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What Career Options are Available for Finance Majors?
Earning a finance degree in Mississippi can lead to a wide variety of employment opportunities. While graduates often pursue jobs related to money management, banking, and/or economics, this area of study helps individuals develop technical skills that can be applied in almost any industry. In fact, those with knowledge of and experience in the finance field are frequently qualified for various occupations in business, as well.
There are many different kinds of personal and corporate finance professionals in Mississippi. The field is expansive, with employment opportunities available in many different industries. Money management and investment are integral parts of most businesses. As a result, most companies and organizations utilize professionals of this type to some extent.
Responsibilities vary based on the job obtained, but most individuals in this field provide some sort of assistance to individuals, companies, and/or organizations as they develop financial plans, strategies, and/or forecasts. Daily responsibilities also depend largely on employer size and their unique expectations.
Many who graduate with a finance major pursue careers as accountants and auditors. Duties for these professions are relatively standardized throughout the nation. In most cases, these professionals prepare and examine financial records in order to identify possible areas of opportunity/risk, and provide potential solutions to problems. They may also be expected to ensure financial operations run smoothly by examining financial statements, computing taxes owed, making best-practice recommendations to management, suggesting ways to reduce costs while improving profits, and inspecting account books for efficiency.
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Online Finance Education in Mississippi
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for business and financial occupations is expected to increase by 7% from 2021 to 2031. This is about as fast as the average for all occupations in the nation and should result in approximately 980,200 job openings each year. However, it’s good to know that some professions are projected to grow more than other. While employment for accounting and auditing occupations is expected to increase by only 6%, market research analysts should see 19% growth in employment over this ten-year period.
Finance and insurance is the seventh largest industry in Mississippi, accounting for $5.6 billion in revenue each year. As mentioned, however, expertise in this field could lead to employment in many other sectors. Opportunities may also be available in manufacturing, real estate, education, retail, business services, wholesale, transportation, construction, and the arts.
Based on data provided by the BLS, 41,570 business and financial operations professionals were employed in Mississippi as of May 2022. The annual mean wage for these occupations was $67,380, which is significantly higher than the state’s annual mean wage of $45,180 for all occupations.
As a relatively popular major in the United States, many colleges and universities throughout the nation offer degree programs in finance and other similar subjects. Mississippi is home to several state-operated public institutions and community colleges, as well as private higher education institutions and technical schools. While online learning makes it possible to earn a degree from nearly anywhere with internet access, those who plan to seek employment in Mississippi may want to give preference to academic facilities in the state. This is the best way to obtain a geographically relevant education, which can be particularly important when applying for certain licenses and certifications. It’s also common for colleges and universities to establish relationships with local companies and organizations, which can help facilitate internship opportunities while enrolled and professional employment after graduation.
Students interested in completing finance programs in Mississippi will have plenty of options to choose from across the state, from community colleges to larger universities. Some of these options include Mississippi College, Mississippi State University, the University of Southern Mississippi, Jackson State University, Delta State University, etc. Mississippi colleges and universities are ready to help students earn finance degrees, gain experience in portfolio management, knowledge of financial systems and financial markets, and more.
Many colleges and universities in Mississippi offer finance degrees, with programs available at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Some institutions also offer relevant academic certificate programs, although these are generally most appropriate for current professionals seeking to change fields.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the education standard for most business and finance occupations is a bachelor’s degree. While some entry-level employment opportunities may be available with little-to-no higher education, those with more advanced degrees will have the best professional prospects. Those interested in supervisory roles, in particular, will require master’s degrees.
Online Associate Degree in Finance (AS)
Associate degrees in finance generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately two years to complete. As undergraduate programs, they are typically comprised of both general liberal arts education and major-specific classes. This means that students spend a significant amount of time studying basic communication, mathematics, and science subjects in addition to concepts in finance, accounting, and bookkeeping. Those enrolled can also expect to receive instruction in business, payroll, software, and banking.
This type of degree is ideal for individuals seeking employment as accounting clerks, billing specialists, and bookkeepers. Graduates are often proficient in many simple skills relevant to the field such as financial spreadsheet management, budgeting, tax preparation, and financial data analysis. In many cases, this is enough to qualify candidates for entry-level employment.
A common alternative to entering the workforce immediately after graduation is enrolling in further education. Many choose to continue learning by entering bachelor’s degree programs. This is a natural next step, as most colleges and universities accept academic credit hours from other institutions and apply them towards new graduation requirements. As a result, those with associate degrees often enter as juniors rather than freshmen, with only two additional years of education needed in order to earn more advanced degrees.
