Best Entry-Level Finance Jobs for 2021
Finance can be a fiercely competitive field to break into. After all, it’s a famously high-paying industry known to pay six or seven figures in salaries and bonuses for those at the top. Even those on the bottom rung can expect to start at a good wage compared to other fields.
You may not walk into your dream job right away, but the good news is that finance is a vast industry, so once you’re in, there’s plenty of room to evolve, move around, and find your niche. First, however, you have to get your foot in the (entry-level) door.
- Finance-sector jobs pay much higher than the median salary, even at the entry level.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that finance sector jobs are projected to grow 5% from 2019 to 2029.
- You don’t need an Ivy League background to get in on the finance action, but an undergraduate degree is required at the very least, and economics- or math-oriented majors are preferable.
- The most popular entry-level jobs include analysts, tax associates, auditors, and financial advisors.
A Look At Entry-Level Careers In Finance
Entry-level finance compensation averages $88,774 a year, according to the job-search website Glassdoor, in January 2021. The National Association of Colleges and Employers' (NACE) Winter 2020 Salary Survey projects starting paychecks in the finance, insurance, and real estate fields for the class of 2020 to range from $56,750 to $62,500 annually, as of Jan. 21, 2021.
To get a sense of how high an income is: the median U.S. household income was $68,703 in 2019. And in the 4Q of 2020, the median individual income was $984 per week—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
What's more, the BLS estimates that employment in business and financial operations occupations is projected to grow 5% from 2019 to 2029—faster than the overall average for occupations.
But how do you go about it? Well, the good news is you don’t need a Harvard Business School degree. It is often preferable to have several years of financial or business work experience before acquiring an MBA.
However, an undergraduate degree is required for a position at almost any reputable financial institution. While companies claim they hire majors of all types, ideally, your academic background should demonstrate your ability to understand and work with numbers. That requires knowledge of economics, applied mathematics, accounting, business, and computer sciences.
Interestingly, the NACE study found that breaking down financial sector salaries by major concentrating on engineering and computer sciences realized the highest compensation and those in sales and communication the lowest. If your primary major is in a different field, try to minor in something finance-related.
Internships Are a Stepping Stone
Even more critical are internships. Many firms visit campuses to recruit for summer internships or hold symposia, workshops, or networking opportunities. For example, events like the Goldman Sachs Undergraduate Camp or the Morgan Stanley Career Discovery Day.
Internships can be tough to secure, as tough as an actual job, but they're invaluable. Not only do they provide contacts and experience, but they often lead directly to a spot in the company's training program after graduation—or, at least, to the innermost circle of consideration.
Continuing Financial Education
If you've already graduated, continuing education is another great way to boost your financial IQ and demonstrate your commitment to a financial sector career. Finance-specific credentials such as the chartered financial analyst (CFA), certified public accountant (CPA), or certified financial planner (CFP®) designations can all help your job prospects, depending on the particular facet of finance you are targeting.
In the United States, professionals who plan to deal with investments and finances must pass a series of licensing exams. In the past, you had to be sponsored by a financial institution even to take one of these tests. However, as of 2018, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) finalized the new Securities Industry Essentials Exam (SIE), which can be taken without sponsorship.
The exam is open to anyone 18 years old and over; the 75-question, 105-minute SIE is ideal for "demonstrating basic industry knowledge to potential employers," to quote the FINRA website.
The projected median pay in 2019 (the most recent figure, as of Jan. 21, 2021) for a financial analyst with a bachelor's degree in finance.
Looking for Finance Jobs: Best Entry-Level Positions
The key is to identify the most rewarding entry-level jobs—both in terms of salary and future career prospects—and think hard about which might be the best fit for your abilities and interests. Once you have narrowed down what interests you the most, you can begin your search.
Besides your personal network of friends and family, online job sites are a logical place to search for entry-level finance roles. LinkedIn, Indeed, and Monster are good sites. Still, it might be more efficient to scour sites that specialize in finance-industry jobs or resources, such as eFinancialCareers, Broker Hunter, or 10X EBITDA (for investment banking).
