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The Ultimate Guide to a Career in Finance; What You Need to Know

The finance industry is seeing unprecedented growth in the U.S. and around the world.  If you’re interested in pursuing a career in finance or want to know more about the various finance careers offer in terms of opportunity and salary, then this article is for you.

Finance covers a lot of ground and includes not only how money is managed but also the process of how funds are acquired. It is commonly broken into three subcategories—personal finance, corporate finance, and public finance- which requires a different skillset and mindset; however, the principles remain similar. Each role requires familiarity and comfort with certain aspects of accounting.

So, a finance job requires understanding accounting principles and a clear understanding of the best tactics for raising and investing capital.

This article is meant to provide you with a quick overview of finance’s potential careers, including their salaries and job outlooks, and detail on how you can best position yourself to land a great job.

Why Choose a Career in Finance?

The finance industry is an exciting global industry that is constantly advancing and expanding. There are so many reasons why you would want to join such an exciting and powerful job sector. Not only are the possibilities endless when it comes to career paths but for destinations too.

There is no shortage of opportunity for people interested in finance as a career, especially in the United States. Elsewhere, finance jobs are growing at equal or faster rates in Europe and Asia, outpacing most industries. And for those with a solid background and/or professional credentials, job opportunities are much. Finance related positions are viewed as crucial organizational functions and are a profit center within any organization.

You can never go wrong when you pursue a career in finance. Some jobs are readily available in diverse roles. You have to be passionate about a sub-sector since the industry is huge.

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Finance Industry Jobs & Outlooks

Most people have heard about investment banking due to its renowned competitiveness and high pay. However, not everyone realizes a wide range of finance careers extend beyond supporting banks, which still offer similarly impressive pay packages. Some finance positions require skills similar to accountants. Even though accounting is certainly part of the job, there is clearly a focus on managing and investing compared to auditing how money is used.

Standard job titles within investment banking include Financial Analyst, Financial Consultant, Portfolio Manager, Investment Banker, Financial Advisor, Risk Manager, and Credit Analyst, among many others. Each has its own career path; however, in general, it takes two years or more to move to a higher-level position, so substantial career progression requires a long-term commitment.

Financial Analyst

In the financial service industry, one of the most coveted careers is that of the analyst. If you want to be a financial analyst, you have to play an economist, s strategist, or predictor.

The financial analyst’s primary role is to pore over data to identify opportunities or evaluate outcomes for business decisions or investment recommendations. Within a corporation, you may be analyzing the financials of your company and its investments. You could be looking for financial issues, running the numbers for new projects, or only ad hoc reporting and analysis.

Finance
Finance

If you are a financial analyst within an investment organization, you’ll likely be tasked with examining the financials of outside companies you’re looking to invest in, buy and sell. This requires a broad base of knowledge about different kinds of companies within industries and an understanding of how and why investments are made.

A career as a financial analyst requires preparation and hard work. It can also deliver monetary rewards and genuine satisfaction from being an integral part of the business landscape.

Financial Consultant or Financial Advisor

A financial consultant or advisor is your financial planning partner. They help you create strategies for eliminating financial risk and building wealth over the long term. Potential consulting can be on topics that include taxes, investments, and insurance decisions.

Personal financial consultants or advisors work closely with clients to offer personalized financial advice and may direct the buying and selling of stocks and bonds on behalf of clients. Some financial advisors work for large banks but many work in smaller organizations. If a financial consultant works within a consulting firm, he/she often focuses on the financial needs of a specific business or industry, such as hospitals.

Portfolio Manager

A portfolio manager makes investment decisions for an individual’s or business’s portfolio. To be a portfolio management professional, you need prior experience as a financial analyst and know intimately how to value and choose investments. A portfolio manager often manages assets toward a clearly defined client objective or portfolio focus (i.e., growth, small-cap, value, etc.), an acceptable level of risk, and desired return goals. As a portfolio manager, you can manage investments for one person, a group of people, or an organization/institution (including the management of retirement funds, endowments, foundations, or some other pool of money.

The traders and portfolio managers within the fund are usually paid a percentage of their returns, typically 10-20%. E.g., if a manager returns 10% in a year, they’ll receive about 1-2% of the assets they manage within the fund.

Investment Banker

An investment banker is in the business of raising money for companies, governments, or other entities. As an investment banker, you can work as part of a financial institution or a large bank division. Investment bankers will be involved with large and potentially complicated financial transactions.

They help shape financial deals to raise money for expansion, acquisition, merger, or business sale. This also includes the initial public offering of a company’s stock, as this is done to raise money for the company to meet its objectives.

