Working on Wall Street has always been the road to riches.
Goldman Sachs employees, on average, were paid $439,700 last year. Those at Morgan Stanley got $256,596. Bank of America paid an average of $122,491, but that included lower level commercial banking jobs as well as high-flying positions at the Merrill Lynch investment banking arm.
Chiefs of these institutions are also expected to be well-rewarded for their work last year. Citigroup's chief executive, Vikram Pandit, got a $1.75 million raise in 2010 after earning a symbolic $1 in 2009.
While firms small and large went under during the financial crisis, with 344,000 people leaving the industry, it's still lucrative.
Not everyone can work at Goldman, or reach the rarified level of CEO. But finance still offers a wealth of interesting, satisfying and -- perhaps most important -- well-paid opportunities. During the worst of the great recession, while Main Street Americans were losing jobs and closing businesses, many folks in finance were still getting bonuses and living well. Tiffany, the ultra-expensive jewelry retailer that caters to the finance industry's elite, recently raised its sales and earnings estimates for the year ending Jan. 31., which can only mean one thing: Wall Street is spending again.
With the economy recovering this year, so is the banking and finance industry. Certain areas will offer more job prospects this year than others. We've put together a list of the top three:
1. Compliance officer
What it is: The passage of the Financial Regulatory Reform bill by Congress last year has created demand for compliance officers, the folks who help interpret detailed new rules that companies must follow when filing taxes, issuing bonds and doing a host of financial acrobatics.
Industry recruiters expect hundreds of companies to be looking for compliance officers over the next 18 months.
What it takes: Most companies require an undergraduate degree in economics, mathematics or statistics for an entry-level job, according to Doug Rickart, a division director at finance recruiting firm Robert Half.
What it pays: According to Salary.com, compliance managers get paid about $150,000 a year at the high end to $73,000 at the low end.
Who's hiring: Hedge funds, private equity firms, investment banks and local and regional banks.
"Whether it's an investment bank or a broker-dealer, firms will need to deal with this overarching regulatory wave that's coming. Firms really need to shore up their infrastructure," said Jack Kelly, managing director at Compliance Search Group, a New York-based compliance recruitment firm.
- Find Compliance Officer Jobs
- Compliance jobs among most in demand in 2011
- How to become a compliance officer
2. Credit analyst
What it is: How do you know if something is a safe investment? For many people, what Jim Cramer says on 'Mad Money' passes for sound investment advice. But large institutions like banks, pension funds and governments get their information from credit analysts.
These analysts study and research bonds and other financial instruments to determine whether they are going to gain, lose or maintain their value. If they like what they find, they give a bond a high rating, like AAA. If they don't like what they see, they give it a lower rating, like AA or BB or even lower. That way, investors know how risky an investment is and can make an informed decision.
What it takes: Credit analysts come from all walks of life. When Mark Howard was the co-head of global research and credit analysis at Barclays Capital, a large British investment bank, he hired people with knowledge of specific industries and inquisitive minds. He also liked to hire hockey players and chess buffs, because they could think many moves ahead.
"Great analysts have to be able to think laterally," he said. "My experience is, people who are very strong in silos don't necessarily think effectively outside of those silos."
What it pays: There are about 68,000 credit analysts in the United States right now, earning an average of $67,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Who's hiring: Investment banks like Deutsche Bank and credit ratings agencies like Moody's, among others.
- Find Credit Analyst Jobs
- Credit Analysts are New Belles of the Ball as Investors Demand Deeper Research
- What it takes to become a credit analyst
- How to Get a Job at Moody's
3. Financial advisor
What it is: Financial advisors help investors manage their money. From stocks to bonds to various kinds of funds, financial advisors are a conduit to the market for many retail investors.
While the job does entail a fair amount of watching the market and acuity with numbers, it also involves marketing, customer relations and sales. Financial advisors help families plan for owning a home, college expenses and retirement.
Essentially, financial advisors need to have good social skills. Think of it as a service job that happens to be about money.
What it takes: Financial advisors come from diverse backgrounds. Some study economics and go to work for a big firm like UBS Wealth Management.
Others start later in life, after having a career that puts them in contact with a lot of people who could make good clients. Lawyers, accountants and other professionals can make an easy transition into the profession if they're good with people and numbers.
Financial advisors need to get their Series 7 and Series 66 licenses. Most registered investment advisor companies, like Edward Jones and Charles Schwab, will help new financial advisors through this process.
What it pays: Advisors made $173,000 in 2009, on average, according to Registered Rep magazine. Those new to the field should expect to make less in their first year.
Who's hiring: The large registered investment advisors, such as Edward Jones, Raymond James and Charles Schwab, are always looking for good advisors.
- Find Financial Advisor Jobs
- FA Certifications and how to get them
- Resume tips for inexperienced financial advisors
- So, you want to be a financial advisor
- Financial advisor jobs outlook
- The President Ignored The Elephant in the Room [The Huffington Post]
- Exports and Jobs: Less Than Half The Story [The Huffington Post]
- Recent Grads Finding Jobs - In Their Living Rooms [CNNMoney.com]
- The View From Camden, N.J.:Homeless and Missing The Recovery [DailyFinance]