Becoming a Banker: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a banker's career? Get real job duties, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming a banker is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Banker

Banker is a general term referring to workers who handle money or other assets. Consider both the pros and cons of becoming a banker before making your career decisions.

PROS of Being a Banker
Variety of positions to choose from (personal advisor, loan officer, teller, etc.)*
Ability to work in range of institutions (banks, brokerage firms, credit unions and more)*
Can enter the industry with a variety of educations and backgrounds*
Potential for high salaries (financial managers earned a median salary of more than $130,000 as of 2014)*

CONS of Being a Banker
Competitive field due to popularity of accounting-related careers*
Often involves long hours (sometimes over 50 hours per week)*
Some bankers work weekends and evenings*
May require travel to meet with prospective or current clients*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Specializations and Job Descriptions

As a banker, you could fulfill any of a variety of roles, each entailing different responsibilities. You could work as a teller, an entry-level bank worker who counts and handles cash, processes deposits and withdrawals and answers customers' questions. If you work as a personal advisor, you'll help individuals manage their assets and meet financial goals, which can include advising clients on investments, retirement plans or budgetary changes. You might also consider becoming a loan officer, who determines whether or not to approve applicants for loans, such as mortgage, commercial or consumer loans.

Another option is investment banking, which involves helping businesses find investors interested in funding their companies. You might instead work as a financial manager and oversee the fiscal well-being of an organization. This can include creating financial statements, monitoring budgets and analyzing data to find ways to increase profits.

Work Conditions

While these workers are generally employed by banks, they can also work for government agencies, financial firms, private companies and various other organizations. Most work in comfortable offices, though many travel to attend conferences or visit clients. Investment bankers, for example, spend much of their time traveling to meet with clients all over the world. Your schedule may also vary by your position; personal advisors, investment bankers, loan officers and financial managers often work overtime, and tellers occasionally work part-time.

Salary and Job Outlook

The salaries for bankers can vary according to their specific roles. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that tellers are the lowest paid of these professionals at a mean salary of nearly $27,000 as of 2014. Loan officers earned a mean salary of about $74,000 as of the same date, while personal advisors earned nearly $108,000. Investment bankers earned about $103,000 on average per year, though this amount also includes the salaries of other types of securities and commodities agents. The highest-paid bankers were financial managers, who earned a mean salary of more than $130,000.

Personal advisors are the only ones among these workers who are expected to show a significant growth in employment in the coming years; the BLS predicts job growth at a rate of 27% from 2012-2022. Tellers, on the other hand, were expected to see little or no change in employment levels. Financial managers, loan officers and investment bankers should see average job growth at 8% to 11%.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and training requirements generally increase according to each position's level of responsibility. Tellers and loan officers are often hired with only a high school diploma and trained on the job, though commercial loan officers may need bachelor's degrees. The higher-paying positions - personal advising, investment banking and financial management - usually require at least a bachelor's degree in finance, accounting or another related major. You may benefit from earning a bachelor's degree in banking and finance, which prepares you for this industry with courses in accounting, economics, business law and investments.

Licensure

A loan officer who specializes in mortgage loans must be licensed as a Mortgage Loan Originator, which involves passing background and credit checks, completing 20 hours of coursework and passing an exam. Personal advisors may need to be licensed to buy or sell stocks, bonds or other assets, and those who sell insurance to clients must be licensed to do so by a state board. Investment bankers must be registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and may need to obtain separate licensure in order to deal with certain investment products. You may have to renew licensure on a regular basis through professional development or continuing education requirements.

What Employers Are Looking for

Since bankers of all types work with customers and clients, employers look for applicants with good communication skills and interpersonal abilities. Math proficiency and business knowledge are also important, and many employers prefer bankers who have been trained formally. Following are examples of job postings open during March 2012:

  • A financial services credit union in Tennessee advertised for a licensed financial advisor to help members make beneficial investment decisions. The employer preferred applicants with a college degree, the Certified Financial Planner designation and at least three years of sales experience in a bank, credit union or other financial service setting.
  • A bank in New York advertised for a personal banker with a bachelor's degree and 3-5 years of banking or sales experience. After being hired, the personal banker must become registered as a mortgage loan originator through a national organization.
  • A bank in California advertised for a personal banker with at least two years of applicable experience or a combination of experience and education. The ideal applicant has FINRA Series 6 and Series 63 licenses.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Certification

To get an edge in the banking field, you may want to earn certification. As a personal advisor, you might pursue certification through the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, while financial managers and investment bankers might earn the Chartered Financial Analyst designation from the CFA Institute. The American Bankers Association also offers 12 certification programs for an array of different types of banking professionals, including those who specialize in bank management, financial advising and securities.

Advance Your Education

While a high school diploma or undergraduate degree can qualify you for positions in banking, the BLS notes that advanced positions in personal advising, investment banking and financial management can require master's degrees. You may benefit from earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a master's degree in finance or another applicable major.

Other Career Paths

Accountant

If you like working with money, but you don't want to work in a financial institution, consider becoming an accountant. In this job, you'll oversee a business or organization's financial records and recommend ways to cut costs and increase profits. These professionals often hold bachelor's degrees related to accounting and the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential. The BLS notes that jobs were expected to increase 16% from 2010-2020 and that accountants earned a mean salary of around $70,000 as of 2011.

Bookkeeping Clerk

Another related job is bookkeeping. Bookkeeping clerks manage businesses' accounts, which can include maintaining a ledger and producing financial reports. A high school diploma is generally the minimum requirement for this career, though you may get ahead by completing postsecondary training in accounting. According to the BLS, jobs were expected to grow by 14% from 2010-2020, and professionals in this field earned an average salary of $36,000 as of 2011.

Insurance Underwriter

If you want a job similar to banking, but you don't want to work with money, you might want to be an insurance underwriter. This job involves evaluating insurance applications to determine which applicants your employing company should insure. You'll need a bachelor's degree in finance or a related major to enter this career. The BLS notes that insurance underwriters earned a mean salary of nearly $68,000 as of 2011; however, keep in mind that this field was expected to have slower-than-average job growth in the coming years.

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Baker College Online

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What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

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  • BS in Finance - Investments
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  • Executive Leader Graduate Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Science in Government Analytics

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Colorado State University Global

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What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

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Virginia College

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Utica College

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  • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
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