Chapter 3: Matching Interests and Skills with Degree Work
Getting a degree in finance can provide you with an overview of the field as a whole. But without any real experience within the industry, it can be hard to know exactly what part or niche you’d like to fill once you’ve completed your coursework and obtained your degree. Looking for ways to match your interest and skills with your degree work can help you make a decision as to where you’d like to fall within the financial field or whether you’d like to fall within the field at all.
If you’re someone who enjoys gauging the stock market, watching the business channel on television, reading the business section in the newspaper, reviewing the financial websites available online, or even participating in those stock selecting challenges that are sometimes offered where you can use fake money to try out your stock picking prowess, then a career as a stock broker or fund manager might be the right career choice for you.
But you may not be into risk taking and choosing individual stocks. You might rather prefer managing other people’s money in a responsible manner or educating them on how to manage their own money. It can be quite rewarding assisting people with developing their financial goals, planning for retirement, assisting them with estate planning, and helping them work toward things like buying a home or sending their kids to college. If this is the case, then you might find work as a financial planner a better fit for your interests.
However, dealing with people might not be your forte. Maybe you’re more of an introvert, or it could be that you’re just more of a problem solver, enjoying working at breaking down problems and looking for the reasons why things happen or why they happen the way they do. If this is the case, then maybe working as an accountant, tax analyst or financial analyst might be the preferable route. In these areas, you could find that you’re working in ways that allow you to put your analytical and problem solving skills to work but where you aren’t necessarily dealing as much with the general public or one-on-one with customers.
On the other hand, if you’re a real people person, you could find that a role in banking could be a more preferable route. Being an investment banker or branch manager could allow you to work within the financial industry but be involved with customers on a regular basis.
Otherwise, you might find an international business role of some sort more to your liking if you enjoy overseas travel and meeting new people and exploring new cultures. Or if you’re more interested in venturing out on your own and being your own boss, real estate might be a better selection or even becoming a small business owner, entrepreneur, or day trader — where you might not be working in financial industry per se, but are still putting your skills and background in finance to work for you — might be more fitting. And with the Internet at your disposal, working for yourself and finding your own career path has rarely been easier.
You see, that’s one of the great things about getting a finance degree. Whether or not you end up in one of what is considered a “typical” finance role, there are still relevant and profitable ways you can end up using your education in all kinds of situations and work roles. However, just because you think that one aspect of finance might be right for you now; it doesn’t necessarily mean that this is where you’ll end up once you have your finance degree. The classes and subject matter within your degree work can further guide you in your education and assist you in matching you with your true calling.
What about the Financial Crisis?
And if you’re worried that the financial crisis may have crushed finance as a viable career option after college, a Businessweek.com article notes that “At New York University’s Stern School of Business (Stern Undergraduate Business Profile), which is known for its ability to place graduates in Wall Street firms, the percentage of students majoring in finance dropped from 76 percent in 2008 to 75 percent in 2009 and 71 percent in 2010.”
This would seem to support the notion that the major is faltering in it’s popularity, but the article goes on to say,
“What is a surprise is the extent to which finance majors are shifting focus, trading their dreams of Wall Street jobs for nontraditional careers in risk management, emerging economies, and financial regulation. “Finance in general and investment banking specifically have always been cyclical,” said Robert Whitelaw, chair of the finance department at Stern, in an interview. “We see many opportunities for finance majors, even in nontraditional fields.””
This seems to support the idea that finance is more than just stock market work and fund managing and that here are a wide variety of options from which students with a background in the field may choose.