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What Can You Do With a Finance Degree?

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Finance is one of the top subjects for giving students both great graduate job prospects and high earning potential – with the PayScale College Salary Report 2017-18 indicating US graduates with a bachelor’s degree in finance earn an average of $57,500 in their early career, rising to $97,100 once they have 10 or more years of experience.

If you want to study finance, there are a wide range of careers you could pursue after you graduate, with finance graduates sought after for roles in accountancy firms, investment and high street banks, insurance firms, management consultancies, the public sector and other areas.  Read on for an overview of the main careers in finance, in which we’ll include the average salary you can expect, using data from PayScale, and if you’re thinking of improving your career prospects even further by pursuing a master’s in finance, you may like to view the new QS World University Rankings: Masters in Finance Rankings 2018.

Financial analyst

Average salary: $58,374 in the US, £31,193 in the UK

The first of these careers in finance is one which allows you to combine your knowledge and interest in multiple disciplines, such as maths, accounting and economics. As a financial or investment analyst, you’ll be employed in gathering and analyzing financial data to guide the investment decisions of your employer, which could be an individual, a non-profit organization, government, or other businesses. You’ll be involved with recommending the best course of action when identifying and overcoming investment challenges, and will need to stay aware of the market trends and investment opportunities in your specialist area.

To become a financial analyst, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in finance, or a similar subject such as economics or statistics. You’ll also need to be a strategic thinker with a strong understanding of statistics and good presentation skills.

Financial manager

Average salary: $87,436 in the US, £37,820 in the UK

Financial managers develop and maintain the overall financial goals of their company. Your exact tasks will vary depending on your company size, with financial managers involved with strategic analysis in large companies, while those in smaller companies may be responsible for collecting and preparing accounts. In general, the role involves managing budgets, reviewing financial reports, managing employees in the finance department, analyzing market trends, developing a network of financial contacts, and analyzing the results of investments.

To become a financial manager, you’ll need a strong relevant degree, as well as strong commercial awareness, analytical and numerical skills, and personal qualities such as teamwork, leadership, decision-making and problem-solving.

Chartered accountant

Average salary: $91,299 in the US, £34,625 in the UK

As a finance graduate, you’ll also possess many of the skills needed for a career in accountancy. As a chartered accountant, you’ll be employed by a multinational organization, government body or private company to undertake financial audits, give financial advice, and manage financial systems and budgets, dealing with issues such as insolvency. You’ll probably specialize in a particular area, such as auditing, management consultancy, forensic accountancy, corporate finance or taxation.

To become a chartered accountant, you’ll need to complete a professional qualification (in the UK this is the ACA, which requires you to pass exams and take part in at least three years of training on the job). In the US, you’ll need to train to become a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), which involves sitting the Uniform CPA Exam.

Financial adviser

Average salary: $58,456 in the US, £34,455 in the UK

Expected to be one of the fastest-growing careers in finance over the next decade, financial advisors (also referred to as financial planners or wealth managers) provide specialist advice to their clients on how to manage their money, including how to choose investments, savings, pensions, mortgages or insurance products. Financial advisors may be independent or restricted, with independent financial advisers (IFA) researching and considering all financial products on the market.

You must follow strict industry rules in this role and have professional qualifications. In the UK, you can gain entry to this job through an apprenticeship, graduate training scheme or by progressing to it after working as a paraplanner (providing administrative support to a financial adviser). In the US, you need to pass the Series 7 exam, managed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). 

Actuary

Average salary: $82,735 in the US, £53,723 in the UK

Actuaries forecast, assess, manage and advise on future financial risks. They use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to assess the risk of an event occurring, and help their employer take steps to minimize the risk’s likely cost. Actuaries mainly work in investment banks, insurance companies, pension funds and corporate finance, and apply mathematical modeling techniques, statistical modelling tools and probability theories to economic markets.

Actuaries need to have effective communication skills in order to present complex information to non-specialists. You’ll also need a strong background in mathematics, statistics, and business, and will need to qualify to become an actuary by becoming a student member of a professional actuarial body – in the UK this is the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA), while in the US you can get certified through the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) or the Society of Actuaries (SOA). 

Other careers in finance

Other careers you can pursue with a finance degree include roles within financial trading, which involves buying and selling financial instruments such as stocks, bonds, assets and shares for investors such as individuals or banks. You may also find the fast-paced, challenging role of a stockbroker interesting, in which you’ll manage and support clients in making informed decisions to invest in the best shares to buy or sell to get the most return on their money. You could also work within commercial banking as a teller, sales associate, trust officer, loan officer, or branch manager. Or, if you have an overlapping interest in law, a role as a licensed conveyancer may suit you, in which you’ll work as a specialist in property law to deal with legal, administrative and financial aspects of property transactions. Finance graduates could also pursue roles in the hedge fund, taxation, management consultancy and data science sectors.

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‘What Can You Do With a Finance Degree?’ is part of our ‘What Can You Do With…’ series. We have also covered artbiologybusiness, communicationscomputer scienceEnglish, engineeringfashionhistory, geographylawmarketingmathematicsperforming artsphilosophypoliticspsychologysociologychemistryeconomics and physics.

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Sabrina Collier's profile image
Written by Sabrina Collier
Sabrina is a content writer for TopUniversities.com, providing guidance on a wide range of topics. A graduate of Aberystwyth University, Sabrina is originally from the West Midlands but now lives in London. 

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