Finance Grads: These 5 High-Flying Careers Pay Very Well

This year’s crop of four-year college grads emerges into one of the tightest labor markets in recent memory. The quantity of open positions out there dwarfs the available supply of labor.

The problem — for employers — is especially acute in the finance sector. That’s pushing wages up, even for newly minted grads expected to put in long hours and endure familiar rites of passage. These five well-compensated gigs are particularly appealing for those willing to work harder than the next person.

 

1. Financial Auditor

In the wake of the global financial crisis, the U.S. Congress and multiple international legislative bodies rolled out a slew of regulations designed to insulate consumers, shareholders, and companies themselves from financial risk. As among the most important arbiters and interpreters of these rules, financial auditors have never been more important.

You can work for a single employer as a staff auditor, or join a financial services firm like EY. Either way, you’ll do well right out of the gate: according to Glassdoor, the national average salary for this gig is about $65,000.

 

2. Mergers & Acquisitions Analyst

Though not nearly as glamorous as Wall Street implies, mergers and acquisitions is a dynamic business. If you can tolerate extremely long hours, cutthroat competition, and high turnover rates, you’ll thrive here. Recent grads with affinity for number-crunching typically start in analyst roles and work their way up. At larger firms, you can expect to start near the six-figure mark.

 

3. Plant/Facility Controller

Larger production facilities are not-quite-self-contained ecosystems that require whole teams of finance whizzes to operate properly (and profitably). The national average salary for plant controllers approaches $100,000, though you may need to work in a junior role for a few years before you see that kind of money.

 

4. Business Unit Controller

What’s bigger than a manufacturing plant? A business unit that operates six or eight or ten manufacturing plants. You’re unlikely to land this gig right out of the gate, but seven to nine years of hard work in junior roles at a growing company could do the trick.

 

5. Certified Financial Planner

Prefer more autonomy? Enjoy face-to-face (or over-the-phone) interactions? You’d probably do well as a certified financial planner. Like the good capitalists they are, lots of planners go into business for themselves, basking in the beauty of the profit motive. There’s plenty of opportunity to work within a larger financial firm’s wealth management units, and more room to advance to boot.

 

Money Isn’t Everything

No one begrudges your appetite for a healthy paycheck. After a four-year (minimum) slog through undergrad, and possibly a stint in grad school afterwards, you deserve to take your reward.

Just don’t let your take-home pay define you. Unhappiness has a funny way of corrupting the trappings of success. If you find yourself dreading your daily drive or ride into the office, don’t be afraid to explore alternative careers. Life has much to offer, but a reset button isn’t one of them.

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