How to build a career in finance

Careers in financial services, ranging from banking through to accountancy and law, are extremely popular choices due to the high levels of remuneration and the sense of career satisfaction experienced. Because a career in finance is so popular, there is a high barrier to entry with respect to academic achievement and personal skills. If you want to embark on one of these highly sought after careers you will need to plan well and be ready to apply yourself to hard work.

Getting on the finance career ladder

Perhaps the most difficult part of achieving a career in finance is the initial step that gets you onto the finance career ladder in the first place. Because the benefits of a career in finance are so well recognized the ratio of entrants to available positions is quite high. Employers can select from among highly trained candidates. You can enhance your chances in many ways, not least by building a history of relevant work experience and getting a good formal education.

You should also consider looking broadly at the choice of careers in finance instead of focusing on the most widely publicized ones. The pay associated with some of the less well-known careers in financial services is still high, while you may have a bigger chance of securing an internship or graduate training position.

Why formal education is important

Finance is a very complex field of business and to adequately perform in a challenging position you will need a broad understanding of the subject. Degree programs and professional certification involve in-depth study aimed at making sure you are familiar with the most important aspects of your job. Also, completing your formal education shows much more than your academic ability. Employers want to know you understand your chosen field, but will also take into cognizance the determination and level of application it took to get there. Do note that they also look at work experience, no matter how small. A good idea is to engage in a few hours per month of part time work in your field while you are still studying.

Alternatives to formal education

Applicants who cannot provide proof of their knowledge will struggle to enter the first stages of interviews but do not let that stop you if this is where your passion lies. It is not unknown for individuals who have successful careers in finance to have started without a formal education. Some roles in banks and other financial institutions are at a relatively basic level, and you could step into the world of finance by, for example, working as a receptionist or clerk in a financial institution. By taking this first step into finance you will have the opportunity to express your talents and show your commitment to the career. A good employer will spot your talent and commitment and offer you career progression that could include sponsorship and time off work for formal study.

Switching to finance

It is increasingly common for people – once employed – to become interested in a path they are not yet trained in. If you are developing an interest in the financial world, and are looking into switching, the financial services industry is open to career changers. You will probably need to study part time to gain recognition before finding employment, so think about completing an online degree, such as Maryville’s Master of Science in accounting. Your work experience will have built skills that are transferable into the financial services industry. Employers will look at your communication and people skills, your analytical or problem solving skills, and time management. Expertise in information technology is also a great advantage.

Benefits of a career in finance

There is no doubt that being successful in the field of finance is hard work. Your choice of finance job will determine how many hours a week you spend at work; some positions impose very long hours whereas others are more reasonable. The good news is that your pay will reflect the number of hours you are putting in, which you need to weigh up, when picking which field of finance you want to work in. However, the benefits of a career in finance lie beyond just good remuneration. Finance professionals are well respected, enjoy stable careers with good job security and are often very satisfied with the degree of day-to-day challenges they face. For these reasons crossing the initial hurdles to get your first job in finance is more than worthwhile.