Majoring in finance at a college or university takes at least four years of full-time study and offers graduates access to careers in banking, investing and insurance, among other financial fields. Graduates may find jobs as portfolio managers, securities brokers, security analysts or insurance agents. Because these professions often deal with handling large amounts of money, finance graduates can earn a relatively high salary right out of school.
Range of Starting Finance Salaries
Finance majors received the highest salaries of any business discipline, averaging $57,300 per year to start, according to the January 2013 salary survey produced by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The lowest-earning quartile of finance majors made less than $44,000 annually, while the highest-paid received over $66,800. Their starting salary was greater than the mean annual $53,900 per year earned by the average business graduate, and more than the mean $44,482 yearly made by all college graduates.
A factor in determining the employment level or starting salaries of finance majors is the hiring industry. The largest hiring sector for 2012 was professional, scientific and technical services, which provide financial consulting. Annual starting salaries in this sector averaged $57,900. The highest-paying employers were organizations that took over the management of other companies, either through consulting or hostile stock takeovers. These employers offered a mean starting salary of $59,900 per year. The second highest salaries were recorded in wholesale trade, averaging $59,300 yearly, followed by manufacturing at a mean annual $59,200.
Pay Variations by Job Title
The highest-paying position for finance majors belongs to financial managers, who are in charge of the finances of companies. They develop financial goals and strategies, handle investments, ensure compliance with government regulations and produce reports. Financial managers can expect a starting salary of $75,700 per year in the finance and insurance industries. Miscellaneous managers could also perform these same tasks in federal, state and local governments to earn an average of $64,600 yearly. The lowest-paying position is that of credit analyst. They examine the financial statements of individuals or businesses to determine whether they are worthy of loans or credit extensions. Credit analysts can expect a starting salary of $41,200 in professional, scientific and technical services.
Graduating with a Master's Degree
Undergraduates could spend an extra two years of study to obtain a master’s degree in finance to earn a higher starting salary of about $64,300 per year. The lowest-earning quartile of master's degree graduates made less than $50,600 yearly, while the highest earners received over $73,000. At this level of education, however, finance graduates no longer received the highest salaries of all business graduates. That distinction went to business administration and management graduates, who started at a mean $69,200 per year. The highest-paying industry for holders of master’s degrees in finance was wholesale trade, with starting salaries averaging $66,700 per year. The highest-paying position was financial manager, with a starting salary averaging $82,900 per year as of 2012.