What Can You Do with a Finance Degree?

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Working professionals considering going back to school may often wonder whether graduate-level courses will serve them well in their careers.

Earning a master’s degree is one way to gain relevant, in-depth knowledge while building valuable credentials.

The financial field is a promising realm for potential finance graduate students searching for challenging, in-demand work. In today’s corporate climate, defined by complex transactions, globe-spanning business structures, and intertwining regulations, it’s clear that companies need skilled and experienced financial professionals.

Current financial employees interested in deepening their knowledge, as well as individuals who are considering a career pivot into finance, can conduct their own research to determine whether a master’s degree in finance can help them achieve their goals. They can do this by seeing which positions are best suited for with financial degree-holder, reading up on what the salary and hiring expectations are for graduates, and noting what coursework will help them in their desired roles.

 

Financial reports on a boardroom table

Positions That Use Financial Degrees

Fortune 500 companies need well-staffed financial departments. Within these teams there are many specialized roles for individuals who have well-developed knowledge of modern financial practices, from investment expertise to auditing acumen, advanced financial planning, and more. This diversity of available roles is a promising sign for finance experts, who may find opportunities to take on positions that suit their unique interests and to follow branching career paths into lucrative, higher-level positions.

The following three roles could be excellent fits for finance majors interested in seeking out relevant career paths:

Financial Analyst

Experts dealing with stocks and other investment opportunities may find their calling as corporate or personal financial analysts. These professionals prepare financial statements and make projections about the potential returns and general prospects of investments. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that these professionals sometimes work on the “buy side,” employed by companies that have funds to invest, or on the “sell side,” serving as financial services sales agents.

There is room for a great deal of specialization within the more general financial analyst role. These individuals will typically focus their research on a single industry, and they may define themselves as portfolio managers, fund managers, ratings analysts, or risk analysts, depending on the type of services they provide. Due to the need to present financial reports to other departments, analysts must have excellent communication skills.

The need for financial analysis experts is growing steadily, an estimated 6% between 2018 and 2028. For financial master’s students seeking work in this field after graduation, salary potential for analysts is strong: The BLS reported that the median pay for a financial analyst is $85,660 annually. The agency recommended job seekers earn an advanced degree and industry certification, as competition for analyst positions can be fierce and there is a need for applicants to differentiate themselves.

Financial Manager

Financial managers are important decision-makers within corporations, overseeing many of the operations that companies must complete to keep operating effectively. For instance, financial reporting and monitoring are the purview of the financial manager, as is supervision of the team responsible for budgeting. It’s up to financial managers to analyze markets and the business’s own financial information to set productive goals for the future, and to act as an advisor to upper management.

Specialization within the financial manager ranks largely comes down to which aspect of the organization’s financial health the professional is responsible for overseeing. Controllers, who deal with reports, are financial managers, as are treasurers and finance officers, in charge of budgeting. Credit, cash, risk, and insurance managers also fall under this professional umbrella, each tasked with keeping a specific element of the company’s financial health on track and leading the other personnel assigned to these tasks.

Companies are hiring financial managers at an accelerated pace according to BLS estimates, which placed growth of these roles at 16% between 2018 and 2028, compared to 5% for all positions and industries. The agency noted that the job market for financial managers will differ considerably by industry and specialization. Cash managers and risk managers are expected to see especially great interest in the coming decade. Due to the advanced nature of the financial manager role, salary projections are high. The BLS reported the median salary for this career is $127,990.

Internal Auditor

Auditing company finances and ensuring those businesses are in compliance with rules and regulations is a massive undertaking in today’s complex corporate world. The auditors responsible for this important work may therefore appreciate the in-depth financial perspectives presented in master’s degree coursework. The internal auditor role, one of multiple varieties of auditor, is dedicated to both spotting problems and recommending new and better ways to manage operations.