Financial analysts work for investment companies, insurance companies, consulting firms, and other corporate entities. Responsible for consolidating and analyzing budgets and income statement projections, they prepare reports, conduct business studies, and develop forecast models. Financial analysts research economic conditions, industry trends, and company fundamentals. They also often recommend a course of action for investments, reducing costs, and improving financial performance.
Along with a B.A. in finance, accounting, or economics, you should have strong IT skills for an analyst role.
The BLS estimated that there were about 487,800 financial analyst jobs in the American economy in 2010 and projected a faster-than-average growth rate of 5% through 2029 for them. As of January 2021, according to the most recent figures from the BLS, financial analysts earned a median salary of $81,590 in 2019.
Investment Banking Analyst
Investment banking is one of the most prestigious areas of the financial sector; investment banking professionals assist individuals, corporations, venture capital firms, and even governments with their requirements related to capital. Investment banks underwrite new debt and equities for all types of corporations, aid in the sale of securities, take companies public, and facilitate mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations, and broker trades for both institutions and private investors.
An analyst usually fills an entry-level role at an investment bank, hedge fund, or venture capital firm. The most common duties include producing deal-related materials, performing industry research and financial analyses of corporate performance, and collecting materials for due diligence. Recommendations based on the interpretation of financial data often play a role in determining whether certain activities or deals are feasible.
The average investment banking analyst starting salary was $67,817 in November 2020 (the most recent figure, as of January 2021), according to PayScale, a compensation-analysis site. Candidates have B.A.s in economics, finance, or management, though this is one job where an M.A. in these areas helps too.
Junior Tax Associate/Accountant
Some financial services remain in constant demand, especially those associated with taxation—the need to comply with changing internal revenue regulations (IRS) regulations and local and state laws. These professionals implement measures and develop policies relating to taxes, including calculating and estimating payments, conducting research, reviewing internal fiscal systems, preparing returns and other tax-related documents, and working with auditors.
The duties may sound arcane, but tax-related jobs can often lead to corporate positions like the controller (also known as a comptroller), accounting manager, budget director, and even treasurer or chief financial officer.
For this sort of work, candidates need a bachelor's degree in accounting (or at least accounting skills), and eventually—if you want to advance—a CPA license. However, companies often offer the opportunity to obtain one while on the job.
With this in mind, a junior tax associate's role is ideal for college graduates seeking work experience in the financial sector. According to the BLS, the annual median salary was $54,890 in 2019 (the most recent figures available as of January 2021), but this field might see a 4% decline in jobs by 2028.
The role of the financial auditor is a particularly relevant one today. In the decade since the 2007 to 2009 financial crisis and global recession, governments and regulatory agencies have imposed more stringent operational requirements and compliance standards on businesses, financial transactions, and investment practices. As a result, companies are more diligent in their self-policing and reporting practices.
Auditors' work overlaps that of accountants, but their mandate is broader. Auditors conduct risk assessments and are responsible for keeping the company from breaching regulations. Auditors review companies' financial statements and ensure that their public records are kept accurately and in compliance with existing legislation. Auditors check the books, overall business practices, and procedures and suggest ways to reduce costs, enhance revenues, and improve profits.
The profession offers an annual median salary of $71,550 in 2019, according to the BLS, and is projected to increase by 4% by 2029. Along with accounting or internal auditing, auditors often hold degrees in economics or corporate finance. To improve your prospects, you should also consider completing an advanced degree course in accounting.
This is another field where a CPA license will eventually be necessary. Another valuable credential is that of a certified internal auditor (CIA), which is recognized internationally.
Personal Financial Advisor
Personal financial advisors evaluate the monetary needs of individuals and help them with decisions on investing, budgeting, and saving. Advisors help clients strategize for short- and long-term financial goals, from tax planning to retirement planning to estate planning.
