphasizes that a career in finance (depending on the type of job, of course) can make “a direct, positive impact on people’s lives.”

Another pro? Many employers are looking for workers with finance experience, so people in the industry may often worry less about finding or keeping a job.

“Finance positions are considered critical organizational functions and a profit center within organizations, not simply for Wall Street investment firms,” says Lyle Solomon, principal attorney at Oak View Law Group, a Silicon Valley law firm whose primary practice areas are bankruptcy and debt settlement. “Working in a high-demand business allows you to experience something that everyone desires—stability.”

Cons of Finance Careers

  • Barriers to entry/switching companies
  • Long working hours
  • High-stress environments

Hargrove points out that it can be challenging to gain a foothold in the finance industry, particularly if you’re trying to build a base of clients.

“This is especially true of career changers who already have families and a small cash runway to handle the transition,” he says.

Plus, it can be hard to make a career move in the industry, as some employers require employees to sign non-compete agreements, Hargrove says.

Meanwhile, Solomon cites education as one of the possible downsides of a career in finance. Many occupations in the finance sector require certain levels of schooling, which can be financially challenging for some students.

For Foss, one of the drawbacks of a finance career is working in a sector that can be rocked by stock market turbulence.

“Because people’s money is closely tied to their sense of security, market downturns generate a lot of anxiety and, sometimes, emotionally-driven decisions by clients that are not in their best interests,” she says. “Working with people to help them remain calm and to make informed decisions is a big part of the job, but it is also sometimes the most difficult.”

Furthermore, many people in finance work incredibly long hours and cope with tremendous stress.

“During certain times of the year, a financial career may have tight deadlines, demanding clients, and an overabundance of work,” Solomon says. “It may be difficult for you to acclimate to this industry at first, but it does get easier after you’ve learned how to deal with pressure.”

Are you considering a career at one of the nation’s big banks? Then, check out our guides to working at JPMorgan Chase and Citi.

Image credit: Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash