Requirements for a Career in Finance

Considering a career in finance? Discover everything you need to know about the education, experience, and certifications you need for a finance job.
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Ellery Weil
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Ellery Weil, Ph.D., is a historian and education writer. When she's not writing about education for BestColleges, she specializes in turn-of-the-twentieth-century women's history. Her writing has been published on three continents. She holds degrees ...
Updated on September 21, 2023
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Margaret Weinhold is an associate editor for BestColleges, where she focuses on core content. She is passionate about increasing visibility and accessibility around higher education. Margaret holds a BA in English from the University of Virginia....
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  • Finance is a large field with many well-paid job opportunities in different organizations.
  • Education, experience, and certifications can help you succeed in a career in finance.
  • It's important to include your education, experience, and skillset in your finance resume.

For those with an interest in math and economics, working in finance can be an exciting and in-demand career choice.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are over 8.9 million professionals working in finance in the U.S. as of 2022.

Finance professionals work in banks, private companies, and public service, so opportunities to work in finance are wide-ranging and diverse.

If you think finance might be the career for you, there are steps you'll need to take to jump-start your journey.

What Are Some Common Finance Careers?

There are many jobs and career paths within the finance field. These can vary from entry-level jobs for new finance graduates to top positions at major companies.

Here are a few positions in finance for you to consider:

Common Finance Careers
Career Name Description Median Annual Salary (May 2021)
Financial Analyst A financial analyst's job is to advise businesses or individuals on how to best invest their money to turn a profit. Financial firms, as well as large companies, often hire many financial analysts. And working as a financial analyst can be a good entry-level finance job for recent college graduates starting their career in finance. $95,570
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) The Chief Financial Officer, or CFO, of a company is responsible for managing the entirety of the company's finances, including payroll and business expenses. They also track how much revenue the company takes in. A CFO is a senior position and is often held by an experienced professional who is responsible for managing a team. $131,710
Investment Banker Investment bankers connect businesses that need funds with investors who are interested in them in a process known as underwriting. Investment bankers often start their careers directly out of undergraduate school and gain on-the-job training as they advance. $62,910

Source: BLS

Which Degree Should You Get to Work in the Finance Industry?

Pursuing higher education can be a great starting point to launch your career in finance.

Useful majors for future finance professionals include business and finance, accounting, and mathematics.

But getting a bachelor's degree isn't the only way to begin your finance education. Relevant degree programs for future finance professionals exist at the associate, bachelor's, and master's levels.

It's important to do some research and look into your personal circumstances before deciding which path is right for you.

Associate Degree

Many community colleges offer associate degree programs in finance or in related fields like business and accounting.

An associate degree is a two-year, full-time program of study. But for part-time or hybrid students, this time frame can take longer.

An associate degree in finance can be a good option to start your career, depending on your personal circumstances. For those who don't have prior education in finance, an associate degree helps you begin earning qualifications.

An associate degree at your local community college is often much more affordable than two years at a four-year college or university. And credits from an associate degree can transfer to many colleges after you've graduated.

Earning an associate in finance can be a great way to get a more affordable qualification in finance and earn credits toward your bachelor's degree.

Bachelor's Degree

Most finance professionals are likely to have a bachelor's degree in finance or a related field.

A bachelor's in finance gives you a broad foundation in finance and its function. And it provides you with the advanced skills you'll need for your finance career. The coursework includes upper-level math, as well as any specialized or elective finance-related classes you choose to take.

If you're applying to colleges and you think you're interested in a career in finance, start by doing research. First, check whether the colleges on your list offer a major in finance or not.

You may want to prioritize applications to schools with highly ranked finance programs or with a particular specialty you're interested in.

Also, take advantage of your college's career services. Many financial organizations recruit new graduates from campus career events.

Master's Degree

A master's degree can be a great way to advance your already-existing career in finance. Or, it can help you shift your career to finance after earning a bachelor's degree in a different subject.

Finance professionals can choose to get a master's in finance. But others prefer to go for the more general master of business administration degree.

Unlike a bachelor's program, a master's in finance, an MBA, or a related degree is often best suited for those with prior work experience.

In fact, some companies sponsor their employees to continue their postgraduate education after a few years on the job. They just need the guarantee that the employee will return to work for the company after they've graduated.

Plus, postgraduate education in finance can be useful not only for the skills you learn and develop but also for the networking it exposes you to.

Finance Certifications

Working in finance, you may find it useful to earn one or more official certifications in the field.

You can earn a variety of finance certifications, often by taking a specialized exam after studying for it. Examples of these include:

  • Certified Financial Analyst (CFA): A CFA needs to complete certification to manage investments and large-scale portfolios. Many financial analysts study to become certified relatively early in their careers. CFAs work with individuals and small and large companies.
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP): A CFP must be certified to help individual clients create and execute holistic, long-term financial goals and plans. CFPs typically work with individuals rather than companies. So being certified can help build trust between a CFP and their clients, which is essential.
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA): A CMA is a finance professional who is certified to manage company investments, budgeting, planning, and risk management.

Finance Internships

It's often much easier to land your first full-time job in finance if you already have experience from an internship.

Many college students studying finance take internships over the summer. Or they do part-time internships during the school year while they study — schedule permitting.

Finance internships can be found at many companies, especially at the larger banks and financial firms which have offices in many states. If there is a large financial corporation in your area, check if they offer internships.

And the rise of hybrid and remote work means that you may also find remote finance internships.

Before you apply for an internship, you may also consider asking your finance professors, or your campus career center, for advice. They may point you toward internships best suited for your personal goals, talents, and circumstances.

What to Include in Your Finance Resume

Before you can apply for jobs in finance, you need to craft a resume, which employers will want you to submit along with your application.

You'll need to include relevant educational and professional information on your resume. Add as many important experiences and qualifications as you can to make yourself a desirable employee.

Your resume should include the schools you attended and the degrees you received. It's also important to add your prior internships, work experience, special skills, awards, and scholarships.

You should also link to any profiles on professional websites like LinkedIn. And if you have a personal business website or portfolio, link to that, too. Also, add your email address and phone number.

If you're confused or struggling when building your resume, consider reaching out to your college advisor or campus career services.

Many campus career centers offer resume advice as a service. If you mention that you want to apply to jobs in finance, an advisor may help you tailor your resume to the jobs you want.

Frequently Asked Questions About a Career in Finance

Is finance a good career path?

If you're interested in economics, enjoy working with numbers, and have strong math skills, finance may be an excellent career option for you.

It's also worth considering if you prioritize a career with high earning potential.

But keep in mind that it's a personal decision that depends on a variety of factors. And not everyone is suited to a career in finance. If your math skills are not as strong as your skills in other fields, you may not enjoy a career in finance.

What companies are in the finance field?

Finance is a large field in the U.S., composed of financial service companies, banks, and finance roles in other organizations.

Some major finance organizations include the nation's largest banks, like Chase and Bank of America. But most companies that engage in buying or selling have a finance department — or a small finance team — so you can find finance jobs nearly everywhere.

How can I break into finance with no experience?

If you do not have any experience in finance, you can still build a career in it. But you'll typically be starting from the ground up.

Starting your finance career with some education in the field is often a good idea. It's useful to have either an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree.

If completing a degree in finance doesn't work for you, consider taking an introductory course. You can take one either online or in person at a university or local community college.

Another option is to look for internships in finance, which can be a good entry point for a full-time finance job. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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