Embarking on a finance career promises financial prosperity, rapid growth, and work-life balance. As an experienced professional sharing insight with mid-career peers, I guide you through the intricacies of this dynamic field, exploring the vast landscape of MBA in finance and career options. Navigating finance requires diverse financial management, economics, mathematics, and accounting skills. Specializing after gaining experience provides a competitive edge. Whether in public accounting, corporate finance, investment banking, portfolio management, risk management, financial planning, commercial banking, or compliance, each path offers unique challenges and rewards. In this guide on career options in finance, we delve into top roles, essential skills, and the evolving industry, empowering you for a successful and fulfilling professional journey.
Benefits of Having A Career In Finance
Careers in finance offer a plethora of benefits. Here are some of them:
- Good Money And Growth – It goes without stating that once you are settled in a career in the finance domain, you have the potential to earn high. Even several entry-level positions are lucrative in terms of payments in the fields of finance. Moreover, there is scope to work up the career ladder quickly with the right set of skills and abilities.
- Balanced Lifestyle – Jobs across the financial sector let you have a balanced lifestyle since you are better off in terms of work schedules. Of course, there are stressful days, but overall, the job domain offers better balance.
- Job security: A career in finance bestows you with the option to settle for a job that offers maximum financial protection. An all-rounded security feature is beneficial in any field. It allows you to relax in any place without giving the move a second thought.
- Diversity: One of the most noticeable features of a career in finance is that it offers a range of posts that cater to the field of finance. There are many specializations that one can choose from in the financial sector.
- Scope for growth: Finance firms always look for new talent to upscale their establishment. It makes it easier for people looking to move up the career ladder. At the same time, career paths in finance offer an easy option to relocate since it isn’t always location-specific.
Challenges of Finance Careers
The finance industry is highly competitive, with many qualified professionals vying for limited job opportunities. Landing a job and advancing your career can be challenging due to the intense competition.
Long Working Hours
Finance professionals often work long and irregular hours, especially in investment banking and trading roles. The pressure to meet deadlines, analyze data, and make critical decisions can lead to extensive work hours.
High Stress Levels
The finance industry is fast-paced and involves managing significant amounts of money. This pressure can lead to high stress levels, particularly during market fluctuations and economic uncertainties. Professionals need to handle stress effectively to succeed in this field.
The finance industry is heavily regulated, and regulations frequently change in response to economic events and government policies. Staying updated with these changes and ensuring compliance with regulations is a constant challenge for finance professionals.
Managing financial risk is a fundamental aspect of finance careers. Professionals need to have a deep understanding of market risks, credit risks, and operational risks. Making accurate predictions and mitigating risks is a constant challenge, especially in volatile market conditions.
For financial advisory and wealth management roles, meeting client expectations and providing satisfactory investment advice is crucial. Clients often have high expectations regarding the performance of their investments, and managing these expectations can be challenging, especially during economic downturns.
Finance professionals may face ethical dilemmas related to insider trading, conflicts of interest, and responsible lending practices. Maintaining ethical standards and integrity is essential but challenging when facing pressures to maximize profits or meet targets.
While technology has streamlined many financial processes, it has also created challenges. Finance professionals must adapt to new technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain. Staying current with technological advancements and integrating them into existing practices is challenging.
Many finance careers involve working with international clients and navigating the complexities of global markets. Understanding diverse cultures, regulations, and market behaviors from different countries is challenging but essential for success in a globalized finance industry.
Finance is a field that constantly evolves. New financial instruments, investment strategies, and market trends emerge regularly. Professionals must continuously learn to stay updated with industry developments, which can be time-consuming and demanding.
Due to the high demands of the job, finance professionals are susceptible to burnout. Balancing demanding work schedules with personal life can be challenging, leading to stress and fatigue.
Top Career Options in Finance
There are a number of options among careers in finance you can pursue if you want to be specializing in finance, or make a finance career in financial professional jobs. Take a look at the most popular finance careers or finance jobs.
1. Public Accounting
Accounting is an extensive field of study and practice, comprising a variety of financial services. Broadly, it is concerned with recording and maintaining the flow of money for a public entity or private company. Public accountants also give suggestions and deliver reports to cut down expenses, boost revenue, and improve financial health.
As an accountant, you can work in-house to help organizations get their finances in order, understand the soundness of their investments, and make projections to achieve long-term goals. Employment opportunities may arise in the commercial or private sector as well as in select accounting firms.
The Big Four firms across the fields of finance, namely Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC, collectively offer the largest share of professional services in public accounting. They provide assistance in auditing and attestation, tax consulting, business advisory, internal control, and governance to their corporate and government partners globally.
