If you have the skills and the discipline to pursue a degree in finance, there are a host of exciting ways to apply those credentials in the thriving and expanding financial industry.
There are various academic paths you can choose as you pursue your interest. Finance, economics, business administration, accounting, how do you decide? Author Kevin Walker, writing for Business Administration Information, explains that a career in finance “requires skills in the management of investments.” Walker captures the skillset that finance majors hone during their academic careers. He points out that financial analysts, a common role for finance majors, “study the stock and bond markets, determining good places for both organizations and individuals to place their money. They are usually involved with projected returns on investments and overall money strategies. You are looking forward to what can happen tomorrow, not managing the day-to-day revenue flow.”
If this sounds like the right coupling of your interests and abilities, then you’re in luck. Earning a degree in finance stands to position grads for engaging and lucrative opportunities in a growing sector. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) explains: “Employment of business and financial operations occupations is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 773,800 new jobs.”
The BLS points out that growth is projected across the financial industry: “Globalization, a growing economy, and a complex tax and regulatory environment are expected to continue to lead to strong demand for accountants and auditors. In addition, increasing usage of data and market research in order to understand customers and product demand, and to evaluate marketing strategies, will lead to growing demand for market research analysts.” The future looks bright for finance majors.
If you’re wondering: what can I do with a finance major? Read on to learn the details about these exciting careers.
It takes a deep, organized thinker with problem-solving prowess to succeed in a career in finance.
These are some specific skills that finance majors refine through their academic work and use throughout their careers:
- Comfort and fluency with analyzing and discussing financial data
- Budget preparation savvy
- Math and calculation skills
- Fastidious attention to detail
- Technological fluency
- Problem-solving skills that bridge the financial and the professional
- An acute understanding of economic and business trends
- Honed risk analysis and management skills
- Fluency with strategic planning
- Business savvy, including the ability to evaluate a management team
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
- The ability to work well on a team
- Stellar reporting abilities
The financial industry is a competitive field in which to earn your professional start. Wayne Pinsent, investment professional and author for Investopedia, explains that the jobs market in the financial sector tends to cycle along with the stock market. Pinsent points out: “When the stock market is booming, finance jobs boom as well. But when returns dwindle, so do the job listings.”
Pinsent notes that internships tend to provide an important bridge for newly credentialed financial professionals, between their academic and professional experiences. Pinsent explains: “For entry-level positions, interviewers do not expect candidates to know much. Many companies have orientation and training programs that teach new recruits the specifics of what they need to know, but having background knowledge is still expected. An internship can help to fill in for the lack of full-time experience and is not as difficult to get as a real job. Internships do not generally require prior experience, although a basic understanding of the field is essential.”
If you can get an internship before you graduate, you put yourself in a good position to hit the ground running once you have your degree in hand. This way, you have some professional experience to claim on your resume, which helps when you start your search for your first entry-level role.
Another important reason to do an internship as an undergrad: it helps you to grow your network of professionals in your industry. This is especially important in the competitive financial industry. It’s in your best interest to grow and tend your network as much as possible throughout your career.
“After 30 years in the business, it never surprises me how small an industry really is. I can guarantee you that someone you intern or work with today will play a decision making role in a job or new business opportunity you are trying to secure many years from now.” Explains Rutgers professor Mark Beal in his book 101 Lessons They Never Taught you in College.
Networking matters, so start now. Reach out to fellow students, professors and colleagues. Join your school’s alumnae network. Become a member of a professional society. If that’s not possible for you, ask to be a guest of a member. Attend events and meetings. It can be hard to develop a strategy for making connections and meeting new people in the professional sphere, but taking the risk is worth it and stands to benefit you. A recent survey by author Lou Adler reveals that 85 percent of responds found their roles by networking.
Plus, keep in mind, that your contemporaries get it. They’ve been in your shoes. They know it’s hard to be new to a profession, and many are likely to be responsive and helpful. It’s regarded as a professional courtesy that you’ll have your chance to pay back someday too.
Putting yourself out there and finding your networking comfort zone is an essential, professional skill. In addition to job opportunities, it can lead to important professional relationships like mentorships.
Make sure to have your resume ready for circulation, in case you meet a contact who’s hiring or knows of an open position. In the same way, prepare to discuss what you’re looking for in your first professional job. Do your research. Use Glassdoor to seek out roles and companies that seem like they could be a fit for you.
Compose and rehearse an elevator pitch that captures the essence of what you’ve done professionally and what you’re after.
Part of the value you bring to the table as a finance major is your analysis and problem-solving skills. Put those power-house abilities to work for you, using them to fuel your job search.
Professionals working in the securities industry are typically required to be licensed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The BLS explains, however, that these licenses are often maintained at employers’ expense: “A license is generally required to sell financial products, which may apply to some financial analyst positions. Because most of the licenses require sponsorship by an employer, companies do not expect individuals to have these licenses before starting a job.”
However, those who work in the financial industry can earn certifications in a specialty field as they garner increasing levels of experience and expertise. A Chartered Financial Analyst (CFAs) license is an example of a specialty license. To qualify for licensing, a professional needs a bachelor’s degree, four years of professional experience and a passing grade on each of three exams. Earning specialty certifications can lead to advancement opportunities.
Many finance majors also decide to continue their education after working in the field. They tend to pursue a postgraduate degree in business administration, economics, finance, management, accounting, non-profit management, etc.
Getting acclimated to the finance industry tends to start with roles that hone the basics for new recruits. Some common for finance majors who are new in their careers include:
Glassdoor salary range: $49,000-$89,000
Glassdoor salary range: $52,000-$115,000
Glassdoor salary range: $37,000-$96,000
Glassdoor salary range: $44,000-$87,000
Glassdoor salary range: $46,000-$84,000
When you’re just earning your start in a competitive industry that thrives on accuracy and fluency, your ticket to advancement is to demonstrate your command of the basics. These entry-level roles refine those basics to help you seed your future in the financial sector:
Financial advisor trainee
Glassdoor salary range: $32,000-$76,000
Glassdoor salary range: $39,000-$80,000
Entry level accountant
Glassdoor salary range: $35,000-$67,000
Junior tax associate
Glassdoor salary range: $41,000-$59,000
Glassdoor salary range: $41,000-$74,000
If you’re working towards a finance degree, with the goal of having a career in the financial industry, it’s a good strategy to garner field experience through an internship. The good news for finance majors is that there are plenty of opportunities. Plus, they tend to pay well.
So, get your sea legs as a finance major doing jobs like these:
- Accounting internships
- Finance internships
- Auditing internships
- Investment banking internships
- Tax internships
Having the insight, skill and savvy to cultivate a career in finance is impressive, exciting and rich with possibility. If that’s your ambition, the rewards are likely to prove that the hard work is worth it!