Financial services can be a lucrative career choice for those willing to commit to a lot of hard work. The field includes banking, insurance and securities, and positions such as sales, financial advisors, financial analysts and many more.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the industry provides above average income for its workers and has a much lower unemployment rate than the national average. In 2011, the average weekly income for a full-time worker was about $900, and workers in securities, commodities and financial services made well over $90,000 per year.
A career in financial services requires more than just good math skills. To be successful, you must have an entrepreneurial mindset. Most companies want ambitious, self-starters who will build their own customer base. Therefore, it requires not only an interest in finances, but also excellent sales skills.
Requirements for a Financial Services Career
Companies vary, but most of them require their employees to have a bachelor's degree in accounting, business, economics or finance. To move further into the career, it is good to have an MBA or professional certification.
There are usually licenses required for dealing with and selling things like securities and some forms of insurance. For example, an insurance agent who sells annuities will need to pass the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's Series 7 Examination, also known as the General Securities Registered Representative Examination. Before taking the Series 7 Exam, the tester must hold employment by a registered financial firm for a minimum of four months.
Additionally, each state has its own licensing requirements, and the employee may be required to pass other tests and hold additional licenses. Additional licenses are required for particular products, as well. Ongoing education is required to maintain Federal and state licenses.
It is common for financial services companies to offer on-the-job training for its employees. In some cases, an employee may be able to learn the job while he is finishing school or furthering his education. This also provides time for him to learn the products and prepare for his licensing exams.
Employers in the financial services industry seek employees who are outgoing and have pleasant personalities because these positions involve in-person meetings with clients. Sales skills and experience is also preferred. Because many of these careers are sales based, management generally prefers employees who are money hungry. A sales representative who is not interested in making above average money will not likely succeed.
Hygiene, grooming and appearance are very important in financial services, too. Representatives must be clean and look professional.
Another personal item to keep in order is your credit. Not all employers check an applicant's credit, but because it is the industry involves finances, many do check. Take care of your credit because a poor credit history may hinder your chances at getting the finance job you desire.
Advancing in a Financial Services Career
Once you have your job, plan on advancing as quickly as possible. Employers do not always require advancement, but the more customers and skills you have, the better your chances are that you will never have to worry about losing your job to someone more qualified.
The easiest way to advance is to build your client base. An employee with a large customer base is valuable to a company. As time goes by, you can build the base with repeat business, referrals, and your own advertising and solicitations.
You can also further your career by seeking a variety of certifications. If you have your bachelor's degree, after four years of related employment, you will want to consider earning your CFA designation. That will make you a Chartered Financial Analyst.
This award certifies you in the areas of accounting, asset valuation, corporate finance, economics, financial markets and instruments, portfolio management and securities analysis. These credentials can lead you to managing an office, handling large institutional accounts, or even becoming a partner with a firm.
Where to Start
If you have completed your education, you may have access to a career with a large company. If you have not yet completed school and are looking for an entry-level position, consider a smaller firm. It is more likely to give you the opportunity you need, and then as you progress, you can move up to a larger firm.
Go to as many interviews as you can. Have a professional write your resume. If you are fresh out of school, it should focus on your education; if you have good work experience, it should focus on that.
One thing to keep in mind: This is a very competitive field of employment. There are plenty of jobs available, but you will have to be at the top of your game to get and keep one. Get all the education and training you can, and then work toward moving up in the company.
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