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Hot Jobs 2017

Careers in accounting and finance are booming this year, with both market demand and salaries on the rise. By Judy Giannetto | Winter 2016/17

Jobs

There’s been a lot of press over the last year about just how great a job market it is for CPAs these days (the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, estimates 11-percent growth for accountants and auditors through 2024). With a new year upon us, gearing up for the next big thing in your career might well be a top priority.

Which means you’re likely wondering which accounting and finance roles in particular offer the greatest growth potential over the next 12 months. Well, Parker + Lynch’s most recent Top 10 High-Level Accounting and Finance Jobs report, Robert Half’s latest Salary Guide and statistics issued by the BLS, among others, give us a glimpse of exactly that.

Here, then, are just five of the many high-growth accounting and finance careers you’ll be hearing more about in 2017.

MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT

Projected growth: 14 percent 2014-2024 (BLS).

What you’ll do: Organizational efficiency is what it’s all about for management consultants (also known as management analysts). Specifically, they evaluate and recommend strategies by which to boost profitability and control costs. As such, you’ll find management consultants examining problems and devising solutions and alternative practices or systems, interviewing personnel, observing processes onsite, analyzing financial and other business data, writing reports, giving presentations to executive teams, and collaborating with management to see that proposed changes are performing as promised. It’s not unusual to find a management consultant specializing in a particular area (e.g. inventory control), a specific industry (e.g. healthcare), or a particular government agency.

You don’t have to be a genius to see why management consulting is such a hot career move these days. As the BLS reports, “As markets become more competitive, firms will need to use resources more efficiently…. Growth of international business will also contribute to an expected increase in demand for management analysts. As U.S. organizations expand their business abroad, many will hire management analysts to help them form the right strategy for entering the foreign market.”

How you’ll get there: Employers often require a Master’s degree in addition to a Bachelor’s degree. Since formal programs in this area are hard to come by, common fields of study include accounting, finance, business and economics, among others.

Certifications: The Institute of Management Consultants USA (IMC USA) offers the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation. Candidates need to meet minimum education and experience requirements, submit client reviews, and pass an interview and exam covering the IMC USA’s code of ethics. The designation must be recertified every three years.

What you’ll earn: Payscale.com
estimates management consultant salaries to be in the $42,972 - $95,929 range.

FINANCIAL ANALYST

Projected growth: 12 percent 2014-2024 (BLS).

What you’ll do: Financial analysts are responsible for both analysis and advice as they relate to investments and operation costs, and therefore provide recommendations for the financial direction of a given organization or individual (think investment portfolios). Specifically, the BLS explains that financial analysts assess current and historical financial data, examine economic and marketplace trends, determine company value, assess an organization’s prospects, and evaluate the strengths of the company’s management team. Often, financial analysts are experts in a specific industry, geographic region or type of product. You’ll typically find these professionals working in banks, pension funds, mutual funds, securities firms and insurance companies.

“There are so many different niches within the financial analyst role—budget, forecasting, corporate finance. There’s a great opportunity to specialize,” says John Sadofsky, director of Permanent Placement Services for Robert Half in Chicago.

Why the high demand? “There’s an increasing need for specialized knowledge and for professionals who can drill down on financial data and quickly provide analyses to enable better business decisions. It’s also being driven by companies’ greater reliance on analytics,” explains Sadofsky. “Firms are now looking for ways to use big data to manage resources and increase revenue more efficiently. …. As companies upgrade [analytics] tools and their enterprise resource planning systems (ERPs), they need to hire more expert assistance to get the best results.”

How you’ll get there: A Bachelor's degree in finance, business, or a related field is a given. However, a Master’s degree is necessary for advancement, as is knowledge of options pricing, bond valuation and risk management, according to the BLS. While experience in related fields isn’t an absolute necessity at the entry level, recruiters will be looking for a strong understanding of the investment market, as well as experience working with financial software, database software and Microsoft Excel. Strong communication and presentation skills (aka soft skills) are held at a premium, as is dexterity with statistics and statistical analysis.

Certifications: The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) requires licenses for many financial analyst positions engaged in the securities business of a firm. Also, the CFA Institute administers the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification, which requires a Bachelor’s degree, four years of qualified work experience and successful completion of three exams. Financial analysts also have the option to become certified in their area of specialization.

What you’ll earn: According to Robert Half’s Salary Guide, a financial analyst with one to three years of experience can expect a starting salary in the range of $61,250 - $78,500 at a midsized company. Once you reach the manager level you’ll see salaries in the $92,250 - $122,000 range.

MARKET RISK ANALYST

Projected growth: 16 percent 2012-2022 (BLS).