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Online Bachelor's Degree in Finance (BS)
Bachelor’s degrees in finance often consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately four years to complete. As undergraduate programs, they are typically comprised of both general liberal arts education and major-specific classes. This means students spend a significant amount of time studying basic communication, mathematics, and science subjects in addition to financial planning, forecasting, and investing. Those enrolled can also expect to receive instruction in evaluating financial statements, cash flows, and security markets, as well as accounting principles, financial institutions and markets, investments, and risk management.
Additionally, it’s common for colleges and universities to encourage bachelor’s finance students to select relevant concentrations, or specializations, in the field. Doing this allows those enrolled to tailor their learning so it covers certain areas of study that may be more applicable to their ultimate career goals.
Some concentrations commonly available at this level include:
- Investment Management
- Banking and Financial Services
- Corporate Finance
- Risk Management and Insurance
- Real Estate
This type of degree is ideal for individuals seeking employment as financial planners, accountants, and financial analysts. Regularly considered the education standard for the field, bachelor’s degrees are often the minimum requirement necessary to qualify for many entry-level roles.
Online Master's Degree in Finance (MS)
Master’s degrees in finance generally range from 30 to 36 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately two years to complete. Some accelerated programs do exist, however, which may take as little as 18 months to finish.
Unlike undergraduate programs, these no longer incorporate general liberal arts education. Instead, students can expect to focus solely on finance-related subjects. While curriculums vary by institution, classes in business communications, financial accounting, derivatives and risk management, financial modeling and firm valuation, and international financial management are common. Those enrolled are also likely to have the ability to select relevant concentrations in the field.
Some examples of possible specializations at this level include:
- Real Estate Finance
- Computational Finance and Trading Systems
- Derivatives and Risk Management
- Finance and Economics
This type of degree is optimal for individuals seeking employment as financial analysts, financial examiners, financial managers, and personal finance advisors. These tend to be some of the most in-demand and high-paying positions available in the field. Graduates are also likely to receive preference for mid-level employment opportunities. Additionally, many popular finance certifications and licenses require candidates to possess master’s degrees.
Online PhD Degree in Finance (PhD)
A PhD or doctorate in finance generally consists of between 60 and 120 credit hours that take full-time students four to seven years to complete. Academic programs at this level are generally somewhat customizable. Students work alongside professors to ensure the education they receive is as applicable to their career goals as possible. This is best achieved by strategically selecting elective classes and/or concentrations that align well with career aspirations.
Some academic tracks commonly available include:
- Forensic Accounting
- Accounting Information Systems
- Audit Accounting
- Public Accounting
- Managerial Accounting
Every curriculum is different, but those enrolled can typically expect to study accounting research, advanced statistics, microeconomic theory, and corporate governance. Students are also likely to participate in independent study and research, especially during the later years of programs. Most colleges and universities also expect doctoral and PhD candidates to write and defend dissertations before a board of experts prior to graduation.
It's important to realize that degrees of this type are rarely necessary for obtaining employment in the finance field. Only those seeking jobs in academia and/or research are likely to need this level of education. Graduate may also qualify for lucrative career opportunities in corporate management.
Become a Financial Advisor in Mississippi
Becoming a financial professional generally begins with obtaining the right education. In order to determine the most appropriate and applicable degree, you will first need to identify you ultimate career goals. With so many occupations available in the field, it’s important to consider the various options carefully. Every profession is unique, with separate employment standards and expectations. You can use your personal interests, preferences, and aptitudes do decide which type of work you would like to perform. Once you know your preference(s), it becomes easy to use this information to generate a roadmap to success. Not only will you know which degree to pursue, but you can also make the most informed decisions possible when picking minor areas of study, elective courses, extra-curricular activities, and internships. Doing this will help ensure you obtain the necessary knowledge, skills, training, and experience needed to succeed.
Once you complete all the necessary education requirements needed for your preferred occupation, it may also be beneficial to pursue one or more professional certifications. While not always required for employment, there are many finance-related credentials available that can help demonstrate your expertise in the field to potential employers. In fact, it’s not uncommon for companies and organizations to prefer to candidates who possess at least one relevant certification during the hiring process. Additionally, some jobs necessitate that applicants have certain credentials prior to employment.
Some of the most popular certifications available to financial professionals include:
- Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
- Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
- Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
- Certified Fund Specialist (CFS)
- Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
- Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC)
- Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA)
- Chartered Market Technician (CMT)
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
- Personal Finance Specialist (PFS)
- Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)
- Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM)
- Certified Healthcare Financial Professional (CHFP)
- Certified International Investment Analyst (CIIA)
- Certified Merger and Acquisition Advisor (CM&AA)
- Chartered Economic Analyst (ChEA)
- Financial Risk Manager (FRM)
One of the most popular and commonly sought after financial credentials is Certified Public Accountant (CPA). While relatively standardized throughout the nation, every state manages the credential independently. In Mississippi, the process is overseen by the Mississippi State Board of Public Accountancy. This board works to protect the public welfare of the citizens of the state through oversight and regulation, as well as to maintain the highest standards of proficiency in the profession.
