Finance and economics are quantitative social sciences that study global and national financial markets, banking systems, and capital economies.

Financial analysts and economists are employed by public and private institutions like the Federal government or major investment banks to analyze financial data and forecast trends, through thorough research and rigorous reasoning. Financial managers oversee the accounting and budget divisions of companies and organizations, build the portfolios of investment banks, or manage the operations of banks and other financial service branches. Personal financial managers work with private clients to build healthy investment portfolios, and advise them on complex financial decisions.

The global and national financial markets are constructs of immense complexity and interconnectivity. Finance and economics professionals immerse themselves in those economies, and put that expertise to work for a wide range of public and private organizations and clients. Because of the complex dynamics of the financial services they provide, finance and economics professionals of all kinds almost always have advanced postsecondary undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Finance and Economics Career Opportunities

Related Careers: Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents, Financial Managers, Financial Analysts, Personal Financial Advisors

Finance degrees are adaptable to a wide variety of business occupations. Finance majors go on to be financial and banking analysts and managers, budget analysts, personal financial advisors, and economists, to name just a few of many business opportunities.

Employment opportunities for finance and economics graduates are generally favorable. While the projected employment of economists is only expected to increase 6% from 2008 to 2018 according to the BLS, economists are the smallest occupational group in finance; many economists work as banking or finance consultants. Financial managers are expected to experience an average occupational growth rate of 8% over 10 years, according to the BLS.

Job growth will be better for financial analysts; the occupation is expected to grow by 20% or higher. Personal financial advisors are predicted to have the most substantial growth – adding 30% more positions over 10 years, according to the BLS.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 14,600 economists were employed in the U.S. in 2008. Because the growth rate is expected to be slow, only 900 new positions are expected, for a 2018 total of 15,500 jobs.

Economists will experience an occupational growth rate slower than the average for all occupations.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Highly paid financial managers are predicted to experience a similar, below-average growth rate. According to the BLS, there were 539,300 financial managers in 2008. The field is expected to add 41,200 new positions over 10 years, for a 2018 total of 580,500.

Financial managers will experience an occupational growth rate slightly slower than the average for all jobs.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

According to the BLS, 250,600 financial analysts were employed in 2008. With the expected growth rate of 20% or higher, there will be an additional 49,600 new jobs for analysts from 2008-2018, an employment total of 300,300.

Financial analysts will experience a robust occupational growth rate of 20% from 2008 to 2018.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Personal financial advisors are predicted to experience the most robust growth rate – 30% over 10 years. According to the BLS, there were 208,400 personal financial advisors in 2008. As individuals recognize the value of financial planning and services, the field is expected to add 62,800 new jobs, for a 2018 total of 271,200 positions.

Personal financial advisors will experience a robust 30% growth rate from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Real job opportunities for qualified candidates in finance and economics will be better than those growth rates. The Occupational Information Network (a project of the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration) combines new jobs and a prediction of the number of existing positions that will be vacated by retirement, career change, early termination, etc.

According to the Occupational Information Network, from 2008 to 2018 there will be:

  • 5,000 job openings economists
  • 95,200 job openings for financial analysts
  • 138,200 job openings for financial managers
  • 85,300 job openings for personal financial advisors

Finance and Economics Earnings

Wages vary by employee educational achievement and work experience, and by employer industry, size and location, but earnings across the board are very high.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, personal financial advisors earned median annual wages of $69,050 in 2008. The middle 50% of the field made between $46,390 and $119,290, while the bottom 10% made less than $34,390 and the top 10% made more than $166,400.

The BLS reports that economists made median annual wages of $83,590 in 2008. The middle 50% of the field earned between $59,390 and $113,590, while the bottom 10% earned less than $44,050 and the top 10% earned more than $149,110.

The BLS reports that Financial analysts earned median annual wages of $73,150 in 2008. The middle 50% of the field earned between $54,930 and $99,100, while the bottom 10% earned less than $43,440 and the top 10% earned more than $141,070.

Finally, financial managers earned median annual wages of $99,330 in 2008, according to the BLS. The middle 50% of the field earned between $72,030 and $135,070, while the bottom 10% earned less than $53,860 and the top 10% earned more than $166,400.

Earnings for careers in finance vary by position.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Finance and Economics Educational Benefits

Finance and economics professionals are generally highly educated; many employers exclusively hire candidates with master's degrees or doctorates for financial management and analysis positions.

Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in finance and required state certification can qualify candidates for entry-level positions as personal financial advisors.

A bachelor's degree in finance and economics and exceptionally strong industry experience can qualify candidates for entry level positions as financial analysts and financial managers, though most employers expect at least a master's degree.

Financial services professionals may pursue additional certification. Although certification is not always required, it is becoming increasingly common.

Financial analysts and economists may earn the Chartered Financial Analyst certification, a certificate awarded by the CFA Institute. The certification is gained by those applicants who have at least a bachelor's degree, four years of relevant work experience, and a passing score on three separate exams. The exams alone generally require hundreds of hours of study in subjects like financial markets, advanced economics, and accounting.

The Occupational Information Network data demonstrates the necessity of an advanced degree in economics and finance. 100% of working economists and 87% of financial analysts have a bachelor's degree or higher.

87% of financial analysts have a bachelor's degree or higher.Source: Occupational Information Network

Finance programs of all levels generally include a core curriculum of business management, finance, mathematics, and economics courses in specialties like statistics, microeconomics, macroeconomics and econometrics. The more advanced the degree, the more involved and specific the studies.

Finance and Economics Programs Online

Degrees Possible: Certificate, Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral Degrees

Finance and economics degree programs are offered online at almost every level, but the vast majority of degrees offered are bachelor's or graduate-level degrees.

Some online associate's degrees in finance and economics are offered, but a bachelor's degree is usually required to qualify for most finance and economics manager and analyst positions.

Online degree programs may be a good fit for financial professionals who have already acquired an entry-level job but want to position themselves for advancement by earning a master's degree or higher.

The best online finance and economics programs provide an education as good as one pursued at a local ground school, in a more flexible format that may be better suited to working students. As with all expensive and important educational decisions, do your research when choosing an online finance or economics degree program at any level. Is the school accredited? Do credits transfer? What are people saying about this program specifically and this school in general? You'll be able to find the answers to many of those questions on this network of Web sites, but don't be afraid to ask your admissions counselor pointed questions.

Finance and Economics Skills and Abilities

Financial professionals deal with incredibly complex markets and financial systems. To effectively do this, they should have exceptionally strong quantitative reasoning, mathematics, and deductive problem-solving skills.

Personal financial analysts in business for themselves or as part of a financial management firm are often responsible for acquiring their own clients; they must be able to effectively sell the services they offer.

Financial professionals in management positions should have strong organizational and communication skills to effectively interface with coworkers and subordinates.

Computer models are an important part of the daily work of many economists and financial managers; strong technology skills are increasingly the norm.

Because they often are called upon to write reports detailing their findings, financial analysts and economists should be concise and effective writers.

Finance and Economics Qualification and Advancement

A bachelor's or associate's degree in finance and economics, required state certification, and strong work experience may qualify candidates for entry-level positions as Personal Financial Advisors.

Work experience and finance and economics master's degrees (and MBAs) may qualify candidates for positions as Financial Managers and Financial Analysts.

Advanced financial management jobs and almost all economist positions require doctoral degrees in finance, economics, or closely related fields.

Additional Information

The American Academy of Financial Management maintains a Web site at http://www.aafm.us.

The CFA Institute maintains a Web site at http://www.cfainstitute.org.

The Financial Planning Association maintains a Web site at http://www.fpanet.org.