Congratulations on your degree in Finance, your bold and determined study of the human world in written form -- also known as literature.
Your study of finance taught you about markets, people, and how to see the truth in numbers -- which I was told never lie. Or at least they're really convincing liars, but that's another story.
Anyway, that analytical knowledge and complex mathematical skill-set is, you know, pretty useful -- and so is your degree's tendency to put you on the fast track to a six-figure salary.
But now your cap is tossed, your diploma is in hand -- and you realize that the dense math and competitive grading curves were all the easy parts, the calm before the storm that is the post-graduate job market.
Because the thing is, it's a sexy job with a sexier salary, and there are plenty of Finance Majors like yourself who are competing for those premier jobs.
So what now?
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a career map just for Finance Majors such as yourself -- to aid your navigation of the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who wouldn't dream of putting any resource to the side, keep reading.
We'll give you the rundown on:
- What skills you'll need
- How to begin
- What jobs you can expect to find as Finance Major
- Some quick interview tips
- Consider graduate school
- External resources
And now to begin where many of the greatest stories do -- at the beginning.
1. Skills for Finance Majors
While the education gained in the classroom is without a doubt beneficial, you've chosen a degree that relies more on the type of skills you learned in the field.
Beyond personal development and simply learning how to learn, employers will want to see that you have the ability to reflect, realize, and grow based off of your work experience.
We've got this list of common skills for Finance Majors, with examples from experienced resumes and general skills.
Common skills on finance resumes
These are some of the most common skills listed on Finance analyst resumes -- if you want to make a solid impression on recruiters or see what the competition is listing, here you go:
- Monthly Financial Assessments
- Asset Analysis
- Financial Analysis
As for how to make those work for your resume, here are some examples of how other social workers have used the most in demand skills on their resumes:
- Analyze monthly financial statements to determine profitability, capital adequacy, interest margin and other ratios
- Analyze monthly financial statements to determine profitability, capital adequacy, interest margin and other ratios
- Provide financial analysis and reporting including financial statements of cost centers, internal departments and affiliates
- Reviewed general ledger, posted monthly journal entries, performed account analysis/reconciliations, and month end closing process
- Provided general ledger account variance analysis and explanation of monthly reconciliation of general ledger accounts and follow-up on outstanding items
Soft Skills and Qualities
Applying these abilities to real world learning opportunities yields a more robust and balanced career, no matter your GPA and alma mater.
Here are some of the common abilities and characteristics that you should focus on and talk up when you shoot for that dream job.
Communication and Analytical skills. You must be able to process a range of information in finding profitable investments -- while also being able to explain your recommendations to clients in clear language that they can easily understand.
Computer and mathematical competence. Financial analysts must be adept at using software packages to analyze financial data, see trends, create portfolios, and make forecasts. You must be competent with mathematical skills when estimating the value of financial securities.
Detail oriented decision-making skills. Financial analysts must pay attention to details when reviewing possible investments, as small issues may have large implications for the health of an investment -- and you must be confident enough in your data to provide a recommendation to buy, hold, or sell a security.
To be successful, financial analysts must be motivated to seek out obscure information that may be important to the investment. Many work independently and must have self-confidence in their judgment.
2. Where to Begin Your Career After Getting Finance Degree
Finance is also a cyclical job market: when the stock market is booming, finance jobs boom as well; but when returns dwindle, so do the job listings.
You'll want to get a headstart on your Finance Advising Internships, even as soon as your freshman year.
Look everywhere, not just Wall Street
This isn't advice to "settle", but maybe you shouldn't only aim for a job in i-banking at Goldman for your first job -- there are a lot of other options out there. Look for positions that include hands-on experience as opposed to only research or back-office functions.
There are also plenty of other options if you don't want to shoot for IBD or S&T, like corporate banking, corporate finance for a Fortune 500 firm, acting in a CFO capacity for a startup, working as a financial adviser, or even retail banking.
