A Guide to Top Finance Careers in Chicago

Finance Careers in Chicago

Pulsing with an energy built on sheer force of will, Chicago has evolved into a true world financial center. The second largest business district in the United States, Chicago is listed as one of the world's top ten Global Financial Centers. Chicago has also been rated as an "Alpha World City" by The World Cities Study Group at Loughborough University for its exceptional role in the global economic system. Anyone entering today's career marketplace and looking to find a job in the Chicago financial sector should be encouraged by the diversity of opportunities in Chicago.

Chicago Finance Careers and Salary


An accountant helps companies or individual clients operate efficiently and make sure that taxes are paid properly and on time. They also offer budget analysis, financial and investment planning tips, information technology guidance, and limited legal services. Most importantly, an accountant will ensure that their clients manage their money responsibly and cost effectively. In the US, legally practicing accountants are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), and other non-statutory accountants are Certified Internal Auditors (CIA's), Certified Management Accountants (CMA's) and Accredited Business Accountants (ABA's). Primarily, the legal status and the types of services provided are the only differences between these certifications. Additionally, accounting work can be performed by uncertified individuals working under the supervision of a certified accountant. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly wages of accountants and auditors were $65,840.

Stock Broker

A stock broker or stockbroker is a regulated professional broker who buys and sells shares and other securities through market makers or Agency Only Firms on behalf of investors.Only members of the stock exchange can conduct transactions, so whenever individuals or corporations want to buy or sell stocks they must go through a brokerage house. Stockbrokers often advise and counsel their clients on appropriate investments and explain the workings of the stock exchange to their clients. Brokers have to be licensed and can obtain their license by passing the General Securities Registered Representative Examination and, in most cases, posting a bond. If your interests lie in the market, a bachelor's degree in business, finance, accounting, or economics is important, especially in larger firms.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage-and-salary wages of securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents were $68,680. The middle half earned between $40,480 and $122,270. Because this occupation is based on sales, many workers are paid a commission based on the products they sell. Most firms provide sales agents with a steady income by paying a “draw against commission”—a minimum salary based on commissions they can be expected to earn. Trainee brokers usually are paid a salary until they develop a client base with their salary gradually decreasing in favor of commissions as the broker gains clients.

The Chicago Stock Exchange is the third most active stock exchange in the United States by volume, and the largest outside New York City. The Chicago Stock Exchange is currently located at 440 South LaSalle Street (One Financial Place).

Financial Planners

Financial planners work with individuals and companies to determine how best to invest their finances and meet lifelong goals through resource management. A planner will take into account how much money is to be invested, how much risk the investor is willing to take and how soon the money will be needed. An understanding of investments, taxes, and estate planning is crucial. Earning a bachelor's degree in any discipline can put hopefuls on the track to be financial planners, but it will help if your degree indicates skill with numbers, be it in science or business. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median annual wages of wage and salary personal financial advisors were $69,050 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $46,390 and $119,290. Personal financial advisors who work for financial services firms are often paid a salary + bonus.

Financial Analysts

Financial analysts generally work in the research departments of securities firms. They are especially common in investment banks and portfolio management firms, but also work in brokerages. Analysts review financial statements of companies, evaluate economic and market trends, and make recommendations concerning the potential profits from investments in specific companies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median annual wages, excluding bonuses, of wage and salary financial analysts were $73,150 which is more than double the national median wage. The middle 50 percent earned between $54,930 and $99,100. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $43,440, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $141,070. Annual performance bonuses are quite common and can be a significant part of their total earnings.

Real Estate Agent/ Broker

Brokers and agents do the same type of work, but brokers are licensed to manage their own real estate businesses. Agents must work with a broker and usually provide their services to a licensed real estate broker on a contract basis. In return, the broker pays the agent a portion of the commission earned from the agent's sale of the property. Brokers, as independent businesspeople, often sell real estate owned by others; they also may rent or manage properties for a fee.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that median annual wages, including commissions, of salaried real estate sales agents were $40,150. The middle 50 percent earned between $27,390 and $64,820 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,120, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $101,860. Commissions on sales are the main source of earnings of real estate agents and brokers. The rate of commission varies according to whatever the agent and broker agree on, the type of property, and its value. The percentage paid on the sale of farm and commercial properties or unimproved land is typically higher than the percentage paid for selling a home.

Investment Bankers

Investment bankers advise their clients on high level issues of financial organization. They manage the issuance of bonds, recommend and execute strategies for taking over and merging with other companies, and handle selling a company’s stock to the public. Investment bankers usually work with the government or with companies and are responsible for helping the entities to sell stocks and bonds. They can also provide financial advice about investments and minimizing tax liabilities.

The good news for Chicago investment banking job seekers is that numerous mid-market firms from New York, Boston, and San Francisco have expanded their operations into the Chicago area. These new entrants, as well as existing mid-market firms, are now looking for experienced bankers who can bring business to the table.

Insurance Agents

Insurance agents, who may be referred to as insurance sales agents, help clients choose insurance policies that suit their needs. Clients include individuals and families as well as businesses. Insurance agents sell a variety of products such as life insurance, auto insurance and health insurance to help guard people against the risk of unpredictable disasters. For insurance sales agent jobs, many companies and independent agencies prefer to hire college graduates—especially those who have majored in business, finance, or economics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wages of wage and salary insurance sales agents were $45,430. The middle 50 percent earned between $33,070 and $68,730.

Financial Manager

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly every type of firm employs one or more financial managers. Financial managers supervise financial reports, direct investment activities and apply cash management strategies. They also create different financial strategies and implement the long-term financial goals of the organization. Most financial managers need a bachelor's degree, and many have a master's degree or professional certification, but in rare cases, experience may be more important than formal education for some positions—most notably, branch managers in banks. Median annual wages, excluding annual bonuses and stock options, of wage and salary financial managers were $99,330.

The above wage data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey program, unless otherwise noted.

Recommended Business Schools in Chicago

Keller Graduate School of Management - Chicago Loop Center

DeVry University's Keller Graduate School of Management offers seven master's degree programs in business and technology management and a wide variety of graduate certificates, ideal for working professionals to enhance their careers and increase earnings potential.

Westwood College - Chicago River Oaks Campus

Westwood College isn't your typical institution of higher learning. Students can earn a bachelor's degree in just three years and some associate degrees in as little as 20 months. And with day, night and online schedules*, we can accommodate almost any lifestyle.

DeVry University - Chicago/Loop Center

At DeVry, you can choose to attend full-time or part-time, days or evenings. You can also combine both classroom courses with online courses to help fit your personal schedule

For more information on Finance Degree Schools & Programs in Chicago, visit Businessschools.com

For more information on Finance careers in Chicago, visit Monster.com

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