The financial industry offers challenging and lucrative career opportunities for finance professionals. As a finance professional, there is a plethora of roles that you can explore. You may join the finance department of a corporation, work in the banking and financial services sector, or enter the lucrative world of investment banking and financial markets. If selling insurance products or assessing the risk of loss is what interests you, then the actuarial industry will be the right fit. (To learn more, check out A Look At Entry-Level Careers In Finance.)
TUTORIAL: Financial Careers
Many of these careers offer above average pay, and some of them offer very attractive salaries. At the entry-level, the jobs that pay you best are in the field of financial analysis and sales. The high paying jobs lean more towards the managerial roles.
As a financial analyst, or an investment analyst, your primary role involves performing financial analysis for internal and external clients to help them make investment decisions. A sales job is more oriented towards selling financial products and services. Financial analysis and sales careers can be started with a bank, insurance company or even a securities firm. According to salary.com, the salaries earned by financial analysts vary widely starting from $38,765 and going as high as $102,977 on average.
As you move up on the career ladder you will gain access to higher-paying roles. How much you can earn in a chosen career primarily depends on two characteristics: the level of responsibility and accountability the job demands, and the consequences of making mistakes. (For more, read 6 Steps To Successfully Switching Financial Careers.)
For example, in an insurance firm, it is important they have an accurate estimate of risk the firm is taking, and how much premium it's charging for the given amount of risk. Any significant deviations can lead to significant losses. That's the reason why actuaries are paid among the highest in the industry. Actuaries interpret statistics to determine probabilities of accidents, sickness, death, and loss of property from theft and natural disasters. According to a Career Cast 2011 survey, actuary was the third-best job in 2011 with an average salary of $87,204.
Chief Financial Officer
Another top-paying career option is to become a Chief Financial Officer or a financial manager in large corporation. These are among the most highly-paid managerial jobs in finance. As a CFO or a finance manager, you are responsible for all financial aspects of the business including financial risk management, planning, bookkeeping and financial reporting. The median salaries are $336,669, but this can be even higher in large corporations.
Within corporations, you can also build your career as an accounts manager. An accounts manager is responsible for managing the general accounting function. The accounts manager will ensure that all internal accounting processes are followed, and also oversee the completion of ledger accounts and financial statements. Some organizations may require the CPA designation and at least seven years of experience in the accounting field according to salary.com. The median salary for accounts manager is $83,708 in the United States. (For some insight on past high-paying jobs, see Top 10 Highest-Paying Jobs For 2011.)
Risk management within banks and financial institutions is another area that has gained tremendous importance in the past few years. As a risk manager, you will be responsible for managing a variety of risks faced by different business units, the key risks being credit risk, market risk, operational risks and liquidity risk. Banks have invested huge amounts of resources in sophisticated technology and people to help them measure, manage and mitigate these risks. Jobs in this area are expected to grow in the future. Many banks look for specialized knowledge about risk management while hiring mid-level to senior positions. One way to start a career as a risk manager is to get certified as a risk manager by PRMIA or GARP, the two risk management certification bodies. According to a salary.com survey, risk managers earn an average salary of $94,606 per annum in the U.S. The pay scale can vary from $80,000 to $111,000.
Another lucrative financial career is to become a financial advisor. As a financial advisor, you will be required to advise clients in managing and planning their finances. You are required to have thorough knowledge about taxes, investment options, financial products, insurance, pension and real estate. With this knowledge, you help your clients set their financial goals, devise investment strategies based on their risk appetite, manage their taxes and so on. According to PayScale.com, the average salaries for financial advisors can range from $24,000 to $101,000 in the U.S.
The Bottom Line
These are some of the top-paying financial careers. The job requirements and how much you can earn in these careers is also influenced by the location you work at. For example, the same job will pay differently in New York than in Detroit. There is a job in the market for every financial passion, be it helping the individual investor plan his or her long-term finances, monitoring a company's financial resources and helping allocate it, or developing financial products or trading in them. Finance has something for everyone. Let your interest and knowledge guide you. (To learn more, read Top 10 Cities For A Career In Finance.)