Working in finance is a dream come true for some – after hearing that the US banking, finance, and insurance sector is projected to grow to $3.73 trillion by the end of this year, it’s not surprising that people are looking for a piece of the action!
Working in finance has long been viewed as a path to certain wealth, but, of course, that’s not always the case. However, with some careful research and the right skillset, you might just find your next dream job in the finance industry.
If you’re interested in getting started on a path towards a job in finance, you’ll have to understand the ins and outs of the industry first. Thankfully, we’ve put together a guide to everything you need to know about getting a job in finance, from some industry norms, to specific roles and salaries, and, of course, that all-important question: how do you get a job in finance?
Because of finance’s reputation as a high-paying, interesting, and exciting field, the job search can be incredibly competitive. It’s also important to note that the women and members of some minority groups are underrepresented in the financial field. In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that women made up 34% of personal finance advisors, and only 7.9% of them were Black, for example. If you are a member of a minority group, that doesn’t mean you should count yourself out! While finance jobs can be extremely competitive, at the end of the day hiring managers are looking for the people who best suit the job description. If that’s you, and if you can prove it, you’re already putting yourself ahead of the pack.
The first step to landing a great job in finance is to make sure your resume is in the absolute best shape it can be. Choose a clean, sleek resume template that clearly highlights your education, experience, and the skills you’ll use to become a top performer in your next role. If you’re considering a switch to a finance role from another industry, think carefully about your transferable skills – what have you learned so far in your career that you can bring to the finance industry? Because of the competitive nature of the industry, people transitioning from a different industry may need to consider beginning in an entry or lower-level position than they previously held. Thankfully, because the finance industry is so vast and jobs can be found in nearly every other industry, you shouldn’t be lacking opportunities to get your resume out there!
For the most part, financial careers do require at least an undergraduate degree. Employers are looking for applicants who have completed degrees for a number of reasons. First of all, holding a degree in a specialized skill such as finance, math, or business lets employers know that you already have the knowledge, and at least some of the skills, required to work in finance. Secondly, committing to and completing a degree demonstrates a strong work ethic, initiative, and self-regulation; all huge indicators of success in the industry.
However, that doesn’t mean that you’re completely out of luck if you’re looking to get a job in finance without a degree. It’s still possible to find an entry-level finance job that doesn’t require a four-year college degree. While these jobs generally don’t pay as well as other finance jobs, they’re a great way to get your foot in the door and begin the long process of working your way up the ladder. Jobs such as bank tellers, financial clerks, and entry-level accountants don’t necessarily require degrees, though accountants, for example, must pass a series of exams to become officially registered accountants. However, some accounting firms offer on-the-job training for their entry-level roles, providing assistance with accounting classes and exams.
One of the major draws to the finance industry is that it’s still possible to start with nothing and build a massive, high-paying career over the course of several years. Just because you don’t have specific finance experience doesn’t mean that you’re out of luck when you start looking for jobs in the finance industry.
If you’re a recent graduate looking to join the finance industry, focus on your education and skills. Think about everything you learned over the course of your education, from soft skills like collaboration and organization to hard skills like bookkeeping software and knowledge of federal tax regulations. From there, you can begin to list out your skills in your resume, and find entry-level job descriptions that overlap with those skills.
If you have previous work experience, but not necessarily experience in the finance industry – if, for example, you’re making the transition from a different field into finance – a similar course of action can be taken. Think about the skills you’ve gained from your previous career. Maybe you don’t have direct financial experience, but you previously managed a small team. The leadership skills you gained from that experience will directly translate into your next role, regardless of what industry it was in. If you’ve taken any additional courses or earned any new diplomas or certifications to support your transition into finance, highlight them and make sure that it’s obvious you’re fully qualified to work in the jobs you’re applying for.
If you don’t already have personal knowledge of the finance industry, all you may have to go off of is depictions of the sector portrayed in movies. But it can’t really all be Wolf of Wall Street, right?
100% right. Let’s break down a few common misconceptions about the finance industry. That way, you’ll be able to begin your career with a much better understanding of how the industry works and what you can expect from your career.
This misconception may be the most surprising thing many people learn upon researching the finance industry. While hearing someone say “I work in the finance industry” probably conjures images of an accountant in a visor working on endless spreadsheets with calculator-like precision, an innate “head for numbers” isn’t necessarily what employers are looking for when they recruit for jobs in the finance industry.
In reality, being great at math is more of an asset than an absolute requirement. The traits that will actually bring you success in your finance career are problem solving, adaptability, and a willingness to learn. You may be working as an accountant, finding tax breaks for individuals or companies. You might be a CFO, making financial decisions for a business and determining where money should be spent. Regardless of your exact role, the key to success is, as always, to be flexible about how you get things done and how you get results.
If the thought of working in finance doesn’t appeal to you, consider what opinions you might have about the field, and the ways in which they might not be based in reality. For example, does the idea of working in an accounting firm bore you? That doesn’t preclude you from a career in finance! Maybe you don’t mind the idea of being an accountant, but you’d prefer to work for a large, exciting company. Thankfully for you, pretty much every company in the world needs someone to handle financial matters and payroll – from big tech to politics and everything in between.
However, you don’t have to stop there. Maybe you don’t want to be an accountant at all – does that mean finance isn’t the industry for you?