There are no specialized credentials required for a career in investment banking, but you will need to know financial modeling and valuations.

Internships offer a route into the industry, but competition is fierce and the interview process challenging. In addition to acquiring the right technical skills, be sure to think through how you might answer typical behavioral interview questions. There’s no excuse for not doing your homework on the hiring company and their recent deals and transactions.

Required Skills for Investment Bankers

The investment banking field is popular because investment bankers are typically well paid. However, these positions require specific skills, such as excellent number-crunching abilities, strong verbal and written communication skills, and the capacity to work long and grueling hours.

Risk Manager

Risk managers monitor and mitigate financial risk within a company. Specifically, they identify and assess threats to the company but plans to combat such threats and decide how to avoid, reduce and transfer risks from the company. For a finance professional, the focus is on utilizing financial instruments to manage the organization’s exposure to risk, including a multitude of directions, including operational, credit, market, foreign exchange, etc. Various industries utilize risk managers as they are valuable to protect the company’s interests, so jobs for these professionals span the financial, insurance, loss control, legal, and accounting spaces.

Credit Analyst

A credit analyst is an in-demand job that requires a strong background in finance, accounting, and economics. Many industries need a credit analyst’s skills to evaluate and analyze financial data about the clients’ experience. The skills required for credit analysis involve interpreting numbers and data, strong observation skills, and attention to detail.

As a credit analyst, you can work for a commercial or investment bank and be responsible for performing various financial and ratio analyses. A credit analyst will look at potential fixed-income investments within the scope of investing and analyze whether they are suitable for purchase or sale, depending on the business objectives. These professionals often have a background in accounting, finance, statistics, or economics.

The average salary for a credit analyst in the United States is around $67,844 per year.

Steps to Starting Your Finance Career

  1. Get the right degree.

You may think you don’t have to possess a degree to get a job in finance, but you’d be wrong. A bachelor’s degree is now the bare minimum requirement for almost any financial job. So, choose your degree and university carefully as some companies or banks limit their hiring to specific universities. Ensure the college or university you choose has a reliable business school and a strong reputation in the finance industry. If you want to move to a new location, ensure that your university has a large footprint recognized in the area you wish to find a job. While science and engineering degrees are popular options, especially outside the U.S., know that you will need to supplement your undergrad degree with further finance-related education. Earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is the most common and direct route.

  1. Pursue a specialty

As you can see, finance is a wide-ranging industry, and earning a degree targeted toward this area of business presents you with a lot of options. Graduates can find jobs in accounting departments, finance departments, education, sales, banking, financial advising -the list of career options is endless. Most entities need someone with an analytical mind who can read financial data, interpret it and communicate findings and recommendations. During your education, you will have a few years to decide, but ensure you research the types of jobs you find most interesting. You should eventually specialize in one facet of finance as specialization is the best strategy for a long and successful career. This is where earning one or more specialized credentials—such as the Charted Financial Analyst® (CFA), Charter Market Technician® (CMT), or Financial Risk Manager (FRM) designations—can truly help you to stand out and advance in your career.

  1. Get a job

After you’ve completed your undergraduate education, it’s now time to get a job. To continue to differentiate yourself, try to gain early career experience through internships. You may think it’s too early to start, but earning a professional credential can be a dramatic help in landing your first few jobs out of college. It may seem like your learning is done when school is, but it’s only beginning—those who succeed never stop learning.

Certification and Licensure Required

Employers are now looking for job candidates who have additional credentials that demonstrate they have the prerequisite skills and knowledge necessary for a specialized finance job. Every university is different in its teaching methods and materials, so professional credentials are a great way to level the playing field and ensure candidates have the necessary knowledge to do the job. Some of the most wanted certifications are;

  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) – www.cfainstitute.org
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP) – cfp.net
  • Financial Risk Management (FRM) – garp.org
  • Chartered Market Technician (CMT) – mta.org
  • Certification and Licensure Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA)- www.caia.org
  • Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) – www.imca.org

Final Words on Careers in Finance

No doubt a career in finance offers lucrative perks, but there is stiff competition to get a job. Besides the required qualifications, you should also have a passion for keeping pace with volatile financial markets and financial regulations.

Whether you’re targeting a finance internship or making your first break into the finance industry, there are many jobs up for grabs.

However, since it can be a cut-throat sector and employers know what it takes for a particular type of individual to succeed within it, use this ultimate guide to a career in finance to prevent any doubts about your suitability.

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