Many advisors provide tax services or sell insurance in addition to providing financial counsel. They might offer financial products such as mutual funds or even directly manage investments or serve as a liaison between the individual and an assets manager.
The BLS estimates the median annual wage (in 2019) for personal financial advisors at $88,850. It also projects growth of 4% through 2029, which is as fast as average, citing such demographic trends as the retirement of the Baby Boom generation, the growing numbers of self-employed people, and the dwindling of private-sector employer pension plans, all of which drive a need for advisory services.
The profession doesn't require any specific bachelor's degree. However, financial advisors can benefit from the study of economics, math, and finance. They also need to be good communicators since they must interpret and explain complex subjects to non-experts. So, the critical thinking and analytical and writing skills honed in liberal arts fields can be useful too.
Personal financial advisors who directly buy or sell stocks, bonds, or insurance policies or who provide specific investment advice must pass various licensing examinations. However, this is done on the job since you have to be employed or sponsored by a securities or investment firm to take them. Anyone can take the basic Securities Industry Essentials Exam, however. Many advisors also earn industry credentials, such as the certified financial planner crediential, to enhance their prestige and networking opportunities.
While financial jobs often come with high pay and prestige, they are also among the most stressful; early career burnout is not uncommon.
The Bottom Line
Getting your foot in the finance door takes seriouspreparation and commitment. It’s a highly competitive industry, so treat the process as a job in itself, leave no networking stone unturned, and keep up to date with all the latest finance news. Develop your knowledge, pursue further education if required, be as proactive as possible, and remember to stay positive.
The world of finance is definitely possible if you play your search cards right. And don't worry if your first job isn't your dream job; the goal is to find your way inside that heavily guarded fortress. You can work on the rest from there.
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15 Best Entry Level Finance Jobs in 2021
The financial sector offers an ever-growing supply of career opportunities. If you’re interested in the inner workings of businesses and markets, if you enjoy working with numbers or if you’re looking for an exciting and competitive career, a job in finance may be the perfect fit.
According to Kiplinger, finance is one of the top 25 majors for students looking to enter a lucrative career field. Financial analysts and advisors are expected to see job growth of 11% or more over the next decade and starting salaries in the field hover around $56,000 a year.
Entry level finance jobs are known for paying well and offering high bonuses for those who make it to the top. Although you might not land your dream job straight out of college, there are plenty of entry level opportunities and chances to grow and evolve in the field once you’ve gotten a foot in the door.
Tips for Finding Entry Level Finance Jobs
Whether you’re just beginning your education or are a recent graduate looking for the best entry level finance jobs for your degree, here are a few tips that can help with the job search:
Familiarize yourself with the available positions. There are many more options for an accounting degree than becoming an accountant. Exploring your options will help you to secure a job that truly fits your skills and expectations so you can be happier in your career.
Choose something that fits your skills, interests and background. Just because financial jobs all deal with numbers doesn’t make them the same. Consider additional factors such as whether you’d prefer to work alone or with a team, whether you like a more theoretical or hands-on approach, and whether you’d enjoy self-employment or would rather be part of a firm. These decisions can help you narrow down the job field and find the career path that’s right for you.
Understand the requirements for the position you’re seeking. Some jobs require additional certifications, licensing and training beyond a college degree. Others will expect you to complete an internship before moving on to a well-paid starting position. Be sure to read job requirements carefully and do your research before you take the next step.
You will need to take the time to craft a personalized cover letter for finance jobs. A cookie-cutter approach to job applications won’t help you stand out in a competitive field. Personalize your application to each employer and, you might consider seeking the assistance of a professional resume writing service that can help you put your best foot forward.
Finance jobs can be richly rewarding and offer great pay and growth potential. The field is very competitive, however, so it may take some time to find the job of your dreams. Lateral moves and career shifts are common in this field as workers find the best fit. Once you’ve found a career path that works for you, though, you’re in a great position to grow and strengthen your skills so you can become a high-earning financial professional.
