From financial advisors to human resources to real estate careers, business and finance careers give those who enjoy facts and figures an opportunity to put their analytical skills to use. This guide discusses the different professional paths in the industry, the education, training and degrees these professionals need, the tools they use to be successful, and the salaries that different business and finance jobs command.

Business and Finance Degrees & Career Paths

Students who pursue a business finance education will find a myriad of professional paths available to them. While these careers all require a solid foundation in financial principles, each career requires a different approach. Find out about the different business finance career paths, including information on job duties and required education.

Accountants and Auditors

Accountants and auditors are responsible for preparing tax returns and determining how much money is owed to the federal, state, and local government. They may also scrutinize the financial statements of a business to ensure that all applicable laws and regulations are being followed. Other responsibilities may include creating a budget for clients, investigating whether or not financial mismanagement is occurring in an organization, and preparing internal reports for managers to use when making business decisions. Accountants and auditors also make recommendations on how an organization can cut down costs and maximize profits.

Degree requirements

A bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or a related field is typically required for entry-level positions, though some bookkeepers and accounting clerks may gain those positions with an associate degree and experience. Some accountants may earn master’s degree in accounting, finance or business administration (MBA) with emphasis in accounting, and those who wish to become certified public accountants (CPAs), will be required to meet all requirements for that designation, including becoming licensed as a CPA in their state.

Budget Analysts

Finances are the lifeblood of any organization, so it’s imperative that information about money matters is up-to-date and accurate. Budget analysts help both public and private organizations keep their finances organized. This is done by looking over budget proposals to ensure they are accurate and complete; consolidating the budgets of different departments within an organization; keeping an eye on a client’s spending so that expenses do not exceed the established budgets; and making predictions about the financial needs of a company. Budget analysts also must stay informed about the law and understand how legislation will impact their client’s finances.

Degree Requirements

At the very least, budget analysts need a bachelor’s degree in finance, business, accounting, statistics, or a closely related field. Some may also wish to pursue a master’s degree and/or earn a credential as a Certified Government Financial Manager from the Association of Government Accountants.

Financial Analysts

When businesses need help making informed fiscal decisions, they turn to the expertise of financial analysts. These professionals provide advice on what investments businesses, as well as individuals, should put their money into and explain why these transactions are sound; prepare reports for clients; manage financial portfolios; and determine how an organization can pay its debts. In addition, it’s also important that financial analysts stay abreast of the news that affects the markets. To that end, they study business and economic trends, gaining an understanding of how the current climate can be compared to historical information.

Degree Requirements

A bachelor’s degree in economics, accounting, business, finance or statistics is typically the minimum requirement to work as a financial analyst, and a master’s degree in business or finance is required for some positions. Several certifications are available, including the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credential.>

Financial Examiners

The laws that govern the financial industry are complicated and constantly changing. In order to ensure that they are conducting business lawfully, organizations often work with financial examiners who use their understanding of financial regulations to advise them on their transactions. The specific job duties of these professionals include reviewing documents such as balance sheets, loan applications, and expense accounts; reviewing an organization’s finances to ensure that it is working within the law; and preparing reports for clients. In addition, financial examiners may be charged with training other professionals on how the examination process works.

Degree Requirements

Financial examiners typically have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or a related field. Some may choose to go on and earn a master’s degree or become a CPA.

Financial Managers

Whether they work as controllers, credit managers, treasurers, or risk managers, financial managers are responsible for keeping an organization’s monetary affairs healthy. These positions come with a great deal of responsibility as professionals oversee the long-term financial goals of their companies. Specifically, financial managers are responsible for monitoring the funds of an organization in order to make predictions, create financial statements and business activity reports, and ensure that the organization is following the law. In addition, these professionals supervise the employees responsible for creating and maintaining budgets; explore ways to reduce costs; and help other managers make decisions based on financial information.

Degree Requirements

The minimum requirement for most financial managers is a bachelor’s degree in business, accounting, finance or a related field. A master’s degree in business administration, finance or related may be preferred by some employers.

Personal Financial Advisors

Those who do not work in the business finance industry usually don’t understand the intricacies of the markets—but they do know that they have financial goals to fund their children’s education, buy a home, and comfortably enjoy their retirement years. Through the help of personal financial advisors, people are able to meet these goals. The career entails helping clients understand different financial services that are available, making recommendations about investments, and monitoring accounts to ensure that clients’ investments are performing in a favorable way.

Degree Requirements

A bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, business, math or economics can be useful for personal financial advisors, though requirements vary depending on the employer. Specific training in taxes, estate planning and investments is usually a requirement as well. Some employers offer this training. Depending on the job requirements, personal financial advisors will be required to be licensed also.

Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents

These professionals help investors navigate their way through the complex and fast-changing world of securities, commodities, and financial services. This position entails buying and selling stocks and bonds, advising clients on the best investments to make in order to achieve their financial goals, and monitoring how financial markets are performing. There are several types of securities, commodities, and financial service agents, including floor brokers, investment bankers, and investment banking sales agents and traders.

Degree Requirements

A bachelor’s degree offering focus in finance, accounting or business is usually required to enter this field. Some will also opt to get an MBA or related degree as well. Licenses and certifications may also be required, depending on the position, particularly brokers and investment bankers.

