Finance as a Career

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A finance or business degree is a prerequisite for most jobs in finance, but what if you don't possess a finance degree and really want to work in this field? While it is obviously more difficult for someone with a non-financial degree to secure a job in finance than it is for a candidate with one, there's still hope for the former.

Every employer wants smart, committed and motivated employees who can do the job and do it well. A finance degree will impart skills such as financial modeling and analysis, but may not do much to provide other skills required for success in almost any job, such as communication, problem-solving and time management.

The following are 10 ways to demonstrate to potential employers that you possess the skills they desire in an employee, as well as the passion necessary for a successful career in finance. We will rate each of these by the degree of difficulty to achieve (for example, signing up for a financial course is easier than obtaining an internship) as well as the positive impact it may have on getting you closer to your objective of embarking on a financial career.

1. Learn the Lingo
Difficulty: Low
Impact: Low

If you are interested in a financial career, there's no excuse for not knowing the lingo of Wall Street. If you don't know the difference between dilution and dividend, or between NPV and DCF, consider learning financial terms and concepts by browsing the extensive dictionary of terms at sites like Investopedia or by reading the Wall Street Journal.

Not knowing the language of finance may make it almost impossible to get past the preliminary interview stage for a non-financial graduate. That's because an interviewer will generally assume that an applicant for a finance position is knowledgeable about finance, regardless of his or her educational background.

2. Round off Your Education
Difficulty: Low to Moderate
Impact: High

So what if you graduated with a degree in a subject other than finance? You can always redress the situation by taking relevant courses with an emphasis on finance or business at the undergraduate or post-graduate level. At the undergraduate level, courses in economics, accounting or financial analysis are a great option. For post-graduates, the favored option for many is an MBA, since the substantial finance component of the curriculum serves to level the playing field quite significantly between finance and non-finance graduates. If the stiff cost of an MBA is a deterrent, other options such as enrolling in the CFA program are certainly worth exploring.

3. Enroll in Financial Boot Camp
Difficulty: Moderate
Impact: Moderate

Intensive courses by firms like Wall Street Prep and Training the Street can teach you valuable skills that are essential for a career in finance, such as advanced spreadsheet techniques and financial modeling. These crash courses are quite expensive, typically running to a few thousand dollars, but have the advantage of not requiring a long-term time commitment, as they are typically conducted over a few days. One drawback is that due to these programs' intensity, you may need to be familiar with basic financial concepts to derive the maximum benefit from them.

It's Interesting

  • Master of Science in Finance (MSF) is a Master's degree designed to prepare graduates for careers in financial analysis, investment management and corporate finance. The MSF is generally a one-year, non-thesis degree, and is often positioned as a professional degree.
    In the typical MSF, the core curriculum is focused on investment analysis...

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