From accountants to loan officers: The 25 highest-paying business and finance occupations
Which are the highest paying jobs among the business and financial occupations? Santa Clara University turned to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to find out.
Business and financial occupations—which concern the day-to-day duties of running a business or are related to raising or managing money— pay well. People in those positions made a median annual wage of $76,570 in May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. That far exceeds the BLS-measured median annual wage of $45,760 for all occupations.
Employment in these occupations is also expected to increase 7% through 2031, leading to about 715,100 new jobs over the decade that began in 2021. Besides newly created jobs, opportunities are created when workers leave the field, either from moving to new occupations or retirements. Those openings will total about 980,200 a year on average for the next decade.
Santa Clara University used the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics from May 2021 to find the 25 highest-paying business and financial occupations. The analysis ranks occupations by their median annual wage across all industries, including both the public and private sectors. It excluded occupations in "other" categories. (For example, "Business Operations Specialists, All Other.") Standard errors ranging between 0.2% and 4% mean that the actual median wages could vary, creating probable overlap between many of the rankings.
Descriptions of jobs and information on educational backgrounds are also from the BLS website.
- Annual median wage: $60,660
- Employment: 82,080
As the title suggests, fundraisers are responsible for raising money and other types of donations through events and campaigns that they organize. The money might go to nonprofit organizations—including educational, religious, health research, or social services organizations—or contributions to a politician running for public office.
Typically a bachelor's degree is required at the minimum, with a focus in communications, public relations, or business, and English proficiency is often preferred. The professional outlook is good, with employment in the fundraising field expected to grow 11% this decade, outpacing most other occupations.
#24. Property Appraisers and Assessors
- Annual median wage: $61,340
- Employment: 58,340
Property appraisers and assessors provide an estimate on the value of real estate—often necessary to obtain a mortgage, for example—and on personal and business property. They will likely have a bachelor's degree but also extensive on-the-job training. Growth in the field through 2031 is projected at 4%, nearly as fast as the national average. There are expected to be about 6,800 openings each year over the decade, replacing those who leave the field or retire.
#23. Training and Development Specialists
- Annual median wage: $61,570
- Employment: 336,030
These specialists, who usually need a bachelor's degree to enter the field, help employees improve their skills. They plan and administer programs to foster that advancement and work in nearly every industry. To be successful, they should have strong communication skills and on-the-job experience. The job outlook through 2031 projects an 8% growth rate.
#22. Human Resources Specialists
- Annual median wage: $62,290
- Employment: 740,830
Human resources specialists recruit, screen, and interview candidates for jobs, and may also handle pay and other compensation, as well as benefits, training, and employee relations. Those responsible for recruitment in particular may conduct video interviews via Zoom, but also travel to job fairs and college campuses. Typically, those in the field have a bachelor's degree, often specializing in human resources or business. Employment in the HR specialist field is expected to grow by 8% through 2031.
#21. Auto Damage Insurance Appraisers
- Annual median wage: $62,680
- Employment: 11,430
Auto damage appraisers typically have experience estimating the cost of vehicle repairs or a certificate indicating postsecondary training in the field. They usually receive on-the-job training that can last several months, during which they are supervised by an experienced appraiser while estimating the cost of damages. Licensing requirements vary from state to state. The number of jobs for all claims adjusters and appraisers is expected to decline by 6% over the next decade.
#20. Loan Officers
- Annual median wage: $63,380
- Employment: 340,170
Employees in this field evaluate loan applications to either approve or reject them or recommend further underwriting. They typically have both a bachelor's degree as well as on-the-job training. Most loan officers work for financial institutions, whether banks, credit unions, or mortgage companies. Mortgage loan officers also must undergo a criminal background check to be licensed.
#19. Buyers and Purchasing Agents
- Annual median wage: $63,470
- Employment: 439,020
These agents are responsible for buying products and services. Their work is overseen by purchasing managers. They usually have a bachelor's degree, often in business, finance, or supply management, while managers also have work experience. Those expecting to work in agriculture might also consider a degree in agriculture production or animal science. The outlook for the field is not good for the next decade, as job prospects are expected to drop 6% through 2031.
#18. Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists
- Annual median wage: $63,920
- Employment: 727,540
Market research analysts try to determine the potential sales of products or services by studying such factors as business conditions and consumer preferences. Widely used throughout many industries, potential employees in this occupation must at least have a bachelor's degree, although some employers require a master's degree. Job prospects in the field are much better than average, with 19% growth in positions projected over the next 10 years. Marketing specialists develop campaigns to encourage brand awareness and promote sales, as well as organize trade shows, conferences, webinars, and similar events.
#17. Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists
- Annual median wage: $64,120
- Employment: 87,750
These specialists handle wages and other benefits that companies or nonprofits provide for their employees. They may also determine salaries and job classifications. A bachelor's degree is typically required. The outlook for future growth is projected to reach 7% through 2031.
#16. Claims Adjusters, Examiners, and Investigators
- Annual median wage: $65,080
- Employment: 278,140
Claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators are charged with evaluating insurance claims. Education or experience requirements vary, from a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree to previous work experience in the insurance field. For investigators, some employers prefer to hire trained law enforcement officers or state-licensed private investigators. The overall employment of these specialists is expected to fall 6% through 2031, although there are about 23,200 openings every year.
#15. Cost Estimators
- Annual median wage: $65,170
- Employment: 208,950
Cost estimators determine how much it will cost to produce a product or provide a service. To do that, they collect and analyze data that allows them to assess the labor, materials, time, and money that would be needed. A bachelor's degree is usually required, although experience in construction can be sufficient to start. Hiring in the field is expected to drop 2% over this decade, although there are some 18,500 openings each year to replace workers who have left or retired.
