27 Careers in Finance That Offer Appealing Opportunities
Contrary to what you might think, careers in finance are not just about crunching numbers on Bay Street. Finance is an enormously varied field that offers a wide range of career paths. Whether you're interested in tracking assets, calculating risk, handling payroll, arranging loans, trading securities, managing investments, or talking with shareholders, there are finance positions that may appeal to you.
And the finance industry is an essential and growing part of Canada's economy. In 2016, the nation's financial services sector employed 808,100 people (a 10.5-percent increase since 2006) and accounted for 7.2 percent of Canada's GDP. In Toronto alone, the industry generated $18.1 billion in benefits for the municipal, provincial, and federal governments in 2016.1
Of course, no discussion of financial careers is complete without mentioning accounting jobs. Finance and accounting are separate but related disciplines that are often grouped together, since both deal with the management and administration of assets. However, there are some important differences between them, which you can read more about below. To help you zero in on your specific area of interest, we've divided the following list of careers into accounting jobs and other finance careers.
The information in the following sections will introduce you to all sorts of possible careers in the finance industry and get you thinking about the many different job options that could be in your future.
What Is Finance?
At its core, finance is about efficient money management. It focuses on how funds are raised, allocated, and invested. Careers in finance have quite a broad scope—the accounting, banking, investing, and insuring functions all fall under the finance umbrella.
When it comes to jobs in finance, industry professionals generally work in one of three areas:
What's the Difference Between Finance and Accounting?
When it comes to choosing an academic discipline, many students aren't sure about the distinction between finance and accounting, particularly since some universities and colleges lump them together into a single program. But while both subjects deal with financial information, there are some important differences between them.
Accounting is a subset of finance. It focuses on recording financial transactions and preparing financial statements in order to understand the overall financial health of a company. If you study accounting, you will learn how to follow the flow of money in and out of a business and ensure that records accurately reflect the state of the company's finances.
Finance programs generally take a wider view; they are more about planning for future profitability and growth. Finance majors study basic accounting principles, but they also learn how to draft budgets and make long-term financial decisions that anticipate and reduce risk.
It's often said that accounting is about recording what has already happened, while finance is about making decisions and plans for the future. Either area of study can lead to rewarding careers in the finance industry.
If you're the kind of person who is comfortable with the language of numbers and understands the importance of details, you might want to consider one of the many careers in accounting. Here are a few examples:
As the overall head of the accounting department, controllers are in charge of a wide range of functions, from payroll processing and financial reporting to budget forecasting and tax preparation. They generally manage a staff of accountants or clerks and report to the chief financial officer. As senior-level employees, controllers have some of the highest accounting salaries around.
2. Tax manager
Staying up-to-date on income, sales, payroll, and property tax rules and regulations is a key responsibility of tax managers. They manage an organization's tax planning and reporting activities, and they often supervise a team of accountants who prepare the actual tax returns. You'll need to be a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) and have several years of tax experience to get into this role.
Whether they work with corporations or with individuals, accountants are responsible for recording transactions, calculating taxes, and ensuring that all financial records are complete and accurate. They can also advise clients on tax planning and financial management. Accountant salaries vary widely across Canada, but getting your CPA designation can help boost your earning potential.
Poring over ledger entries, bank statements, and tax returns to check that everything meets established standards is the job of auditors. They review the work of accountants and look for signs of financial mismanagement. Some work as external auditors who evaluate the credibility of financial reports from different organizations; others work as internal auditors within one company and advise managers about how to operate more effectively.
5. Tax revenue officer
These officers are auditors who work for the Canada Revenue Agency. They are tasked with enforcing the laws governing tax revenue. They evaluate the accounting records of individuals and businesses to look for evidence of fraud and make sure everything complies with regulations. You'll need to have a degree in accounting; you'll also need to meet language requirements.
6. Payroll clerk
Payroll clerks are the people who make sure that employees receive their paycheques. They calculate earnings, deduct taxes, track vacation time, and administer benefits. They also prepare T4 statements at tax time. Courses in accounting or bookkeeping are helpful for this field; certification is available through the Canadian Payroll Association.
Processing invoices, reconciling accounts, calculating GST, and maintaining the general ledger are typical tasks of bookkeepers. They might also prepare payroll cheques and complete pension contribution forms. Many bookkeepers receive training on the job, but some colleges offer training courses that can prepare you for this kind of work.
Accounting clerks often work for large organizations and specialize in accounts payable (when the business owes money to its suppliers) or accounts receivable (when customers owe money to the business). They post transaction details, process purchase orders and invoices, and prepare cost statements and reports. Some positions are available to those with only a high school diploma, though an associate's or bachelor's degree can help with career advancement.
Jobs in Finance That Are Outside of Accounting
Accounting is one aspect of finance, but there are many other ways to establish a career in this large and varied field. Commercial banking, investment banking, financial planning, and mortgage brokering all offer opportunities. Check out the following career possibilities:
1. Chief financial officer
Chief financial officers (CFOs) are senior executives in charge of managing the financial activities of a company. They are big-picture people who analyze an organization's financial strengths and suggest ways to improve its weaknesses. They assist with long-term strategic planning and make decisions about allocating resources and mitigating risks.
Helping a company grow its revenue is the main task of treasurers. They raise capital, invest company funds, and communicate with investors and shareholders. They also handle mergers and acquisitions. Treasurers oversee the finance department and are one step below the chief financial officer. You'll need an advanced degree and plenty of experience to move into this role.
