Written on September 15, 2022
But not everybody knows a ton about it.
When someone says that they “work in finance” and then narrows it down by saying they focus on “Fintech,” their daily routine still feels pretty vague. At least for people who work outside that realm, it can be hard to imagine a financial planner’s responsibilities.
On the other hand, if someone says that they work in medicine, it’s pretty easy to narrow down their specialty; they need only say “I’m a pediatrician” or “I study cardiology.” The general public can then quickly picture sneezing children or beating hearts. More often than not, they can also weigh the pros and cons of different fields of medicine based on their topical knowledge, as part of a productive brainstorming sesh, even if they aren’t experienced medical practitioners.
Just like doctors, a successful person in finance will surely know the personal reasons for choosing forensic accounting versus project accounting. However, the nuances between a doctor’s career choices are somewhat easier to understand, even to people outside the field of medicine. But your Great Aunt Jean, the average layperson, might not be able to give much insight along the way.
If you ask Aunt Jean what type of financial services to pursue, she may admit that she just doesn’t know enough about the differences between commercial banks, investment banks, brokerage firms and so on.
If you are working in the finance industry, you and your peers will realize that its meanings are complex and layered; it offers ample space to find your “calling,” but sometimes friends and family outside of the finance world won’t be able to weigh the pros and cons with you.
Therefore, using your networking skills to seek out professional connections — people who know the ins and outs of monetary transactions — is often the safer bet when seeking career advice in the finance industry.
Even entry-level peers, who may still have a lot to learn before calling themselves an expert, will understand your dilemmas well. They can brainstorm with you on questions like: do I fit into the sell-side of transactions or the buy-side? Should I work for a large firm, or as an accountant in other industries?
Friends and mentors — who have the vocabulary of an economist — can help decipher your target occupation productively, based on your individual strengths, interests and desired salary.
Your salary is not the only criteria you’ll use when deciding which businesses you apply to. However, there is no shame in admitting that it guides the path you take. Why? Employees who manage accounts and investments are taking on a high-risk position — and they deserve to be compensated well for it. Hence, stockbrokers, insurance agents, quantitative analysts, et al., who commit to working in fast-paced, pressure-filled roles, are paid very well. It’s in accordance with the work they’re putting in!
So, we’re talking to you, aspiring finance analysts:
As you read through the following list of profitable entry-level, high-level and executive finance jobs, you can weigh the risks and rewards of each. Even if your current focus is finding an entry-level opportunity, as you read, consider the high-level jobs you’d like to reach for over time.
🎓 Entry Level
Salary: In the US, Investment Banking Analysts make an average of $85,106 per year.
Role: Investment analysts perform industry-specific market research and risk analysis. They also create valuation models and present their findings to investment bankers on their team, who will direct clients in making lucrative investments accordingly.
Professional Growth: The average IB Analyst works for 2-3 years before being promoted to an associate role. For recent finance grads who feel undecided about what route to take, it’s the perfect chance to gain a competitive edge via valuable work experience, plus regular exposure to different subsectors.
Long Hours: IB Analysts must be prepared to commit up to 100 hours per week.
🎓 Entry Level
Salary: In the US, Budget Analysts make an average of $65,723 per year.
Role: Budget Analysts work alongside project managers to determine a public or private organization’s budget. They evaluate and approve managerial staff’s expense proposals, ensure financial compliance with laws and regulations, monitor company spending and estimate future funding needs.
Predictable Work Routine: Budget Analysts will typically commit to 40 hour work weeks, without projects spilling into their evenings and weekends.
Stable Employment Opportunities: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that job opportunities for Budget Analysts will grow by 5% between 2020 and 2030.
High Stakes: If an analyst’s calculations are incorrect, it can detrimentally affect their company’s success and growth.
Little Creativity: Like many finance roles, these positions are regimented and don’t leave much room for creativity at work.
Salary: In the US, Financial Analysts make an average of $63,514 per year.
Role: Financial Analysts are in charge of predicting an organization's future needs, by closely analyzing its past revenue, cash flow, expenses and sales. In turn, they create detailed financial models, which are shared with executive management, to evaluate how to correct structural issues and promote business growth.
Communication: Financial Analysts are in a unique position to get to know senior management, since they are handling confidential information.
Perks: By playing such a big role in formulating a company’s growth strategy and deciphering strong investments, Financial Analysts receive ample opportunities to earn bonuses and share-based compensation.
High-Pressure: Handling a company’s confidential information and guiding its transactions produces many high-stakes scenarios.
Long Hours: Financial Analysts should be prepared to commit anywhere between 50 and 70 hours per week.
A Well-Rounded Research Analyst Has The Following Skills:
Image Source: Corporate Finance Institute
🎓 Entry Level
Salary: In the US, Accountants make an average of $58,819 per year.