#14. Compliance Officers
- Annual median wage: $71,650
- Employment: 334,340
This position requires a determination of whether companies or government offices and agencies are in compliance with legal regulations and other standards. The federal government hires the most compliance officers in the United States. The highest paid work can be found in mining industry compliance, with an annual mean wage of $111,640.
#13. Insurance Underwriters
- Annual median wage: $76,390
- Employment: 107,690
Insurance underwriters evaluate applications for insurance to decide whether to offer it and to determine the terms. Usually, a bachelor's degree is required, although some positions may need only experience and competent computer skills while other more advanced roles—such as a senior underwriter or underwriter manager—could demand an industry certificate. The field has been in decline for years, with employment expected to fall 4% through 2031. However, there are about 8,400 openings each year to replace those who move to other careers or retire.
#12. Labor Relations Specialists
- Annual median wage: $77,010
- Employment: 63,810
Labor relations specialists focus on contracts, administering and interpreting contractual provisions. A bachelor's degree in one of the following subjects is typically required: business, industrial relations, labor relations, or human resources. The need for labor relations specialists is expected to fall 3% over the next decade, but 5,800 replacements will be required for retiring union negotiators and others who move on from the field.
- Annual median wage: $77,030
- Employment: 189,320
Logisticians have shined under the spotlight during the coronavirus pandemic, when disruptions upended supply chains around the world. That's because logisticians are responsible for analyzing and coordinating supply chains. An often fast-paced and stressful job became even more difficult due to new government social distancing rules in food processing and consumer goods warehouses, as well as lockdowns in supplier countries such as China. The demand for logisticians is growing and is expected to expand by 28% through 2031.
#10. Accountants and Auditors
- Annual median wage: $77,250
- Employment: 1,318,550
Accountants and auditors handle financial records, preparing and examining them. They typically have a bachelor's degree in accounting or similar subjects. Becoming a certified public accountant or CPA usually will improve job prospects. Employment in the field is expected to increase by 6% over the next 10 years.
#9. Credit Analysts
- Annual median wage: $77,440
- Employment: 68,770
Credit analysts examine financial statements and other data from individuals and companies to measure the risk of extending credit or lending money. They also prepare credit reports to be used in making loans. Credit analysts typically need a bachelor's degree, and as of May 2021, there are more than 68,000 employed credit analysts.
#8. Agents and Business Managers of Artists, Performers, and Athletes
- Annual median wage: $78,410
- Employment: 12,480
Agents and business managers represent and promote their clients in their interactions with their current employers and also with prospective ones. They also might handle negotiations over contracts for actors, athletes, and entertainers. There are about 12,480 agents and business managers; however, the number does not include self-employed workers.
Most agents and business managers are located in or near the Los Angeles or New York City metro areas, where the cost of living is high.
#7. Budget Analysts
- Annual median wage: $79,940
- Employment: 47,440
Analysts in this field help plan the finances of public and private organizations. They usually need a bachelor's degree and take courses in accounting, statistics, and economics. The growth outlook for the field is 3% through 2031, which is slower than average. However, about 4,000 jobs open up every year.
#6. Financial Examiners
- Annual median wage: $81,410
- Employment: 60,750
Financial examiners make sure that institutions handling monetary transactions adhere to all applicable laws. They typically work in the finance or insurance industries or for the federal or state governments. They usually need a bachelor's degree with some classes in accounting and are trained on the job. The field is expected to grow 21% over the decade, much faster than the average job growth rate.
#5. Financial and Investment Analysts
- Annual median wage: $91,580
- Employment: 291,880
These analysts advise their clients, businesses, and individuals on how to invest their money to make a profit. More than 373,000 people, who ordinarily need a bachelor's degree to do the job, are employed in this occupation. The field is projected to grow 9% through 2031, well above the national average rate of job growth.
#4. Management Analysts
- Annual median wage: $93,000
- Employment: 768,450
Management analysts examine the workings of organizations to recommend ways they can improve efficiency and increase profitability. Those in the field usually have a bachelor's degree and several years of relevant experience. The growth rate for the profession is expected to reach 11% through 2031, well above the average for all fields.
#3. Personal Financial Advisors
- Annual median wage: $94,170
- Employment: 263,030
Personal financial advisors help their clients to manage money and plan for their retirement, children's education, purchasing a home, and other life goals. Advisors typically need a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree and some industry certification, such as the Certified Financial Planner, can be helpful to advance an advisor's career. As the population ages and Gen Xers and millennials inherit wealth from boomer parents passing on, the field is on pace to grow faster than the average throughout the economy, by 15% over the next decade.
#2. Project Management Specialists
- Annual median wage: $94,500
- Employment: 743,860
Project management specialists oversee projects, from coordinating the budget to managing scheduling and handling staffing. Project managers usually have a bachelor's degree, with an emphasis on business, project management, or a similar field, while industry certifications can be helpful for advancement. The field is positioned to expand by 7% through 2031, which is about the national average for all occupations.
#1. Financial Risk Specialists
- Annual median wage: $100,000
- Employment: 54,320
These specialists analyze and measure the credit or market risks that could affect the economic health of an organization, including its assets and earnings capacity. Financial risk specialists can recommend ways to limit risk and often work for the Federal Reserve, in the securities and commodities industries, or for insurance carriers.
This story originally appeared on Santa Clara University and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.