The average time spent in an entry-level Finance job is between two and three years, so your first job certainly isn't your last.
Try to land an internship
And if you aren't fortunate enough to network your way into a position, it might be worth taking a look at what sort of internships you might be qualified for, even if you've already graduated.
They provide learning experiences, references, networking opportunities and something tangible to talk about in an interview. A good internship can potentially lead directly to a position, and even if it doesn't it gives you an undeniable edge -- a Millennial Branding survey shows that 91% of employers think that students should have between one and two internships before graduating.
Start early -- finance is an industry where they expect you to be rabidly proactive.Doing several internships also provides a great display of work ethic, which is a sought-after quality in the finance industry. And Finance internships have the unusual bonus of being paid (in many cases).
And unless you're deadset on one field, try to diversify your internship areas -- just like a good portfolio.
Portfolio managers select the mix of products, industries, and regions for their company's investment portfolio. These managers are responsible for the overall performance of the portfolio. They are also expected to explain investment decisions and strategies in meetings with stakeholders.
Fund managers work exclusively with hedge funds or mutual funds. Both fund and portfolio managers frequently make buy or sell decisions in reaction to quickly changing market conditions.
Ratings analysts evaluate the ability of companies or governments to pay their debts, including bonds. On the basis of their evaluation, a management team rates the risk of a company or government not being able to repay its bonds.
Risk analysts evaluate the risk in investment decisions and determine how to manage unpredictability and limit potential losses. This job is carried out by making investment decisions such as selecting dissimilar stocks or having a combination of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds in a portfolio.
3. Available Jobs For Finance Majors
The largest segment of the Finance job market is between 24 and 35, which means that as a recent grad you're going to have plenty of competition.
There are also plenty of options other than investment banking and sales & trading, like corporate banking, corporate finance, acting in a CFO capacity for a startup, working as a financial adviser, or even retail banking.
You can get a better read on what your options are with our career map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.).
But here, we wanted to call out some of the most popular entry-level jobs for recent Finance grads:
Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions. They assess the performance of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments.
You'll need an ability to look for market trends and investment opportunities while using formulas and statistical analysis to calculate risk and potential outcomes. In this role you'll need to have a strong understanding of statistics and a knack for interpreting data into practical investment advice.
Financial managers are responsible for the financial health of an organization. They produce financial reports, direct investment activities, and develop strategies and plans for the long-term financial goals of their organization.
The specific roles performed by these professionals will vary, but duties like preparing financial statements, managing employees within the department, reviewing financial reports and documents, analyzing market trends and assisting senior management with important business decisions are common.
Financial Services Sales
Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents connect buyers and sellers in financial markets. They sell securities to individuals, advise companies in search of investors, and conduct trades.
You'll buy, sell and trade commodities on behalf of clients -- just like the shouting guys in those 80's movies. If working in an investment banking role, these professionals look to secure capital for clients by finding buyers for bonds or stock.
An understated aspect of these positions is the reliance on computer models to assist with analysis and to complete high-frequency trades. Because of this, many finance positions require a strong understanding of advanced mathematics and computer science.
What's the deal with Technical Writers?
4. Some Quick Job Search Tips for Finance Majors
These are the most important words you're going to hear: never stop hustling.
Chase opportunities that excite you, but be ready to put in the time -- all of it. All of the time you have, all of the time.
Grades typically matter less in this career path because the employers are looking for work ethic, ability, adaptability, and fit, more-so than an intellectual grunt -- unless you're not coming out of a higher ranked university. Then you'll need both grit and a stellar GPA
Network, network, and network
The best thing you can do to get a job in Finance is, plain and simple, to know somebody who knows somebody -- this can be from internships, courses, or a professional organization on campus.
Reach out to the people you know from college, students or not. If enough time has passed, that classmate you friended on Facebook for one group project three years ago might be your in for a job that just opened.
Join a good professional organization like some of those listed at the end of this page and take advantage of every resource at their disposal. Haunt all of those CFA events in your area. And wherever possible, just talk to people, and be friendly -- likeability might not matter once you get the job, but it sure helps getting one.
