Dead ends branch out from every career path. Even in the lucrative world of finance, you could find yourself living on the margins while boosting someone else’s bottom line — that’s unless you gain the right experience and pursue one of the best-paying jobs in the field of finance.
You’ll find great-paying jobs at every level in the finance industry, which is different from the highest paying finance jobs. So we’ve rounded up some of the finance jobs that’ll pay you the best based on your experience and the caliber of work you’d actually do every day. Plus, we’ll show you how to use a job site like ZipRecruiter to find the best openings for you.
Education, Internships and Experience
The world of finance can feel sort of like a jungle: Many can survive, but only the strong thrive. And the strength required to survive, advance and thrive in it comes from education and experience.
Even if you come from a household that has been grooming you from diapers to run the family business someday, you’ll likely still have to start at the bottom before ever getting a crack at more advanced work.
It’s highly competitive at every level, even entry level. Education is the best way to get a toe in the door, and real-world experience is what opens the stairwell for you.
Getting the Right Education
So what kind of education do you need to break into finance? You typically need an advanced college degree, or a bachelor’s degree at the minimum.
A bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting or economics is a great place to start. But many of your peers — the competition — will have put in the extra time to obtain a master’s degree in business administration, business management, finance, investing, accounting or related fields.
Finance is so competitive that people will often invest time in dual majors to gain that extra edge needed to make their resume stand out in front of eyes that may spend just a minute glancing at each submission in a stockpile of hundreds of applications.
But even if you only bag a bachelor’s degree in a finance field, you still have a shot at securing one of the best-paying jobs in the industry. You’ll just have to make the most of your opportunities. And in an industry as massive as finance, there are tons of them to be had.
Making Inroads with Internships and Experience
Here’s a lesser-known fact: You don’t have to be enrolled in school to take on an internship.
Recent graduates who’ve got an email inbox brimming with generic responses to their job application often find that even unpaid internships open up opportunities for them — even at financial institutions that initially sent one of those generic responses.
No one likes to work for free, or for less than they believe they’re worth. But if you’re an unproven talent, with little to no real-world experience on your resume, you can find companies willing to give you a shot, since they don’t have to invest nearly as much in interns.
If you go this route and prove yourself, you might find yourself earning a spot on the payroll someday. These are some tips on how to get started as an intern.
Entry-Level Finance Jobs
We’re classifying entry-level jobs in finance as those that tend to require less than five years of experience. But depending on the size and stature of a company, much more experience could be required, even for entry-level jobs.
And in the world of finance, entry level by no means suggests these jobs are basic.
Financial analysts forecast an organization’s expenditures and report metrics on operational costs. A financial analyst will often collaborate with accounting and other departments to analyze financial performance and build models to inform decisions made by leadership.
A financial analyst may also be asked to evaluate the feasibility of growth plans developed by leadership.
Median salary: $83,660 annually; $40.22 per hour
Personal Financial Advisors
These specialists advise clients on financial decisions related to investing, securities, taxes, real estate, insurance, pensions and more. A personal financial advisor typically needs a year or so of experience in sales and a bachelor’s degree in fields related to finance.
Median salary: $89,330 annually; $42.95 per hour
Budget analysts work with leadership to build budgets for various levels and departments throughout an organization. Budget analysts may also approve or reject budgets from other departments.
Key in financial planning, these finance professionals also track expenditures to keep teams on budget and plans on course for success.
Median salary: $78,970 annually; $37.97 per hour
These specialists help administer their organization’s benefits program. They’re often tasked with advising employees of their benefits and helping them enroll in these programs. They may also be known as benefits coordinators.
Median salary: $67,190 annually; $32.30 per hour
These tax experts help their clients or their organization prepare, file and track their tax returns and payments.
They maintain tax records and related financial data for their clients or organization. And they may make recommendations to solve tax-related issues, including finding legal ways to save the company or client money.
Median salary: $73,560 annually; $35.37 per hour
Credit Risk Analyst
These analytics make determinations on an applicant’s creditworthiness and make assessments on the level of risk involved with approval. Along with risk assessment, credit analysts also submit applications and update the credit files of applicants.
Median salary: $74,970 annually; $36.05 per hour
Underwriters review applicants to determine the level of risk involved with insuring them or their property. They help applicants determine the type and amount of coverage they need, while advising agents on the estimated costs of insuring applicants or their property.
