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Is Finance A Good Career Path? Advice for 2024

Want to pursue a career in finance? Let's explore what roles you can apply to, how to choose the right degree, and break into finance with no experience!
December 23, 2022
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Are you someone who finds joy in deciphering complex equations and has an insatiable curiosity for economic trends? Then finance might just be the right career path for you.

Finance isn't confined to pinstripe suits and Wall Street; it spans the vast spectrum from banks to private enterprises to public service. According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the finance realm in the U.S. is teeming with over 8.9 million professionals as of 2022, and we're going to break down just how they got there. 

What Does It Mean To Work In Finance?

With almost 9 million professionals in the finance industry, there's a plethora of careers to choose from. Here's a sneak peek at some of the positions to consider:

  1. Financial Analyst: Picture yourself advising businesses and individuals on how to make their money work for them. Financial analysts are the financial fortune tellers of the corporate world, often the first stop for recent college grads. In May 2021, the median annual salary for financial analysts was a respectable $95,570.
  2. Chief Financial Officer (CFO): If you're aiming high, the CFO role is your golden ticket. It's all about managing a company's financial symphony, from payroll to expenses and revenue tracking. Typically held by seasoned pros leading a team, this gig boasts a median annual salary of $131,710.
  3. Investment Banker: Imagine yourself as the financial matchmaker, connecting businesses with investors through the magic of underwriting. This exhilarating journey often begins right after undergraduate school, with on-the-job training lighting your path. Currently, investment bankers earn a median annual salary of $62,910.

What Educational Path Leads To A Career In Finance?

Now, let's talk about the academic side of things. Relevant majors for future finance aficionados include business and finance, accounting, and mathematics. But here's the plot twist: a bachelor's degree isn't your only option; you can choose from:

  • Associate Degree: Picture this as your "finance appetizer"—many community colleges offer two-year programs in finance or related fields. It's a budget-friendly way to kickstart your financial adventure, with the added perk that your credits often transfer to four-year colleges.
  • Bachelor's Degree: Most finance professionals hold a bachelor's degree in finance or a related field. It's your foundation for financial success. When selecting a college, aim for those with top-tier financial programs.
  • Master's Degree: Ready to level up? A master's degree can be your secret weapon, especially if you have prior work experience. Some companies even foot the bill for their employees' postgraduate education.

Prepping for Success Before Completing a Finance Degree

Choosing the right major is crucial, but remember to spice up your journey with extracurricular activities. Think tax returns, banking gigs, certification exams, internships, and diversity initiatives. Explore opportunities in your local community, research job titles and credentials, and don't shy away from asking about student loan repayment options.

Finding a Finance Internship

Internships aren't just resume fillers; they're the backstage passes to the finance world. Many finance students snag internships or externships during the summer or part-time during the school year. Big financial institutions often roll out the red carpet, and remote opportunities are rising, like the next big cryptocurrency! Check out sites like LinkedIn, Handshake, and Paragon One.

Key Recruiting Dates

Now, let's talk timelines. Finance applications typically fall due between mid-November and December. However, here's the catch: many banks operate on a first-come, first-served basis. To give yourself the best shot, apply as soon as positions open. In some cases, banks in the U.S. have been known to close intern applications as early as July!

  • Full-Time Interviews: Typically, these kick off around August to September, covering both undergraduates and MBAs. Be sure to check with your career resources center for a list of firms coming to your campus. Interestingly, a significant chunk of these full-time offers goes to candidates who interned the previous summer.
  • Internship Interviews: For summer internships, the interviews usually commence in January to February, targeting both undergrads and MBAs.
  • Off-Cycle Opportunities: Don't fret if you miss the main recruiting cycle. Smaller boutique and middle-market investment banks often have less structured interview processes, both in terms of guidelines and dates. These firms often hire on a need basis, which means opportunities can arise year-round. If you find yourself lagging behind the main cycle, consider setting your sights on these boutique and middle-market gems.
  • School-Specific Schedules: Recruiting schedules can vary by school, but they generally align closely with one another.

A Career In Finance Needs A Resume That Stands Out

The key to landing opportunities with these leading banks is all in how you present yourself, starting with your resume, so make sure to include the following:

  • Your educational background
  • Details of internships
  • Work experience
  • Transferrable skills
  • Any awards or scholarships you've secured
  • Links to professional profiles like LinkedIn

If you ever hit writer's block, your college advisor or career services team is there to provide expert guidance, or check out our resume guide

Get Involved: Finance Clubs

Getting involved in clubs can be incredibly beneficial for personal and professional growth. These groups provide opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals who share your interests and passions. They offer a platform to expand your network, learn from others, and gain valuable insights and skills. You may want to look into:

Boost Your Finance Street Cred with Certifications

Another showstopper to include on your resume is a certificate. Here are a few that'll make you stand out:

  • Certified Financial Analyst (CFA): CFAs are the investment jugglers, managing portfolios with finesse. Many financial analysts chase this certification early in their careers to boost their finance street cred.
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP): CFPs are the financial navigators, guiding clients through comprehensive financial planning. This certification is your ticket to building trust with individual clients.
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA): CMAs are the financial wizards of the corporate world, overseeing everything from budgets to risk management.

Know Before You Go: FAQs About a Career in Finance

Is finance a good career path? 

It's an excellent choice if economics, numbers, and math make your heart race. High earning potential is another perk, but your personal preferences and skills matter, too!

Which companies are part of the finance industry?

Think financial service companies, banks, and finance roles in various organizations. While major players like Chase and Bank of America are in the game, finance jobs can be found in numerous industries.

Can I break into finance without experience? 

No sweat! You can kickstart your finance journey by diving into education, taking intro courses, or scoring an externship.

Whether you're interested in traditional finance or the dynamic fusion of finance and technology, there's a path tailored just for you. Start your journey early, stay informed, and proactively pursue your finance career goals.

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