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CPA candidates in Mississippi must be residents of the state or have a place for regular business in the state. They must also have good moral character, which is verified by an online background check. Additionally, licensure applicants are expected to have passed the CPA examination within the last three years. The Uniform CPA Examination is managed and administered by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). It consists of four sections: auditing and attestation (AUD), business environment and concepts (BEC), financial accounting and reporting (FAR), and regulation (REG). Each section is four hours in length, with a total testing time of 16 hours.
Notably, you can only sit for this exam after completing 120 semester hours of college education, with a baccalaureate degree conferred by a regionally accredited four-year academic institution or equivalent with a concentration in accounting. Candidates must possess master’s degrees, however, in order to obtain licensure as CPAs. Further, they must have, at minimum, one year of meaningful experience gained by full-time employment under the supervision and direction of a CPA licensee within three years of the date of successful completion of the CPA examination.
Potential Careers for Finance Graduates
Accountants work for companies and organizations, providing accurate financial calculations and completing various monetary tasks. Expectations vary, but they often create cash flow reports, administer payroll, maintain balance sheets, carry out billing activities, manage budgets, and keep inventory records. They may also perform internal audits and file taxes. According to PayScale, accountants make an average base salary of $52,822 per year.
- Budget Analyst
Budget analysts are hired by companies and organizations to develop functional budgets using past performance data. Once they have created effective and efficient plans, they are generally responsible for presenting them to management, executives, and other team members. According to PayScale, budget analysts make an average base salary of $63,064 per year.
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
CPAs provide a wide variety of general accounting, tax, reporting, and audit services to individuals, companies, and organizations. They complete tasks such as reviewing financial information, preparing documentation, and ensuring familiarity with changing government regulations, as well as suggesting improvements to bookkeeping and recordkeeping processes. According to PayScale, certified public accountants make an average base salary of $70,989 per year.
- Credit Analyst
Credit analysts are often hired by major banks, credit unions, and investment management groups to determine credit worthiness of potential clients. They assess past credit purchases of individuals, companies, and organizations prior to making a final recommendation. In some cases, they may also recommend ways to improve credit ratings. According to PayScale, credit analysts make an average base salary of $54,328 per year.
- Financial Advisor
Financial advisors are employed to help set and achieve various fiscal goals. They typically begin this process by assessing the financial needs of their clients, both short and long-term. They then recommend various tactics, appropriate investments, and ensure all applicable tax laws are properly followed. According to PayScale, financial advisors make an average base salary of $61,325 per year.
- Fundraising Manager
Fundraising managers most often work for non-profit organizations, helping to secure sufficient finances needed to function and thrive. To bring in funding, these professionals typically develop and oversee a wide variety of initiatives, plan events, generate marketing campaigns, and orchestrate volunteer involvement. They may also interact with and solicit assistance from numerous individuals and corporate entities. According to PayScale, fundraising managers make an average base salary of $56,680 per year.
- Insurance Agent
Insurance agents work for agencies, brokerage firms, or individual insurance companies selling prepaid policies that provide financial benefit in the case of calamity. As they are often expected to generate sales for multiple products at a time, they must be highly familiar with the options. It’s typically their responsibility to provide product details and make relevant recommendations to clients. According to PayScale, insurance agents make an average base salary of $40,843 per year.
- Investment Banker
Investment bankers are typically expected to assess the overall financial health, capital needs, and goals for companies, organizations, and government entities, as well as facilitating promising investment opportunities. They suggest various strategies to improve monetary gains based on sensitive financial information and also provide their clients with advice regarding when it is best to sell bonds, buy/sell stocks, and take out loans. According to PayScale, investment bankers make an average base salary of $101,848 per year.
- Tax Preparer
Tax preparers are employed by individuals, companies, and organizations to generate accurate income tax returns. In addition to finding ways to keep the amount of taxes paid as low as possible for their clients, they also ensure that all forms are correctly prepared and submitted. They also verify that all deductions, exemptions, and claims adhere to the most current state and national tax laws. According to PayScale, tax preparers make an average base salary of $48,505 per year.
- Accountants and Auditors. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Business and Financial Occupations. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- May 2021 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Mississippi. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Finance Certifications. Financial Management Association (FMA)
- Licensing and Exams. Mississippi State Board of Accountancy
- CPA Exam FAQ. National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA)