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Ultimate Guide to Careers in Finance

Finance Careers in 2017

FP&A jobs, finance manager jobs and careers in the business sector offer big paychecks, but most of these high profile financial positions carry a big responsibility. Finance professionals help steer the company with the right plans and forecasts. They serve as the captains of the corporate ship that drive the American economy. Because of their importance, employers will pay top dollar for the best and brightest minds in finance.

If you’re in the hunt for entry level finance jobs or you’re interested in making a career switch to finance, you need to know what you’re getting yourself into. Although a career in accounting and a career in finance can be similar, the functions and expectations are still different.

This article covers an overview of the qualifications, requirements and the various roles you can look for in finance. Once you are equipped with necessary knowledge about the various types of careers in finance, you can then confidently submit your resume and credentials to:


Hundreds of recruiters from various companies are constantly looking for highly qualified financial professionals to fill full-time roles in their finance teams.

Requirements and Qualifications

To excel in the finance career path, it helps to have the many professional certifications and to pass the finance-centric exams. You can secure an entry-level job in the finance sector with an undergraduate for the post of an advisor or consultant.

But the basic qualification for advancement is a graduate degree or a Master in Business Administration (MBA).

It helps to pursue a bachelor’s degree or an MBA concentration in finance that will let you learn financial theory, and participate in projects or case studies.

The main components of any finance related course includes the basics:

  • Economics
  • Taxation
  • Corporate Finance
  • Public Accounting
  • Statistics
  • Business Law
  • Financial Modeling
  • Marketing ROI Analysis
  • Budgeting & Forecasting Variance Analysis
  • Investment analysis

The most in-demand professionals have Master’s degree in finance or an MBA. The course contents can consist of:

  • International Financial Markets
  • Advanced Financial Management
  • Applied Portfolio Theory
  • Options Theory
  • Small Business Finance
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Macroeconomics & the Global Economy
  • Financial Derivatives
  • Corporate Valuation
  • Behavioral Finance
  • Financial Buyouts & Acquisitions
  • Private Equity & Venture Capital

Typically, a master’s course builds upon your undergraduate studies. Hence, schools often label them as “advanced.” For further info on finance courses at a graduate level, take a look at Wharton‘s course catalog.

Furthermore, many financial organizations prefer candidates with professional certifications in finance. To add value to your resume you can pursue a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), CPA (Certified Public Accountant), CFP (Certified Financial Planner). The certification will enhance your financial skills needed at various levels of employment.

Many financial services like selling stocks or bonds require you to obtain the license from authorized agencies like Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. The most common of the financial licenses are series 7 and series 63. You can go for these licenses while doing the job since these are not pre-requisites to get a job but rather these licenses are legally required to provide certain client services.

Job Market

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the financial sector is bound to increase by 8% by 2024. In the last year, the mean salary of the financial specialist was $66,530 whereas the median annual wage of other occupations was only $37,040.

The major hubs for financial jobs in the world are the cities which are regarded as financial cities. Some of the global financial hubs are New York, Dubai, Shanghai, Mumbai, London and much more. There has been a trend of better job opportunities in developing countries and this trend will not move down in the future too. You can find jobs in the financial sector in a branch office or corporate offices in any city of the world.

finance careers path nyc

Best Job Sources

If you are still in your college pursuing your studies, campus placement is the best option to enter into finance sector since many companies prefer to pick their candidates from the college whom they can train to fit their organizational structure. If you have passed out of school or college, you can post your resume on one of the best job search sites like Indeed, Glassdoor, Monster, and much more. You can also find job openings on financial institution sites like CFA, Bloomberg or EFinancial.

Other trending job-finding resources are the social media platforms. LinkedIn is the best platform for professionals to find the jobs of their interest and stature. You have to create your profile just like a resume and post your qualification and experience. Once you finish that, you can expand your network by sending requests to other LinkedIn users in financial fields. Many companies post their job openings on their LinkedIn business pages, such as the Vested Linkedin page. So creating a LinkedIn profile is one of the best steps to take for a good job offer.

Finally, Recruiting 2.0 has arrived! In the “old” days, you would go online and submit your resumes to the job boards. Then you wait. But in today’s world, recruiting platforms, like Vested, allow you to post your resume and credentials in a private database. Using a proprietary algorithm, Vested’s platform will then match you to accounting and finance jobs from a slew of companies in the United States. Vested does all the work for you!

All you have to do is polish up on your interviewing skills by reading up on our career and interview guides.

Finance Firms that Offer Job Opportunities

The types of careers in finance are not limited if you meet the qualifications and skills required. The job aspirants looking for careers in finance can find jobs in various types of financial institutions:

Commercial Banks

Commercial banks provide one of the largest opportunities for banking aspirants. These banks provide banking services like loans to individuals, small and large scale corporates and enterprises. If you are interested in a career as a teller, credit card banking, leasing or international finance, then the commercial banking sector can offer you exciting roles. You can work as credit Analyst, loan officer, branch manager, trust officer or as a mortgage banker.

Investment banking

This is a specialized division of many commercial banks. The Investment banks deal with corporates and government bodies and help them in the sale of securities, raising money, mergers and acquisitions and all the assistance for any kind of large financial transaction.

Some of the leading names of investment banks are JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley.

These are the typical finance roles in investment banking:

  • Financial Analyst
  • Associate
  • Sr. Associate
  • Vice President
  • Managing Director
  • Partner

Hedge funds

Some money management firms operate with little limitations and higher risks. Hedge funds are open to only accredited investors who are ready to invest huge amounts for a minimum lockup-period. Clients can withdraw the funds after fixed period at certain intervals.

To amplify the ROI, hedge funds are invested in stocks, real estate, derivatives, mutual funds or land on the long term. As a Hedge funds manager, you can earn a minimum of 2% on assets value and twenty percent of the profit each year. Other financial roles in hedge funds can be as a security analyst or a trader.

Private Equity Firms

Unlike Hedge funds which deal in public securities, the private equity firms invest the funds of investors in private companies. In the case of a buyout of a public company, it de-lists the public equity and make it private.

The private equity firms then improve the operations and profitability of the newly private company. After a few years, the private equity firm then does an IPO of the private company to sell their shares to the public at a higher price.

Private equity also includes venture capital. In venture capital, firms invest money in early stage companies who have the potential to make it big. Venture Capital firms, like Accel, Greylock Partners and Meritech, invested in a then obscure company called Facebook back 2006. They cashed out with a huge return when Facebook went public in 2012.

Jobs at private equity firms are highly competitive. Often, former investment bankers with advanced degrees in finance and business can secure a job at these firms. Without these pre-requisite qualifications, one would have a difficult time breaking into the private equity industry.

S&P 500 Companies

All the S&P 500 companies, whether they are in the telecom business, consumer electronics or any other business type, require an army of FP&A Analysts to join their FP&A teams at corporate levels.

Because of their size and the breadth and nature of their business, S&P 500 firms need finance analysts at all levels in every part of the world. These companies need FP&A analysts to prepare annual budgets, periodic budget forecasts, financial modelling and internal reporting of vital business metrics.

Finance job titles at these firms can include:

  • Financial Analysts
  • Finance Managers
  • Directors of Finance
  • Chief Financial Officer

Lists of Careers in Finance

Trading jobs

If you feel excited about sale and purchase of shares, commodities, bonds or currencies, and help the investors to earn money due to market surge, go for a career in financial trading. The trading jobs are at the same time challenging considering the regular government regulatory changes. You can apply for the trading job in financial institutions like hedge funds and commercial banks.

You can apply as an assistant trader after doing graduation but the best way to enter trading is to clear the series 7 and 63 exams. MBA’s are also preferred in trading line. Any certification or degree in mathematics or statistics is also seen as a plus in trading sector. As a fresh graduate you may land a junior post but with experience, you will get an allocation of higher capital as you gain the confidence of your seniors.

Trading jobs at hedge funds are the top choice in the financial sector. You can work under a portfolio manager to buy or sell the securities. If you have the discretion to deal with the securities, then you have a good chance of making a good money. If you think you are one of the best hedge funds traders, you can start your own hedge fund as well.

In trading finance careers, salary is on higher side but at the same time, the jobs are stressful. You need to on your toes and sense rightly the future market movements. Before you apply for a trading job you must be aware that you will manage the huge sum of money on daily basis and should be ready to face the wrath of employers in case of failure.

For a successful career path in trading, you should have mathematics background since you need to do calculations based upon the market conditions. You have to make quick decisions since the trading market is a volatile industry. It is not just a 9 to 5 job since you will need to follow the market trends even during off hours.

Investment Banking

If you see yourself serving a big company, institution or government then option for Investment banking and enrolling in a suitable graduation and post-graduation course is the best decision. Well, to begin with, Investment banking is all about helping your hiring company in managing their capital with the suitable strategies and plans. Depending on the size of your company you may be serving for the whole company as an expert or specialize in one area to provide expert advice.

Investment banking professionals are offered jobs in multinational commercial or investment banks. The job scenario is quite bright if you have studied this professional degree as you have the option to apply in big global banks as well as national, regional or local banks. Other avenues are asset management corporate, equity firms or business enterprise dealing with capital management. Some big organizations with the in-house department for evaluation of strategic opportunities like corporate mergers and expansion.

Being an Investment Banker you will be responsible for providing strategic opinion and guidance to your employer company for a merger or taking over another company. The strong financial modeling acumen will come in handy along with the extreme confidence of communication with senior level management professionals and business owners.

The second primary role you will play in your company will be to guide and strategize to raise the capital for your company or your client. For this, you need to hone skills like underwrite debt and equity by analyzing the industry you are working for. This responsibility will also be an important aspect if you are providing consultation to a government organization.

Another area of expertise for an investment banker is in private equity which more or less is a specialization of medium to small firms. These people identify and strategize to invest in large and reputed firms with an aim of huge profits. This is the most stressful but most well-paying job in the field of investment banking. As you grow in this profession you will be wealthier than ever. If your profession is your life, then you may end up in owning a private equity firm of your own.

Another area is Venture capital wherein the responsibility on you lies to look for some small, new but promising companies. If you have an inkling to follow the latest and innovative technologies and know how to take calculated risks, then this is the job for you. It can be a very challenging profession but like private equity, if your homework is perfect no one can stop you from getting listed in the wealthiest of people.

Financial Analysis

Here you can be master of your own job since this is the job where you and only you can be communicating the financial analysis as per your perspective. The analysis can be on national financial prospects, business opportunity for companies and other similar areas where your expertise and experience is the driving factor.

A financial analyst usually is an individual who may work as a consultant, writer, academician, educator or reviewer who has acumen to study, analyze and comment on the economical or financial aspects of a company, institute, government or country. A financial analyst enjoys studying financial data, understanding the trends and presenting his views while observing the financial markets closely.

If you dream to be a financial analyst then you have to play the roles of an economist, a strategist or a predictor. As an economist, your employer, readers or students may look forward to your shrewdness in analyzing the financial market data and the underlying trends in predicting the future financial conditions. You can land up in a lucrative job in government’s planning department, commercial banks, investment banks, asset managing companies and academic organization.

An economist employed at banks or corporate earn very well whereas those in educational institutes or government sector may not get good compensation for their efforts. Those in academia definitely get huge satisfaction with the respect and reputation they earn with their knowledge and experience. Freedom of working as freelancers and consultants gives you much better prospects.

The strategists study the economy and financial markets to offer strategic consultation and guidance to the companies and institutes. Banks and finance management companies are the most probable employers for strategists. Chief Investment Strategist is one of the highest paying titles for successful strategists becoming the public persona of a corporate. The strategists do get better pay-packs than the economist.

The predictors are the best pals for government organizations and large corporations. They are meant to predict the future financial status with the help of mathematical models that means that the focus is in research and development rather than purely financial analysis of the stock market. Finance management companies, equity firms or banks look for predictors with mathematical or statistical experience in the field of economics and finance. You have to be a person who loves to work with number crunching with the help of models using computing software.

Portfolio Management

Everyone in today’s world wishes to earn more by investing least. It is all about what you have included in your investment portfolio. As a portfolio managing professional you will look into the need of your clients and guide them to invest into different shares and schemes. All this is possible if you have a keen knowledge of stock market and understanding of the trends. Along with that, your clients will entrust you with the responsibility of achieving their desired investment targets in the specified duration.

The trick of the trade is to know your client well and convince him about the certainty with which you have researched. The best part or you can also say that the worst part is that for you as a consultant, each client is different. One portfolio will not suit multiple clients. You have to focus on each one’s needs and limitations.

To get a job as portfolio manager you will be looking ahead for finance management companies and hedge fund institutions. Other options could be such as sovereign wealth planners, pension funds consultant firms or insurance business. For this lucrative job, you must own a four-year college degree and then an experience of working as an investment analyst. With sufficient years of employment as a portfolio manager, you can have a firm of your own to get a well-paying clientele.

Responsibilities of a portfolio manager include creation and management of client portfolios. Depending upon the firm you will be employed with, you have to either manage separate accounts for client’s account type and investments or pooled accounts catering to the investment needs of multiple clients in aggregation. The second type of arrangement is easier to manage but it may not be suitable for some clients who need special treatment of their money.

One of the desirable characteristics of a portfolio manager in addition to expert market analysis is the ability to strike a good relationship with the clients through different kind of contact options. You can opt for growing as a portfolio manager specializing in a single asset category or multi-asset category. In both cases, you have to be a good researcher. This job like many other finance careers can be very stressful with a need to spend long hours with clients. Competition is extremely high in this career, but once you establish yourself, it can bring you satisfying returns.

Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) Jobs

Unlike other jobs discussed till now, the Financial Planning & Analysis is strictly in-house job. By hiring you as a Financial Planning and Analysis manager or professional, a company will be relying on you to help their senior management to get analytical information of company’s finance. With this information, operational, financial, and strategic decisions are taken with an eye on maximizing profits and minimizing the expenses.

Your responsibilities will primarily include budgeting, defining and monitoring cash flow and implementing other analytical tools to measure the financial performance of the company. A qualified financial professional must display traits like analytical, focused, inquiring, thorough understanding of internal financial status of the company and comprehensive knowledge of his job.

To reach up to the stage of an FP&A manager or director, usually a beginner has to spend a good amount of years on some organizational accounting position at medium ranks. It will help him in understanding the nuances of financial planning, budgeting and cash flow. A basic graduate degree in commerce or finance is required but a master’s degree can help in starting off at a higher grade. The experience and learning while on job is the most important aspect to grow as a FP&A professional. This job is considered to be good in terms of salary considering the manageable work pressure and a relatively secure job than others discussed earlier.

Final Words on Careers in Finance

No doubt, FP&A jobs, finance manager jobs and careers in finance offer lucrative perks but there is stiff competition to get a job. Besides the required qualifications, you should also have a passion to keep pace with volatile financial markets and financial regulations.

Whether you’re a seasoned finance professional or a recent graduate looking for entry level finance jobs, make sure to read career and interview guides to stay up-to-date with the financial industry, as well as getting your daily dose of the Financial Times and Economist.

Finally sign up HERE to be considered for the very best career opportunities in finance.