3. Bank branch manager
Someone has to make sure that a bank branch has enough human and financial resources on hand to operate smoothly. That person is a bank branch manager. In this role, you hire, train, and supervise staff, keep account of the money flowing through the bank, and tally daily cash rolls to make sure there are no discrepancies.
4. Purchasing manager
Evaluating suppliers, analyzing price proposals, and negotiating contracts are all in a day's work for purchasing managers. Their job is to buy services and products for their company to resell or use. They implement purchasing policies, manage budgets, and sometimes develop specifications for particular materials or products. A degree in finance can get you started in this field.
The goal of actuaries is to determine how likely it is that a negative event will occur and come up with ways to lessen the financial impact of such an event. In other words, actuaries calculate and manage risk. Their work helps insurance companies set appropriate rates for coverage. You'll need a degree in math, statistics, finance, economics, or a related field.
6. Investor relations officer
Managing the information flow between a public company and its shareholders requires a solid understanding of the principles of finance, marketing, and communication. Investor relations officers release financial data, brief investors and analysts on the performance of the company, and handle inquiries from the investment community.
7. Quantitative analyst
It takes a combination of finance, math, and computer skills to succeed as a quantitative analyst (also known as a "quant"). These analysts use statistics to solve financial problems. They develop complex mathematical models that help financial firms price securities, increase profits, and decrease risks. You'll need an advanced degree to get into this field.
8. Financial analyst
This is one of the most common entry-level finance jobs. Financial analysts collect financial data, study economic trends, and update financial models in order to evaluate different investment opportunities. They look at the historical performance of stocks and bonds and try to anticipate future trends. These analysts can work for brokerage houses, investment companies, banks, underwriting firms, and other types of organizations.
9. Securities trader
Does following the ups and downs of the market give you a thrill? Securities traders buy and sell stocks, bonds, and other securities for trust companies, banks, insurance firms, or individual investors. An important part of the job is staying current on ever-changing market conditions. A degree in finance, accounting, or economics is generally required; you'll also have to complete the Canadian Securities Course.
10. Financial examiner
Making sure that banks, credit unions, trust companies, and other financial institutions comply with regulations, remain stable, and treat borrowers fairly is the responsibility of financial examiners. They assess both the health and lending activity of each institution. This job requires a good understanding of balance sheets and bank management.
11. Financial planner
Many people rely on financial planners to help them meet their short- and long-term financial goals. Planners assess their clients' monetary situations and provide advice about investment products or strategies that would best serve each client's needs. Becoming a Certified Financial Planner can enhance your job prospects. (Note that in Quebec, only people with certain training are allowed to call themselves financial planners.)
12. Investment banking analyst
These analysts are the first rung on the investment banking ladder. Their job is to provide the information and materials that help their bosses close deals and win new business. They research the financial details of different industries, develop and review financial valuation models, and create pitching books and presentations. Be prepared to put in some long hours.
13. Insurance underwriter
When people apply for health, auto, fire, or property insurance, it falls to underwriters to screen those applicants and assess the risks involved in providing coverage for them. Underwriters look at medical reports, credit histories, and rate tables to decide whether to approve the sale of an insurance policy. Getting certified as a Chartered Insurance Professional can be helpful.
14. Compliance officer
The primary job of compliance officers is to ensure that a company's financial activities are carried out according to prescribed regulations. That involves monitoring procedures, evaluating risks, and determining what needs to be done to shore up weak areas. A report from Robert Half noted that compliance officers are one of the finance professions in high demand across Canada.4
15. Mortgage broker
Do you want to help people with the most important financial transaction of their lives? Mortgage brokers help people arrange financing to purchase a home. Brokers do not work for the banks or credit unions that provide the mortgage; instead, they compare options from multiple lenders to find the most appropriate option for their clients. In some provinces, mortgage brokers must be licensed.
16. Credit analyst
Analyzing the financial statements and credit histories of companies or individuals seeking loans or lines of credit is how credit analysts spend their workdays. Their job is to calculate how likely it is that a borrower will be able to repay his or her debts. They also work out the terms for each loan. A bachelor's degree in finance is a good starting point for this career.
17. Loan officer
Loan officers guide people through the process of applying for loans. They meet with applicants to assess their needs, explain the types of loans that are available, and answer any questions. Some loan officers specialize in commercial, personal, student, or mortgage loans. You need strong customer service skills to succeed in this job.
18. Credit counsellor
People who find themselves struggling to manage their debts often turn to credit counsellors to help them understand how to get their finances back on track. These counsellors evaluate their clients' financial situations and develop a plan for how outstanding debts can be paid off. They also advise clients about budgeting and money management.
19. Banking customer service representative
Also known as bank tellers, banking customer service representatives are the first point of contact for people who walk into a bank. These representatives are in charge of processing deposits and withdrawals, cashing cheques, issuing money orders, and providing information on products and services offered by their financial institutions.
Create the Fulfilling Future You Deserve
Now that you're familiar with the wide range of possible careers in finance, it's time to investigate how you can develop the skills you'll need to shape the future you want. The job-driven training offered by vocational colleges, trade schools, and technical institutes can set you on the path to success in many finance-related careers. Just enter your postal code into the school finder below to discover training options in your area!