7 Steps To Start a Career in Finance (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published February 15, 2021

The financial industry can provide a lot of career opportunities, depending on your education, experience, skill set and interests. Although it can be a competitive field, you can take certain steps to appeal to a hiring manager and secure a position. Once you've determined which positions in finance are most appealing to you, you can start working on finding and applying for these roles.

In this article, we explain what you'll likely need to start a career in finance, describe how to start your career in the field, provide tips you can use to begin in finance and share a list of jobs in the finance industry.

What is a career in finance?

A career in finance is any position that involves working for a financial company or has something to do with finances at an entity that has a different focus. For example, you may consider both an accountant at a restaurant group and a customer service representative for a bank as having careers in finance. The financial industry can support higher income roles, and many organizations provide the training and resources you need to earn advancement opportunities.

Related: 6 Essential Accounting Skills

What do you need to start a career in finance?

A hiring manager or human resources professional will likely want to see that you are organized, dependable, analytical and detail-oriented. They may also desire an employee who can manage relationships with others well, problem solve and communicate appropriately with customers.

Experience and education are also important parts of starting a career in finance. Although it will probably help to have some working experience in finance or a related field, you can also share any volunteer or freelance opportunities you've had or discuss a college project you're particularly proud of.

If you're considering college, explore your options for a finance degree or other related major. You may choose to earn a degree in economics, marketing, business or another field that will also support your goals and ideal career path.

How to start a career in finance

The pathway to career success takes work and determination. Use these steps as guidance for starting a career in the financial industry:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

While you don't technically have to earn a degree to work in finance, your extra schooling can help you stand out to a hiring manager and remain on track with the other candidates for a particular role. Especially if the job you want is more specialized, you'll probably benefit from earning your degree in finance versus business or another related field. Your education can also expose you to financial concepts and valuable information that you can use in your future career.

2. Pursue an internship

An internship gives you the opportunity to learn more about the financial industry as you work for a company that can give you a glimpse into how your career may progress. Consider completing more than one internship, each in a different part of the financial industry, as each internship can expand your knowledge and help you hone in on your interests and desired career path.

Another benefit of internships is that you can build your professional network to include those you're working alongside. When you're applying for positions, these same coworkers may help you secure a position. You can also share your internship experience with the hiring manager during job interviews or update your resume to include your internship projects and accomplishments.

3. Use a current employee as a referral

If one of your contacts works at the company you're applying with, ask if you can use them as a referral. Many hiring managers are more willing to look at your resume and consider you for the position if someone can vouch for you as a qualified candidate.

4. Take relevant courses

You can choose college courses or continuing education courses that support the kind of position you're most interested in. For example, instead of opting for psychology courses, you may want to focus on business, accounting, economics or ethics courses that can teach you skills and expose you to concepts that will make you a stronger job candidate.

You can also take licensing courses on varying financial topics, which can prepare you for a role in the industry. These types of courses are usually not affiliated with a college or university—instead, they're provided by regulatory authorities.

5. Pair up with a mentor

A mentor can be an important part of starting your career in finance. The mentor's role is to guide you in your career, providing you with the resources you need to succeed and helping you grow confidence in your skills. Your mentor can help you establish your goals and develop a plan to achieve them. To find a mentor, consider asking your internship manager or supervisor, a college professor or someone else you know who has a successful finance career.

6. Attend a career fair

A career fair is where you can speak to company representatives about their organization and the opportunities available to candidates with your qualifications. Sometimes, you can leave a copy of your resume with these individuals, and some even conduct preliminary interviews during the event.

7. Start in an entry-level position

If you want to work in finance, consider starting in an entry-level position. Even if the role isn't in finance, you may find that you can earn promotions and later apply for the job you're most interested in. For example, you may explore a job opportunity as a human resources generalist for a major financial firm or an executive assistant to the CFO of the local credit union.

Can you start a career in finance without a degree?

It's possible to work in finance without a corresponding degree if you want to work as a receptionist, assistant, bank teller or another entry-level position that doesn't require a degree. Most jobs beyond these will require a degree, but hiring managers look at your experience, abilities and skill set as well.

Depending on the employer, you may be able to hold a degree in any industry and still get a position in the field if you're able to show that you possess the qualities they're looking for in a new hire. For higher-level positions, it's typical for hiring managers to require specific degrees or certifications for consideration.

Related: 14 Career Advice Tips for College Students

Tips for getting into the finance industry

Explore these tips to increase your chances of getting into the finance industry:

Build the skills section of your resume

Because hiring managers want to know that you have the skills and abilities necessary to succeed in the position, make sure they see what qualifies you for the job. You can share your technical skills and soft skills as they relate to the position you're applying for.

Include your strengths throughout your resume

Other than the skills section of your resume, you can also include your skills in your career objective and within the description of your responsibilities for previous positions, even if they were not in the finance industry. If you're a recent college graduate, consider highlighting any special projects you completed in school that showcase your unique skills.

Use your connections

If you have an employment history of working in other industries before moving to finance, think through the people you've worked with to see if any of them may be able to help you secure a position. If you're a recent graduate, it may be worth asking your professors if they have any connections to a job in the field.

Research the company you're applying with

You can perform research to learn more about each company you're considering, including how their previous and current employees feel about the organization and what advancement opportunities the company may offer. You may also learn more about their hiring process right on the employment page on their website. This information can guide you in applying for and accepting a job with the company.

Related: Finance Skills To Include on Your Resume by Job Type

Job opportunities in the finance industry

Here is a list of career opportunities to consider if you want to work in finance. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link by each job title below:

1. Bank clerk

National average salary: $23,546 per year

Primary duties: A bank clerk supports the bank or credit union where they work and the customers of the financial institution by performing clerical duties. They process deposits and withdrawals, suggest other financial products, produce bank statements and update account information.

Read more: Learn About Being a Bank Teller

2. Accounts payable clerk

National average salary: $33,927 per year

Primary duties: An accounts payable clerk is responsible for processing incoming payments and preparing invoices. They reconcile the company's accounts, prepare bank deposits and create financial reports for stakeholders and upper management.

Read more: Learn About Being an Accounts Payable Specialist

3. Accountant

National average salary: $54,728 per year

Primary duties: An accountant maintains a company's financial records. They file tax returns, facilitate payroll for employees, generate reports and financial statements and prepare budgets. Accountants may also work with company stakeholders to develop business plans.

Read more: Learn About Being an Accountant

4. Investment consultant

National average salary: $63,752 per year

Primary duties: An investment consultant is responsible for working with companies to develop their investment plans based on their goals. They provide advice on solid investments, research different financial options and keep up to date on investment trends.

5. Underwriter

National average salary: $79,353 per year

Primary duties: An underwriter assesses loan applications to determine the financial risk the lender would take on by loaning money to the applicant. They view credit scores and histories, verify income, review employment and ask applicants for supporting documents so that they can decide whether to extend a loan to the borrower.

Read more: Learn About Being an Underwriter

6. Budget analyst

National average salary: $80,851 per year

Primary duties: A budget analyst is responsible for helping companies create and adhere to budgets. They discuss budget proposals with managers, identify ways that an organization can follow its budget, keep managers updated on available funds and monitor spending. Budget analysts also use their data and the organization's financial history to estimate what finances the company will need in the future.

7. Chief financial officer (CFO)

National average salary: $134,517 per year

Primary duties: A chief financial officer manages the financial activities of a business. They create and approve budgets, forecast financial needs, negotiate contracts with vendors and suppliers, monitor the company's debits and credits and make investment decisions. CFOs also produce reports that showcase a company's financial health.

Read more: Learn About Being a CFO (Chief Financial Officer)

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