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10 Best Jobs in Finance That Pay Well

And what you’d make in each role

Woman working in finance
Photo courtesy of Annika Palmari

Are you great with numbers and love tracking the markets? Finance jobs can bring in high salaries and are exceedingly in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are 6.43 million people working within the finance and insurance industries, and the average salary across the board is $91,866.

Let’s break down the different categories that exist under the finance career umbrella:

  • Corporate finance: Handling a company’s finances

  • Financial advising: Helping people and organizations with fiscal planning

  • Investment: Facilitating connections between investors and people in need of funding, or giving advice about where to invest

  • Banking: Working in a bank as a teller, loan officer, or director

  • Accounting: Helping organizations or individuals with records and workflows

  • Insurance: Working as an actuary, insurance salesperson, or agent

So, when you’re thinking about working in finance, these different categories give you options for whether you want to work for a large organization or run your own show. Each environment will differ based on the specific services provided and the types of clients you’ll be working with. And, some require just a bachelor’s degree to get started, while others all but demand an MBA or FINRA license.

Of course, having a good salary is a big factor when choosing the right finance career path, as is landing a job at one of the best companies. Here are the top 10 finance jobs based on median or average salary.

The 10 best jobs in finance that pay well 

1. Financial manager

Median salary: $131,710

Financial managers top our list with quite an enticing salary. These professionals may work for banks, insurance companies, investment firms, and other entities, and they take on tasks like directing investments, creating plans and forecasts, and creating financial reports. 

These managers need to be adept in many different financial areas to provide advice and expertise to their organization. They also should be great communicators and people managers, since they’ll have to oversee other employees and work with several different departments.

Financial managers will usually have at least a bachelor’s degree and many years of experience as a financial analyst, accountant, or other business or financial role within an organization, like a bank or corporation.

2. Economist

Median salary: $105,630

To become an economist, you typically need to have an advanced degree, like an MBA or other master’s degree. Some entry-level jobs in this field are available to professionals with bachelor’s degrees, including government jobs. 

Economists are experts in analyzing the financial market, taking on research tasks and gathering data. They assess trends and economic issues and may make projections and forecasts. Economists also evaluate issues related to the production and distribution of goods and services. With such high-demand skills, many economists work for government agencies or large organizations. 

3. Securities trader

Average salary: $101,290

Securities trading is another very lucrative field. Securities traders work for hedge funds, financial management firms, investment banks, and others. They are in charge of selling securities on behalf of the firm’s assets, and they may work in stocks, crypto, commodities, and other markets. Some traders specialize in one type of investment or class of assets. 

Securities traders may work on the sell or buy side of transactions, or to maximize profits for a hedge fund. Some traders end up forming their own hedge funds after working for a while in the field.

Most security traders obtain at least a four-year degree, and some hold advanced degrees in mathematics, statistics, or business, including an MBA. Sometimes that high salary can be increased even more with bonuses, which are common for securities traders.

4. Investment banker

Average base salary: $101,187

Investment bankers are paid a little differently than other finance professionals. They usually get paid a base salary or hourly wage, and then make a big portion of their income from bonuses.

According to the Corporate Finance Institute, a base salary for an investment banking analyst is between $85,000 and $100,000, and they may get an annual bonus of $50,000 to $100,000 on top of it.

Investment bankers provide expertise in financial modeling and analysis, and they’re in charge of major transactions for banks. They have to be familiar with valuation models for stocks and bonds.

These jobs can be competitive. You’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree in economics or business, plus an MBA, preferably from a top school.

5. Financial risk manager

Median salary: $99,949

Financial risk managers are other common positions within banks and financial services firms. Some large corporations hire risk managers on staff who work under financial managers and alongside analysts.

These professionals are experts at identifying financial risks within the market and business operations. They stay on top of new laws and regulations that impact businesses and the overall economy. Risk managers create analyses and reports based on risks and forecasts. 

Sometimes risk managers have to present their findings to business leadership, so they need to be great communicators. They need to have strong problem-solving skills and experience in statistics. 

Financial risk managers usually need to have a four-year degree in finance, and many obtain MBAs and other master’s degrees. Risk managers can eventually become financial managers for corporations.

6. Actuary

Average base salary: $98,873

Actuary jobs are niche positions, working for a variety of entities that need assistance assessing financial risk. Actuaries may work for banks, investment firms, insurance companies, accounting businesses, government agencies, and even hospitals.

These professionals assess monetary risks and make predictions for the future using numbers, statistics, and theory. They create reports and gather and analyze data to estimate probabilities of gains and losses.

To become an actuary, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in statistics, math, business, finance, or actuarial sciences, plus you need professional certification from the Casualty Actuarial Society or Society of Actuaries, becoming a fellow or associate.

7. Personal financial advisor

Median salary: $94,170

Financial advisors can either advise organizations or individuals. Personal financial advisors work with individuals, providing guidance on how they can best manage their money and create successful plans for the future to meet their goals.

Self-employment is common for advisors, so they can set their own schedule and pricing and decide how many clients to take on at a time. This means they’re more able to provide services on the weekends or in the evenings to accommodate other working professionals.

Financial advisors will usually need to have a four-year degree, and many have advanced degrees in business or finance.

8. Financial analyst

Median salary: $81,410

Financial analysts are common positions, especially for entry-level finance jobs. Analysts may work within large corporations or financial firms, where they look into different potential investments, assess portfolios, and provide recommendations to managers. 

They also analyze how a company is doing financially and help them form or alter budgets as needed. Financial analysts may also work with individuals in helping them know where to put their money and increase their profits.

To work as a financial analyst, you need a bachelor’s degree in finance or business plus an MBA. You may also want to become a chartered financial analyst (CFA) and obtain a FINRA license.

Financial analysts should be great communicators and have extensive knowledge of analytics, math, and business. It’s a great role to start out with a nice salary and grow into a higher position like a financial manager. 

9. Accountant

Median salary: $73,560

Accountants are very common positions for people working in finance. The BLS found that there were over 1.39 million accountant and auditor jobs in 2020 in the U.S.

These professionals need to have a four-year degree, and becoming a certified public accountant (CPA) typically helps job prospects. Accountants may work on staff for companies and firms, or they could run their own accounting practice.

Accountants are in charge of recording transactions, planning for taxes, preparing and submitting tax returns, and financial auditing. They assess reports to provide cash flow guidance and best practices, and they may provide suggestions to improve budgets and spending.

10. Insurance agent

Average base salary: $69,403

Insurance agents are in charge of selling different types of insurance to clients. They may be referred to as insurance sales agents, and senior insurance agents have been doing the job for years. 

On top of selling insurance to a portfolio of customers, agents also identify new opportunities to bring in new clients. They also handle policy renewals, manage the claims process, and communicate with clients and other parties regularly.

Insurance agents need to be expert salespeople and have a strong grasp of the insurance industry as a whole. They may spend part of the time in an office and part out in the field meeting with clients.

To become an insurance agent, you often only need a high school diploma, though many agents today pursue bachelor’s and even master’s degree programs. An additional license will need to be obtained to work as an agent in your state, and you may want to pursue a FINRA license to stand out to employers.

These 10 roles are great paths to pursue when you want to work within the finance or insurance sectors. Often you’ll be able to land a gig with a high starting salary, and only go up from there. Pursuing a finance or business degree and applicable certifications will help you stay competitive in the job market.

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