While the field of accounting offers high salaries and a positive job outlook, sometimes you want to know that you won’t be pigeonholed into a single career field. Fortunately, an accounting degree provides a versatile business background that can prepare graduates for other career paths, including those in the field of finance. After all, accounting is one of what the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) refers to as financial specialist occupations, and it shares some similarities with other roles that involve working with money. Jobs such as financial analyst, financial examiner, personal financial advisor and financial manager are all attainable with a background in accounting, according to the BLS.
A financial analyst assesses the performance of investment opportunities and uses that analysis to form an educated opinion on investments. The types of companies that most frequently hire financial analysts are banks, mutual funds, pension funds, insurance companies and securities firms, the BLS reported. Most financial analyst roles are either buy-side or sell-side. Buy-side means that financial analysts use their analyses to determine investment strategies for insurance companies, hedge funds and other organizations with plenty of capital to invest. Sell-side financial analysts make recommendations to the financial services sales agents who sell investment opportunities of different kinds. While financial analysts play an important role in the buying and selling of investments, they may work largely behind the scenes, developing strategies based on the financial trends and other data they examine.
Financial analysts earn a median wage of $84,300, compared to the $69,350 median wage for accountants and auditors, the BLS reported. The best-paid financial analysts, the 24 percent who work in the securities, commodity contracts and financial investment activities industry, earn a much higher median wage of $100,180.
The terms investment analyst and securities analyst refer to the same job of evaluating and advising clients on investment opportunities.
Personal Financial Advisor
A personal financial advisor’s role is somewhat similar to that of a financial analyst, but rather than working with companies and large organizations that buy and sell investments, they work with individuals. Investments are just one part of what a personal financial advisor looks at when meeting with a client. Personal financial advisors also consider the other financial goals and expenses that affect their clients’ finances, including mortgages, estate planning, retirement savings, college savings, insurance and taxes, according to the BLS.
Some, but not all, personal financial advisors secure a license that allows them to buy and sell financial products directly. A personal financial advisor’s job isn’t done once he or she makes investments on the client’s behalf. The advisor has to continue reporting on the investment’s performance and adjust the plan for managing the client’s finances as life changes such as marriages, the births of children, inheritances, real estate purchases and nearing retirement age occur.
Personal financial advisors earn a median salary of $90,640 per year, the BLS reported. However, the opportunity to earn significant bonuses can raise the total income potential quite a bit. More than half of all personal financial advisors work in the securities, commodity contracts and financial investment activities industry, which happens to have the highest median salary: $98,560.
Opportunities for personal financial advisors are growing at a much faster than average rate of 15 percent, according to the BLS.
Rather than spending their time analyzing market trends and investment opportunities, financial examiners are concerned with matters of compliance. They may work either as part of a government entity or within a financial or insurance firm to make sure that a financial institution is following laws related to loans and bank management.
Generally, financial examiners can be classified as either risk assessment or consumer compliance professionals, according to the BLS. In risk assessment, financial examiners are responsible for overseeing the financial health and soundness of banks and other financial institutions. They ensure that banks don’t overextend their resources, offer unsafe loans or cause economic chaos by running out of money if they suffer some financial loss. The financial examiners working in consumer compliance make sure that the banks comply with laws meant to protect consumers, not the other way around. They are concerned with preventing banks from illegally discriminating against borrowers, preventing the practice of offering “predatory loans” that borrowers won’t be able to pay back and otherwise seeing that banks treat consumers fairly.
Financial examiners earn a median wage of $81,690, but the 14 percent who work for the federal government have a much higher median wage of $118,040, according to the BLS.
Financial managers make the big bucks, with a median salary as high as $125,080, the BLS reported. The six-figure salary is partly a result of this being a management role just below the executive leadership role of Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Controllers, treasurers, finance officers, credit managers, cash managers, risk managers and insurance managers all fall under the category of financial manager, according to the BLS.
The primary role of a financial manager is to secure the financial health of their company or organization. They run reports that show the soundness of the organization’s finances but also run or oversee the analysis of financial data and interpret those findings to make recommendations to company management. A financial manager position is a senior-level role that requires at least five years of work experience and involves advising executive leaders, the BLS reported. Financial managers do the work of devising financial plans and strategies and supervising employees who are directly involved in financial reporting activities. In some ways, financial managers’ roles are similar to those of internal auditors or senior management accountants, in that they look to financial data to find opportunities for improving business operations.
About a third of all financial managers work in one of the two highest-paying industries, management of companies and enterprises and professional, scientific, and technical services. The median wages in these industries are $141,890 and $147,040 respectively.