Graduates in Commerce and Business Administration can consider a CPA qualification to become an internationally licensed accountant. Degrees like Master of Commerce (M.Com.) and MBA (Finance) are also recognized as a testament to candidates’ academic knowledge in the area. When you are going for coveted job positions, higher education can help you differentiate your profile from the competition.
Learn Top MBA Courses from the World’s top Universities. Earn Masters, Executive PGP, or Advanced Certificate Programs to fast-track your career.
2. Corporate Finance
Corporate finance is a sub-division of finance that provides funds for business activities. It deals with funding sources, investment decisions, and capital restructuring. The critical job functions in this profession include:
- Balancing risk and profitability
- Analyzing and forecasting economic trends
- Reviewing company reports and suggesting improvement measures
- Maximizes value of stock
- Managing funds and selecting investment portfolios
- Performing tasks related to financial risk management
Corporate finance professionals are hired in junior and senior capacities depending on their educational qualifications, acquired skills, and interests. You would be expected to have a knack for numbers and apply the same for managing money, maximizing return on investment, introducing smart solutions for budgeting, etc.
Also, leading corporate advisory firms recruit finance graduates to expedite mergers and acquisitions of businesses. Large organizations prefer to hire MBA talent for mid-senior level positions and above. Hence, a finance career path would be the best fit for finance enthusiasts.
3. Investment Banking
Investment banking finds a place among the most prestigious career options in finance. It is also a lucrative path in terms of professional growth and salary package. Investment bankers are responsible for tasks related to financial remodeling. Their work involves working with data and numbers and introducing decisions that improve business operations. These practitioners must have an interest and insightful knowledge of financial markets and economic trends.
Other job profiles can range from trading and stockbroking to asset management to equity research. Stockbrokers are professional traders or registered representatives who buy and sell shares on behalf of their clients. Asset managers determine what investments should be made with the view of growing their clients’ portfolios over time and mitigating risk. Careers in equity research involve ascertaining certain investments’ value to help individuals and institutional investors make investment decisions.
Investment banks generally hire interns and prospective associates from top-tier educational institutions. An MBA (Finance), and sometimes a Law degree, can be beneficial in entering this field. If you are looking to pursue a specific career path such as stockbroking, you can opt for short courses or diplomas in stock analysis or stock market research. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) also offers such formal credentials.
4. Portfolio Management
Portfolio management is a fusion of commerce and science as it requires knowledge of business, mathematics, and analytics. As a portfolio manager, you do not pore over individual investments but look at the overall investment mix of your clients, who may be institutions or individuals.
Also, it would be your job to guide organizational policies on investments and decisions regarding asset allocation. It is crucial in portfolio management that employed professionals work to maximize profits at a negotiated risk. This would require conducting a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) analysis in the domestic and international markets across areas like growth vs. safety, debt vs. security, and so on.
Education in Economics, Business Administration, or Accounting is ideal for these types of careers to get started with finance careers. It is also recommended to get training in statistics and refine your mathematical skills to pursue portfolio management jobs. Demonstrated experience in financial asset management or working with investment institutions can be work to your advantage. Besides, you would need excellent communication and interpersonal skills to handle requests from clients and customers.
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4. Risk Management
Risk management professionals are competent in identifying market risks and recognizing poor investment outcomes. Their primary duty is to maximize returns and minimize risks strategically. For this purpose, they apply their mathematical prowess and analytical reasoning skills and advise their clients on various business matters. The job roles can be divided into:
- Financial Risk Manager
- Enterprise Risk Manager
- Supply Chain Risk Manager
- Operational Risk Manager
- Digital Risk Manager
Risk management is an in-demand profession in India with companies like SBI Life Insurance, LIC, Bajaj Allianz, and PolicyBazaar recruiting for various positions, including analysts, managers, consultants, and advisors. It is a sought-after finance career path globally.
If you are seeking work in risk management, you should consider completing an advanced degree like an MBA or PG Diploma in Risk Management. Also, check out the certificate courses offered by the Risk Management Association of India (RMAI).
5. Financial Planning
Individuals and companies require the services of financial planners to secure their current and future financial stability. A career in financial planning would entail reviewing financial statements and cash flows and creating methods for saving and investing in matching the clients’ needs.
You can choose to concentrate in a specific area, viz. wealth management, tax planning, estate planning, retirement planning, investment growth, etc. Here are a few places that employ financial planners in India:
- Wealth management and financial services firms
- Knowledge Processing Organizations (KPOs)
- Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs)
- Asset Management Companies (AMCs)
- Finance Journalism
A postgraduate degree such as MBA (Finance), MS (Finance), or MA (Economics) is preferable for obtaining employment as financial planners in established organizations.