Entry Level Finance Jobs for New Grads
If you’re new to the business world, you may be surprised at the variety and breadth of finance jobs. Although all entry level finance jobs have similarities, the actual day-to-day work and duties can vary substantially. As you begin your finance job search or start planning your career, you’ll want to take some time to understand the best jobs out there to suit your skills and expectations. Below are our top 15 picks for entry level finance jobs worth pursuing in 2021 and beyond.
Many finance jobs build on accounting skills and knowledge, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no need for general accountants. Accountants can find work in accounting firms, on the payroll for large companies or as independent contractors working with businesses and individuals alike.
To become an accountant, you will generally need a bachelor’s degree in accounting, business or a related field. You may also want to receive a license to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in order to access the best-paying positions.
The median national salary for accountants with one to three years of experience is $64,250. The job entails reviewing ledger accounts and keeping track of financial records. An accountant is responsible for assisting with a company’s internal budgeting as well as keeping track of annual and quarterly earnings and expenses.
2. Tax Associate
A tax associate has professional knowledge and experience in local, state and federal tax laws. These professionals may work in accounting firms, be employed by companies or work as independent contractors.
Most tax associates have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance. Some seek further education by acquiring an MBA in accounting or finance.
Tax associates make a median of $61,750 annually with one to three years of experience. The job entails finding ways to minimize a person or company’s tax liability by finding appropriate deductions and adjustments. Tax experts are also responsible for keeping records and using financial software to file tax payments and returns.
3. Financial Analyst
A financial analyst provides investment advice to businesses and individuals. This involves assessing the investment market and identifying the best stocks, bonds and other investment vehicles to suit a client’s needs. Other terms for this job position include investment analyst or securities analyst.
Most financial analysts work in banks, insurance companies or securities firms. They may operate in both buy-side and sell-side investments, or they may focus more on research or in business media jobs.
The median annual wage of a financial analyst is $85,600. Fund managers may receive their compensation as a percentage of the returns on the assets they manage, so a skilled analyst can secure a hefty income over time.
4. Credit Analyst
A credit analyst might work for a bank, asset management company, equity firm or other financial institution. This job role’s primary function is to assess a customer’s credit application. The job requires research skills and knowledge, and it can be a great choice for people who like investigative work.
Most credit analysts have college degrees, but it is possible to enter the field with a certification program instead. Advanced degrees open more opportunities with growth potential and higher starting wages.
Credit analyst wages start around $39,000 and may go up to $100,000 or more per year. The average annual salary for people in this position is $64,500. Opportunities for growth include expanding into loan management, portfolio management or investment banking.
5. Data Analyst
If you love finance and technology, a data analyst position might be your ideal calling. This job requires the collection, organization and analysis of data. Depending on the job, you might be reviewing sales performance, analyzing stock and inventory, or even monitoring marketing and social media campaigns.
Data analysis involves spotting patterns, producing reports and sharing insights with others in a collaborative work environment. Depending on the specific type of analysis you do and the place you choose to work, you can expect a starting salary to range between $51,000 and $65,000.
Most data analysts have a bachelor’s degree, but advanced analytics positions usually require graduate-level schooling. It’s also important to pursue additional certifications and skill proficiencies with the technological tools required for your given niche.
6. Budget Analyst
A budget analyst helps companies or organizations with annual budgets, helping to keep expenses on track to meet financial goals. Job duties include running financial reports, assessing funding needs and helping to make operational decisions for ongoing and one-time expenses. If you enjoy collaborative work and the puzzle-solving aspect of crunching numbers, a budget analyst position could be your perfect calling.
There are budget analyst jobs in both the private and public sector, with up to 20% of all budget analysts working in the government. This means that these positions usually come with excellent benefits and good starting pay: budget analysts make a median of $74,000 and can earn higher salaries with experience and the right position.
