How To Start a Career in Finance (With Jobs and Salaries)
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 actions to appeal to a hiring manager and help you secure a position. Once you've determined which positions in finance are most suitable to you, you can start working on finding and applying for these roles.
In this article, we explore how to start a career in finance, including what the requirements are and what types of roles you can find in this job sector.
What does a finance career involve?
Starting a career in finance involves requirements that vary depending on the role. In most cases, a career in finance requires at least a four-year degree, with some roles requiring graduate degrees. Many finance careers also require extensive knowledge in business management, mathematics, statistics, economics and accounting principles. People looking to start a career in finance often pursue college degrees, complete certifications and training and take on internships and entry-level positions to gain work experience. The financial industry also expands to higher-income roles, and many organizations provide the training and resources needed for advancement opportunities.
Related: Your Guide to Careers in Finance
What do you need for a finance career?
A career in finance can require education, professional credentials, experience and specific skill sets, including soft skills and industry knowledge. Consider the following criteria that a finance career requires:
Most financial positions require professional credentials. Depending on the type of role, these credentials can include professional certifications, college degrees and licenses. For instance, you may choose to earn a degree in accounting to pursue careers in the accounting sector, like tax or corporate accounting roles.
Employers may also look for a certain amount of professional experience when hiring for open positions. For example, midlevel personnel like financial analysts, consultants and advisers often have multiple years of experience working in the field. Conversely, a position in bookkeeping may require less experience.
Finance skills are another essential requirement for a career in this field. Employers often look for skills that are specific to the role. For instance, a financial analyst may require more advanced skills in data analysis than a bookkeeper who only performs and monitors accounting calculations for immediate business operations. The skills you develop for your career can vary depending on the role you're interested in pursuing.
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, 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 can likely 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 focus 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. Ask for referrals
If one of your contacts works at the company you're applying to, 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 verify that you're a qualified candidate. In addition, consider requesting a referral from a previous employer, supervisor or colleague to showcase your ability to fulfill the job requirements of the role you're interested in pursuing.
Related: How To Ask for Referrals
4. Take relevant courses
You can choose college courses or continuing education courses that support the kind of position you're most interested in pursuing. For example, instead of opting for psychology courses, you may focus on business, accounting, economics or ethics courses that can teach you skills and expose you to concepts that can 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 typically take place through regulatory authorities, rather than colleges and universities.
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 for success and helping you grow confident 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 career fairs
Career fairs also offer opportunities to secure a job offer in finance. At a career fair, you can talk to company representatives about their organizations 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 directly in finance, you may find that you can earn promotions and later apply for the job you're most interested in having. For example, you may explore a job opportunity as a human resources generalist for a major financial firm or as an office assistant for your local credit union.
Can you start a finance career without a degree?
It's possible to work in finance without a corresponding degree in roles such as a receptionist, assistant, bank clerk or another entry-level position that doesn't require a degree. Most jobs beyond these require at least an associate or undergraduate degree, but hiring managers also look at your experience, abilities and skill set.
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.
Tips for getting into the finance industry
Explore these tips to help increase your chances of getting into the finance industry:
Build the skills section of your resume
Hiring managers typically want to know that you have the soft and hard skills and abilities necessary to succeed in the position. On your resume, try to 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 for which you're applying.
Showcase your strengths
It's also important to showcase your strengths while applying for open positions. In your application, include achievements that show employers how your skills and knowledge have contributed to past success. For example, you might highlight how you solved a technical challenge when preparing financial statements to showcase your abilities to think critically and apply accounting formulas and statistics.
Use your connections
If you have an employment history of working in other industries before moving to finance, think of past colleagues with whom you've worked. Then you can 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 companies
You can perform research to learn more about each company you're considering, including how their previous and current team members feel about the organization and what advancement opportunities the employer may offer. You may also learn more about their hiring processes on the employment page on the business website. This information can guide you in applying for and accepting your ideal role.
Types of jobs in finance
Consider the following types of finance careers you can pursue in the field. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, visit indeed.com/salaries.
1. Bank clerk
National average salary: $32,419 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. Many employers may not require a four-year degree for this role, though some may require at least an associate degree or professional certification and proof of skills in the field.
Read more: Learn About Being a Bank Teller
National average salary: $37,698 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 interested parties and upper management. An associate degree is usually a requirement for this role.
National average salary: $60,153 per year
Primary duties: An accountant maintains a company's financial records. They file tax returns, facilitate payroll, generate reports and financial statements and prepare budgets. Accountants may also work with company collaborators and interested parties to develop business plans and often hold certification status in addition to finance degrees.
Read more: Learn About Being an Accountant
National average salary: $69,732 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 may need in the future.
National average salary: $76,556 per year
Primary duties: An underwriter assesses loan applications to determine the financial risk the lender would take on by loaning money to the candidate. They view credit scores and histories, verify income, review employment and ask candidates for supporting documents to determine the candidate's loan eligibility. Most employers also require underwriters to hold an undergraduate degree in fields like accounting, business administration or economics.
Read more: Learn About Being an Underwriter
National average salary: $79,899 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 stay updated on investment trends. In some cases, employers may not require investment consultants to hold a degree, but most require at least a state licensure and professional certification.
National average salary: $142,523 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.
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