What is the average salary that a finance major can expect? At first glance, it doesn’t appear that a degree in finance is the ticket to a career with stellar pay. The average recipient of a B.S. in finance takes in $60,000 a year, according to the website Payscale. When you consider all bachelor degree recipients, the median (half earn less, half earn more) is slightly higher: $61,000.
Dig a little deeper, however, and it becomes apparent just how many finance-related careers pay well above average. Here’s a look at how you can expect to fare in some of the field's more common occupations.
• Graduates with a finance degree can work for a wide range of employers, from Wall Street banks and insurance companies to financial-planning firms.
• Some finance graduates go on to pursue a CPA license, although it will likely require additional accounting coursework at the undergraduate or graduate level.
• Financial analysts are among the better-paid professionals in the field, with many at larger firms making upwards of $100,000 at the start of their career.
Some people feel less comfortable making financial decisions, such as buying life insurance and investing for retirement, than others do. That's why there’s considerable demand for financial planners, who can help these individuals strategize.
Financial planners often work for insurance companies or brokerage houses, often as representatives who make commissions based on the products they sell. An independent advisor representative (IAR), on the other hand, works for fee-based (i.e. non-commissioned) advisory firms or sets up their own planning business. Often, IARs provide a broader range of services, such as budgeting and tax guidance, in addition to offering investment advice.
A planner's median annual compensation is $88,890, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). What's more, employment within the field is expected to increase 15% between 2016 and 2026, far outpacing most fields.
Corporate Finance Professional
Major corporations often have entire departments tasked with helping the company raise and manage the capital that fuels their operations. Finance majors can pursue a number of different paths in corporate finance, most of which tend to pay very respectably.
Those who work on the treasury team, for example, help the company manage its cash, develop a strategy for short-term investments, and analyze foreign exchange transactions. A job as a treasury analyst pays $57,043 a year on average, according to Payscale. However, corporate treasurers, who have more experience, make an average salary of $117,450.
Meanwhile, the median pay for budget analysts—the professionals who examine how the organization spends money—is a solid $76,220.
Junior-level associates may find themselves handling an array of tasks, including helping to research different investment options and preparing presentations. Later in their career, however, they may take on management roles and shoulder greater responsibility over investment strategies.
Individuals who develop this expertise typically make a good living, with the average wealth management professional enjoying a base salary of $94,231, according to the job-search website Glassdoor.
While the responsibilities of financial analysts can vary based on where they work, their basic role is to help large organizations make prudent investment decisions. They may examine economic trends, meet with a company’s management team, and pore over financial statements in order to develop an appropriate investment plan. Typically, they use that information to develop financial models that help predict the potential outcome of different strategies.
The work of financial analysts breaks down into two basic categories: Buy-side analysts often work on behalf of insurance companies, foundations, and other institutional investors, providing advice to the money managers responsible for those clients. Sell-side analysts, on the other hand, are employed by brokerage firms and provide their clients with recommendations on whether to buy or sell certain securities.
The median pay for analysts in 2018 was $85,660 per year, according to the BLS. However, working for large Wall Street banks can be even more lucrative. Professionals there often start out making between $100,000 and $125,000, according to the job site WayUp.
Major investment banks such as J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs need people who can advise companies on how to raise capital as well as how to go about acquiring or merging with other businesses.
It’s a fast-paced career that can involve some very long hours—especially at top Wall Street firms—but it certainly pays well for those who are successful. According to data from Wall Street Oasis, analysts, who are on the lowest rung, start at anywhere from $70,000 to $150,000. Once you become an associate, you’ll likely bring in between $150,000 and $350,000 a year (and those who make it to “vice president” earn even more).
Investment banking is one of the more financially rewarding careers, but those in entry-level jobs can work more than 80 hours a week at bigger firms.
The role of a management analyst—sometimes known as a management consultant—is another well-paid career you can seek out with a finance degree. According to BLS data, the median pay in 2018 was $83,610.
Management consultants help businesses identify ways to cut costs and boost revenue. To do that, they have to possess strong financial analysis skills as well as an understanding of the competitive landscape in which a firm operates. They may, for example, help a company focus its resources on markets where the firm can achieve greater profitability.
The most obvious path to becoming an accountant is to get a bachelor’s degree in—you guessed it—accounting. But an undergraduate finance degree lets you cast a wider net when it’s time to get a job. And with some extra coursework, you can still sit for the CPA exam, an accreditation that leads to higher pay than non-CPA accounting roles.
Several states require students to obtain 150 semester hours of coursework in order to obtain the CPA license. Strictly speaking, you don’t need a master’s degree to take the exam. But if you’re a finance major, getting there may require a graduate degree in accounting or an MBA with a concentration in accounting.
A 2017 survey by the Journal of Accountancy found that the average salary for CPAs was $119,000, with the typical entry-level position generating a salary of $66,000.
Before lending money to businesses or individuals, banks need to have a reasonable expectation that the borrower will pay them back. One of the main responsibilities of loan officers is to assess that risk. They’ll often talk to loan applicants and evaluate their borrowing history before making a recommendation to the bank or mortgage company for which they work.
According to the BLS, median pay for loan officers in 2018 was $63,040 per year. It appears that the job market for these professionals will remain strong over the next few years, with the BLS estimating 11% employment growth between 2016 and 2026.
The Bottom Line
While finance degrees overall may not pay more than other educational tracks, there are plenty of finance-related jobs that are very lucrative. Some of the careers that pay the most, such as investment banking, involve very long hours, so anyone who wants a more balanced work-life balance might want to look elsewhere.