Why a Career in Finance #1: It Pays Well
Careers in Finance pay well compared to other professions. Graduate positions in Finance might lag behind other industries starting off, but the earning potential is much higher in Finance roles at the back end of your career.
When I graduated from university with a commerce degree, I started a three year graduate scheme with PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Dublin.
I was paid €22k in my first year. Many of my friends who went into Engineering, Marketing, Law and IT graduate jobs were paid a lot more.
However, when I interviewed 100 graduates 10 years out of university for my book ‘1000 Years of Career Advice’, a lot of these ex graduates complained that their pay had stopped increasing and it was very hard to earn much more money.
I’ve noticed there is much more opportunity to make good money as you progress into your 30’s and 40’s in a Finance career compared to other professions where there seems to be more of a ceiling.
The Pros of a Career in Finance #2: Good Job Satisfaction
In a list of 25 of the best jobs in the UK finance roles came in at #1 (Audit Manager) and #2 (Finance Manager). The list was put together based on level of salary, job satisfaction and number of job openings.
Finance tends to be black and white and based on numbers, facts and data. The goals in a finance organisation are usually clearly defined i.e. stay in line with budget/forecast, grow revenue by x%, make £x amount of money from new deals/clients, etc. This clarity helps employees feel they know what they are working towards and are contributing etc.
Some of my friends who work in creative industries don’t have this clarity. They often have to deal with moving goalposts and differences of opinion with clients, bosses, etc. Finance in general is a more stable environment than other industries which can be a big plus.
To read about the career paths of over 30 Finance Professionals, check out my book ‘1000 Years of Career Advice’. It interviews 100 graduates 10 years out of University about their career paths and their advice for a younger generation.
The Benefits of a Career in Finance #3: There are Always Lots of Jobs
Regardless of what state the national or global economy is in, there will always be a need for finance jobs. In some recessions banks and accounting firms cut down on the amount of people they hire, but they will still hire more people than companies in other industries.
My brother had his heart set on working as an investment banker but graduated at the height of a really bad recession and the banks were not hiring. He became an accountant instead and is now CEO of a well known UK construction firm.
Finance is a good base qualification and skill set to have to weather any recession. An FT survey found that Finance graduates reported significantly higher job security than graduates in employed in other fields.
Why a Finance Career #4: You Can Travel the World
If you have qualifications or a background in Finance, they transfer very well to other countries. If you work in accounting, banking, insurance, pensions, etc. in the UK it is relatively easy to get a job in these areas in other English speaking countries.
Also, if you work for any of the big banks and accounting firms, it is common for people to transfer to different cities through your company. They will pay for relocation and set you up in the new country saving you a considerable amount of hassle.
Often the very senior executives in big companies with a finance background will have worked in several different countries. This is to get experience of working in different cultures and doing business in complex markets. Many companies encourage their employees to do a stint abroad to add to their skill-set and CV.
Why a Career in Finance #5: The Calibre of People
This may be a controversial one but in my experience people with finance backgrounds are usually very good at their jobs. They are organised, self motivated and good with problem solving and deadlines.
I’ve probably worked with approx 50% Finance people and 50% non-Finance people in my 14 years working. While the Finance people may not be that good at brainstorming, thinking outside the box or getting involved with other teams or departments they have their own strengths (outlined above).
The best people I’ve worked with in the business (i.e. project managers, supply chain, marketing, logistics, IT, procurement) over the years nearly all have had finance backgrounds. You can spot them a mile off!
They will have been ex-accountants who moved into the business and will have a blend of all of the above skills. As well as being good with people, collaborating, and presenting their ideas, they will be analytical, organised and detail orientated.
(Lots of sweeping generalisations there, but in my experience it’s usually true!)
The Benefits of a Career in Finance #6: It Gives You a Great Foundation
People who work in Finance are perfectly placed to move into other industries. A survey from Robert Half found that 1 in 5 of the Top 100 CEO’s of Companies on the Financial Times Stock Index (FTSE) were accountants.
Finance based qualifications will help you progress through the ranks of a company. They will mean you can understand the financial statements and main drivers of revenue of costs for the business. This can be hard to do for people with non finance backgrounds.
People with finance backgrounds are usually very good at interpreting data, analysing consequences and avoiding mistakes. This makes them great candidates to be promoted into senior roles within the company.
