The field of finance is incredibly broad, but basically, it covers two specific activities that are fully interrelated. The first activity is about studying the management of money, and the second is about how to acquire more money. Money is needed everywhere, from government entities to businesses, and from nonprofit organizations to individuals. As a result, the world of finance is usually separated not by one of the two activities, but rather in three categories: public, corporate, and personal finance.
What is Finance?
What brings the three categories together is that they all focus on getting more money while spending less money through a range of different activities. However, the considerations within the categories are very different. For instance, in personal finance, individuals want to ensure that they save and invest enough money so that they have enough funds for what they want to do when they retire. In corporate finance, companies may look at ways of marketing securities as a way to get the necessary funds for the business. Public finance, meanwhile, is about managing cashflow within governmental organizations, while meeting social responsibilities at the same time. This means creating a stable economy, while at the same time ensuring that income is properly distributed among citizens.
Because the field of finance is so broad, it can be difficult to determine exactly what the growth opportunities within the profession are. However, different statistical organizations have attempted it. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in particular, has made the following estimates:
- BLS has projected an 8% growth in demand for all business and financial operations occupations between 2014 and 2024, which equates to 632,400 new jobs.
- BLS has specifically predicted an increase in demand for auditors and accountants who examine and prepare financial documents, as a result of increased regulatory compliance.
Once again, because the field of finance is so broad, the potential occupations within this field are many. The BLS reports on the following career paths:
- Accountants and auditors, earning an average of $67,190 per year
- Appraisers and assessors of real estate, earning an average of $51,860 per year
- Budget analysts, earning an average of $71,590 per year
- Buyers and purchasing agents, earning an average of $59,620 per year
- Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators, earning an average of $63,060 per year
- Compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists, earning an average of $60,850 per year
- Cost estimators, earning an average of $60,390 per year
- Financial analysts, earning an average of $80,310 per year
- Financial examiners, earning an average of $78,010 per year
- Fundraisers, earning an average of $52,970 per year
- Human resources specialists, earning an average of $58,350 per year
- Insurance underwriters, earning an average of $65,040 per year
- Labor relations specialists, earning an average of $58,820 per year
- Loan officers, earning an average of $63,430 per year
- Logisticians, earning an average of $74,260 per year
- Management analysts, earning an average of $81,320 per year
- Market research analysts, earning an average of $62,150 per year
- Meeting, convention, and event planners, earning an average of $46,840 per year
- Personal financial advisors, earning an average of $89,160 per year
- Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents, earning an average of $51,430 per year
- Training and development specialists, earning an average of $58,210 per year
An important factor that drives how much people would be able to earn is not just the position they are taking on, but also where in the country they work. Payscale.com, for example, has reported on average annual salaries (including bonus and profit sharing) for finance managers in a variety of cities across the country. They have found that finance managers in:
- New York, NY, earn between $61,712 and $137,843 per year.
- Chicago, IL, earn between $70,524 and $129,149 per year.
- Los Angeles, CA, earn between $72,471 and $135,807 per year.
- Seattle, WA, earn between $67,924 and $144,072 per year.
- Austin, TX, earn between $46,837 and $125,843 per year.
- Atlanta, GA, earn between $58,447 and $130,827 per year.
- Houston, TX earn between $53,618 and $152,602 per year.
- Dallas, TX, earn between $61,825 and $134,935 per year.
- San Francisco, CA, earn between $60,821 and $154,216 per year.
- Boston, MA, earn between $60,402 and $137,775 per year.
- Washington, DC, earn between $56,793 and $127,335 per year.
- Denver, CO, earn between $70,198 and $141,217 per year.
- Cincinnati, OH, earn between $51,133 and $138,488 per year.
- Miami, FL, earn between $54,000 and $129,171 per year.
- Minneapolis, MN, earn between $52,062 and $132,005 per year.
While job titles are important in terms of salaries, and so is the geographical location, various other factors are hugely important as well. These include education and years of experience. A final very telling factor, however, is the employer. Indeed.com has reported on a number of employers for finance managers in particular, stating that:
- Deloitte pays on average $143,772 per year.
- EY pays on average $157,835 per year.
- Mercedes-Benz pays on average $143,681 per year.
- Cisco pays on average $127,638 per year.
- GE Corporate pays on average $124,562 per year.
- Honda pays on average $123,158 per year.
- Hendrick Automotive Group pays on average $118,505 per year.
- Honeywell pays on average $121,522 per year.
- Raytheon pays on average $120,503 per year.
- Sears pays on average $108,435 per year.
In order to attract good job prospects and excellent salaries, obtaining a bachelor’s degree is recommended as the minimum level of education. There are numerous schools across the country that offer finance degrees at the bachelor’s degree level, including Penn State University. A key factor of their AACSB-accredited Bachelor of Finance degree is that it is offered online. This gives students the opportunity to work and study at the same time, completing the degree at a pace that is convenient to them.
