Jobs in the finance industry can be rewarding—in some cases, they also pay very well. That means they are in high demand, with requirements for entry as lofty as some salaries plus bonuses. For most of these jobs, an undergraduate degree is a must. Many finance professionals have post-graduate degrees as well, typically an MBA. Other master’s degrees and Ph.D.s are not uncommon in this industry. What's more, advanced skills in statistics and mathematics are prized.
These jobs can offer above-average pay to start and go up from there. Here's an overview of high-paying finance jobs and some of the skills they may require.
- Finance industry jobs can have tough entry requirements.
- Many finance industry jobs require substantial education, especially in math, economics, and statistics.
- The industry seeks professionals with both hard and soft skills.
- High-paying financial positions include portfolio manager, corporate finance manager, investment banker, trader, economic analyst, and financial analyst.
- Financial careers can be lucrative, especially if bonuses are involved, but they also can be demanding and stressful.
Skills Needed for Jobs in Finance
It isn't easy to get a job in the financial industry with just industry-specific skills. Interpersonal skills that demonstrate your ability to understand, communicate, solve problems, and lead are also in demand. Here's a list of some of the skills employers in the finance industry are looking for in applicants.
- Financial Planning: Develop strategies to achieve all kinds of short- and long-term financial goals.
- Financial Reporting: Prepare documentation on various scales, whether large (company-wide) or smaller (division-wide), that demonstrates financial status to internal and/or external audiences (such as management, investors, or the government).
- Cash Flow Management: Monitor, analyze, and optimize cash flow to allow a company to capitalize on opportunities, avoid financial loss, and make more effective business decisions.
- Accounting: Record, track, summarize, manage, and report the financial transactions of a company.
- Budgeting: Manage a substantial amount of money effectively, allotting it to various areas of an organization.
- Risk Analysis: Analyze financial documents to find any areas that reveal an actual or potential financial risk for a company or organization.
- Financial Software: Proficiency with software that automates work and provides a digital platform/interface for financial processes, such as analytics and accounting software.
- Mathematics—Arithmetic, Algebra, Statistics: Arithmetic is a fundamental skill for a financial profession, no matter what the area. Algebra can be an asset, despite the use of software programs for many processes. Statistics is involved in collecting and analyzing data related to, for example, market trends and investment recommendations.
- Attention to Detail: Dealing with data carefully and precisely, whether observing it or entering it, is crucial for financial accuracy and successful financial work on behalf of a company and its clients.
- Comprehension: Thoroughly understand tasks, the process for getting them done, and the best ways to get what may be needed from others to achieve the objective.
- Communication—Verbal and Written: Working with others, as part of a team or when interacting with people in departments, management, or the executive suite requires the ability to properly formulate messaging (reports, proposals, summaries, recommendations, etc.) and convey it to others in a way that's clear and won't be misunderstood.
- Client Interaction: A job may require direct interaction with clients, as well. This may involve communication about market conditions, trends, portfolio values, and investment opportunities. It's crucial that applicants communicate well.
- Solution Development: Also known as problem-solving. Develop ideas to make things work and function smoothly. Deal successfully with difficult situations and people. Do what's needed to get the job done.
- Decision-Making: Demonstrate the ability and willingness to determine options and select those that best address the challenge at hand.
Portfolio Management Jobs
Portfolio management is a prestigious role in the finance industry. Portfolio managers, also known as money managers, directly oversee institutional and retail client investments in their daily work. They have a great responsibility. They recommend investment strategies and specific investments tailored to clients. They usually have discretionary power to execute those strategies to fulfill the client's goals.
It’s common for portfolio managers to specialize in particular asset classes, such as equities or fixed income. However, some managers are even more focused. For example, a manager may specialize in certain types of stocks, blockchain-related startups, or high-yield bonds.
Focused funds that employ these types of managers may seek individuals with research analysis backgrounds. Other firms with broader mandates, such as a multi-asset class strategy, often look for managers with a similarly broad investment knowledge and experience base.
There are a variety of portfolio manager employers:
- Investment companies and financial service firms that offer funds for retail clients
- Investment banks that provide strategic advice and investments to various institutions and even governments
- Commercial banks that offer a range of investments to their customers
- Money management firms
- Portfolio management companies
- Hedge funds that cater to high-net-worth individuals
After earning a four-year college degree and a graduate degree, many individuals seeking money manager jobs also obtain the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.
Typically, a portfolio manager position is a destination job that does not lead anywhere else. Thus, rather than continue to climb a career ladder, portfolio managers may take more senior portfolio manager positions, manage increasing amounts of money, or leave to start their own firm or hedge fund.
Investment Portfolio Manager salary range as of July 2022: $114,786 - $158,299.