Start your side work in finance, like, now.
Get started on your CFA Level 1 exam (L1) as soon as possible. It takes a recommended 250 hours of study, so coming out of undergrad with the first exam already pass makes you stand out
You'll need to pass three exams and have four years of eligible work experience to obtain the designation, but the first exam can be taken in the final year
If you can't land that ultra-prestigious internship, work for a local investment advisor instead of cutting grass -- because you need to think about building a career, not getting a dinky paycheck. That comes later.
Start learning how to talk money
Do you know what EBITDA, BPS, MBS, CDS, and the federal discount rate mean? You need to, to start reading the Wall Street Journal and brushing up on your jargon. Even if you're memorizing these terms in your college coursework, an ability to discuss this knowledge and see how it's used is crucial for interview success.
Put some of that networking into play and begin reaching out to anyone you have a connection with on LinkedIn, and try to get coffee with them to see what the life is like.
5. Continuing Education and Certifications in Finance
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is the main licensing organization for the securities industry. It requires licenses for many financial analyst positions. Most of the licenses require sponsorship by an employer, so companies do not expect individuals to have these licenses before starting a job.
Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards offers the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification. For this certification, advisors must have a bachelor's degree, complete at least 3 years of relevant work experience, pass an exam, and agree to adhere to a code of ethics.
The exam covers the financial planning process, insurance and risk management, employee benefits planning, taxes and retirement planning, investment and real estate planning, debt management, planning liability, emergency fund reserves, and statistical modeling.
Chartered Financial Advisor (CFA)
Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification from the CFA Institute. Financial analysts can become CFA certified if they have a bachelor's degree, 4 years of qualified work experience, and pass three exams. Financial analysts can also become certified in their field of specialty.
The CFA designation is well respected in the financial industry. You can take the first exam during your final year of school, but you'll need to pass three exams and have four years of eligible work experience to obtain the full-on CFA designation,
The important thing is to determine if it will really benefit you at the firm and in the field you want -- not that you're just unsure of another expensive way to spend three years.
Going to a top-20 business school is worth the work. It doesn't guarantee you an interview, but it sure helps. A lot of top schools prefer experience, so to maximize the utility of your MBA it might be a good idea to get a couple more years of work experience and then try applying again.
It's particularly useful for someone looking to get into equities, corporate strategy, or someone who wants to switch fields within finance.
If you are already in the finance industry, going to b-school may help you move up the ladder, switch firms, change industries or break into the buy side -- but they're not as advised for someone looking to get into hedge funds and trading.
Master's in Finance
While a bachelor's degree in finance is generally considered the minimum requirement for employment in the field, many positions, including middle and upper management roles, often require a master's degree for consideration. Opportunities for pursuing an online master's degree in finance are plentiful, and can be found at many of the top finance schools in the nation.
Some schools may require a short, on-campus practicum assignment. A bachelor's degree in finance or another business major is typically needed for entrance to these programs.
PhD in Finance
This option is really only a good idea if you're interested in an academic career. Expect a lot of reading, a lot of writing, and not much recognition for how long and difficult your eventual book is to read.
Students seeking a Ph.D. in finance are typically interested in research or teaching careers at institutes of higher learning. Admission to doctoral programs often requires students to have a background in economics, statistics, engineering, or other related fields. Graduation usually depends on the successful completion and defense of a dissertation.
6. External Resources
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)
FINRA is a not-for-profit, independent organization authorized by the federal government to regulate its members and markets. Many positions in finance require registration or licensure with FINRA.
The CFA Institute promotes education, ethics, and excellence in finance. They offer the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification as well as continuing education opportunities for those in the financial industries.
American Bankers Association (ABA)
The American Bankers Association provides training, resources, and advocates for policy on behalf of its members. The ABA also offers a number of professional certifications within the banking industry.
Enter "Finance" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Finance majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.