Job opportunities in the finance sector are expected to grow by 10 percent through 2026. Investments in a finance-related degree look like they may pay off. Where should new finance graduates look to start working? And how much should they expect to earn?

Majoring in finance

There are many stereotypes about finance majors and professions. When a student says he/she is majoring in finance, the most frequent response is, “Oh, you’re going to be an accountant.”

No, there are several other jobs in the market for finance majors than just in accounting. Business degrees are one of the most popular degree programs in the country, but it’s divided into multiple sectors: business administration and management, accounting, marketing, international business, and, of course, finance.

Majoring in finance could become more popular in the upcoming years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth in finance is expected to grow by 10-percent through 2026, amounting to about 773,800 more jobs. A bachelor’s degree in finance offers more return on investment than other degrees (with an average starting salary of $58,464), so don’t be surprised if you see more students pursuing this degree.

But once they receive their degree, what exactly can they do? What are the best entry-level jobs for finance graduates? Don’t worry; we have the answers.

Characteristics of a finance major

Majoring in finance provides students with essential skills for their future careers. There are many characteristics that these students develop through their studies that would be difficult to find in other degree programs. For example, finance majors excel at analytical skills to dissect financial statements and help appraise the financial standing of companies, municipalities, and other business entities.

Three students having a meeting in a conference room Photo Courtesy: [University of Salford Press Office/Flickr]

Essentially, students learn how to analyze data, think critically, and solve problems. They handle financial reporting and assess the quantitative and qualitative dimensions of any business problem.

Once students graduate, they have foundational knowledge in accounting, statistics, risk management, and the principles of taxation. Graduates can apply these skills in a number of professions. All they have to do is decide which job is best for them. So, where should they start?

Financial analysts ($85,660)

One of the most popular entry-level jobs for recent graduates, financial analysts use the skills graduates developed in college. They typically work for investment companies, insurance and consulting firms, and other corporate entities. They research stocks, bonds, companies, and industries to help bankers, investors, and corporate finance officers understand mergers, acquisitions, and stock/bond offerings.

Financial analysts are responsible for consolidating budgets, preparing reports, conducting business studies, and developing forecast finance models for various companies and firms. They use their analytical skills to research economic conditions and international industry trends. They also make recommendations to these business entities about their financial performance.

According to the BLS, there were approximately 329,500 financial analyst jobs in the United States in 2018. This is expected to grow by at least six percent by 2028. In addition, financial analysts earned a median salary of $85,660, and this is predicted to grow by 11 percent by 2026. That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Financial auditor ($70,500)

Another popular entry-level job, financial auditors have become crucial jobs since the 2007-2009 financial crisis and global recession.

Governments and agencies work with auditors to bridge the gap between themselves and accountants. Auditors also conduct risk assessments and they’re responsible for reviewing companies’ financial statements.

Similar to accountants, auditors help ensure business’ public records are accurate and in compliance with the companies’ project goals. Auditors do more than just “check the books.” They examine a business’s overall model and procedures, all while making suggestions on how to reduce costs, enhance revenues, and improve profits. For business owners, this is a very important role.

According to the BLS, financial auditors earned a median salary of $70,500 in 2018. This is expected to grow by six percent by 2028. Also, there are about 1,259,930 auditing and accounting jobs across the country, with this number predicted to grow by seven percent by 2028.

Budget analysts ($76,220)

Every business needs someone to analyze its business models and plans. Luckily, budget analysts complete these essential tasks. They apply the principles of finance they learned in their undergraduate degrees by developing proposals in the business, educational, governmental, and not-for-profit sectors.

Developing refined communication skills is one of the most important tasks for budget analysts because they interview managers to gather information for these business proposals. They also must excel at spreadsheet data modeling, business writing, quantitative analysis, and the ability to focus under pressure. It could be difficult to implement a new product or program, but budget analysts create the funding requests to make these goals possible.

According to the BLS, there are approximately 52,810 budget analyst jobs, and the number is supposed to increase by at least 1.1 percent through 2026.

In addition, budget analysts earned an average of $76,220 in 2018. This salary is also expected to grow by at least seven percent by 2026.

Financial planners ($88,890)

During their undergraduate education, finance majors learn about many business subjects, including a variety of investment tools to help businesses. This skill is beneficial to financial planners, who work one-on-one with clients on how to manage their finances.

This might sound similar to other jobs, but financial planners often work more closely with business owners than other finance-related professions. They form relationships with clients and help them crunch numbers to devise appropriate business plans. Finance majors with the strongest interpersonal skills and persuasive abilities will be the best fit for this profession.

A career in financial planning is one of the more common first-entry jobs for recent graduates. It’s an entry-level job that pays well. According to the BLS, financial planners earned an average salary of $88,890 in 2018. This salary is expected to grow by 15 percent by 2026. In addition, there are about 271,700 jobs in the U.S. That figure is projected to grow by seven percent by 2026.

Credit analyst ($71,270)

Most people don’t really understand credit or their credit stores. That’s okay; it can be confusing. Luckily, credit analysts help make things a little easier. They evaluate the financial standing of loan prospects and they also assess the risks involved with important financial decisions. Finance majors learn these skills in their undergraduate education. They learn how to appraise the financial capability of business entities.

By the time they begin their entry-level job, they should have a stable understanding of how to interpret entities’ financial records and data.

In addition, they analyze industry trends that have a direct impact on an organization’s structure and its ability to generate enough income to repay loans. With credit analysts, businesses understand their loans much better than they did before working with a credit analyst.

According to the BLS, credit analysts earned an average salary of $71,270 in 2018 with this number expected to grow by 1.7 percent by 2026. In addition, there are currently about 71,270 jobs in the country. The number of jobs is forecast to grow by eight percent through 2026.

Accountants ($70,500)

By now, you’re probably wondering why we haven’t featured accountants yet. Don’t worry; we’re getting to that. Accounting is one of the more popular occupations and concentrations for finance majors.

Through their business training, students learn how to interpret and critique financial statements (used for financial analysis and planning), but students also must complete accounting-related courses during their studies.

Accountants analyze business problems while learning to fill corporate financial management positions. Entry-level accounting jobs are often gateway jobs that may lead to management positions at non-profit organizations, for-profit businesses, or government agencies. These jobs can sometimes lead to other jobs, including controllers, accounting managers, budget directors, and treasurers.

According to the BLS, accountants earned an average salary of $70,500 in 2018 with a 0.7 percent increase by 2026. There are currently 1,259,930 jobs in the country with an expected 10-percent growth through 2026.

Statisticians ($84,060)

Statistics isn’t for everyone, but there are many individuals who excel at gathering, testing, analyzing, and summarizing data for business reports.

Statisticians are involved in improving products, assessing project outcomes, and making important business decisions about services and finances in various industries, including healthcare, government, education, sports, and more.

When you think of statistics, you might immediately think about sports. Statisticians are important well beyond the world of sports, but there are plenty of sports-related opportunities. Statisticians gather data points about games for coaches, team owners, and players. For baseball, statisticians review and calculate earned run averages, runs batted in, and assists per game. This provides statisticians with a birds-eye view on the games to possibly help teams perform better with each game.

There are currently 39,920 jobs in the country with an expected two percent increase by 2026. In addition, statisticians earned an average salary of $84,060 also with an anticipated two percent raise by 2026. This might not be a super popular job, but it’s a crucial occupation. You can help sports—one number at a time. Or apply the same analytical skills in the business and finance arenas, too.

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