A bachelor’s degree is usually the foundation of a budget analyst’s education. Finance and accounting are good choices for areas of study. If you’re planning on a government position, you’ll also want to obtain the Certified Government Financial management certification through the Association of Government Accountants.
If you’re interested in the big picture and enjoy research and the science behind the financial world, a future in economics might be a great fit. Economists study trends and data in a variety of sectors from government to business. Some choose to work in academics. Others work for the government or take on the role of advisors and consultants for organizations.
Most private sector economist jobs require an advanced degree such as a master’s or Ph.D in economics. Some government entry-level positions are available for graduates with a bachelor’s degree. Economists need a solid background in mathematics and strong writing and communications skills.
Economist starting salaries vary depending on your level of education and your chosen workplace, but the median annual starting wage can be as high as $64,000 for government jobs. Economists in the private sector can earn even more.
8. Insurance Claims Adjuster
The insurance industry is one of the most robust parts of the financial world, and there are many exciting jobs available to those interested in the field. If you like investigation and working with the public, a job as an insurance adjuster might be a good fit.
“Adjuster” can mean many things depending on the specific position you hold. Some adjusters are damage appraisers who look at damaged property and provide an estimate for repairs. Others work on behalf of an insurance company to assess responsibility in an accident and get the most money for their claimants in a settlement. You can also work as an investigator who looks into cases of suspected fraud or insurance-related crime.
Unlike many jobs in the financial sector, insurance adjuster positions do not require a college degree. However, some employers still prefer applicants who are college graduates. Specialized training and licensing is required to work as a claims adjuster, but you may be able to get licensed through your employer and avoid seeking an individual certification yourself. Entry level insurance adjusters start at $34,700, but experience can swiftly double that as your career grows.
9. Insurance Underwriter
If the insurance industry appeals to you but you’d rather avoid fieldwork, underwriting may be a good choice. An insurance underwriter evaluates applications and determines whether to provide coverage and what terms should apply. Underwriters establish the rates for policies and weed out potential customers who carry too much risk.
Most insurance underwriters have bachelor’s degrees, but it’s possible to gain a position if you have a strong background in insurance-related work and analysis. Underwriters work for insurance companies and generally work in an office setting.
Some insurance companies have switched to using automated underwriting software, reducing the demand for this type of work. However, it is still a popular and well-paying position for many firms. The median entry-level salary for an underwriter is $46,600.
10. Personal Financial Advisor
A personal financial advisor works with an individual, rather than a company, to establish a financial plan. This may include creating a budget, determining the best way to manage savings, and advising on investments. A financial advisor’s clients are usually wealthy individuals with considerable assets or an estate that needs to be managed, but some advisors may choose to specialize in a different type of clientele.
The majority of personal finance advisors work for themselves or as members of a firm. Their work usually consists of client meetings and time spent in the office researching, creating financial reports or managing client investments. This can be a “jack of all trades” finance job, which may be an exciting opportunity for the right candidate.
Most personal financial advisors have a bachelor’s degree or higher in finance, accounting or a similar field. Entry level pay starts at $44,500 and can double with time and experience in the field.
An actuary analyzes the risks and consequences of business decisions. These individuals come from a strong mathematical background and bring their knowledge of financial theory and statistics into the business world. An actuary’s role is to make educated guesses about uncertain future events and decisions so that a company can strategize effectively and safeguard against likely threats.
An actuary can be employed as a consultant by many types of businesses, but the role is most common in insurance companies, investment firms, large corporations and any other group that manages a large financial risk. The stakes for the company can be very high, so be prepared for a high-risk, high-reward style of work in this type of job.
In order to qualify for this job, you’ll need to study mathematics, statistics and finance. You’ll also need to pass tests administered by the Society of Actuaries or Casualty Actuarial Society in order to work in the insurance industry. The average entry level salary is around $56,000 and experienced actuaries usually draw six-figure salaries.
