I’ve seen a lot of articles listing the most lucrative degrees one can obtain in college, and I’ve never given them much thought. I’d much rather have my interests dictate my future than the promise of a fat paycheck. Luckily, a finance degree makes Forbes’ “15 Most Valuable College Majors” list, coming up at number 13. The starting median salary is $46,500, while the mid-career median pay is $87,300. I think it’s important to consider more than just future earning potential with a degree, however. If money were the only factor guiding people’s careers, then we wouldn’t have any writers, teachers, designers, or public servants.
Instead, any college student should take a hard look at why they chose the major they did and what their personal objectives and reasons for pursuing that course of study are. In my case, I’ve been guided by an interest in finance since hearing investing stories from my grandfather as a child. As a numbers-oriented person, a finance degree aligns perfectly with my skills and interests. If you’re asking yourself what you can expect to get out of a degree in finance, then ask yourself first what you enjoy about finance and where you would like to apply your learnings.
One of the great things about a finance degree is that it is fairly broad; there are a number of professions that finance majors can pursue, and you will graduate from a finance program with an advanced knowledge spanning investing, business management, and accounting. Once you are sure that finance is what you’d like to study, you should have the following considerations (in order of importance) for determining the value of your degree.
If you’ve determined you’re interested in finance and want to pursue a degree in it, great! That’s the first step. Then, consider what you can do with your degree and what you actually want to do with it, because there are plenty of options. According to wallstreetnewbie.com, the top jobs for finance professionals are, in order from top to bottom: accountants, financial analysts, management analysts, auditors, purchasing agents, logistics analysts, personal financial advisors, loan officers, credit analysts, and business operations specialists. Of course, there are many other areas you could take your finance training as well, such as brokerage firms and banks. Determine what you want to do and then determine how, with your degree and experience, you can make it happen.
Your secondary, but still very important, consideration for determining the worth of your finance degree, should be the earning and growth potential of your career path of interest. If you do what you love, you may never have to “work” another day in your life, but you also want to make sure you don’t find yourself stuck in a dead end job. Consider both projected job growth and earnings. For instance, a personal financial advisor has the highest projected job growth of any career in finance, at 29.6%, and a financial analyst comes in second with a projected growth rate of 11.7%. Both offer relatively high annual mean wages as well, with $123,100 and $97,640, respectively.
Ultimately, your finance degree is only worth as much as you put into it. If you have no interest in finance, then you’ll find yourself miserable in whatever financial career you pursue. Therefore, as with any college major, start by determining what you love and take it from there.