What you’ll do: Market risk analysts, as the name implies, have specialized knowledge of an industry or market that allows them to provide keen insights into market trends and investment vulnerabilities. Responsibilities for this position include market research, statistical analysis, developing risk management systems, consulting with securities traders, and reporting and presenting research findings. Market risk analysts are highly adept at different systems and methods of research. However, since they may spend a lot of time traveling and communicating with clients, interpersonal skills also are essential.
What’s more, with an increase in international investments, many employers are looking for market risk analysts to be intimately familiar with global trading and investing. Those who specialize in a specific region or country will set themselves apart.

How you’ll get there: As with all the positions listed here, a Bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or a related field is a must, with a Master’s degree strongly recommended for advancement. To add to your competitive edge, you’ll want to earn a certification. Some employers also require licensing.

Certifications: The Chartered Financial Analyst Institute offers the CFA designation. Typically, it takes four years to complete the curriculum and to pass all three required exams. CFAs also are required to adhere to a code of professional ethics and standards. Market risk analysts of all stripes are subject to FINRA licensing regulations.

What you’ll earn: Glassdoor reports a national average of $82,276 per annum for market research analysts.

FINANCIAL EXAMINER

Projected growth: 16 percent 2014-2024 (BLS).

What you’ll do: Also known as compliance analysts and compliance officers, financial examiners are protectors of consumer interests, examining financial institutions to ensure absolute compliance with government rules and regulations. They are called upon to review balance sheets, operating income, expense accounts and loan documentation to confirm institution assets and liabilities; prepare reports that detail an institution’s safety and soundness; and establish procedure and policy guidelines.

There are two main areas in which financial examiners work: Risk scoping and consumer compliance. Risk scoping involves evaluating the health of financial institutions, ensuring they offer safe loans and have sufficient cash on hand to handle unexpected losses. These examiners also evaluate bank manager performance.

Financial examiners working in the consumer compliance area monitor lending activity to ensure borrowers are treated fairly, and help borrowers avoid predatory loans. They also see to it that banks do not discriminate against borrowers based on ethnicity or other factors.

Why the demand? As the BLS explains, “More financial institutions are hiring financial examiners to help navigate the new regulatory environment and reduce the cost of compliance.” Furthermore, “Employment of financial examiners tends to increase during periods of financial instability. As bank losses and failures become more prevalent during economic downturns, more examiners are needed to enforce regulation.”

How you’ll get there: “Chicago employers want compliance professionals with top-notch analytical, project management and organizational skills. Financial and business acumen are necessary, but these professionals also need leadership abilities, communication skills and a history of ethical decision-making. Candidates also  should have a minimum of three to five years of experience in regulatory compliance,” suggests Sadofsky.

Specific requirements for financial examiners vary between federal and state governments, but a Bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance or a related field is the place to start. To move up to a senior position, you’ll need a Master’s degree in either accounting or business, and your Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential.

Certifications: To sit for the CPA Exam, a Bachelor’s degree in accounting or a minimum of 150 semester hours is required. You’ll also need to pass the AICPA Ethics Exam. To obtain your Illinois CPA license, you’ll require one year of supervised experience in a position within government, industry, academia or public practice, where you provide service or advice in accounting, attestation, management advisory, financial advisory or tax consultation or services. After that, continuing professional education credits are required to maintain your license.     

What you’ll earn: “We’re seeing many Chicago companies offering in-demand candidates higher salaries and enhancing benefits packages to attract top talent and retain current staff,” Sadofsky explains. While salaries vary by sector, Robert Half’s Salary Guide pegs compliance officers as earning anywhere from $108,500 - $145,000, depending on institution size. Once you reach the senior level you’ll see salaries jump to the $127,500 - $261,000 range, again depending on institution size.

PERSONAL FINANCIAL ADVISOR

Projected growth: 30 percent 2014-2024 (BLS).

What you’ll do:
Personal financial advisors are all about advising individual clients in the areas of investments, estate planning, retirement planning, insurance, savings and, well, pretty much anything that shapes a client’s financial future.

Personal financial advisors consistently market their services to win new clients and are in regular contact with their existing clients, educating them in financial matters, answering questions about investment options and potential risks, recommending investments and financial products, helping to plan for specific life events such as college or retirement, and monitoring and modifying accounts as needed.

How you’ll get there: The learning curve often involves on-the-job training under the mentorship of senior advisors. A degree in finance, accounting, mathematics, economics or a related field is, of course, required. When it comes to moving up the career ladder and attracting new clients, a Master’s degree in finance or business administration can definitely improve your chances. Not surprisingly given the client-facing nature of this position, soft skills are paramount. Analytical and problem-solving skills also are of the utmost importance, allowing financial advisors to weigh the benefits and pitfalls of potential investment decisions.

Certifications:
The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards offers the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification. To earn the CFP, advisors must have a Bachelor’s degree and at least three years of relevant work experience. They also are required to pass an exam and adhere to the CFP code of ethics. The act of selling securities and insurance products also requires specific licenses regulated by FINRA.

What you’ll earn: Payscale.com reports a salary range of $37,828 - $123,621 for this position, although salaries vary widely depending on potential commissions, bonuses and management fees.