Introduction

Whether you decide to work in a bank, for an accounting firm, or for a financial planning company, you will need an education to get a job.

A low-level financial career can be obtained with a high school diploma, but eventually, if you wish to be promoted into a management position, you’ll need to get a bachelor’s or master’s degree. You’re also more likely to get a higher-level job at a higher salary if you get a bachelor’s degree when you start your career.

Disadvantages of Jobs in the Field

If you’re thinking about a career in this sector, you need to do your research, talk to other financial professionals, and even job shadow people in different jobs for a few days before moving forward. As with any career, jobs in finance have disadvantages as well as advantages. Here are some (not all) of the disadvantages of pursuing a career in the financial services industry.

Salary Disparities

Not every professional in the industry earns a high salary. Some careers in the industry tend to have higher salaries associated with them than others. For example, accountants and Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) can earn higher-than-average salaries compared with the job market, but compared to other financial professionals, they can earn the lowest salaries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of accountants is approximately $59,000.

Financial planners can earn salaries that are higher than accountants. That is usually because, when they work with clients, they sell them financial products. Many financial planners earn commissions on the products they sell, while other planners or consultants charge flat-rate consulting fees. Either way, clients are paying for the professional’s knowledge and advice, and the planners can earn higher incomes. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the annual average salary for personal financial planners is approximately $69,000.

Professionals in the investment banking industry can earn the highest salaries. These professionals work with companies to assist them with getting financing, merging with other companies, acquiring other companies, and becoming public companies. The average annual salary for investment bankers can be upwards of $100,000 and more.

Working Hours

While many financial professionals can work traditional hours, there are times when these professionals will need to work many extra hours. For example, accountants and CPAs who work with individuals and businesses on their taxes will work many extra hours until tax season is over. Financial planners may not have to work extra hours, but they will need to work nontraditional hours, such as evenings and weekends, in order to meet with busy working clients. The investment banker can do a lot of traveling as well as working, and professionals in this field are known to put in more than 70 to 80 hours a week. No matter what facet of the industry you choose, be prepared to work hard and, in some cases, work long or nontraditional hours.

Stress

Another primary disadvantage of working in the financial services industry is that it can be a highly stressful career. No matter which career path you choose, there will be some stress associated with it. For example, accountants and CPAs who file taxes for their clients must work hard to ensure that the taxes are correct. If mistakes are found, it could damage the accountant’s career as well as cause the client to pay tax penalties. Financial planners are responsible for increasing the worth of their clients’ investment portfolios. If instead, the clients consistently lose money or their portfolios aren’t performing as expected, it could significantly impact the clients’ lifestyles, not to mention the financial advisor’s reputation. Investment bankers’ stress stems from their clients’ reliance on them to put together business deals that are advantageous and meet all federal requirements and filings. There are many details that are important and if overlooked can prevent the deal from happening. The investment banker must perform a lot of work and pay attention to all of the details.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs

Almost all careers in finance require a bachelor’s degree. There are several different degree fields to choose from, and which one is right for you depends on the job you’re most interested in obtaining after graduation. Here are a few of the degree programs available today. This is not a comprehensive list. There are many other options available, so make sure you do your own research.

MBA in Accounting

If you really want to succeed in the financial industry, consider earning a master’s of business administration (MBA) degree. Whether you work for a bank, financial planning company, or accounting firm, having an MBA in accounting can lead to bigger and better things. In fact, most senior-level or executive positions require an MBA.

No specific bachelor’s degree is required to get an MBA in accounting. However, it would help if you’ve already completed some classes in business, economics, accounting, finance, and management in order to excel in most positions.

Master’s Degrees

While a bachelor’s degree is usually required for getting a job in finance, obtaining a master’s degree is quickly becoming equally important for advancing your career. It’s becoming more difficult for employees without advanced degrees to become leaders in the financial industry. There are various master’s degrees that you can choose from. Here is a description of some of the more common master’s degrees found at colleges and universities.

Doctoral Degrees

Earning a doctoral degree is one of the most difficult tasks a person can attempt. Not only does it require several years of study, research, and writing a thesis, but then the thesis must be defended in front of a panel of experts. It is also a costly proposition. While many schools and universities offer programs for working people to get bachelor’s or master’s degrees, it will be necessary for the PhD candidate to go to school full time, meaning he or she may have to live on a very small research assistant stipend until graduation.

For these reasons, whether you want to apply for a doctoral degree is a decision that is to be taken very seriously. For many careers, this can be a smart move, but anyone interested in doing this should conduct a lot of research and talk to many people who have earned these degrees or who are in the process of earning them.

