Finance professionals are the number-crunching math whizzes who make it possible for businesses to form financial strategies that allow them to succeed. They often work behind the scenes, analyzing records, and putting pen to paper to keep organizations financially afloat.
If you have a knack for working with numbers and want to be compensated generously for your skills, an online finance degree is a great choice for you. Careers in the financial services industry are famously lucrative. Financial analysts, on average, make about $81,760 in annual wages—more than double the national median salary. Financial managers can easily reach $120,000, but competition for top salaries is fierce. Regulatory reform and increasing interest in retirement portfolios should keep job opportunities opening up. Adding professional certifications will help you earn top dollar in this field.
THE CAREER PATH
Finance professionals have plenty of options for developing their career. They can work as accountants, but their skills often prepare them for opportunities that extend into different aspects of financial management and analysis. Finance professionals work across personal, public, and corporate finance to perform specialized tasks that, in addition to accounting skills, may involve:
- Financial analysis and planning
- Financial reporting
- Financial modeling
The most popular jobs in finance are:
- Financial Analysts – These professionals may be the type of suit-wearing financial gurus that you might picture when you think of Wall Street. Financial analysts typically provide guidance to both businesses and individuals on smart investment decisions by assessing the performance of stocks, bonds, and other investments. There are two different primary categories of financial analysts—buy-side analysts who develop investment strategies for individuals or organizations that have money they want to invest and sell-side analysts who advise the sales agents who sell different types of investments. Adequately qualified professionals will obtain a license from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and sometimes a certification to authenticate their skills and knowledge. Financial analysts are expected to be in high demand in the coming decade; the estimated growth for the occupation is anticipated to increase by 12%. Professionals in this highly accessible field make more than $80,000 each year on average.
- Financial Managers – Like other management professionals, financial managers develop strategic, long-term goals and plans for an organization, specifically related to financial health. Depending on the size and scope of an organization, different finance managers may be responsible for different components of an organization’s financial health. Some of the different types of financial managers are Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), controllers, treasurers/financial officers, Credit Managers, and Risk Managers. Like most management positions, finance managers can expect to be compensated very well for their work. The average salary for finance managers is more than $120,000 annually. The demand for financal managers is expected to increase faster than the national average, by 7% in the next few years.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
Careers in both accounting and finance involve high levels of math, so it goes without saying that both fields demand professionals to be comfortable with numbers and have a high awareness for details. Finance professionals often engage with other professions from within and outside their own departments; as they develop in leadership opportunities, finance professionals will be responsible for coordinating and directing their own team. In addition to the fundamental math skills that are necessary, the most successful finance professionals are also strong communicators and are able to build strong working relationships.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
Online finance programs prepare you to work inside the private industry, helping secure funds for business expansion. The government also hires finance experts to compile budget forecasts, analyze job data and trends, and crunch numbers for all the quarterly and annual forecasts that comprise the fodder of federal and state economic reports. Hours may be long in this field, especially at certain times of the year.
If you understand the laws of money and like working with people, look into financial planning. Strong demand exists for financial planners and investment advisers who help individuals build and manage wealth portfolios. Some finance professionals work as brokers, while others do direct trading in financial instruments like stocks, bonds and commodities. Lucky thing about these jobs: very few mandate an education beyond a bachelor’s degree and on-the-job training. Be aware that to work in this field a degree is not enough. You’ll also need a clean criminal record and a solid credit check.
Certification mid-career can mean a big boost for your pay rate. It can also open up new job options and industries. Private certification is required for many finance careers, particularly in management positions. These certifications are aimed at helping safeguard the public since most finance experts are trusted to handle large sums of money. Consider certifications like the chartered financial analyst (CFA) or certified financial planner (CFP) which are worth their weight in career gold. Be aware that private certifications often require three things: a specific degree or certificate, which can be earned online; a clean criminal record; and a period of time spent working under the supervision of another certified finance professional.
Whether you are already a working professional, or whether you are jumpstarting your career out of high school, there are plenty of career options to explore before committing to any particular program. An online bachelor's degree in finance generally costs between $40,000 and $50,000. Many programs also offer benefits for students such as internship opportunities and certification programs.