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Careers in finance have a lot of benefits – as long as you like numbers, statistics and analytics. If you’ve already decided the basics look good, the next step is figuring out what kind of path you want to take in the financial world. Some careers have better advancement potential and higher entry salaries, while others provide more variety in case you ever get tired of doing the same thing over and over.
We’ve looked over the pros and cons of a career in finance to help you decide if it’s right for you.
Pros of Careers in Finance
Even at the entry-level, jobs in the finance sector pay much higher than the median US salary. The average salary for an entry-level job in the financial field is $59,184 in 2020. While entry-level salaries vary by field, this is still a high salary compared to other professions. Plus, many financial jobs also offer commissions and bonuses, which can get you into the six digits in revenue very quickly.
A degree connected to finances can take you in many different directions. While a traditional career in accounting or insurance is perfectly fine, graduates can also pursue a career in banking, financial analysis and investing.
Even better, if you ever grow tired of one field, a few certifications or continuing education courses could help you move into something completely different without needing a second degree (and the expenses that would come with it). This flexibility also provides a better work/life balance and gives you the option to be traditionally employed or take on your own clients for more flexible work hours, depending on what career path you pursue.
Working in finance means being able to work alongside C-suite executives and businesses. How does this benefit you? You may find more opportunities to network and work with new people each day. If you’re set on climbing the executive ladder, being in finance can give you a boost.
Business transaction experience
Starting out in finance usually means working as an entry-level employee for a time. However, even entry-level employees work with senior employees and supervisors. This gives them an excellent chance to learn how business transactions work. This level of experience can eventually help entry-level employees deal with more complex responsibilities across various financial roles.
When working in finance, it’s possible to learn new skills that can help you succeed in other roles and industries. Transferable skills are those that you learn at each stage of your career. These skills will be with you for life and can transfer to other jobs you may take later in your career.
The social aspect
When you work within the financial industry, you’re sure to make friends, some of whom may turn into life-long friends you have plenty in common with. This could result in more ways to socialize, too.
Cons of Careers In Finance
Depending on what career you pursue within the financial field, you might have to deal with tight deadlines and lots of pressure to perform and meet deadlines. This can be great for somebody with an A personality who likes the dynamic and fast-paced energy of the job. For others, it can be a great source of stress.
A need to meet quotas
Many financial jobs require you to be at least partially a salesperson, always in the lookout for new clients. Meeting quotes can be stressful but also takes a lot of time and effort. If the required numbers aren’t met, you might miss out on bonuses and potentially promotions down the line.
Long work hours
Another con is that working in finance can mean working long hours. Jobs in this industry generally don’t work the regular 9-5 job hours. Most usually work 40 hours + each week. In this case, you may be forced to deal with burnout, which is common when working such long hours.
Working with difficult people is another downside of being in the finance industry. It’s necessary to deal with employees, clients, and more who are not so pleasant.
Competition for jobs
The financial services industry is one where competition for jobs is pretty high. You have to be the best of the best to land a job in this industry.
Types of Careers
A finance career can take you in many different directions, depending on your interests. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular ones to help you appreciate the wide variety of options.
Financial analyst: Financial analysts help companies, firms and corporate entities analyze their budget, prepare income projections and models, and develop reports to understand the best course of action for financial performance.
Corporate finance jobs: Help companies develop a financial strategy that reduces financial risk and coordinates with outside auditors to handle income and losses. Some corporate finance jobs focus on mergers and acquisitions, while others work as treasures or internal auditors.
Banking: While banking sector positions vary widely (from bank teller to marketing to loan officers), the careers with more potential for advancement center around international finances, investments, corporate and trading securities, and qualitative research analysis.
Insurance: Insurance sector jobs could focus on working with either individuals or businesses, helping them decide what risks they are exposed to and how to protect themselves from losses. Insurance jobs can be focused on sales, customer service, or even actuaries, focusing on evaluating and researching quantitative data.
Personal financial advisor: Perhaps one of the most flexible options, personal financial advisors are often freelancers. They work with clients to help with financial goals, retirement planning, investments and more. Some might sell insurance policies or help set up stock investment accounts, though this might require additional licensing in certain states.
Degrees and Educational Standards
Because there are so many career paths within the financial field, there’s no single degree that fits them all. The good news is that you don’t necessarily need an Ivy League degree or even an MBA to get you started. In many careers, a Bachelor’s degree in related fields (such as accounting, economics, applied mathematics, or business) is often enough to get started.
More and more, people with degrees in computer sciences are moving into the financial sector and finding jobs in positions that have to do with analysis and data, both of which require advanced computer knowledge.
Continuing Financial Education
For those with a Bachelor’s degree already, additional finance-specific credentials are essential to continue moving forward. For example, certified financial planner (CFP®) or chartered financial analyst (CFA) credentials can you put you ahead of the competition when searching for advancement positions.
The more specific the field you want to focus on, the more important continuing education becomes. For example, for those looking to focus on portfolio management, knowledge of stock trading, blockchain and multi-asset strategies will be key to growth.
Other areas might require different skills in planning, financial reporting or ledger account management. If you’re interested in the risk management field, employers might require an understanding of credit risk and mitigation, as well as accountability standards. Continuing education certification, such as those issued by PRMIA (offering the Operational Risk Management or ORM Certificate) or GARP (Global Association of Risk Professionals) might also help.
Different jobs in the financial world require different skills. For example, people with good interpersonal skills and good communication skills might do well as an insurance provider or a financial advisor. On the other hand, people with good analytical skills and understanding of systems and processes would be a great fit for a career in financial analysis.