One of the most important considerations to think about before going for a doctorate degree is what it will do for your career. If you are primarily interested in earning more money, or a promotion, or achieving an executive position, all of these things can be accomplished with a master’s degree—at least in the financial industry. In other more highly technical industries, a doctoral degree could be a requirement. That is not to say that a doctorate might not give you a competitive edge, but it is usually not required for a high-level position in the financial industry. If you are interested in conducting research or teaching at the college level, then earning a doctorate is definitely the right path for you.

Types of Doctoral Degrees

There are a few doctoral degree programs offered for financial professionals. Interested students can earn their doctorates in business administration. This program is similar to the master’s program in business administration, but it emphasizes more advanced decision making, leadership skills, and more in-depth knowledge.

The doctoral degree in management finance is another option. It focuses on theories, concepts, and techniques of advanced leadership as well as groundbreaking research and advancements.

More Information About Doctoral Degrees

It will take approximately five to six years to complete most doctoral programs. Coursework that can be included in doctoral programs in finance are quantitative reasoning and analysis, corporate finance, investment portfolio analysis, and financial management for international businesses. When it comes to prerequisites, most colleges and universities look for students who have already taken advanced math classes and economics. Some colleges will require the student to earn a master’s degree before applying for a doctoral degree.

History of Financial Careers

It might surprise you to learn that people have been working in finance for thousands of years. The earliest known banks started before the birth of Christ, and deposits were made in grain, cattle, and oil rather than cash. Still, they required the assistance of workers to record the deposits and withdrawals. The first bank in the United States was created in Philadelphia in 1781, and there were seventeen banks in existence by 1794. Today, there are about 1.8 million banking jobs in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and that number is growing.

Accounting practices and the accounting industry itself haven’t had quite such long histories; they have been around since the Middle Ages. The first attempt to capture the accounting system in writing was undertaken by Luca Pacioli, who wrote Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita in 1494. Pacioli’s system was the first to describe bookkeeping practices and ideas that are still in use today. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 1.3 million accounting jobs in this country, and that number is expected to increase by 22 percent by 2018. There are a few reasons for this anticipated high demand for financial professionals. Baby boomers, who represent a large number of working Americans, are reaching retirement age and leaving the workforce. A second reason is the Enron and Worldcom accounting scandals at the beginning of this century. An investigation of these companies showed that the accounting and reporting systems in place at the time enabled them to creatively hide tremendous financial problems. Since that time, more stringent accounting and reporting practices have led to an increase in demand for competent accountants.

Today, there are three primary career paths that people interested in financial jobs can take: (1) work in a bank, (2) work for a financial planning company, or (3) work as a Certified Public Accountant or accounting firm. When it comes to jobs at banks, the biggest change that’s occurred and will continue to develop is the impact of technology. Jobs that once required hundreds of workers are now being automated through the use of computers. And, this trend is expected to continue. While the need for personal and commercial bankers will always be there, some positions, like data entry operators, data analysts, and others, will eventually be phased out. People who can combine an interest in computers and technology with banking will be in demand.

This same phenomenon holds true in the accounting industry. The advent of the computer spreadsheet, computerized general ledger processing, and other technological advances have led to a decrease in demand for accounting and general ledger clerks. In fact, studies have shown that accounting companies and employers list computer skills as one of the primary proficiencies needed by their employees. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that people with an understanding of both accounting practices and computer auditing and information systems will have a competitive advantage in the future job market in this industry. There will also be a growing demand for accountants who can advise their customers on improving cash flow, debt financing, and improving overall accounting practices, transparency, and efficiencies.

The last career path open to people interested in a career in finance is that of the financial planner. Financial planners work with individuals to help them plan for their futures, whether it’s paying for their children’s college educations, retirement, starting their own businesses, or other financial goals. They work to help their clients meet these goals through investment and savings accounts. The client turns over a certain amount of money to the financial planner, who invests it according to the client’s goals and level of tolerance for the ups and downs of the investment markets. Like the banking and accounting industries, the financial planning industry has also seen its share of scandals and problems. For example, in the last decade, investment firms have had to divest themselves of companies related to financial services. Some companies offered financial planning, tax services, and accounting services and consulting, as well as their own suite of products for each. It was discovered that this led to less than desirable choices for consumers as these companies were favoring their own services and products rather than others that may have been more beneficial for the consumer. As a result, companies now must specialize in investment planning, or tax services, or accounting services and consulting. This has resulted in more jobs available for people interested in this field.

These careers have also been affected by technology, and like the banking and accounting industries, there are fewer clerical and data processing jobs and more computer programming and Internet design and programming jobs available.