6. Commercial Banking
Commercial banks provide a host of services to individuals and businesses. The offerings range from savings and current account facilities to debit and credit cards to personal, home, education, and other loans. Commercial banking also includes analysis of financial statements, competitive positions, and industries.
There are several types of roles, each one requiring different skill sets in the banking sectors. The most popular posts include credit analyst, banking associate, account manager, trust officer, bank teller, mortgage banker, and branch manager.
The primary duty of bank personnel is to maintain relationships with the bank’s existing customers and find new clients to keep the business running. For this, they need to deliver effective and customer-friendly services and remain proactive in improving the bank’s day-to-day functioning.
Commercial banking is considered an attractive career choice for many aspirants due to the decent pay packages and working hours. An undergraduate degree in Business and Commerce can qualify you for an entry-level position like a credit analyst. Many BFSI sector recruiters also hire data science professionals for analyst jobs. You can build your profile with an MBA degree and advance to business development and client-facing roles like account management.
Moreover, financial services are rapidly evolving in the current technology-led world. So, your career choices need to be future-oriented. Let us look at some latest innovations in the Fintech space.
- Payment banks are fostering financial inclusion and digital payments
- Artificial intelligence and cognitive analytics are powering data-driven decisions
- Blockchain implementations are set to transform banking and financial markets
- Robotic process automation or RPA has the potential to address case backlogs
- The need for cybersecurity solutions to eliminate intrusions and attacks has multiplied
With big players like ICICI and Axis Bank exploring opportunities in emerging tech, it would be wise to take up a course that empowers you with the current developments in fintech and teaches you the roles in finance. Here, an MBA in Digital Finance and Banking could prove useful for you. Fintech has also opened up new jobs in software development. Learn how MBA in digital finance and banking helps your career.
7. Compliance and Internal Control
Compliance services engage managers and administrative officials to ensure that all procedures and activities adhere to applicable laws, ethical practices, and standards. Companies want to avoid any harm to their reputation and finances on account of regulatory non-compliance. Therefore, the job of compliance officers is critical to support effective business performance.
They can be employed in diverse environments as international University offices to look after components like grants, gifts, and contracts. As for financial compliance departments in corporate firms, these professionals protect investors and maintain transparency. Their job functions directly contribute to the reduction of financial fraud and system risk.
Typically, accounting and law graduates opt for a career in financial compliance services. Getting an advanced finance degree like a specialized MBA can improve your chances of landing attractive internships and placements.
Must Read: Top 15 Highest Paying Finance Jobs in India
Top Skills To Make It Big In Finance For 2024
Here are the top financial skills you will need for job in finance company: –
Education – To begin with, you must have the right degree and training to kickstart your finance career. Experience at work matters undoubtedly, but having the right certifications and education helps you kick start the career right.
Interpersonal Skills – Finance careers aren’t about crunching numbers in a nook. At least- not anymore. You must be able to deal with clients, communicate clearly, and build relationships. Such skills matter as much as your knowledge in the discipline does.
Financial Reporting Aptitude – Looking to make it big in finance? You do need to have proficiency in financial reporting.
Analytical Skills- If you can analyze a scenario to deduce relevant conclusions, then a career in finance is a good pick. Skills such as strategic thinking and leadership are much needed in the field of finance too.
Financial modeling – It is the representation of a financial situation using abstract methods. You get to design a model that portrays the financial performance of a portfolio or asset.
Business intelligence – To make a well-informed business decision, one must know the present and future data regarding sales, inventory, and other fields. Business Intelligence experts use software like Tableau to gain insight into the financial area.
Accounting skills – Accounting skills assist you in keeping track, recording, and managing financial transactions without facing any errors. Furthermore, accounting skills are highly sought in financial analysis, data management, financial reporting, and financial modeling.
Cash flow management – Cash flow management analyzes, optimizes, and monitors the cash flow in receipts. Businesses use this technique to manage finances.
Mathematical skills – A set of solid mathematical skills can take you anywhere. Robust knowledge of mathematics can put you into roles in finance, like financial analysis, data management, and predictive analysis, among other profiles. It is also the case with professionals working in the financial field.
Data management – It is the process of gathering, managing, storing, and maintenance of data acquired from an organization. It is vital while performing data analysis. Financial data management also allows you to comply with the latest laws and regulations.