Not at all. Roles like financial advisor, financial analyst, comptroller, financial attorney, and insurance underwriter are all roles within the financial industry, and each one of them is different to the next. If you like the idea of working with numbers, analyzing data, and making financial decisions based on careful analysis, then a role in finance might be perfect for you. Don’t count yourself out before you even have a full idea of the scope!
So, maybe myth number two didn’t apply to you. Maybe instead, when you think about people who work in finance, you think of sleazy scam artists and “finance bros” looking to make vast amounts of money and retire early, with little care or thought for those around them. You might have thought about Patagonia fleece vests and offices filled with nothing but wealthy white men.
While it’s true that finance, like many other industries, is only just beginning to grapple with its diversity, equity, and inclusion policies, that doesn’t mean that that mindset isn’t in place in many financial firms. The CFA Institute Earning Investors’ Trust study demonstrated that 76% of institutional investors, and 69% of retail investors are looking to invest their time and money into products that prioritize diversity and justice. That means that even if financial institutions did want to stick to the status quo, investors and customers simply won’t let them.
You can’t hide from the fact that a great many people who join the finance industry are looking to make money. The industry has a reputation for high-paying, high-stress jobs and employees who exemplify the work hard, play hard lifestyle. But not every single career in the finance industry comes with that sweet six-figure salary. So what can you expect to see on that first paycheck when you land a finance job? Let’s take a look at some of the most common job titles in finance, along with their average salaries. Remember that salaries in finance, as with every industry, will change and fluctuate depending on many factors. Experience, education, negotiation skills, and even physical location can all influence your salary and other aspects of your total compensation.
Long seen as a stable, reliable career, accountants are often the backbone of the financial department of any organization. As an accountant, you’ll prepare and evaluate financial documents, either for individuals or businesses. Often, accountants for individuals focus on achieving the best possible tax return for their clients, whereas business accountants ensure a company’s financial records are up to date and conform with federal and international standards. Accountants typically work their way up in an organization or accounting firm, from assistant-level positions up to managers or even CFOs. Others are self-employed and receive business from individual clients.
Average Base Salary: $53,000
If you like the idea of working as an accountant, but prefer the logistical side of the business rather than the nitty-gritty of preparing documents, a career as a bookkeeper may be right for you. Usually employed by accounting firms or directly by businesses, a bookkeeper audits and examines financial documents. Depending on the business for which you work, you might be in charge of managing things like financial statements, tax forms, payroll and payroll documents, or sales reports. A bookkeeper can be a crucial part of any business, because they’re often consulted by top management and other stakeholders to ensure the business is performing well. You may be asked to provide insight or opinions based on your financial analysis about the direction of the business and the best places for investment and growth.
__Average Base Salary: $42,000 __
A comptroller is a management-level finance position in a business. As a comptroller, you’ll manage finance-related departments, such as accounting, finance, payroll, or any other department that deals with financial auditing or budgeting. Comptrollers create reports and documents like financial statements, revenue forecasts, and risk assessments. You’ll also ensure that your company meets all regulatory requirements at the state and federal levels. As a financial leader within your company, you’ll help to create and manage policy guidelines and protocols while leading a team of financial professionals.
Average Base Salary: $73,000
Financial analysts generally have one main goal or responsibility in their work: to ensure their clients are able to meet their financial goals and build wealth. Whether you work as a financial analyst for a large company or as a contractor for individuals, the goal (for the most part) remains the same. The ways in which you reach that goal may vary from day-to-day or company-to-company, but in general you’ll be performing large amounts of data analysis, from tax documents to profit and loss statements. From there, you’ll prepare reports or financial projections, and make suggestions for improvements or other next steps. Depending on the needs of your clients, you’ll likely also bring investment opportunities that would be a good fit for their portfolios their way, and identify trends both in the financial records of your clients and in the market at large.
Average Base Salary: $70,000
When someone applies for a mortgage loan, a mortgage advisor is one of the people who decides whether or not the applicant qualifies. As a mortgage advisor, you’ll analyze financial documents such as income statements, tax returns, and credit reports from applicants and, after measuring them against bank and federal rules and regulations, determine whether the applicant is qualified for the mortgage they’re applying for. Depending on the result of that analysis, you might then create proposals to send to underwriters or provide advice to clients about how best to improve their chances of getting qualified. Mortgage advisors can work in a number of different environments, but it’s not uncommon for them to be employed by larger institutions that require a specific quota of successful applicants per month, which means you’ll have to ensure a steady stream of qualified applicants knows where to reach you.
Average Base Salary: $69,000, but keep in mind that many mortgage advisors work on commission, either as their entire compensation or as a way to supplement it.
Whether you’re interested in a career in finance for the high earning potential, the possibility of helping others achieve their goals, because you love numbers and problem-solving, or all of the above, one thing’s clear: to stand out in this competitive industry, you’ll need a top-notch resume. Before each and every job application you send, perform a resume audit, comparing it to the job description, and figure out what you can add or change to your resume in order for it to more closely match what’s being asked of you.
Using a strong resume template can help get you noticed in a crowded field, but at the end of the day, you don’t just want to grab a hiring manager’s attention, you want to keep it. The best way to do that? Properly highlighting exactly what you bring to the table.
Content Manager & Resume Expert
Maggie is the Content Manager at VisualCV, with years of experience creating easy-to-understand resume guides, blogs, and career marketing content. Now, she loves helping people learn how to leverage their skills to start their dream jobs.
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