5 Things to Know Before Working in Finance

Jun 5, 2024


If you want to make money, it helps to be where the money is. That’s a big part of the draw to a career in finance. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual wage for a person working in business and finance is $76,850, notably more than the nationwide median annual wage of $46,310.

Clearly, joining the finance industry can be lucrative. That said, it’s not right for everyone. If you’re considering pursuing this type of work, there are a few things you should know. 


#1: You might want to try it out first

Starting a career in finance usually requires at least six years of prep in the form of schooling and sitting for the required exams. This isn’t necessarily a path you can just jump into. 

It would be a shame, then, for you to log six years of work, start your new career, and discover that you don’t enjoy it. To avoid this outcome, we recommend dipping your toes into the finance pool first. 

Whether you take an internship or shadow someone already working in finance, getting a feel for the daily work life of a pro in this field goes a long way. You’ll get clarity into what’s required to succeed and some of the bigger challenges of financial work. 

As an added bonus, the experience you gain as you explore this career path could help you land a job down the road. If you decide that finance feels like the right fit, listing internships and other experience on your resume gives you a leg up. 


#2: Client service is a huge piece of the puzzle

Some people choose a career in finance because they like math and don’t particularly like interacting with people. They think this job choice will afford them the opportunity to hole away and crunch numbers with minimal human interaction.

Actually, though, client service is a significant part of the finance world. You’re not just managing money in a vacuum. Instead, that money is tied to people or businesses (which are owned and managed by people). Managing their expectations and understanding what drives them can make or break your success in this industry. 

Yes, you’ll likely be valued for your problem-solving abilities or your analytical mind. But you can’t coast on those merits. You need to work on your interpersonal skills, too. If you know you struggle to take direction or listen to people’s preferences, start working on that now. The better you can interact with others — whether that’s a client of yours or a manager overseeing your projects — the easier your work life will be. 


#3: You’ll need to continually learn new things

The finance industry is continually evolving. That’s true because of new laws and regulations that get enacted, of course, but it’s also true because of technological advances. The way people in finance are working in 2024 is dramatically different from how they operated in 2004, or even 2014. 

If you decide to pursue this career path, you need to adopt a mindset of continuous learning. To some extent, this is built into the job. Many types of finance roles require a certain number of continuing education credits or hours each year. This regulation is designed to make sure finance professionals are allocating the time they need to stay up to date on new statutes, reporting requirements, etc. 

Don’t assume this is some box you simply need to tick, either. You should take your continuing education seriously. Failing to comply with new regulation often means getting stuck with a fine, and prison time might even be in the mix, too. 

And you shouldn’t stop learning new legal requirements, either. If you want to succeed in finance, you should make it a point to continually explore new tools and processes. As technology evolves — and particularly as AI delivers new boosts in automating work and eliminating human error — finance pros who stay on the leading edge stand to gain a lot. 


#4: It can be monotonous

Finance is certainly not the most glamorous industry. While the stakes are often high, the work required to manage them can vary very little. Choosing a career in finance means choosing a job that might have you performing the same tasks over and over — and over. 

If you like structure and routine, this can make working in finance a great fit. But if you continually need new stimuli and you love variety, you might be better served by exploring alternative career paths. 

You should also be advised that finance has historically been a very inflexible industry. While other types of jobs might allow you to make your own hours or do things your own way, working in finance generally means following pre-set procedures on established timetables. While we may see this change in the coming years as the industry has to correct for a talent shortage, it’s something to be mindful of because it is the status quo now.  


#5: You’ll need to find your niche

Finance is an extremely broad industry. Your opportunities here range from exploring accountancy to investment, from banking to financial planning. 

To set yourself up for success as you start your career, it’s helpful to know which part of the industry you want to join. This allows you to take classes in that area, pursue the appropriate certifications, and start building your knowledge of that niche. 

Some of your job title options here include:

  • Accountant (CPA)
  • Actuary
  • Auditor
  • Bookkeeper
  • Chief financial officer
  • Clerk
  • Controller 
  • Economic analyst
  • Financial analyst
  • Financial planner
  • Loan officer
  • Investment banker
  • Investment manager
  • Portfolio manager
  • Securities trader
  • Quantitative analyst

Each of these roles requires specialized knowledge and a unique set of skills. For some of them, you’ll need specific degrees or certifications. And there are definitely regulations pertinent to each type of finance work that you’ll need to know about. So figure out which types of finance roles appeal to you most now.  

Clearly, there’s a lot to consider before you jump into a career in finance. And this is just scratching the surface. If you want to talk with our team about what working in accounting is like, we’re here, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.