Median salary: $71,790 annually; $34.51 per hour
These insurance specialists review and process claims. They’re asked to inspect and investigate any property damage or bodily harm related to a claim. They may consult with other specialists, such as mechanics and doctors, as part of their investigations.
Median salary: $68,130 annually; $32.76 per hour
Among a wide range of responsibilities, investment bankers study the market to assess risk and potential opportunities to advise clients on investing. They forecast market conditions and opportunities using advanced financial modeling software.
Investment bankers also help cultivate leads on new investors on behalf of their investment bank. So sales experience is a plus.
Median salary: $64,770 annually; $31.14 per hour
Sales experience is generally required here, as loan officers are asked to sell loan products to customers and cultivate leads for agents. They also need interpersonal skills to meet with clients, discuss determinations and review options — and these may not always be easy conversations.
Median salary: $63,960 annually; $30.75 per hour
The Top Earners
The following jobs require at least five years of experience and may require even more education than entry-level financial careers. To land one of these jobs, you’ll need to have spent time doing one or more of the jobs in the previous section.
These people are instrumental in determining how much PTO everyone gets, how much of a 401(k) match you’ll get, how much healthcare your employer will sponsor and other benefits determinations.
Their benefits recommendations are often informed through competitive analysis, analyzing what competitors are offering employees.
Median salary: $125,130 annually; $60.16 per hour
This senior position tracks a company’s cash flows including payroll, invoicing, investments and other transactions. Financial managers generate regular reports at least quarterly and annually.
And they break down this financial data for other leaders in the company. Financial managers often work their way up from roles as financial analysts, investment banking specialists, analysts at hedge funds and related finance jobs.
Median salary: $134,180 annually; $64.51 per hour
These expert statisticians use complex software and algorithms to help insurance companies appropriately price insurance policies.
They use analytics to predict incident occurrences such as car crashes in an area, natural disasters and other events that could impact policyholders.
Median salary: $111,030 annually; $53.38 per hour
This role manages purchase orders on behalf of their organization. They negotiate quotes, prices and contracts with suppliers.
They’re integral in developing their company’s purchasing strategies and work to ensure purchase orders are fulfilled on time and on budget.
Median salary: $72,270 annually; $34.74 per hour
These include the C-Suite executives (chief executive officer, chief financial officer and so on) along with the company president and vice presidents. It may even include some directors and senior managers.
Their jobs may vary widely in some cases and overlap in others. Their primary responsibilities include steering the company by developing and administering policies to accomplish long-term and near-term organizational goals.
Median salary: $107,680 annually; $51.77 per hour
How to Take Your Finance Career to the Next Level
You don’t need to join one of the well-known financial institutions to have a long, fruitful career in the finance industry. Ultimately, every company wants to make much more money than they spend, and most want to grow year over year.
You’ll find finance jobs in every company, and realizing that can feel overwhelming. Where do you start? How do you break free of your current job and pivot to a related field in the financial industry?
These days, it’s easier than ever to discover jobs that are perfect for you and your career goals. And it’s just as easy for employers in the finance industry to discover you, thanks to job posting sites like ZipRecruiter.
With ZipRecruiter, you can discover jobs pulled from more than 100 partner job boards — whether you’re considering work at investment banks and conventional financial firms or at government agencies and academic research organizations.
Frequently Asked Questions about Jobs in the Financial Industry
Still making up your mind? No sure if the life of a financial analyst or a career in hedge funds is right for you? Here’s a round-up of some of the most commonly asked questions about careers in the financial sector.
Which finance career pays the most?
As is the case for other career paths, those in charge make the most money. When it comes to finance jobs, senior leadership roles from hedge fund managers up to the C-Suite executives command the highest wages.
Outside of the executive level, financial managers and actuaries often are two of the highest paying finance jobs.
Do finance majors make good money?
Yes, opportunities in financial institutions and departments are among the highest paying jobs around. The financial services industry offers financial professionals a wide world of opportunities to work hard and earn more than most other jobs.
Is a career in finance worth it?
If salary is one of your primary criteria for satisfaction in your job, finance jobs can be exceptionally rewarding. You can find work at almost any company, whether it’s a hedge fund or any of the government agencies.
Competition for a finance job is often fierce and the hours can be longer than the standard 40-hour workweek. But you don’t need to ascend to one of the highest paying finance jobs to earn a hefty salary and have a rewarding career working with money.