Components of a Successful Career in Business Finance: Skills, Tools, and Technology

Skill

Learning the principles of business finance is just the beginning to building a successful career in the field. These professionals must also cultivate a number of skills to perform well in their jobs. The following are examples of these skills and why they’re important.

Attention to detail

Crunching numbers is essential in these jobs, and if one tiny detail is incorrect, it can have a huge impact on an organization’s financial data. Business finance workers need to be highly detail oriented, paying attention to every piece of information they encounter when creating and reviewing financial documents.

Interpersonal relationship skills

When working with busy professionals, it often takes finesse in order to nurture a mutually beneficial relationship. Some clients that business finance professionals encounter can be difficult personalities to deal with, so it’s important to have good interpersonal skills. Being able to get along with different kinds of people can go a long way toward getting the work accomplished and keeping the peace.

Listening skills

People disclose the intimate details of their finances to workers in these jobs, so they must have strong listening skills. Business finance professionals must be able to get the information they need to help clients make investments and manage their finances, and this can only be done by effective listening.

Time management skills

Business finance jobs are driven by deadlines, so it’s imperative that these professionals manage their time efficiently. They are often working with several different clients or projects at once, so they regularly juggle multiple deadlines. As a result, workers must ensure that none of their work falls through the cracks of procrastination and time wasting.

Written and verbal communication skills

People in this industry must communicate complicated concepts in ways that others can understand. Whether they are discussing a fiscal strategy with clients or drafting reports detailing the activity of an account, they are required to have good verbal and written communication skills.

Those who pursue certain business finance jobs, such as accountant and financial analyst positions, are required to obtain a license from their state. However, there are other credentials that professionals can voluntarily earn. These help workers differentiate themselves in the job market and make them more attractive to employers. The following are some examples of industry certifications that are available.

The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is granted from the Institute of Management Accountants for those who have completed a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of two years of management accounting experience.

The Institute of Internal Auditors offers a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) credential to internal auditors who have two years of professional experience. This organization also has Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA), Certified in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA), and Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP) credentials.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants offers several certifications, such as Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP), Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV), and Personal Financial Specialist (PFS).

The Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), which is available through ISACA, is for professionals with five years of experience auditing information systems.

The CFA Institute offers the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification for financial analysts with a bachelor’s degree and four years of work experience.

Budget analysts who work with the government can earn a certification from the Association of Government Accountants called the Certified Government Financial Manager.

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification is provided by the CFA Institute. This certification can be earned by financial managers with at least four years of experience and a bachelor’s degree.

The Association for Financial Professionals offers the Certified Treasury Professional credential for financial managers who have been in the profession for at least two years.

Tools and Technology

Knowledge and skills are necessary to be successful in business and finance positions, but there are also a number of tools and technologies that these professionals need. Some examples of these technologies and tools include:

  • Accounting software, such as Intuit QuickBooks, Sage BusinessWorks, Lead Activity Analyzer, Accurate NXG, and ATX Total Accounting Office
  • Financial analysis software, like Delphi, Oracle E-Business Suite Financials, and ARES Corporation PRISM Project Estimator
  • Enterprise resource planning ERP software, including Oracle Hyperion and Microsoft Dynamics GP
  • Data mining software, such as Google Analytics, SAP Netweaver Business Warehouse, and Informatica Data Explorer
  • Inventory management software, like AIM Asset Management
  • Tax preparation systems, including Thomson GoSystem Tax, Intuit TurboTax, Universal Tax Systems TaxWise, and Abacus Tax Software
  • Regulatory agency compliance software
  • Human resource information systems
  • Project management programs, such as Oracle Primavera Enterprise Project Portfolio Management and Microsoft SharePoint
  • Metadata management software, including CA Erwin Data Modeler

Business and Finance Career Salaries

Those who pursue business and finance positions often make healthy salaries that are higher than the national average. The following is a sampling of salary information for careers in the industry.

$115,320 Financial Managers
$78,620 Financial Analysts
$76,310 Financial Examiners
$71,220 Budget Analysts
$65,940 Accountants and Auditors

Business and Finance Career Job Growth, Prospects, and Outlook

The landscape for business and finance careers differs depending on which career people enter and where they live. In the following table, the growth prospects of several careers are outlined, along with the top states for jobs in those professions.

Accountants and Auditors

The improved economy and stricter regulations on businesses are driving the demand for these professionals.

Growth between 2012 and 2022:13%
Financial Analysts

The increased complexity of financial products is creating a demand for financial analysts. Also, companies want analysts who are experts on specific geographical regions.

Growth between 2012 and 2022:16%
Financial Examiners

Growth will be slowed down as hiring in the federal government declines. New regulations may promote growth for financial examiners in other sectors, however.

Growth between 2012 and 2022:6%
Budget Analysts

Demand for this occupation will be created by the emphasis on making businesses more efficient.

Growth between 2012 and 2022:6%
Financial Managers

The slow growth of these jobs in the commercial banking industry will limit available positions. Other sectors, however, may have faster growth.

Growth between 2012 and 2022:9%

Related Occupations & Salaries: What You Need to Know

Those who are interested in pursuing business and finance careers may also consider a number of related paths. The following are examples of related careers for people with strong business acumen and a head for figures.