Role: Accountants apply rigorous mathematical and organizational skills to ensure that an organization stays in compliance with laws and regulations, all bookkeeping needs are met, and all transactions are carried out smoothly. Their responsibilities include performing audits, reconciling bank statements, computing and paying taxes on time, executing payroll, sending invoices and more.
Wealth of Opportunities: Accounting jobs are unique in that all businesses need them—not just banks, hedge funds, insurance companies, etc. Accountants can choose to pursue a career in companies of all sizes and disciplines, for instance nonprofit organizations, startups, advertising agencies and so on.
Stable Employment Opportunities: The BLS reports the employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow by 6% in the next decade. This rate is as fast as the average for all occupations.
Seasonal Crunch Times: Accountants’ workloads become significantly heavier at the beginning of January until Tax Day, the 15th of April.
🎓 Entry Level | 👩🏻💻 Experienced
Salary: In the US, Quantitative Analysts make an average of $116,234 per year.
Role: Quants apply scientific methods and algorithms to the world of finance, in order to predict a market’s performance and arrange automated trading. They use data science, statistics and software development to decipher patterns and signals that a human eye might miss. Altogether, their job is to address financial and risk management problems through a numbers-only lens, to make predictions separate from human logic and emotions.
Intellectually Challenging: Quants are people who seek out challenges and stimulation. As career advice writer Laura Bridgestock puts it, “You need to be able to thrive in an environment with little supervision and under considerable pressure…unlike many other jobs, success in this field is based on merit [and] dedication.”
Future Opportunities: Quants are in a good position to move into other areas of finance if they’d like.
High-Stake Decisions: Quants make some of the most high-stakes decisions in finance. If the model they create is flawed or misses a signal, they could be responsible for losing large sums of money.
🎓 Entry Level | 👩🏻💻 Experienced
Salary: In the US, Quantitative Analysts make an average of $83,800 per year.
Role: Financial managers work for major companies and agencies, like banks, insurance firms and insurance companies. To protect the business’ financial health, they regularly generate financial reports, supervise investment activities and promote long-term growth.
Stable Employment Opportunities: As one of the highest-paying roles in finance, the BLS predicts that Financial Manager positions will see a 15% increase in employment opportunities between 2020 and 2030.
Time Commitment: Compared with other finance jobs, it can take much longer (up to 7 years) to become a Financial Manager, since many employers opt for applicants with an MBA.
Salary: In the US, Hedge Fund Managers make an average of $136,723 per year.
Role: Hedge Fund Managers raises adequate capital and defines a cohesive investment and risk management strategy to manage a high-risk portfolio. With the help of a team of their analysts and traders, a manager determines where to invest a pool of capital, while networking to acquire new investors and corresponding with existing ones.
Long Hours, but Not As Long: Unlike most investment banking jobs, which involve at least 12-16 hours a day, In contrast, Hedge Fund Managers can often count on 12-hour days, which is still significant, but also rewarding.
Stock Market Volatility: In this case, the name of the game is taking risks. To be a Hedge Fund Manager, you need to be resilient against big losses, for the sake of big wins, and endure stressful periods of time.
Salary: In the US, Tax Directors make an average of $140,293 per year.
Role: Tax Directors are in charge of structuring and implementing a sturdy tax strategy that complies with state and federal tax laws. This means overseeing all tax-related operations to prevent being audited.
Creates Entrepreneurial Skills: As The World Finance Review puts it, “while you’re working for another company, you [will] liaise with internal and external auditors. This is a chance to network and build connections in the industry for when you open your own accounting firm.”
Inconsistent Hours: Like accountants, Tax Directors face immensely busy seasons at the end of the fiscal year, which can make it hard to have a personal life during that period of time.
👩🏻💻 Experienced | 🕴🏼 Executive
Salary: In the US, Controllers make an average of $96,312 per year.
Role: Financial Controllers manage risk, accounting tasks and publish financial statements.
Wealth of Opportunities: Like accounting jobs, controllers enjoy the ability to choose from a wide range of businesses and industries outside the finance industry itself.
Not Very Stimulating: Since a Controller follows a standard procedure every day, they don’t experience much creativity or suspense on the job. For those looking for an upbeat finance job, they might want to look elsewhere.
Salary: In the US, CFOs make an average of $119,798 per year.
Role: Chief financial officers are at the top of the food chain in terms of an organization’s finance and accounting teams. By reviewing the financial and operational data provided their employees, the CFO is able to forecast and ultimately direct where and when to invest company funds, while consulting their CEO and board.
Precedence: If you are a passionate CFO, your success as an individual is likely intertwined with your organization’s success. Thanks to your place in the company hierarchy, you have the power to improve business agility and promote growth.
Responsibility: Of course, a company’s CFO takes on an immense responsibility. Theirri passion and dedication is needed in order to ensure the organization’s stability, and by extension, the economic stability of their employees.
Your salary shouldn’t be the only deciding factor in what kind of role you take on, but since finance is such a high-stakes industry, you should recognize the value of the work you are putting in.