An internal auditor will have to work closely with other departments within a business, making recommendations on how to run the organization. Even when current practices don’t directly contravene regulations, skilled auditors may detect inefficiencies and conceptualize new methodologies. When serious financial crimes such as fraud occur, it’s up to a company’s internal auditors to find and stop the malfeasance. The BLS reported that while there is no formal certification framework for auditors, the profession has standards set down by the Institute of Internal Auditors that professionals should familiarize themselves with.

The BLS added that growth across all accounting and auditing roles, which the agency counts as a single profession, should increase by 6% between 2018 and 2028. This is slightly ahead of the 5% growth projected for all professions. There are several factors that will determine how active companies are in hiring new auditors. For instance, strong growth of global companies, with complex operations and a need to comply with financial laws in many regions at once, could be a powerful incentive for these businesses to add auditors. The BLS noted the median auditor and accountant salary is $70,500, keeping pace with more generalized financial specialists.

 

Salary and Hiring Trends for Financial Degree Holders

Despite the variety of roles available today, there is a common thread between financial experts. From budget analysts in large corporations to personal financial advisors who work with individuals and every role in between, these professionals are united by their need for the type of in-depth knowledge conveyed in a master’s level financial degree program.

In terms of average salary and hiring potential beyond entry level roles, financial degrees are often a wise choice, industry data has revealed. In Monster’s overview of the top 10 potentially lucrative degree programs, finance appeared twice. Finance and economics programs come in at No. 3, with corporate finance entering at No. 10. The median pay for each is six figures.

Combining this impressive salary potential with the accelerated hiring trends affecting roles such as financial manager, it’s clear why bachelor’s degree holders may choose to upgrade their education with a graduate program when pursuing a career in finance. Once they’ve made this decision, professionals have to assess the options available in the field of finance and select an ideal degree for their particular needs.

 

Master of Science in Finance Curriculum Highlights

A degree such as the Online Master of Science in Finance from Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business gives in-depth and current insights into the way today’s markets and industries function. As opposed to master’s degrees in accounting, which typically equip students with the knowledge they need to pursue Certified Public Accountant certification and related roles, MSF programs are more wide-ranging. The following are the two tracks of study that make up the online MSF curriculum:

Investment Finance

The investment finance track is focused on the intricacies of portfolio management and market analysis. Students aiming for roles as investment analysts, risk managers, private wealth managers, and other positions that deal with stocks, bonds, and securities can gain important insights in the path’s core courses. At large organizations and small private firms alike, investment decisions need to be made by experienced and knowledgeable individuals, increasing the importance of investment finance courses.

Courses such as Investment Banking, Portfolio Management, and Real Estate Finance and Investment prepare students to make effective use of financial data to assist their clients in engaging with the markets. Graduates will be better equipped to understand the institutions, regulations, and patterns that determine the success or failure of investments today.

Corporate Finance

The corporate finance track is ideally suited for students who aspire to take on positions as corporate finance professionals, analyzing data and employing their in-depth knowledge of markets and institutions to craft effective strategies for their organizations. These graduates may find roles performing complex processes such as mergers and acquisitions or business turnarounds due to the specialized knowledge they’ve acquired in their courses.

After earning an MSF, students will have a grounding in both theory and policy which can help them take on roles setting companies strategies, determining international policies, and calculating risk. Firms today often operate branches around the world, contending with complex regulatory systems and unique requirements that result. Therefore, the need for financial analysts with an academic background in today’s markets has never been greater.

Due to the 100% online nature of the MSF program at Northeastern, professionals can complete courses on their own schedules while continuing in full-time roles. This freedom to learn while building their resumes may assist students in aiming for new, in-demand roles within corporate finance departments. With steady job growth and high salary potential across subfields and industries, the time may be ideal for such a move.

Visit our site to learn more about our Online MSF program.

 

Recommended Readings

What You Can Learn in the Online MSF Program’s Core Courses

Take Advantage of Experience-driven Learning in the Online MSF Program

Northeastern University Online Master of Science in Finance

 

Sources

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Financial Analysts

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Financial Managers

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Accountants and Auditors

Monster – Best-paying and Worst-paying Master’s Degrees