Finance Careers: Career Paths, Qualifications, and Skills
Individuals and companies alike possess an interest in money management in order to meet their goals. Modern investors small and large have a plethora of choices for how to grow their funds, leading many to seek out knowledgeable finance professionals for assistance.
While similar, a career in finance is not the same as a career in accounting. Accountants tend to deal with a client’s current financial activity and make sure of things such as accurate record keeping, proper legal paperwork, and fulfilling tax obligations.
Finance professionals concentrate on investment management and strategy over time. They keep a close watch on the economy and market predictors in order to make sound decisions for those they serve.
What’s involved in establishing a finance career, and what position might be a great fit for you? Here’s a helpful overview.
Training and Qualifications for Finance Careers
Entry-level jobs commonly require a bachelor’s degree in a pertinent field, such as finance, economics, mathematics, or statistics. People aspiring to leadership positions often seek a master’s degree in one of these disciplines or an MBA (master of business administration).
Many employers value Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification. Reaching this achievement involves a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, four years of work experience, and a passing score on three exams.
Important for any type of finance career is a clean record. Because they deal with money and sensitive information, employers need those they hire to be honest, trustworthy, and dedicated to acting in the best interest of the clients. Expect a thorough background check.
Skills Needed for Finance Careers
Financial professionals obviously should possess outstanding numerical aptitude. But ability to analyze and interpret figures is only the start. With the expansion of the global marketplace, today’s financial experts must be well-versed in both U.S. and international regulations, trade, and the like. They need to commit to life-long learning to stay relevant.
Other abilities employers find attractive include:
- Attention to detail
- Solid communication skills (especially a knack for explaining things in ways non-experts can understand)
- Decision-making skills
- Knowledge of pertinent software programs
Choosing a Finance Niche
Because of the range of people and organizations interested in money management, a finance career path offers a plethora of employment options. A few general areas are below.
Every business needs money to operate and reach goals. Thus, companies keep financial experts on staff to deal with issues such as reducing costs, eliminating waste, bringing in more revenue, securing funds, investing, long-term planning, and dealing with shareholders.
Individuals and small businesses turn to commercial banks to maintain checking/savings accounts, secure loans, and provide other basic financial services. Investment banks perform more complex transactions for companies, such as underwriting, helping with mergers, and issuing stock.
This field involves examining a client’s current monetary situation, asking about long-term goals, and coming up with a course of action to fulfill objectives.
Common Finance Careers
As you investigate potential finance career paths, the following are a few of the titles you’re likely to encounter:
Median annual salary: $85,660
By keeping a close eye on the economy and its trends, financial analysts help their clients make educated choices about investments. They work in banks, pension funds, insurance companies, and other businesses, often putting in hours well-beyond the standard 40.
Financial media sometimes seek out their expertise to help the public better understand investment concepts. As mentioned earlier, a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification is often required.
Job titles for financial analysts also include:
- Portfolio Managers (responsible for overseeing a company’s mix of investments)
- Fund Managers (people who deal solely with hedge funds or mutual funds)
- Ratings Analysts (evaluators of how well a company or government can pay its debts)
- Risk Analysts (people who evaluate the risk involved in making various investment decisions)
Median annual salary: $127,990
Financial managers monitor the financial health of an organization. Their responsibilities may include finding ways to reduce costs, producing reports on the company’s financial status, helping other leaders understand data, complying with laws and regulations, and strategizing on the best ways to meet long-term goals.
Earning a Certified Public Account (CPA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), and Certified Management Account (CMA) certification may be required of this role.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of financial managers to grow an impressive 16% between 2018 and 2028. Prospects look especially promising for people with experience in cash management and risk management.
Median annual salary: $88,890
From paying for a child’s college education to desiring to retire early, individuals turn to personal financial advisors for assistance on how to accomplish financial goals. Advisors talk (and carefully listen) to clients to understand their needs and the amount of risk with which they feel comfortable.
They explain potential options and answer questions so that customers can make informed decisions. Monitoring the performance of investments allows financial advisors to make new suggestions as economic conditions change.
One of the top finance positions for flexibility, personal financial advisors often can set their own schedule and meet with clients at a time and place that’s mutually convenient. About a quarter of personal financial advisors are self-employed. When it comes to credentials, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), and a Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) certification may be needed.
Median annual salary: $63,040
Banks, mortgage companies, and auto dealerships are some of the places that routinely employ loan officers. When someone needs a loan, these professionals collect information in order to determine eligibility and run checks to verify that what the customer reported is true. They explain the differences between types of loans and carefully go over terms of the agreement so that people understand the conditions of borrowing money.
Certification options for this type of role depend on the industry. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) and the American Bankers Association (ABA) offer opportunities for becoming certified, and a Mortgage Loan Officer (MLO) license is very common.
Though technology has made loan processing more efficient, the BLS still expects employment of loan officers to increase a respectable 8% between 2018 and 2028. Because the occupation commonly involves sales and customer service, employers look for candidates with strong interpersonal skills.
As you plan your finance career path, the following groups can offer information, assistance, networking, and a sense of community:
This multidisciplinary community focuses on professional development and ethical conduct. In addition to putting out authoritative publications and providing access to an extensive online library, the group conducts a variety of social gatherings to foster connections among members.
This well-established academic organization is devoted to the study and promotion of knowledge about financial economics. Since 1942, it has published the Journal of Finance. AFA’s annual meeting each January brings together a variety of financial professionals to present and learn.
The FPA offers certified financial planners professional development opportunities, business support, advocacy, and community at the national and chapter levels.
Boosting Your Finance Career
As you can see, finance is a broad field covering a range of job possibilities. Many of these positions include flexible options, such as telecommuting, part-time hours, or a flexible schedule. Be sure to regularly check FlexJobs for exciting, legit postings that can help you find a role suited to your professional and personal needs.
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