A career in finance can be challenging, fast-paced and potentially very lucrative. But it can also be grueling, unsatisfying and low-pay. It’s hard to know which scenario you’ll encounter but some foresight may be important to your career trajectory and overall job satisfaction. We provide an insider’s perspective on the different jobs and areas in finance and accounting.
Aspiring professionals also encounter confusion regarding the job titles of many financial positions, so we try and explain what they really mean. For example, the terms ‘banker’, ‘broker’ and ‘analyst’ have vastly different responsibilities (and pay) depending on what area you’re in or location. For example, an entry-level analyst at a pension fund in Minnesota could make $50,000 while a hedge fund analyst in New York City could earn half a million dollars (the average pay for a hedge fund professional is over four hundred thousand dollars).1
We decipher various job descriptions to give you an idea of what you are likely to expect. For example, if you hear ‘candidates must be highly motivated’, it could mean ‘sales with commission-only pay’. In addition, we distinguish between the higher end jobs in finance (hedge funds, economist, and financial advisors) and the less selective positions (operations, insurance brokers, relationship bankers).
Financial Career Options
There are plenty of different jobs in finance, but which career path is best for you? Assessing your personality is very important when pursuing the right job in finance and accounting. Some positions, like sales, are perfect fits for gregarious extroverts. They don’t mind the inconsistent pay, heavy travel, cold-calling and networking. These ‘people persons’ are often best utilized in more customer facing roles like sourcing and cultivating new relationships. Typically, financial advisors, bankers and insurance brokers are among these sales-heavy positions.
Others finance jobs may be a better fit for more introverts. These professionals don’t mind putting their nose to the grindstone (or computer screen) and working on analytic models or combing through financial statements. These may be analysts, operations professionals, forensic accountants, compliance personnel and auditors.
Further, some positions in finance and accounting have more job security (public accountant) than others (financial advisor). Accountants enjoy some of the lowest unemployment rates in finance at just 3.6%.2 Conversely, only an estimated half of financial advisors stay at that position over their career. With the increased regulations for publicly traded companies regarding the integrity of their financials, accountants, auditors and compliance personnel should be in high demand going forward. Accountants can be employed in both the public sector (governments are large employers of accounting professionals including tax examiners, investigators and revenue agents) and the private sector (Big 4 accounting or smaller public accounting firms or banks).
Contrarily, financial advisors only work in the private sector and endure high-stress, performance-based compensation. Many work for one of the large wirehouses with a recognizable brand and big marketing budget. But this comes at a price since their percentage of new business generated may be underwhelming. Financial advisors are rebelling against this model and are increasingly leaving to start their own firms known as a Registered Investment Advisors, RIAs.