Do you want a career in the financial field but aren’t sure where to begin? You are not alone. Many college-bound students and mid-career adults decide to pursue finance as a full-time avocation each year. The trick is knowing what skills you need to break into such a highly competitive field of finance, figuring out a way to acquire those talents, and then starting the job hunt in earnest. So, what are the skills, and what do you need to do to acquire them? Here’s a quick overview.
For careers in this field, you want to begin your quest by taking a self-inventory of all the pertinent education and training you already have. Plus, it’s wise to make a detailed list of your current skill levels in at least a half-dozen areas. For instance, those who find success and satisfaction in finance careers typically have at least a college or associates (two-year) degree in business, have solid communication skills, are able to read and explain financial statements, are good at math, can analyze business situations logically, know how to solve everyday problems, and know their way around computers.
Programming, IT, and related computer acumen are a big plus. But, let’s face it, everyone has to begin somewhere. Maybe you don’t have many, or any of those talents listed above. Fortunately, you can acquire them along the way via many different paths.
Get a College Degree in Finance or Accounting
This is the most straightforward way to get a foothold in this market. Business students have their choice of majors that range from management and marketing, to financial analysis and accounting. Choose the latter and you’ll be able to apply for a wide range of jobs once you graduate.
Acquire Brokerage Skills
Even without a four-year or two-year degree, it’s possible to get into the industry if you get certified as a securities broker. There’s a test called the Series 7 that you can pass if you study the materials for a few weeks and prepare well. Some licensed brokers practice before going live with real clients by paper trading, or using fictitious money in special accounts. You can learn more on paper trading and how to practice right now via an online broker from a number of targets.
Get an Entry-Level Job
Even without a degree, it’s possible to snag a decent entry-level position with a brokerage firm, tax preparation company, or a bank. These three options offer excellent training opportunities, pay well, and will give you an up-close look at how the industry works. Brokers, banks, and accounting firms hire seasonally for many positions and year-round for many other slots.
Certification is one of the quickest ways into some of the best jobs in this career area. Note that some certifications require a college degree and some don’t. For instance, you can become an investment advisor or securities broker without going to college, but if you want to be a certified public accountant or certified financial planner, you’ll need a four-year degree in business.
Learn About the Two Career Paths
It’s important to keep in mind that there are two different tracks in the financial world. One is corporate and the other is retail. The first deals with companies and their budgeting, planning, forecasting, tax planning, etc. It mostly an in-house activity. The retail side is more related to consumer finance, lending, banking, brokerage, consumer counseling, and pretty much anything in which you meet the public and/or sell your services directly to them. The vast majority of corporate positions require a four-year degree. On the retail side, not so much.
Find an Intern Position
Want to learn a lot in just a few months while you’re between school years? Ask the placement office about interning with a local company. Some interns get paid and some don’t, so be sure to shop around for the arrangement you prefer. The best part about interning is that you gain first-hand knowledge about a specific part of the industry, learn from people who do the work every day, and make personal connections that can come in very handy later on.
If you can spare a day or two per week or per month, volunteer through a community office to help low-income people prepare their tax returns, create monthly budgets, or figure out how to spend their money wisely. Nearly every city has programs you can connect with. A bonus is that volunteering looks great on a resume, in addition to the gratification of helping others.