If you’re looking for the business degree most likely to get you job offers, finance is a top contender. As a whole, the field of business and finance has a positive job outlook, with the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicting a faster than average overall growth rate of 10 percent for occupations in this group. However, finance jobs, in particular, tend to have even higher rates of predicted growth, and they are often at the top of the pack when it comes to earning potential, as well. The demand for a degree in finance is strong, with some of the fastest-growing occupations seeing job increases of up to 14, 15 or even 19 percent. Of course, the best opportunities will belong to finance professionals who acquire the most in-demand skills – and earning a graduate degree in finance doesn’t hurt.
The Fastest-Growing Finance Careers
The financial specialist role that is seeing the most rapid rate of job growth also happens to be the most lucrative. Jobs for financial managers, who earn a median annual wage of $125,080, are increasing by 19 percent, according to the BLS. By the end of a decade, another 108,600 should be added. Financial managers go by different names, including treasurer, finance officer and controller. What these job roles have in common is that they are high-level roles that involve overseeing the big-picture financial health and security of a business or organization. Due to the high level of responsibility, most financial managers have at least 5 years of work experience in the field of finance, according to the BLS, though some may have a great deal more. The highest financial management roles are often top executive positions like chief financial officer (CFO), which command an even higher salary.
Even if you don’t yet have years of work experience, your finance degree will put you in high demand for many entry-level and mid-level positions. Jobs for personal financial advisors, who handle financial planning for individuals, are on the rise. The BLS is predicting an increase of 15 percent, or 40,400 jobs, over a decade. Management analysts are seeing a similar growth rate of 14 percent, which for this larger occupation should translate into 115,200 new jobs. Although management analysts and consultants aren’t quite as narrowly focused on finance as many other finance professionals, the major is still valuable in this line of work. Understanding how companies manage money and developing and interpreting financial reports are crucial to success in finding ways to optimize companies’ performance and productivity.
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Both financial analysts and loan officers are seeing 11 percent gains in job prospects, but their job duties are very different. Financial analysts are primarily concerned with investment decisions, and they research and analyze options to help individuals and organizations invest their money for maximum gains. Loan officers process, evaluate and approve applications for individuals or organizations to receive loans for purposes such as buying a home or car or growing a business. All in all, jobs are expected to increase by 32,200 for financial analysts and 36,300 for loan officers.
Jobs for financial examiners are growing at a rate of 10 percent, according to the BLS, but because the occupation is relatively small, only 5,100 new jobs will become available. Even financial specialist roles that are seeing slower growth than most, like financial services sales agents, are still growing at about the average rate expected for all occupations.
One finance occupational path with bleak career prospects is that of tax examiners, collectors and revenue agents. The BLS predicts opportunities in these roles to decrease by one percent, eliminating 400 jobs over a decade.
Top In-Demand Skills for Finance Professionals
Earning a finance degree from a respected business school is a great start to your career. However, the skills you develop are more important than the major listed on your degree. Several of the most in-demand finance job skills relate to investments, including asset management, risk assessment and management and loss prevention. Others, like data collection and data visualization, have more to do with your analytical skills. Technology plays an increasingly large role in finance, so it is also crucial to develop proficiency in accounting systems, enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and structured query language (SQL), a programming language used in database management.
Of course, more general skills matter, too. Financial analysts excel when they are detail-oriented and possess great math and decision-making skills. Personal financial advisors, who work directly with clients on a regular basis, should be great at managing interpersonal communications and at conveying financial information, which can be complex, to an audience that doesn’t have a background in finance.
Why are finance jobs in such high demand? As the BLS noted, money plays a big role in daily life, even – perhaps especially – in tough economic times. Finance professionals who can help with saving, investing and otherwise managing money are consistently needed.
The Demand for a Graduate Degree in Finance
Even at the undergraduate level, students with a background in finance are so sought-after that, at some colleges, there aren’t enough graduates to meet the demands of employers who are looking to recruit, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal. However, students are increasingly pursuing graduate school – and a particular graduate degree – to enhance their career prospects even more.
Specialized master’s degree programs in finance are becoming more prevalent and more popular, according to U.S. News & World Report. These alternatives to a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree are perfect for students who are more interested in developing a depth of specialized finance knowledge as opposed to a breadth of general business and management knowledge. They can also boost your career faster, since they often require little to no work experience and are designed to be completed in a single year.
Of course, the MBA route with a concentration in finance remains a popular choice, as well, especially for students who are eyeing leadership roles and need to learn management strategies to get there.