Is a Career in Finance Right for You?
Published on: January 2, 2024
Across the country, the demand for experienced and skilled finance professionals is on the rise. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for financial analysts alone will grow 8 percent through 2032.
If you’re looking for an in-demand career that will allow you to put your critical thinking and analytical skills to use, then a career in finance might be the right path for you. With a better understanding of the scope of the finance industry, major sectors within the industry and the types of jobs you can get in this growing field, you can make a more confident and informed career choice.
Understanding the Finance Industry
The finance industry refers to a sector of the economy that is primarily concerned with how money is acquired and managed. Key players in the finance industry include firms, banks and other institutions that provide financial services (such as consulting) to commercial businesses, retail companies and individuals alike.
There are several subsets or areas of specialty within the finance industry, with some of the more notable including:
- Investment banking
- Equity research
- Asset management
- Personal finance
- Risk management
- Real estate finance
Across the nation and the globe, there has been a growing demand for finance professionals for many years. As the global population expands, assets are acquired and businesses are formed, there is always going to be a need for finance professionals in various sectors.
Key Skill Sets for Finance Professionals
Successful finance professionals must possess many hard and soft skills to perform their jobs well and best serve their clients.
Hard skills refer to the specific (and often technical) abilities that a finance professional must have to work in the field. Some examples of these include:
- Quantitative analysis
- Financial modeling
- Proficiency in software, such as SAP and Microsoft Excel
- Knowledge of database management systems
- Understanding of financial regulations
In addition to these technical skills, several soft skills or core competencies can serve finance professionals well in any role, such as:
- Strong written and verbal communication
- Sharp critical thinking and problem-solving skills
- Ethical judgment
- Leadership and management
Many hard skills in finance can be learned while in school, though these are sharpened in entry-level finance positions or financial internships. These opportunities can also provide excellent opportunities for building soft skills before advancing within the field.
Exploring Finance Career Options
No matter where your career aspirations lie, there are plenty of career options in the finance realm. From investment banking careers to asset management jobs and even real estate finance careers, there’s bound to be a path that suits your interests.
Investment banking professionals are hired by banks or other larger financial institutions to evaluate financial data for businesses and individuals alike. They typically work alongside analysts to help assess financial statements and make spending and saving recommendations to help clients maximize their profits.
An asset manager is a finance professional responsible for monitoring and managing the assets of a company or individual. These assets will typically include not just money, stocks and shares but commodities and property as well. Asset managers make recommendations based on the specific needs and goals of their clients.
Large corporations often hire finance professionals to take on any number of roles, ranging from treasury analysis to business and development analysis. Many companies that hire for corporate finance positions are looking for professionals certified as Chartered Financial Analysts (CFAs), having passed the CFA exam while meeting any other CFA qualifications outlined in their respective states.
Personal Financial Planning
Individuals sometimes hire financial planners to help them achieve their personal financial goals or overcome financial challenges. This is most common in high-net-worth individuals looking for guidance on investments, taxation and deductions, savings and charitable donations. A personal financial planner may work for a single client or multiple clients at once.
Many who go into finance end up working in the commercial banking sector, where commercial bankers put their knowledge and expertise to work by offering advice and solutions regarding banking products and services. This may include services such as cash management and capital investment.
Companies hire risk managers to help them identify, assess and minimize risks. These professionals play an important role in analyzing and mitigating risk and insurance issues that often arise within growing businesses. Risk managers need a background in finance and a strong sense of business acumen to perform their jobs well.
Equity research analysts often come from a finance background, putting their knowledge and expertise to use to identify patterns and trends in market pricing. From there, an equity research analyst can use data to create algorithms that help businesses maximize profits. Professionals in these positions must possess strong financial modeling and accounting skills, as well as effective written communication skills.
The growth of the fintech field in recent years has led to an increased demand for experienced finance professionals. Some examples of positions in the fintech field that may interest someone with a finance background include learning engineer, compliance consultant and blockchain developer.
Quantitative analysts focus on designing, developing and implementing statistical models and algorithms to help solve some of the world’s most complex financial issues. Corporations and businesses of all sizes hire quantitative analysts with finance backgrounds to help them make sound decisions and investments—and this type of work is ideal for analytical minds with finance backgrounds.
Real Estate Finance
Real estate firms hire finance professionals to help with different aspects of running their businesses, including roles in stocks and hedge funds. Real estate financial analysts may handle anything from preparing financial reports and performing market analysis to creating models and budgeting properties. Working in real estate finance can be an ideal path for those who are interested in commercial or residential real estate and enjoy working with numbers.
Public Sector Finance
Public finance is another viable career path to consider for those interested in analyst or even management roles. Public sector organizations, including governmental agencies, hire financial analysts and managers to create budgets, prepare financial statements and work toward short- and long-term financial goals.
All insurance companies need finance experts on staff. One of the most common roles in this sector is finance and insurance manager, a role that involves the direct supervision of teams that sell insurance options to clients. This type of work is great for those with strong leadership skills who enjoy working with people, but it can be quite demanding because finance and insurance managers are expected to tackle everything from basic customer service and paperwork processing to financial compliance and direct supervision.
Navigating the Finance Job Market
Whether you’re interested in personal finance advising, insurance industry careers, risk management in finance or any path in between, there are some essentials to keep in mind when navigating the market and seeking your first job in this dynamic field.
First, don’t underestimate the power of a strong professional network. Go out of your way to connect with professionals already working in the field. You can do this by connecting with industry experts on platforms like LinkedIn or even networking in person by attending industry events. The finance industry is very much about whom you know, so a strong network can make it easier to find your next job.
Take time to build a great resume. Be sure to list your relevant coursework, financial certifications and relevant work experience. Take advantage of career services and resources available through your school to improve your resume and work on your interviewing skills.
Continuous Learning and Adaptation
The finance industry is constantly evolving and changing—so you’ll need to stay on top of the latest industry news and trends. In doing so, you’ll be equipped with the information you need to perform your job well.
Ongoing professional growth and continuous education in finance are vital to achieving success in this field. Attending industry events, reading up on the latest news and taking online finance courses can help you stay ahead of the competition and establish you as a thought leader in the finance field.
Start Your Journey in Finance Today
With so many job opportunities and areas of specialization, a career in finance can be a great choice. Most employers are looking for job applicants with formal education in business, finance or a related field.
At Park University, we’re proud to offer a wide variety of business and finance degrees, ranging from certificates to bachelor’s and master’s degrees. From business administration to accounting, management accounting and finance, you can be sure to find a program that suits your needs and prepares you for your career. Request more information on our degree and certificate programs or start your application today.