Does climbing the corporate ladder sound like the exhilarating challenge of a lifetime? The world of business and finance is full of opportunities that pay substantially more than the median annual wage across all occupations in the United States. Ambitious businesspeople can find high-paying work in finance, company management, logistics, accounting and market research. When they put their numerical, analytical and organizational skills to work, they help businesses become more profitable – and their personal finances increase, too. Here are the top 10 highest paying business careers. Keep in mind that many roles in the industry provide professionals with the chance to earn additional money beyond their salaries in the form of commission and bonuses.
Virtually any business that deals in manufacturing or sales has to get their supplies and products from somewhere. Purchasing managers are the high-level business professionals responsible for buying supplies to use or products to sell. They compare the cost, quality and delivery speed of merchandise and suppliers and choose the items and vendors most appropriate for their organization’s needs. Often, this requires establishing and maintaining contact with vendors, interviewing them and even visiting their supply plants to learn more about the company, its practices and its costs. Purchasing managers negotiate prices and coordinate delivery schedules with their suppliers. They keep organized records of the organization’s purchase from all suppliers and handle problems, like working with vendors to address defective products, any failures to comply with contracts and any discrepancies in pricing. A successful purchasing manager must understand not only their products, but also industry trends and the inventory and sales records within their organization.
In addition to managing an organization’s purchasing operations, purchasing managers may also oversee people – the buyers and purchasing agents who work underneath them. At some organizations, purchasing managers may be primarily responsible for supervising and coordinating the work of lower-level purchasing employees, but they still handle particularly complicated purchasing contracts themselves.
Median Salary: $100,170
Education: Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Business or a Field Relevant to the Industry, Like Engineering, Manufacturing or Applied Science
2. Management Analyst
Regardless of industry, efficiency is an important concern of all organizations, from high-powered corporations to local government entities. Wasted time and resources cost organizations money, taking away from company profits or limited government or donor funding. Management analysts, sometimes known as management consultants, are experienced business professionals who work with organizations to boost efficiency and productivity. Some management analysts work in-house in organizations like federal and local governments and insurance companies, while others work for consulting firms or as self-employed, independent contractors.
First, management analysts must learn about the problems they are to fix. They research problems and inefficient procedures within the organization by talking to the employees involved in the work and visiting the worksite to understand what workers, tools and equipment and procedures are used. Then management analysts assess financial data like revenue and expenses. They devise alternative procedures that could help companies streamline processes, improve productivity and cut costs, and they work with management to implement these new procedures.
Median Salary: $78,600
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Business, Management, Economics or a Related Field, or a Master of Business Administration (MBA)
3. Financial Analyst
In banks, insurance companies, mutual funds, pension funds and securities firms, financial analysts help investors manage their portfolios, or their collective group of investments. They are the business professionals who analyze investment opportunities to help individuals and companies make the right financial decisions. They determine which investments are likely to be profitable by studying trends in the economy, current and past financial performance and the financial records of individual companies they are considering as potential investment opportunities. Sometimes financial analysts will even meet with a company’s representatives in person to learn more about the company’s internal workings and why it might be a suitable investment option. They then convey their recommendations to investors both in writing and through in-person meetings.
Some financial analysts work in buying investment options like stocks and bonds, while others work in selling. Specialized positions within the field of financial analysis include fund manager, portfolio manager, ratings analyst and risk analyst.
For financial analysts, field of employment can make a big difference in salary potential. The median annual wage for the position is $76,950, but the more than 20 percent of financial analysts who work in financial investments like securities and commodity contracts earn $90,560 per year.
Median Salary: $ $76,950
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Finance, Accounting, or Statistics, or a Master’s Degree in Finance or MBA
4. Financial Examiner
At both the state and federal level, laws exist to govern the business world, including financial institutions like banks and financial transactions, like loans. These regulations would be useless without someone in place to make sure they are being followed. Financial examiners are the business professionals who check for compliance of all relevant laws among banks and other types of financial institutions.
To find out if a bank is complying with federal and state laws, financial examiners must look over the bank’s finances and financial statements, including balance sheets, operating income reports and expense account statements. To determine how risky the loans provided by the bank are, financial examiners review loan documentation. Financial examiners continually observe and report on the bank’s financial health. They pay attention to the management of the bank, including what is discussed at meetings among bank management staff and bank directors.
Because the laws are constantly changing, financial examiners must keep abreast of new regulations and understand how those regulations apply to individual banks and financial institutions. These professionals are also responsible for creating new procedures to meet changing legal responsibilities.
Nearly one-quarter of all financial examiners work for the federal government, and another 12 percent work for state governments. Others find employment in industries like credit intermediation or financial investment. Often, financial examiners concentrate on either risk scoping, which focuses on determining how financially sound the financial institution is, or consumer compliance, which reviews how banks treat consumers, particularly when it comes to loaning money.
Median Salary: $75,800
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting, Economics or Finance
Are you good at solving problems and organizing the details of projects? Logisticians are the business professionals that manage the supply chain, or the movement of supplies and resources to consumers. They handle the process of attaining, dispensing and transporting items like raw materials and finished manufactured products. Logisticians coordinate the purchasing, transportation and storage of supplies and track inventory.
It’s not enough for logisticians to coordinate supply chain movements effectively – they must also improve these processes to make them more efficient. Logisticians use cutting-edge computer software to analyze the supply chain process to determine ways organizations can decrease the financial cost and the time it takes to transport supplies.
Logisticians play an important role in a wide range of industries. Their work can include managing the transport of supplies as simple as consumer products or as complex as deploying military personnel. One quarter of all logisticians work in the general manufacturing industry, with nearly another quarter of these professionals working for the federal government. Other industries that frequently employ logisticians include professional and technical services, transportation equipment manufacturing and aerospace parts manufacturing.
