If you love numbers and data, especially analyzing these things and drawing conclusions, then working in finance might be a great path for you. A career in finance covers an enormous variety of roles, from being a financial planner, to head of accounting for a chain of retail outlets, to working for a bank, as a stock broker, and much more. The specific pathway that you take to success in this field will vary based on your specific goals, but there are certain broad steps you can take whatever those goals are.
Get Your Degree
Your first step should be to get your bachelor’s degree. In this highly competitive field, you may eventually want an MBA as well, another type of master’s degree or a certification, but those should only come after you have acquired some work experience as well. Your bachelor’s should ideally be in finance or a related field. Student loans can be an excellent way to receive help when you need it in order to pay for your degree. You may also want to apply for federal student aid and look into your eligibility for scholarships and grants as well.
The earlier you are able to focus on what type of job you want the better. This will put you in a better position to take the classes that you need and gain other experience so that you will be sought after by employers when you graduate. While many additional credentials must be pursued once you are in the workforce, you can take the Securities Industry Essentials Exam at any time, which can help demonstrate your expertise. You can also take the first Chartered Financial Analyst Exam in the last year of your bachelor’s degree even though it will subsequently take you several years to obtain the full qualification.
Internships are vital to learning more about the industry and landing your first job after graduation, so, if at all possible, you should do at least one. Ideally, you should try to do more than one so that you can get broader experience and make more connections. It might be that there are no suitable internships in your area or that you can get do not pay enough. In this situation, you might look for part-time work, such as working in a bank.
The rise of remote work might also offer some opportunities. Check with your adviser, your college career center, your professor and any student organizations related to business and finance to try to connect you with internships or part-time work opportunities. Don’t worry if you feel like you are doing a lot of basic work in your job or internships, such as making photocopies and filing. It’s typical for people to have to start at the bottom. Show incentive, work hard and learn as much as you can on the job.
Do Your Homework
While you should of course do any homework that you are assigned, this really refers to going above and beyond what is required by any of your coursework. You should regularly read publications such as The Wall Street Journal and stay on top of what is happening on your industry. Other examples of good publications include The Economist or Barron’s. You may be able to access these through your school library or get a student rate for subscriptions.
One element of finance involves understanding how global events affect markets, so being knowledgeable and well-rounded about both domestic and international affairs is important. Reading books and listening to podcasts can also help you learn more. Pay attention to the markets. You could even open a small brokerage account to get some hands-on experience with investing. Take opportunities to attend conferences or seminars in the area of finance that interest you, gaining knowledge and making connections. This is a field for people who are passionate enough about it to want to spend their spare time learning more about it as well. Stay on top of current trends and teach yourself the vocabulary that people in the industry use.
Developing Other Skills
There are a number of other skills you should develop. One advantage of internships and part-time work is that they expose you to a professional environment and give you a good idea of how to dress and behave. You should also develop soft skills, such as communication, leadership and teamwork. You need to be well-organized. You can develop these skills in and out of your classes, working on group projects and in school organizations. Find out if you can get linked to a mentor, either through your university or other contacts that you make.