Some of the courses you will study during this degree program include:
- Financial and Managerial Accounting for Decision Making
- Financial Statement Analysis
- Introductory Microeconomic Analysis and Policy
- Introductory Macroeconomic Analysis and Policy
- Effective Writing: Business Writing
- Corporation Finance
- Investment and Portfolio Analysis
- Intermediate Financial Management
- International Finance
- Basic Management Concepts
- Strategic Management and Business Policy
- Introduction to Business Information Systems
- Principles of Marketing
- Supply Chain Management
- Financial Statements and Management Decisions
- Social, Legal, and Ethical Environment of Business
- Intermediate Macroeconomic Analysis
- Money and Banking
- Managerial Economics
- Business Forecasting Techniques
- Econometric Techniques
- Techniques of Calculus I
- Elementary Statistics
Master’s or MBA Degree
To really advance your career and your chances for earning a higher pay, you might want to consider completing a master’s degree in finance. There are two broad options available to you: one is the master of science in finance and the other is the master of business administration with a finance concentration. For both options, you have numerous schools to choose from. One example is the Master of Finance offered by Hult International Business School, which is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Accreditation is incredibly important, because it shows prospective employers that your degree has met or exceeded certain minimum standards accepted within the profession.
Schools can determine their own admission requirements. However, they are generally very similar across the board, as those criteria are often used as a way to demonstrate that an applicant has the capacity to take on studying at the graduate degree level. The admission requirements at Hult International University are:
- Bachelor’s degree
- Proficiency in English (through test scores for non-native English speakers)
- Current resume
- Personal essay
- Two letters of recommendation
- GMAT/GRE scores
Schools are also entitled to set the curriculum of their degree programs as they see fit. This is where accreditation becomes really important, as only degree programs with a curriculum that can demonstrate the minimum standards are met or exceeded will receive accreditation. The curriculum for the master’s program at Hult International University includes the courses:
- Financial Accounting
- Financial Management
- Managerial Accounting
- Modeling & Analytics
- I.S. For Accounting & Control
- Corporate Finance
- Tax Factors in Business Decisions
- Internal Consulting & Control
- Regulatory Environment
- Forensic Accounting & Financial Investigations
- International Financial Reporting
A significant barrier to people gaining the education they want is the investment of both time and money that is required. You can mitigate some of the time investment by studying online and, luckily, a lot of financial assistance is also available. Each school has their own bursar’s office where you can be signposted not just to financial aid, but also to various scholarships and grants. External funding options also exist, such as the:
- BNSF Railway Company FFA Scholarship, to the value of $5,000.
- Church and Dwight Company Inc. FFA Scholarship, to the value of $1,000.
- Citigroup Fellows Program, to the value of $6,400.
- Hawaii Society of Certified Public Accountants Scholarship Fund, with variable amounts being available.
- Herman J. Smith Scholarship, to the value of $2,000.
- HSF/Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA) Scholarship, awarding between $1,500 and $10,000.
- HSF/Marathon Oil Corporation College Scholarship, which offers up to $15,000.
- HSF/Verizon Foundation Scholarship, to the value of $2,500.
- Iowa Interstate Railroad Ltd. FFA Scholarship, to the value of $1,000.
- Kent Nutrition Group Inc. FFA Scholarship, to the value of $1,000.
Generally speaking, to be eligible for these scholarships, you must belong to a certain professional organization, hold a minimum GPA, study towards a specific concentration, live in a certain geographical area, belong to a specific minority group, and/or demonstrate financial need. However, there are many different scholarships available, so most people should be able to find at least one for which they meet all the necessary requirements.
There are also numerous possible certifications and licenses for those who are in the field of finance. Some of them are legal requirements for certain positions, whereas others are optional. Having a certification demonstrates that you are committed to your profession. While it does require a significant investment of both time and money, and this would be continuous as you must maintain your certification, most would agree that it is a very worthwhile investment. Some of the key certifications to consider for finance professionals are:
- Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
- Financial Risk Manager (FRM)
- Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
- Financial Modeling
- Certified Credit Professional (CCP)
- Certified Management Accountant
- Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA)
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
- Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
Becoming a member of a professional organization or association is always a good idea. In fact, it is recommended that you start your membership as soon as you enroll for your bachelor’s degree. By being a member of an association, you will always be at the forefront of new developments in the field of finance. Furthermore, it can give you the opportunity to apply for specific scholarships, as many associations offer these. Additionally, they will be able to link you to continuous education credits if you have become certified. Perhaps most importantly, it gives you the opportunity to network with others within your profession. Some of the best finance associations to consider are the:
- American Finance Association (AFA)
- Association for Financial Professionals (AFP)
- Commercial Finance Association (CFA)
- American Financial Services Association (AFSA)
- Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA)
- Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA)
- National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA)
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- Occupational Outlook Handbook – Business and Financial Occupations. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/home.htm
- Finance Manager Salary. (2017, Mar. 25). Retrieved from http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Finance_Manager/Salary
- Indeed.com – Finance Manager Salaries in the United States. (2017, Apr. 10). Retrieved from https://www.indeed.com/salaries/Finance-Manager-Salaries
- Bachelor of Science in Finance. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates/finance-bachelors/overview
- Master of Finance. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.hult.edu/en/masters-degree/master-of-finance/