Median Salary: $72,780
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Business, Process Engineering or Supply Chain Management
6. Budget Analyst
Establishing – and sticking to – a budget is difficult enough when it comes to personal or household finances, but for major businesses and organizations, it’s essential that someone is always managing the financial plans. Budget analysts are professionals who make sure public and private sector entities are following a budget and keeping their funds and spending records organized. Most budget analysts work in federal and state government agencies and educational services, but many also find employment in industries like manufacturing and technical services.
Before an organization can adhere to a budget, it first needs to establish a reasonable financial plan. This, too, is part of a budget analyst’s responsibility. Budget analysts work with the managers in every department of the organization to compile a full, accurate budget for the entire organization to follow. When a program leader or department manager requests or proposes additional funding, the budget analyst must determine if the requested funds are available and if the request is worthwhile. Budget analysts observe the organization’s spending practices and report on whether the company or entity is adhering to the established budget.
Median Salary: $69,280
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Business, Finance or Accounting
7. Personal Financial Advisor
If you make good financial decisions and understand the science of analyzing financial opportunities, a career as a personal financial advisor might make sense to you. These professionals advise clients on how to manage their money, including choosing the right investments and insurance coverage and minimizing their tax burden.
While it’s important for personal financial advisors to thoroughly understand the world of finance, it’s also important that they have the interpersonal skills to establish a rapport with their clients. Personal financial advisors meet with their clients in person to learn about their financial needs and goals, and they must find the right financial decisions to help clients meet those needs and achieve those objectives, whether the goals are short-term or long-term. In addition to advising the client and helping them make the right decisions, personal financial advisors invest the client’s money according to those decisions and regularly report on the investment’s progress and profitability.
Most personal financial advisors work in financial investment, credit intermediation and securities and commodity contracts. Others find employment in the insurance industry or in professional services. Some personal financial advisors even work for a single, exceptionally wealthy individual or family. Because everyone is interested in increasing their personal finances and making better financial decisions, opportunities are expected to grow rapidly in this career field – 27 percent over just a decade, more than twice as fast as the growth expected for all occupations.
Median Salary: $67,520
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Finance, Business, Economics or Accounting
8. Accountant and Auditor
Accountants and auditors are the business professionals who create financial documents, like balance sheets and income statements. They check financial records for accuracy and maintain those records in an organized fashion. Accounting professionals often prepare tax returns and other documents and determine the amount of tax dollars owed.
The core of accounting may be creating financial reports, but today’s accountants do more than crunch numbers. They evaluate financial practices and find ways to help companies and organizations improve these practices, including ways to raise profits and cut expenses.
There are many types of accountants. Public accountants work with clients like individuals, businesses and government entities to create legally required financial reports, such as tax documents. One particular kind of public accountant, the certified public accountant (CPA), is especially in-demand and is likely to earn a higher salary and have a greater selection of job opportunities. Management accountants create the financial statements companies need for internal use, while internal auditors review how a company is using its money to detect any instances of fraud or waste of funds.
Median Salary: $63,550
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting
9. Insurance Underwriter
Assessing risk is an essential part of insurance of any kind, from medical and life to auto and homeowner’s. To remain profitable, insurers of all kinds must bring in more money in premiums – and the investments they are able to make with those premiums – than they pay out in claims. Minimizing risk is a prevailing strategy of accomplishing this goal. Insurance underwriters are the business professionals who evaluate the risk an insurance company will take by agreeing to provide coverage to an applicant.
When an insurance company receives an application for coverage, insurance underwriters compare applicants’ information to a pre-established set of criteria that helps them identify risk factors. They use computer software to analyze the risk of an applicant. Insurance underwriters play an important role in the insurance industry. They determine whether an insurer will offer coverage to that applicant at all, and if so, what amounts of coverage to offer and what premiums to charge. For insurance underwriters, it’s important to find a workable middle ground between accepting applicants with too much risk and rejecting so many applicants that the insurance company has no policyholders left to insure.
Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of insurance underwriters work directly for insurance carriers. Others work for insurance agencies and brokerages, credit intermediation services or company management. Many insurance underwriters specialize in assessing risks for a particular type of insurance coverage, such as life insurance or health insurance.
Median Salary: $62,870
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Business, Economics or Mathematics
10. Market Research Analyst
To achieve success, a business must know its market. It must be able to make decisions about what products or services to provide, what to charge for them and who to sell them to. They do this with the help of market research analysts, who investigate sales trends and history in the market.
To understand the market, market research analysts must first collect data to analyze. Market research analysts review current and pasts sales trends. They figure out the best methods to learn what they need to know and amass relevant information from surveys and polls of potential customers and competitors. With the help of statistical software, these professionals can glean important insights into what consumers want and what price they are willing to pay and predict how well a product or service will sell. They convey these insights through written reports, graphs and tables and face-to-face presentations.
Market research analysts can also assist with marketing products and services. They use their understanding of the product’s target audience to devise plans and promotions that help sell the product or service. They also put their analytical skills to work to determine how effective a marketing campaign or sales plan was in generating sales and attracting customers.
Median Salary: $60,300
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Market Research, Statistics, Computer Science or Business
Editor’s Note: The salary and job outlook data, job descriptions and educational requirements conveyed in this article originated with the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. This federal agency is responsible for reporting on activity in the ever-changing U.S. labor market. Students should consider this article a resource to guide further research into their intended career paths, not a guarantee that a particular educational path will result in a job or that a position will pay the median annual wage.