Corporate Finance Jobs
Another career path is the finance department of a corporation. Specialists in this field can work in a variety of industries.
Types of Corporate Finance Jobs
- Finance Manager: Every corporation has finance managers. Finance manager is among the top-paying jobs in the financial industry. They are responsible for all financial aspects of a business, including risk management, planning, bookkeeping, and financial reporting.
- Accounts Manager: The accounts manager is responsible for the general accounting function and oversees the completion of ledger accounts and financial statements.
- Some organizations may require individuals to have a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation and at least seven years of experience in the accounting field.
- Risk Management: Risk managers stay on top of a wide range of potential pitfalls, including credit risk, market risk, operational risk, and liquidity risk.
Companies increasingly invest vast sums of money in sophisticated technology and people to help them measure, manage, and mitigate these risks.
The field has gained tremendous importance in banks and financial institutions since the Great Recession, as numerous scandals and failures led to tighter government and industry regulations and higher accountability standards.
One way to get started in a career as a risk manager is to get certified by the Professional Risk Managers' International Association (PRMIA) or the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP), two risk management certification organizations.
- Risk Control Manager salary range as of July 2022: $110,590 - $137,290
- Accounting Manager salary range as of July 2022: $101,244 - $128,273
- Finance Manager salary range as of July 2022: $111,399 - $140,628
Investment Banking Jobs
Investment banks typically work with corporations, governments, and other large financial institutions to help them raise capital or to advise them on business and financial strategies. These bankers work at alternative asset management companies, including venture capital firms and private equity institutions. Many of the professionals in this area have MBAs from more prestigious schools.
The banks invest in new or growing ventures, facilitate mergers and acquisitions, and take companies public. They also frequently buy and sell a range of investment products, such as stocks, bonds, and other securities.
Two top names in investment banking are Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, but they are not the only ones hiring investment bankers. Investment banking departments exist within big commercial banks such as Citigroup and at smaller regional and boutique banks.
Types of Investment Banking Jobs
- Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A): Bankers focusing on mergers and acquisitions specialize in providing strategic advice to companies looking to merge with their competitors or buy companies. M&A bankers utilize financial modeling in an effort to evaluate these deals. They must also be able to interact successfully with clients, as these jobs typically require working with high-profile executives. M&A specialists must be able to convey their strategies effectively
- Underwriting: Raising capital is part of a bank’s underwriting department. Underwriting specialists typically focus on debt or equity and often have an industry-based focus as well. These bankers commonly serve in client-facing roles, working with outside contacts to determine capital needs while at the same time working in-house with traders and security salespeople to find the best options. Underwriting is not limited entirely to investment banks and has spread to larger universal banks to a great degree in recent years.
- Private Equity: Many investment banks have private equity arms, although private equity jobs are also found at smaller, specialist firms. Bankers in this area raise money for non-public enterprises and companies. They keep a portion of any profits they are able to generate through deals. It’s common for private equity professionals to have prior experience at investment banks, as well as outstanding academic credentials.
- Venture Capital: Venture capital firms tend to specialize in providing new capital to emerging companies, often in rapidly-developing industries, including tech, biotech, and green technology. Venture capitalists often prosper by getting their financial stake in and their profits out at the early stages of development, producing massive returns on investment. Employees of venture capital firms are typically both adept at number crunching and deal-making and clued into new technologies and ideas.
Salary ranges for these professions are:
- M&A Investment Banker salary range as of May 2022: $63,000 - $248,000
- Underwriter salary range as of July 2022: $59,000 - $127,000
- Private equity associate salary range as of July 2022: $86,616 - $115,205
- Venture capital entry salary range as of July 2022: $143,501 - $238,201
Trading jobs can be found at commercial and investment banks, asset management firms, hedge funds, and more. Wherever they work, traders strive to earn a profit for their employer or their clients by buying and selling securities.
Traders for asset management firms seek the best security price when conducting trades on behalf of a client. Traders for hedge funds aim to take long and short positions in an attempt to benefit from market movements.
Many traders have advanced degrees in statistics, mathematics, or related fields of study. It’s also common for traders to take the Series 7 and Series 63 exams early in their careers.
Types of Trading Jobs
- Sell-Side Traders: Sell-side traders typically work for investment banking firms, advisory firms, and corporations that issue, sell, and trade securities.
- Buy-Side Traders: Buy-side companies like asset management firms and pension funds also employ traders. They typically conduct buying and selling under the direction of a portfolio manager.
- Hedge Fund Traders: Hedge fund traders are not working to satisfy client orders but to maximize profits for the fund itself. Like buy-side trading jobs, traders at hedge funds may take orders from a portfolio manager. Or, they may decide on their own trades.
