Corporate Finance Professionals: Career Options and Requirements

Sep 30, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to pursue a career in corporate finance. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about job duties, degree programs, and employment outlook for some of the common careers in corporate finance.

If you've got a great head for numbers and want to help businesses understand, allocate, save, and invest their money, consider working in corporate finance. Job options in this field include securities, commodities and financial sales agents, as well as accountants, budget analysts, and financial analysts. All of these jobs require a bachelor's degree, and many employers consider an MBA to be an asset.

Essential Information

There are many career options for anyone interested in becoming a corporate finance professional. Most positions require at least a bachelor's degree, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is often recommended. Accountants, budget analysts, financial analysts, and securities, commodities and financial sales agents are just a few of the career options available to corporate finance professionals. Read on to learn more.

Career Accountant Budget Analyst Financial Analyst Securities, commodities and financial sales agents
Required Education Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree (MBA common)
Other Requirements CPA certification Courses in statistics Licensure and CFA exams Certification exams
Median Annual Salary (May 2018)* $70,500 $76,220 $85,660 $64,120
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 6% 4% 6% 4%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Corporate Finance Positions: Career Options

Accountant

Accountants keep accurate records, analyze financial data and prepare, analyze and verify financial documents, including taxes. Corporate accountants are responsible for cost and asset management. An accountant's job duties may also include limited legal services, budget analysis, financial planning or information technology consulting. Corporate accountants also have good opportunities for advancement. The senior executives in major corporations often have a background in accounting.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants and auditors earn a median annual income of $70,500 as of May 2018 and are projected to experience an 11% increase in jobs during the 2018-2028 decade (www.bls.gov).

Budget Analyst

Budget analysts are responsible for helping corporations allocate their financial assets. They develop, analyze and execute a corporation's budget, seeking new ways to save money and increase profits. They may also train executives and other personnel in budgetary procedures. They recommend cuts or relocation of funds as needed to help the corporation stay on budget.

The BLS reports that, as of May 2018, budget analysts earn a median income of $76,220 per year and are expected to see a 4% increase in employment during the 2018-2028 decade.

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts guide corporations in their investment decisions. They work with spreadsheets and statistics software and study company financial statements to analyze a corporation's sales, costs, expenses and tax information. They estimate the worth of a corporation and make predictions about its earnings potential. Specialized financial analysts called risk analysts help corporations try to avoid or offset future losses.

Financial analysts are expected to see 6% employment growth from 2018 to 2028. The median annual income for these analysts is $85,660 as of May 2018.

Securities, Commodities and Financial Services Sales Agents

Stock Broker

Stock brokers advise individuals and corporations on investments. Brokers receive a commission from each sale in exchange for their advice.

Investment Banker

Investment bankers sell financial services in the form of bonds and stocks. They pair corporations looking for money to finance their operations with investors willing to provide funds in exchange for bonds or stocks.

Financial Services Sales Agent

Financial services sales agents advise corporations and individual clients on a wide variety of investment options. These may include retirement funds, checking accounts, loans, certificates of deposit or credit cards.

The BLS groups securities, commodities and financial services agents together, projecting 4% employment growth across the field from 2018 to 2028. These professionals bring in a median income of $64,120 per year, as of May 2018.

Corporate Finance Positions: Requirements

Accountant

Most accountants have obtained at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a closely related field. Some employers prefer a master's degree in accounting or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting.

In order to legally file reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, an accountant is required to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Applicants who meet the qualifications and pass an examination are certified as CPAs by the State Board of Accountancy of the state in which they practice. In most states, a college degree is required to become a CPA, but a few states allow those with several years of related business experience to become certified.

Corporate CPAs have the option of obtaining specialized training with the designation Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV). This requires an examination and completion of ten business valuation projects.

Budget Analyst

The minimum requirement to work as a budget analyst is usually a bachelor's degree, which may be in business, accounting, finance, economics, statistics, sociology, public administration or political science. Courses in statistics are usually required for budget analysts regardless of their major. Some positions require a master's degree. Licensing and certification are not typically required.

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts need to have at least a bachelor's degree, often in business, accounting, statistics or economics. Some financial analyst positions require a Master of Business Administration or related graduate degree. Financial analysts must have advanced training in finance, bonds and risk management.

Some financial analyst positions that involve working with securities require licensure by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), though such licensing is often sponsored by the analyst's employer. Applicants will not be expected to have FINRA licensing before being hired.

Financial analysts who have at least a bachelor's degree and three or more years of experience can take three examinations to earn a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.

Securities, Commodities and Financial Services Sales Agent

A bachelor's degree in finance, accounting, business or economics is the minimum requirement for a career as a securities, commodities and financial services sales agent. Many professionals in these positions also have a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.

Brokers and any other professional who makes investment recommendations must register as a representative of their corporation with FINRA. They are required to pass an examination called the Series 7 Exam in order to qualify. Most states also require completion of the Uniform Securities Agent State Law Examination, and many employers will offer candidates an opportunity to prepare for this exam if it is required for employment.

The field of corporate finance is wide and varied, with options to work with companies or individual clients. You'll definitely need a bachelor's degree in a finance, business or accounting major, and it would be wise to seek an MBA for access to more senior and well-compensated work. Some jobs in this sector require certifications or licensure in addition to education and experience.

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