What Kinds of Financial Careers Are Available and How Do I Get Started?
You love crunching numbers. Spreadsheets are your playground. It intrigues you to consider how money powers the world. You plan and advise family and friends on their budgets.
If this describes you, then congratulations: you’re well-suited to a career in finance! The finance industry continues to grow year over year, and for good reason—you’ll find some of the most challenging, analytical, and rewarding jobs here.
But if you are interested in a financial career, you probably know that the industry is immense. There are tons of career paths to choose from, and countless ways to find training and education. So where do you even start?
What Type Of Financial Career is Right For You?
Before you set off on your journey to career in finance, it might be helpful to sit down and figure out where your passion lies. Broadly speaking, there are three major sectors of the financial industry, though (luckily) the principles and skills you learn throughout your education will be generally applicable to all areas of finance.
In the world of personal finance, you’ll spend your time helping people decide on their personal finance goals, as well as giving them the information they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their family. This can include consultations for things like financing education and major purchases, investment and retirement savings, budgeting and taxes, and estate planning.
In the corporate finance sector, you’ll be responsible for helping businesses properly manage their money and make critical financial decisions. This can include helping them manage funds, plan a financial strategy, forecast company profits and losses, maintain profitability, and balance risk.
The public finance sector usually handles financial issues at the municipal or state level, especially for clients such as school districts or government-related organizations.
No matter what area you’ve chosen to work in, you’ll want to earn your bachelor’s degree first. Depending on your choice of school, this typically means four years of study.
Technically speaking, you don’t have to have a degree in a field related to finance. A career in the finance industry will require keen interpersonal skills, a good head for numbers, analytical knowledge, problem-solving abilities, and (in today’s world) a little technological know-how. Fortunately, all of these skills can be learned on the go, or brought in from previous careers, if your background isn’t in finance.
However, a bachelor’s degree in a related field—such as business, accounting, or finance—will give you a good entry-level overview of the industry, setting down the foundations you’ll build upon later in your career. Most finance-related degrees will give you the interpersonal skills you need to deal with clients, as well as teaching the basics of finance, accounting, and even investments for both personal and business use.
Beyond your bachelor’s degree, it’s often a good idea to further your education with more specialized coursework and training. This can help you stay competitive during your job hunt. For career changers, it can also help teach you the financial skills you’ll need on the job. For example, you might want to choose an MBA with a focus in finance, or you might find a financial analyst program for an additional year or two of study. Certain schools and programs will also allow you to focus specifically on the aspects of the industry that interest you most, with track options specializing in things like investment, financial markets, or finance management.
On the other hand, many financial workers start their career off with specific certifications related to their field of interest. When it comes to financial planning, for example, you should start by becoming a Certified Financial Planner, as this certification program is essentially the gold standard. Depending on your interests, you might instead decide to become a Certified Financial Analyst (CFA). If your passion lies in stocks or securities, you can get certified through major agencies such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) or the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA).
Finally, many people hoping to break into the finance industry decide to join various professional finance organizations in order to network, stay up-to-date on best practices, and boost their competitiveness. Depending on your interests, you might try connecting with organizations like the American Bankers Association or the Association for Financial Professionals, for example.
As we stated above, there are three major sectors of finance. However, these sectors tend to overlap at times, and the work you do in one may be highly similar to the work someone else does in another (on a different scale). That being said, there are many different options for anyone looking for a financial career, so we’ve outlined some of the most popular career paths and areas to choose from.
- Financial planning. (We couldn’t leave this one out!) As a paraplanner or financial planner, you’ll advise clients—both personal and corporate—on how to manage their finances. This can involve knowledge on everything from tax planning to investments to retirement savings.
- Accounting. Regardless of the financial sector, accountants will analyze, plan, and advise clients on taxes and budgeting—and (most importantly) on how to maximize their earnings each year.
- Actuary science. Depending on the sector, you’ll help businesses and organizations plan for the future and manage their risk, consulting with companies before any major moves are made.
- Budget analysis. As a budget analyst, you’ll help companies and organizations set goals, as well as finance future projects and proposals.
- Banking. Whether at a local institution or a larger corporation, workers in the banking industry often have a wide range of job and promotion opportunities, especially with international companies.
- Financial analysis. As a finance analyst, you’ll assist bankers and investors by researching stocks, bonds, and companies to help them find sound investments.
As you consider your choice, don’t forget the importance of choosing an area that aligns with your interests and passions. For example, if you enjoy working in the public sector, then public accounting might be best for you.
On the other hand, if (like us) you love crunching the numbers while helping clients on a personal level, the paraplanner route may be the best fit!
For more information on the financial planning industry, stay tuned to the blog and join us in the Simply Paraplanner Portal!