How to Build a Career in Finance

career in financeWhile financial markets may have their ups and downs, a career in finance can offer a great return on investment. Entry level jobs can build into a successful long term career with education and experience. If you are considering a career in finance, here is what you need to know.

Finance Jobs

Finance jobs are found across industries, not just in banking and investing. There are three main areas of finance to consider – personal, corporate and public.

Personal finance is just what it sounds like, helping individuals and families make decisions and plans for education funds, investment, insurance, real estate and retirement. Job titles may include:

  • Personal financial advisor
  • Credit counselor
  • Financial planner
  • Accountant

Corporate finance is all about building and maintaining the financing for a business and its activities. A job may include risk management, forecasting, managing funds and maximizing profitability. Job titles may include:

  • Financial analyst
  • Actuary
  • Financial Examiner
  • Financial consultant
  • Money manager
  • Budget analyst

Public finance deals with the finances of state, local or other government agencies. Job titles may include:

  • Budget analyst
  • Treasurer
  • Finance manager

While many of the skills and abilities needed to work in finance apply across positions, most people choose a focus to specialize in for their career.

Qualifications for a job in Finance

There is strong competition for finance jobs so having the right qualifications is imperative for getting into this career field.

A bachelor’s degree in business, finance, economics or accounting is the minimum educational requirement. An MBA or other graduate degree is generally needed to advance and can open more doors.

To excel in a finance career, you will need to have in-depth financial knowledge but also a business and management background. This career deals closely with people and their finances so strong ethics and soft skills are necessary.

Professional certifications or licenses can also be a requirement for some financial positions. Knowing what area you want to focus on can help you determine which certification will be of most value in your jobs

Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

Financial planners help individuals solve financial problems and plan for the future. The CFP certification through the CFP Board requires a bachelor’s degree as well as professional experience along with successfully passing the exam.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

Financial Analysts research and analyze the performance of different types of investments and then provide investment advice to businesses and individuals. The CFA certification is overseen by the CFA Institute. This certification takes four years to gain the education and experience to be eligible to take the exams.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Accountants prepare and examine financial records and taxes and work in a variety of businesses. The American Institute of CPAs oversees the certification. Requirements are dependent on the state in which you wish to work, but all have educational requirements as well as an exam.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is a non-profit organization authorized by Congress to make sure the securities industry operates fairly and honestly. They educate and license brokers. Some of the licenses they administer are:

  • Series 6 – Investment Company Products/Variable Contracts Limited Representative
  • Series 7 – General Securities Representative
  • Series 63 – Uniform Securities Agent State Law Examination
  • Series 65 – Uniform Investment Adviser Law Examination


Finding a Job in Finance

The job outlook for jobs in finance is for growth, but there will be competition for positions. Having the minimum qualifications for a position may not be enough. An MBA or other graduate degree may get your resume noticed. Professional certifications are also a good investment for some jobs.

Choosing your focus and accumulating the education, experience and licensing or certification needed should be your first priority. Membership in professional organizations is another tool for networking and keeping up with the industry. Some professional organizations to consider:

A career in finance requires an investment of time and effort, but will pay off over the long run.