12. Compensation and Benefits Specialist
Also called remuneration specialists, compensation and benefits specialists can usually be found working in human relations departments. They oversee employee compensation and benefits within a company, determining fair wages that fill the needs of both employee and employer. Day-to-day duties include maintaining compensation databases, researching the job market, handling annual performance reviews and updating job descriptions.
Benefits specialists usually have a bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance or human resources. It can also help to have a background in business ethics and communication. Internships are a common part of this job role, so you’ll want to factor that into your decision to pursue this career.
Starting wages for compensation and benefits specialists are around $41,000 – $43,000. Your individual wages may vary depending on the company that hires you and how much experience you bring to the role.
13. Financial Auditor
A financial auditor shares many similarities with an accountant, but there are some differences in the requirements and expectations of the two jobs. A financial auditor’s primary concern is ensuring that a company’s financial statements are compliant with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). As such, an auditor primarily focuses on identifying fraud or errors in a company’s financial documents.
In this role, an auditor may examine a company’s financial statements, accounting entries, tax returns, cash flow statements and other financial documents. The auditor may be employed by the company itself to oversee finances, or it may be brought in as an outside consultant in cases where fraud or errors are suspected. Attentiveness and a keen eye for detail will serve you well in this role.
Becoming a financial auditor usually require a bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting or finance. Practical accounting experience also goes a long way toward securing a better paying position in this role. Entry-level auditors can expect to earn between $52,000 – $66,000 depending on their background.
14. Loan Officer
A loan officer is a financial expert who has extensive knowledge of loans and their requirements or conditions. They may specialize in commercial loans, mortgages, personal loans or a combination of the above. They may also hold the duties of a credit analyst, but the job roles are often distinct.
As a loan officer, you’ll be working with people. You’ll often be meeting clients one-on-one to discuss their financial goals and go over the application process, help clients choose the right loan and explain anything that might be confusing about a loan offer or refusal of credit. Strong people skills are a must for this type of work.
A loan officer usually works for a bank, credit union or other lending institution. Their role is to act as a liaison between the bank and the applicant. Loan officers do not require formal education, but you will need to receive a professional license. The starting salary for a loan officer is $32,000 – $34,000 with room to grow with experience and education.
15. Financial Planner
A financial planner works with an individual to organize finances and advise about investments and savings. In some cases, a financial planner may double as a personal financial advisor. However, some financial planners have more of a one-time relationship with their clients than a financial advisor would. Financial planners often help aging clients who are facing retirement or who need help structuring their estates.
A financial planner usually has a background in accounting, and most will have a degree in accounting, finance or a similar field. They will also need to obtain a professional certification to work in this field.
Financial planners may be compensated through hourly consultation rates, retainer fees, or as a percentage of the assets being managed. This means that pay can vary between individual planners, but a starting salary of $58,000 – 60,000 is normal in the industry.
Top Employers Hiring New Finance Graduates
If you’re ready to take the first step in your finance job search, consider some of the employers below. These are just some of the top employers companies across the country hiring financial professionals for entry level jobs.
Northwestern Mutual – Wealth Management Advisor Training Program
Texas Department of Agriculture – Administrative Financial Review Specialist
New York Life Investments – Financial Advisor
US Department of Agriculture – Financial Analyst
Raytheon – Financial Analyst
Berkshire Hathaway – Underwriting Analyst Trainee
Zurich North America – International Underwriting Associate
Voya Financial Advisors – Financial Advisor
Fidelity Investments – Financial Planner
CaptionMax – Staff Accountant
Growth is happening across many financial sectors and the outlook is bright. There are plenty of opportunities for a job in finance all across the country. Take a little time to polish your professional resume and cover letter for finance jobs that interest you. Be sure to highlight the skills and experience that make you unique as a candidate.
With a bit of advanced preparation, you can be sure to land an interview and find the perfect job to kick start your new career in finance.
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Finance jobs entry
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