Navigating Finance Job Opportunities:
As we explore the world of finance careers, it’s important to carefully navigate through the various job opportunities. I’ve had the privilege of steering my career through various roles in the finance domain, and I’m here to guide you through the nuanced choices that await.
- Diverse Career Options: The finance industry provides a diverse array of career paths, from traditional roles like accounting to dynamic positions in investment banking and financial planning.
- Assessing Personal Strengths: Professionals should assess their strengths, passions, and long-term goals to align their career choices with their intrinsic abilities.
- Long-Term Goals: Consider the long-term goals and aspirations, as different finance roles contribute uniquely to career trajectories.
- Strategic Career Planning: Emphasize the importance of strategic career planning to make informed decisions about specialization, upskilling, and staying relevant in the dynamic field.
- Real-Life Case Studies: Illustrate strategic career moves through real-life case studies, showcasing how professionals navigated challenges and achieved success.
Pros of a Finance Career:
- Competitive Remuneration: Finance careers are renowned for offering competitive salaries attracting individuals seeking financial stability and recognition.
- Career Progression Opportunities: Abundant opportunities for career progression, where dedicated professionals can climb the corporate ladder and take on leadership roles.
- Strategic Decision-Making: Professionals experience the satisfaction of contributing to strategic decision-making, influencing the financial health of individuals and organizations.
- Analytical Challenges: Engaging in intricate financial problem-solving provides a sense of accomplishment, attracting those with a penchant for analytical challenges.
Cons of a Finance career:
- High-Pressure Environment: The finance industry is known for its high-pressure environment, demanding long working hours and keen attention to detail.
- Regulatory Changes: Constant adaptation to regulatory changes necessitates professionals to stay informed and compliant with evolving financial laws.
- Ethical Dilemmas: Facing ethical dilemmas is common as professionals navigate the delicate balance between profitability and maintaining ethical standards.
- Dynamic Nature: The dynamic nature of finance requires adaptability, and professionals need to continually upskill to stay relevant in a rapidly changing landscape.
- Balancing Work and Life: Striking a balance between demanding work schedules and personal life can be challenging, leading to stress and fatigue.
Before you opt for a postgraduate degree or certifications like CFA or FRM, it would be best to evaluate your options and chalk out a strategic plan to realize your personal and professional objectives. If you feel that you need to work on your analytical and business intelligence skills, accredited programs in Data Science or Business Analytics could work for you.
A budding professional in finance must understand the relationship and the fiscal behavior of a company with the marketplace demand. You must demonstrate an understanding of how the business world works while keeping abreast of the latest trends.
Finance or accounting might sound like domains that are strict on routine and system. However, this never means that there is no room for innovation. Many new trends are shaping the industry, and you must also work on developing better IT-related skills to survive and thrive in the same.
However, if you intend to qualify for a job promotion or develop your leadership skills, I would recommend you may go for a Global MBA and select your desired specialization. You can complement your degree or diploma with other relevant credentials and licenses.
With this list of careers in finance, we have explained different career options in finance and detailed the ‘hows’ of attaining job-ready skills. Use this information to restructure your plan and move ahead with a willingness to learn and grow!
What are the different degrees available in finance?
Chartered Accountants (CA), MBA in Finance, Finance Analyst, Investment Banking, and Cost & Management Accounting are a few of the most popular finance courses. The appropriate degree option relies mainly on which of the numerous professions in finance best appeals to you. Joining a two-year associate degree program and then accepting an entry-level position can be an excellent way to get started. In many financial jobs, Bachelor's degrees are the most prevalent educational path. Before joining the financial industry, you could also aim to obtain a Master's degree, like an MBA.
What are the skills required to make a career in finance?
The range of roles and responsibilities in the financial industry means a wide range of abilities is required. Professionals in accounting and finance need to be highly analytical, have strong interpersonal skills, and have a thorough knowledge of industry technologies. Financial specialists are in charge of managing money, which is the most valuable resource in a firm. Therefore, having integrity and working well under pressure are crucial qualities. Finance professionals must possess accounting, analytical thinking, and written and verbal communication abilities. You might need to finish a specific training program and obtain one or more certificates or licenses depending on the area you choose to work in and the roles you want to apply for.
What is the difference between commercial banking and investment banking?
In the world of finance, commercial and investment banks are equally prevalent. When most folks hear the word bank, they picture commercial banks. Commercial banks serve a wide range of clients, such as the general public and companies, by accepting deposits, disbursing loans, protecting assets, and working with them. On the other side, investment banks offer services to big businesses and investment firms. An investment bank can aid with securities issuance, merger and acquisition (M&A) deals, and funding for sizable commercial initiatives.