Engineering is a rich field full of fulfilling and well-paying jobs at leading companies such as Google, Apple and SpaceX. From the outside, you could reasonably assume that an engineering graduate with a good degree has it made.
So why do engineering graduates frequently consider pursuing graduate degrees in finance or transitioning to finance careers?
The simple answer is that the union of these two fields creates unique opportunities for career advancement. Promising careers in engineering or in finance are plentiful, and a degree in either field will take you far. However, degrees in both fields will take you and your career even farther.
In this guide, we'll explore how obtaining a Master of Science in Finance degree can help you bridge knowledge gaps and discover new career opportunities you’re already qualified for as an engineer. We'll look at how engineering skills could help you flourish in the world of finance and which careers in finance are best suited for you as an engineering graduate.
Why Pursue Finance as an Engineer?
Engineering graduates might consider pursuing finance for several reasons. Common reasons include:
- Greater opportunities for advancement and promotions
- Better pay and bonuses
- Changing job market with new jobs requiring "hybrid" skills
All of these are perfectly justifiable reasons to consider transitioning career paths or complementing your undergraduate education with advanced finance skills. Careers in finance offer many exciting opportunities, and, of course, the potential bonuses are noteworthy. Even junior positions offer remuneration far beyond the ~$110,000 reported by the BLS as the average pay for software engineers.
Even that pay is relatively high for engineering graduates. Mechanical engineers average around $90,000, and the outlook is similar for civil engineers. These are respectable salaries, but many engineering professionals feel that the compensation doesn't stack up to the high technical knowledge and expertise required for these positions.
With that in mind, completely transitioning to a career in finance is not something you should consider lightly, especially as you've probably already poured plenty of money into graduating as an engineer. Therefore, the best path could be to earn a Master of Science in Finance degree. This degree shows prospective employers that you're prepared for the challenges of this extremely demanding workplace and a go-getter with the ambition required to succeed in high finance.
There are also many exciting opportunities in fintech. For example, software engineers may find greater rewards in helping to develop new financial solutions than in traditional software fields, especially as the rise of cryptocurrencies brings huge demand for specialists in this area.
How Does a Master of Science in Finance Degree Benefit an Engineer?
Earning a Master of Science in Finance degree is one of the best ways to transition into finance careers or to complement your engineering degree. In short, this is because:
- It gives you in-depth technical knowledge that will enable you to perform better in famously high-pressure industries.
- It will teach you more about how different careers in finance work, allowing you to choose an avenue that suits your skills.
What Finance Companies Look for in Engineering Graduates
It's a well-known fact that the analytical skills that help you succeed as an engineer have application in finance careers. However, for prospective finance employers, this isn't enough by itself. You'll need to demonstrate:
- Respect for the industry. Yes, you've qualified in a challenging subject, but that doesn't mean careers in finance are going to be easy for you. Employers will want you to show that you understand you're not ‘skilling down’ for higher rewards. The need to demonstrate your respect for the industry is a significant reason why earning a Master of Science in Finance degree is such a good move, as it helps to bridge crucial knowledge gaps.
- Transferable analytical abilities. Unfortunately, you can’t expect a finance company to accept that engineers make good financial analysts or investment bankers simply as common knowledge. You'll need to confidently demonstrate how what you've learned in your engineering training will make you an asset to a finance company.
While many economists and financial specialists alike have lauded ambition as a quality that makes for a successful financial professional, complacency and expecting an easy buck are very different. If you're considering transitioning to careers in finance, it's best to show that you've done the groundwork by obtaining the proper qualifications.
Some specializations such as software engineering are easier to sell to finance companies than degrees like chemical engineering. However, with a master’s in finance degree and a carefully considered explanation of what your prior training helped you understand in postgraduate study, any engineering graduate can assemble a good case for why careers in finance are well-suited to their skills.
What Are Finance Opportunities for Engineers?
There are several roles that you could easily adjust to as an engineer with a Master of Science in Finance degree. Below, we cover a few roles, their prospects and what you'll need to succeed.
More Advanced Engineering Positions
If you aren’t excited about completely transitioning from engineering to finance, a Master of Science in Finance program can still greatly benefit you by providing industry knowledge that you can leverage into promotions and raises as an engineer.
For example, consider a mechanical engineer working at BMW and aiming for a managerial promotion. This mechanical engineer could easily set herself apart from the competition with a finance degree, which would demonstrate an understanding of business operations, costs and prospects beyond that of a candidate with an engineering degree alone.
Especially for software engineers, fintech programming is an increasingly viable role if you're looking to transition to careers in finance. You'll need strong coding abilities and a keenness to learn about concepts that are still in their infancy, as many fintech careers deal increasingly with cryptocurrency.
For example, you could find work as a blockchain developer with a crypto provider. Alternatively, you could find work as an app developer for a startup, using your vision to offer new solutions in a highly competitive marketplace.
Besides programming expertise, the qualities that make an excellent fintech programmer include a diligent, evidence-based approach and an enquiring mind. These apply to engineers coming from virtually all specializations, so taking a postgraduate study program to aid your transition to these careers in finance makes you a very strong candidate.
It's the first thought that comes to mind when you first consider transitioning to careers in finance. It's the job with the biggest bonuses — but also the harshest working conditions. Investment banking requires the kind of analytical skills that engineers are famous for, and it also requires a similar understanding that a simple mistake can have massive ramifications.
Imagine that you were designing a bridge and made a fundamental miscalculation about the load a section could bear as a civil engineering graduate. Making the wrong call on an investment holds a similar level of risk not just for your job security but the livelihoods of the people whose investments you help to manage.
We're not trying to scare you off from transferring from engineering to investment banking. We just want you to know that you're going to have to show an awful lot of commitment if the top companies hire you as a transfer. One of the best ways to achieve this is by earning a Master of Science in Finance degree.
Careers in corporate banking are perfectly suitable for the analytical mindset of engineering graduates. This role differs from investment banking. Rather than raising capital, your task is advising companies on their financial strategies and opportunities. Your job is to promote healthy growth for your client companies.
Advising is a big part of this role, so it's perfect for candidates who wish to transition from engineering because they feel their people skills are among their most vital qualities.
This role pays handsomely, with a base salary of around $142,000 plus bonuses of up to $50k. In addition, there's less risk and stress involved than investment banking, and it's not as tech-heavy as becoming a fintech professional. These benefits make corporate finance careers one of the best all-around transitional options for engineering graduates.
Finance companies need cybersecurity analysts. Emerging evidence that sophisticated cybercriminals target banks shows that if you’re a software engineer with substantial experience in coding, you could easily transition to a successful career as a cybersecurity analyst.
Information security experts make around $103,500 per year according to the BLS. The analytical skills you possess as a qualified engineer may well be of use here, while your technical approach can easily help you transition to a coding career.
Conclusion: Finance for Engineers
There's every reason to consider enriching your career with finance as an engineering graduate. You have the brainpower, the skillset and the previous experience to succeed. All you need are the qualifications and the proof of commitment, which is why we recommend pursuing a Master of Science in Finance degree.