The Pros of a Career in Finance #7: It Can Be Very Interesting
When you work in the Finance department of a company you get to see how the business makes money. You get exposure to the key decision making being made in the organisation.
I have worked as a project manager in non finance roles working with other departments of a company and they don’t really know how the company is performing.
Any info regular employees of a company gets drip fed to them in company presentations whereas the finance department is at the heart of everything. They will know what products or regions are struggling, and what the consequences might be for the company going forwards.
A friend of mine interviewed in ‘1000 Years of Career Advice’, completed a Ph.D. in Chemistry and was on highly respected R&D graduate scheme. However, he decided to change course and go into Finance.
He did so because he saw that the real power in his company lay with the Finance department not the other departments. Projects that he was working on would be shut down by Finance and funds diverted elsewhere based on their judgement.
He realised that if he wanted to have any real influence in his career he’d have to go into a Finance role. Now he does financial modelling of various scenarios for the CFO of one of the biggest pharma companies in the world. He now has major influence in the big decisions that the CEO & CFO make
Why a Career in Finance #8: It is Challenging
There is a reason a career in Finance pays well; it can be tough. The qualifications are not easy. The work can be long hours and there can be a lot of scrutiny on your work.
Finance can be very results orientated with constant deadlines to meet. Also, because there are very smart people in the finance industry you can get some difficult characters who have questionable interpersonal skills and can be very demanding.
Many of the graduates I interviewed in my book now in their 30’s complained that their work now is not as interesting as they thought it would be at university.
Engineers thought they would be building skyscrapers and applying math to solve real life construction problems. In reality they spend a lot of their time tweaking reports and updating excel spreadsheets.
The Solicitors interviewed spend a lot of their days waiting for documents to be faxed through to sign/review. It’s long hours and very monotonous work compared to the exciting case law they studied at university.
Finance is so broad and varied, you will never be bored if you actively seek out more interesting work.
Why a Finance Career #9: If You are Good at Problem Solving and Simplifying Complex Issues
If you like to solve problems, or analyse complex data then a career in Finance could be right up your street! People who are organised, good with numbers and are have good commercial acumen (i.e. being business savvy, and able to spot opportunities to increase profits or reduce costs) will be well suited to a career in Finance.
This post from Robert Half also mentions knowledge of IT, innovation, management experience and financial reporting as skills you need for a career in Finance. However, in my opinion these are all things you can pick up on the job.
The Pros of a Career in Finance #10: There are Many Different Career Paths Available
Finance is so broad it is hard to write about the sheer number of career paths.
To give you an example, in my 2006 PriceWaterhouseCoopers graduate scheme intake there were 9 graduates in my advisory department. We all did accounting exams and three years working as an auditor inspecting the accounts of carious companies looking for weaknesses or mistakes.
More than a decade later, the jobs we are all doing are very different:
- Head of Risk
- Audit Director
- Financial Controller (see below)
- Asset Manager
- Internal Auditor (see below)
- Head of Operations
- Senior Finance Business Partner
- IT Auditor
- Corporate Finance Manager
You can see the variety and yet we all did very similar university degrees and graduate training contracts.
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Some other popular finance jobs that people in their 30’s have ended up in are:
- Financial Accountant
- Management Accountant
- FP&A Manager
- Finance Project Manager
- Finance Systems Manager
- Investor Relations Manager
- Investment Banker
- Business Development
- Relationship Manager
- Treasury Manager
- Tax Manager
- Management Consultant
- Compliance Manager
- Retail Banker
(These are just a select few of the possible career paths to be followed within a career in Finance)
The Benefits of a Career in Finance #11: Lots of Opportunity to Start Your Own Business
As you have a business background and know the fundamentals of how to account for a companies revenue and costs, you are very well placed if you want to start your business.
Financial Planning and Cashflow management are crucial to the success of any new business. Many don’t survive because they have difficulties in these two areas. People who have a good understanding of Finance have a distinct competitive advantage over their competitors who don’t.
I did some research into the above and it turns out many successful entrepreneurs don’t come from a finance/business background. According to this Virgin.com blog post, only 12% of top billionaires completed business degrees, the most coming from engineering backgrounds (22%).
However, this data looks at mega successful people, I still think having a background in Finance gives you one of best chances of succeeding if you decide to start up your own business!
I hope the above has helped to shed some light of the benefits of a career in finance. If you found this useful please do share using the social media buttons below, hope it helps!