Finding a Career in Finance

Finding a Career in Finance

There are few industries so important as the financial–even the name delivers a sense of authority and relevance. For many, such careers promise a future of wealth (both theirs and that of others) and security. Money isn’t going anywhere, after all.

Jobs in finance require a number of years of experience, so they often require one to work their way up. But a career in finance can be very promising–they pay well, offer stability, room for growth, and leave room for variety.

It’s easy to think of finance jobs as being simply those performed within the confines of a cubicle by nerdy guys and gals in suits–but the industry is changing and has become more than that. Finance folks work in formal and casual atmospheres, travel, and yes–even work in cubicles.

As with any industry, there are more difficult and more competitive positions within. If you’re considering a career in finance, we’ve got a little extra information to help you evaluate your choices.


A comptroller is responsible for organizing the financial aspects of a company. This includes financial planning, financing of debt, and overall budget management. They might set and enforce rules for accounting practices.

If you are a controller, you’ll likely work for a bank, the government, or a corporation.

You’ll need a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in either accounting or finance. You also have to be a Certified Public Accountant with five to ten years of experience, to include senior level positions in your industry.

Tax Managers

As a tax manager, you look after tax planning and reporting. This includes making sure tax returns are accurate and completed in a timely manner. Tax managers also act as enforcers of law, making sure federal, state, local, and international laws are being followed at all times. They’re always on the lookout for methods that might reduce tax obligations.

At a senior level, a tax manager will need a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in accounting, taxation, or both. They’ll also need to be a Certified Public Accountant.

Employers will expect around five years of experience (more for senior level positions). Specialization in the field will make you a better overall candidate.

Fund and Senior Level Accountant

If you enjoy looking at financial trends, costs, and financial operations, this is the career for you. You’ll be thoroughly reviewing reports and monitoring assets, liabilities, profits, losses, taxes, and other financial transactions.

For this position, you’ll need an accounting degree, two to five years experience, and (in some cases) a CPA. Most employers want someone with three to five years of experience with some form of accounting.

Valuation Analysts

Business valuation analysts are responsible for determining the value of an enterprise when a business is bought or sold. They’ve got to understand taxes, the economy, finance, and accounting.

If you’re interested in such a position, you’ll need a CPA and a background in math. There is a lot of potential for long term growth for those willing to stick it out.

Potential for upward movement

In the financial services industry, you may have slightly higher success rates for increasing positions and pay. Young people tend to experience more success in this industry, and talented young people are held in fairly high regard. In this industry, you might find pay and promotion based on worth rather than age.

Salary can vary greatly in the financial services industry. Pay can also vary greatly between firms, so be prepared for a large range of payment. At many firms, the rate paid to employees doing the same job can be vastly different–its a great industry for those willing and able to play the game.

How to get the job

While education can be an important part of a landing a job, it may not be the most important thing. Employers want experience and soft skills, which means you may be better off finding jobs that offer real world experience and honing in on your ability to communicate well or work as part of a team. Bonus points for being able to understand and translate industry-specific language.

It’s often been said that it isn’t what you know, but who you know. Nowhere is this more true than in an economy where jobs are more difficult to find. As such, you’ll be wise to network with a group of likeminded individuals. Many senior level positions aren’t even advertised–so knowing people within the industry will be tremendously helpful. Networking in person is always best, but social media can definitely get you started.

Next, work on building your credentials be they through formal education or otherwise. Get accreditations that are important in your industry and stay current with technology and additional certifications offered to you. Do your best to be an expert in your industry, even if it is because you read a lot.

Finally, work to develop skills that are applicable to almost every job. Good leadership, the ability to communicate verbally and in writing, and presentation skills are all highly valued. Studies also suggest that employers are more concerned than ever with the ability to communicate and work well within a group.

The bottom line

Even in times of economic recession, finance jobs will always be in demand. The income potential in this industry is higher than many others, so it is definitely worth considering. If your chosen career requires a college education, it might be wise to also work either a full time job (and be a part time student) or attend school and work full time.

Given the ever-increasing rates of student loans and the demand for experience in finance, a happy medium must be achieved. By pursuing an education and a career concurrently, you make your studies more meaningful and your resume more complete. If you’re lucky, you will even be able to get your employer to pay for your schooling! Learn to play your cards right early, and you’ll be thankful later on.

Do you have any experience working in finance? Jason Hartman and team would love to hear your story!

(photo credit: Patrick Hoesly via photopin cc)

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The Young Wealth Team