Choosing a career in finance

If you’re looking for a career where talent and hard work really can get you to the top, look no further than finance. Though some people think of numbers and money as inherently cold, this is one of the friendliest industries around, and individuals who show ability and commitment will find that they get a lot of support as they develop their skills. Yes, it can be competitive, but there’s a lot of teamwork involved at the top level. Financial workers need to be intelligent, diligent, and willing to put in long hours at busy times, but there are lots of opportunities for advancement. With good salaries and the authority that comes from using skills that seem like magic to outsiders, it can be a very appealing option. These are some of the career paths that exist within it.


At entry level, there’s nothing easier to get into than bookkeeping. Despite the advance of software designed to make this easier for businesses to manage by themselves, many don’t have the confidence, and when things get complicated, it’s always easier to be able to turn to a human being. Courses in bookkeeping are easy to find, relatively inexpensive, and take about six months to do, after which you can start earning. If you stay in the job, you will be able to find work on your own terms whenever you need it, allowing you a lot of personal flexibility in life; and if you choose to move on, this makes a convenient stepping stone into more lucrative financial work.


It’s fair to say that working with money won’t always make you popular, but few people are more appreciated at the end of the week than those putting money into employees’ hands. Again, payroll software is available, but uptake is limited, and many businesses feel that they need a specialist just to run it. Qualifications for working in payroll are easy to get, and there are always opportunities opening up. It can be a good way to get inside the finance department of a large company and look for opportunities for advancement. Alternatively, there’s a lot of room for payroll specialists to work as contractors.


“Taxes are the price we pay for civilization,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes, and society just couldn’t get by without them. With a master’s of law in taxation, the world is your oyster. You can work in the private sector, helping companies to rationalize their expenditure and avoid paying tax when they don’t have to, or you can work in the public sector and help make sure that companies or individuals are paying what they should. This is a field where you can always keep expanding your knowledge, and where a keen eye and a bit of lateral thinking can help you spot things that others miss, enhancing your reputation and providing opportunities to get ahead.

Investment banking

We have now reached a point in human history where more money is made from investing than from working. Whereas investment used to be the preserve of a small elite, it has massively expanded, and it doesn’t take long for small investors to reach the stage where they realize that they can benefit from professional advice. This means that there are increasing opportunities for investment bankers, so this is a great field to enter. It requires a good degree in a finance-related subject, and the easiest way in is usually through an internship.

Financial analysis

For university graduates with strong finance skills, the other big option is financial analysis. This is well suited to people whose passion for the subject means that they like to keep gathering information on a daily basis. It requires not only the incisiveness to work through and thoroughly understand a company’s own financial position but also the skills to understand the marketplace in which it is situated, measure risks, and identify opportunities. Unsurprisingly, this level of skill and responsibility is commensurate with some of the highest salaries in the sector.

With so many great options available, it’s easy to see why so many people find finance an attractive option. If you have a good head for arithmetic and strong organizational skills, it could be the perfect choice for you. Mathematics, economics, business, and finance are the traditional academic routes in, but the availability of professional short courses makes this sector accessible to people at all stages of life, whether or not a degree is an option. If you’re willing to put in the effort, you could find it highly rewarding.


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April 25, 2017 Choosing a career in finance