What Can You Do with a Finance Degree?

By: Kaplan Financial Education
February 28, 2019
ipad and 3D charts illustrating a finance career

The career opportunities are endless for college graduates with a finance degree. From investment banking to insurance companies, organizations are looking for young professionals with a strong foundation in business and an understanding of accounting and finance. In this article, we will provide an overview of some of the job options for someone with a finance degree.

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts evaluate the data trends and the performance of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments to help businesses or individuals make investment decisions. There are two types of financial analysts: buy-side analysts and sell-side analysts. Buy-side analysts create investment strategies for businesses that have a lot of money to invest, such as hedge funds or insurance companies. Sell-side analysts advise financial service sales agents who sell stocks, bonds, and other investments. Often, financial analysts focus on trends affecting a specific industry, region of the world, or type of product. This could include areas like the pharmaceutical industry, Southeast Asia, or foreign exchange markets. As a financial analyst, you would spend a lot of time analyzing data trends, preparing reports, and meeting with investors or management to make investment recommendations. You can get more details about what a financial analyst does here.

Personal Financial Advisor

Personal financial advisors help individuals manage their finances and provide advice on investments, insurance, mortgages, college savings, taxes, estate planning, and retirement. Personal financial advisors are responsible for investing their clients’ money based on their clients’ decisions. Advisors then monitor client investments and meet with clients periodically to review their investment performance and make changes accordingly. Some personal financial advisors are licensed to directly buy and sell stocks, bonds, annuities, and insurance. In this role, you would spend a lot of time marketing your services, meeting with clients, and analyzing client investment performance. If you're interested in this career, learn more about how to become a financial advisor.

Download the free eBook Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals.

Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents

Job Outlook (2014-24): 10%
Median Pay (2015): $63,780

Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents connect buyers and sellers in financial markets. They sell securities to individuals, advise companies looking for investors, and conduct trades. Securities or commodities can be traded in two ways: electronically or on the floor of an exchange market like the New York Stock Exchange. There are many types of jobs in this field, including stockbrokers, investment bankers, floor brokers, investment banking traders, and financial services sales agents. If you're interested in a career in securities, you can find out about it here.

Insurance Industry

Job Outlook: 9% growth
Median Pay (2015): $49,820 annually

Insurance is often not associated with finance, but it is closely related. There are a number of career paths in the insurance industry that stem from finance. Risk managers and underwriters, for example, assess the risk associated with insuring a client. Insurance agents also do similar work to financial advisors, but they instead advise individuals or businesses on purchasing insurance policies to protect their assets. Agents may specialize in certain types of insurance, such as life and health, property and casualty, long-term care, or Medicare; or they may be generalists providing multiple types of products. Many insurance agents offer comprehensive financial planning services, including things like retirement planning, estate planning, and setting up pensions for businesses. Insurance agents may also get licensed to sell mutual funds, annuities, and other securities. If you choose to work in the insurance industry, you will spend a lot of time advising clients and analyzing risk.

If you are interested in pursuing an insurance career, check out our Insurance Agent Career At-a-Glance article. 

Professional Designations

Professional designations will help you differentiate yourself and advance your career in financial services. The following are three designations you could obtain after you complete your undergraduate degree in finance.

Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA®)

The CFA® charter is a great designation to earn if you are interested in working for investment firms, broker-dealers, insurance companies, pension funds, or banks. Top employers of CFA charterholders include JP Morgan Chase, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and HBSC. The charter will boost your financial credentials and help you advance your career, but it is not easy to obtain. To earn the CFA charter, you must pass three level exams. Each exam is offered once a year in June and requires a year of preparation to pass. The CFA exams are very competitive, and pass rates are calculated on a curve. The CFA charter is a great way to differentiate yourself and prove your diligence and passion to an employer, as it is the most difficult financial designation to obtain. You should be prepared to study very hard for at least three years in order to obtain this desired designation.

To find out if the CFA charter is a good fit for you, check out our CFA resources or try the CFA question of the day.


If you want to provide investment advice or marketing investment products to individuals, the CFP® certification will help you differentiate yourself. A professional with the CFP® mark is qualified to provide clients with comprehensive financial and investment advice. CFP® certification is generally recognized as the highest standard in personal financial planning. To earn your certification, you must take six required education courses and pass the CFP® exam.

Read more about CFP® certification.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

If you are interested in climbing the corporate ladder in accounting or auditing, the CPA license would be a good option for you. The CPA exam covers a deep knowledge of accounting, auditing, and taxation. CPAs help individuals, government agencies, businesses, and non-profits remain financially secure by keeping good records, assisting with taxes, and properly filing required documents. There are different areas of specialization, including public accounting, corporate accounting, and business accounting. There are options within those areas, such as internal auditing, managerial accounting, tax accounting, or environmental accounting. Earning a CPA is rigorous—expect to do about 150 semester hours of instruction. It is possible to do these while in a bachelor’s or master’s program.

Free eBook: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals

What if you could job shadow eight finance professionals in a wide variety of careers, with an array of career paths, all in a single day? We created this eBook to make that possible. Inside, we profile eight successful finance pros who at one time were in the same spot you're in now. We asked them what they do, what they like about it, and how they got to where they are today. We compiled their responses in this valuable eBook for college students planning to launch a finance career.