Salaries for these professions are:
- Sell-Side Trader salary range as of August 2022: $68,500 - $143,000
- Buy-Side Trader salary range as of August 2022: $52,000 - $200,000
- Hedge Fund Trader salary range as of July 2022: $86,722 - $131,123
Economic Analysis Jobs
Economic analysts observe broad areas of the economy and the markets to look for and analyze significant trends.
These jobs tend to appeal to individuals who enjoy analyzing data, tracking trends, and providing opinions regarding the financial markets. Analytical jobs frequently involve writing, public speaking, and ample work with Excel or another spreadsheet application.
While there is a high initial barrier to entry, once in, financial analysts enjoy a degree of flexibility that many other finance jobs do not offer. Analyst jobs can often move between different types of employers.
These jobs are found in many different institutions. They exist at investment banks, money management firms, and other, traditional financial institutions such as banks. They also can be found in government and at academic institutions. Most of these analysts hold an MBA degree or Ph.D.
Types of Economic Analysis Jobs
- Economist: Economists are ubiquitous at a variety of financial institutions. Investment banks, asset management companies, and central banks all employ economists, as do commercial banks, government agencies, and academic institutions. Generally speaking, an economist tracks and analyzes economic data to explain current market or economic conditions and to predict future trends.
- Economic Strategist: There is a fine line between a strategist and an economist. Economists tend to focus on the broad economy, while strategists home in on the financial markets. Strategist jobs are more likely found at banks and money management companies than in academic and government institutions. Many strategists begin their careers as research analysts, focusing on a particular product or industry.
- Quant: While some economic analyst positions require public speaking or writing, quantitative analysts typically work behind the scenes. Professionals in this branch of analysis create mathematical models designed to predict market activity. They can be found at banks, investment banking firms, hedge funds, money management firms, and elsewhere. Most quant workers have backgrounds in mathematics or statistics. They often have a Ph.D.
Salaries for these professions are:
- Economic Strategist salary range as of August 2022: $86,500 - $120,500
- Economist salary range as of July 2022: $76,250 - $103,649
- Quantitative Analyst salary range as of August 2022: $87,000 - $166,500
Financial Analyst Jobs
While they sound similar, these are distinct from the economic analysis jobs discussed above. Analysts at financial industry firms are responsible for researching potential investments and offering opinions and recommendations to help guide traders and portfolio managers.
Financial analysts also work at non-bank corporations, where they typically analyze the company's financial position and help formulate budgetary plans.
Types of Financial Analyst Jobs
- Investment Analyst: Investment analysts typically specialize in one or more areas, including particular regions of the world, industrial or economic sectors, or types of investment securities. Analysts working for sell-side companies usually put out buy and sell recommendations for clients. Analysts working for a buy-side company will often recommend securities to buy or sell for their portfolio managers.
- Financial Analyst: Financial analysts tend to work at more traditional (non-financial) corporations or government agencies. Nearly every large company, regardless of sector or industry, keeps financial analysts on staff to analyze cash flows and expenditures, maintain budgets, and more. These analysts may also help to determine the best capital structure for the corporation. They may assist with raising capital. Financial analysts have the potential to rise through the ranks at their corporation, eventually becoming a treasurer or chief financial officer.
Salaries for these professions are:
- Investment Analyst salary range as of July 2022: $96,185 - $135,383
- Financial Analyst salary range as of July 2022: $55,000 - $92,000
What Is a Portfolio Manager?
A portfolio manager is an individual who manages the buying and selling of investments for the portfolios of their employer or client(s). Clients can be large institutions, organizations, or individuals. Companies have portfolio managers. For example, Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway's owner, manages his company's portfolio.
Are Finance Industry Jobs Only Found at Large Institutions?
No, they can be found at all sizes of companies in all parts of the country. It depends on the type of job you seek. You'll find accountants, finance managers, and economists at small and large companies, academic institutions, and non-profit organizations.
What Education Level Is Required for Financial Industry Jobs?
Although this isn't a given, you'll find that a bachelor's degree is the minimum needed to obtain a job. Higher-level degrees allow you to advance your career more and may provide an opportunity for higher pay.
The Bottom Line
Despite their differences, common characteristics apply to many financial professions. There's stiff competition among applicants and high barriers to entry. While the work environments can be challenging, the jobs usually involve interaction with highly motivated and intelligent colleagues. Most of the jobs require a substantial amount of education as well as stellar academic performance.
Many people are drawn to the financial industry because of the potential for substantial income. However, those who are the most successful tend to also have a distinct passion for their work—in some finance professions, new employees can expect to work between 70 and 90-hour work weeks. The work tends to be stressful, but if you can withstand the first several years, there is a promise of lucrative compensation.