Careers in Business
The cornerstone of the modern world is business, and there's typically no shortage of business-related jobs. Although there are many business-related professions for you to choose from, the 3 major options this article will discuss are accountant, financial analyst and personal financial advisor. Here's a look at these careers at a glance.
|Accountant||Financial Analyst||Personal Financial Advisor|
|Career Overview||Accountants prepare, examine, organize, research and explain financial information.||Financial analysts help individuals, businesses and organizations make investment choices.||Personal financial advisors give business advice to clients.|
|Education Requirements||At least a bachelor's degree||At least a bachelor's, sometimes a master's degree||At least a bachelor's degree|
|Program Length||4 years full-time||4 years full-time for bachelor's degree, 2 years full-time for master's||4 years full-time|
|Certification and Licensing||Certified Public Accountant licensure required to perform certain duties; voluntary certifications available||Licensure is often required; voluntary certifications available||Licensure is required in some cases; voluntary certifications available|
|Work Experience||Entry-level positions available||Entry-level positions available||Entry-level positions available|
|Job Outlook for 2014-2024||Faster-than-average growth (11% for all accountants and auditors)*||Faster-than-average growth (12%)*||Much faster-than-average growth (30%)*|
|Median Salary (2014)||$65,940 (for all accountants and auditors )*||$78,620*||$81,060*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
There are several types of accountants, including public, internal, government and management. These professionals are used in almost all types of businesses and organizations. As an accountant, you may be in charge of prepping, assessing, analyzing and explaining the financial records and operations of your employer. You would be in charge of ensuring your employer operates in compliance with laws and regulations.
To become an accountant, you typically need at least a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance or a related field. You can often find accounting or finance programs within the business school of a university or college. Some programs are designed so that you major in business administration and select a concentration relevant to your career goals, such as accounting. In an accounting-focused program, you may learn about fraud, taxation, auditing, financial accounting and management principles.
You may find that many employers prefer candidates who have master's degrees in accounting or a Master of Business Administration degree with an accounting focus. If you obtain a position where you file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), you'll have to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). CPA licensure requirements vary by state, but in most states you need 150 college credits, reported the BLS. To help you meet this requirement, many schools offer dual bachelor's-master's degree programs in accounting that you can finish in 5 years. You may qualify to sit for the 4-part national exam after meeting education and other state requirements, which may include work experience. You most likely will need to complete continuing education courses to maintain the licensure.
Job boards from November 2012 showed that some of the requirements employers were looking for included:
- A consumer goods company in New York City was seeking a senior accountant with at least a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance or a related field to prepare and review the company's SEC filings and ensure the company operated according to regulations. A CPA, while not required, was preferred.
- A company in New York was hiring for a senior accountant with a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance, 4-5 years of experience and a CPA license. Duties included managing balance sheets and monthly book-closing processes.
- In California, a company was searching for a general accountant to assist with payroll, accounts payable, billing and internal audits. At least a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance, 5 years of experience and strong computer skills were required.
Staying abreast of current financial technologies and maintaining strong computer literacy can be a way to make you more attractive to employers. Skills using 10-key data entry and software like Microsoft Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Word and Work can be useful.
Additionally, you can specialize in a certain field of accounting and earn certification to validate your proficiency in that specialty. For example, the Institute of Internal Auditors may grant you the Certified Internal Auditor designation if you complete certain education requirements, accumulate 2 years of internal auditing experience and pass an exam. Likewise, qualified CPAs can receive certifications in areas such as business, information technology and personal finance from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). Various experience and education requirements, a passing exam score and/or reference letters are necessary for each credential.
As a financial analyst, you could potentially work with a large variety of different businesses, organizations and people to help them make sound investment choices. You may work as a buy side analyst where you work with institutional investors in order to help them implement the best strategy for large-scale investments. As a sell side analyst, you may advise professionals who sell various types of investments. Many financial analyst positions are based in major cities with financial hubs, such as New York City. According to the BLS, nearly a third of all full-time financial analysts work 50-70 hours per week.
Although a bachelor's degree in a business-related field is typically required to become a financial analyst, many employers may prefer or require you to have a master's degree. When comparing degree programs, look for those with classes that teach options pricing, bond valuation and risk management. In an MBA program with a concentration in finance, you may learn about data analysis, business law, financial accounting and reporting, investments and risk management.
Many financial analysts need licensure to operate, which is granted by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). However, you don't usually obtain this licensure until you obtain employment because the licensure is typically backed by employers.
Here are a few requirements that some employers were looking for in November 2012:
- In New York City, a record label was seeking a financial analyst with 2-3 years of experience, computer skills and a finance or accounting degree to report royalties on financial statements.
- A television network in New York City was looking for a senior financial analyst with at least 3 years of experience and a bachelor's in accounting or finance; however, an MBA was preferred. Job duties included ensuring payroll and time sheets were accurate, creating spreadsheets for special projects, managing billing and collecting payments.
- In Virginia, a company supporting a network of health care organizations was hiring for a senior financial analyst with at least 3 years of experience in healthcare information technology and an MBA in finance. Job duties included preparing annual budgets, assisting with monthly forecasts and identifying risks and opportunities.
Many employers prefer to hire financial analyst candidates who have some type of certification that validates their education and experience. One option is the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), which you may qualify for after earning a bachelor's degree, accumulating 4 years of work experience and passing 3 exams.
Personal Financial Advisor
Personal financial advisors typically work with individuals to help them make sensible financial decisions on insurance choices, savings, taxes, retirement and other financial matters. Some personal financial advisors also buy and sell types of investments or insurance. The BLS reported that 25% of personal financial advisors were self-employed, while others worked in financial institutions or insurance companies.
In most cases, a bachelor's degree in business, finance or a related discipline is required to get a job as a personal financial advisor. One option is to choose a major in business and then select a concentration, such as finance, to help you prepare for the position. In a finance-focused bachelor's program, you may take courses like investment analysis, investment strategies and financial accounting.
Depending on the type of investment advice you give and whether you buy or sell insurance policies or types of investments, you may need various types of licensure. If you sell insurance, you most likely need an insurance license from your state, and the requirements for obtaining this license differ for each state. You can check with the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) for licensing information that's relevant to your state and situation.
In November 2012 employers listed some of the requirements for obtaining a personal financial advisor position:
- A California-based sales and service company was hiring a personal financial advisor with at least an associate's degree in a relevant field and 2 years of retail sales experience to open accounts, recommend products and services based on financial analyses and conduct sales presentations to generate business.
- In Iowa, a financial services company sought a personal financial advisor with 3 years of financial sales experience, licensure to sell variable annuities, a proven sales record and preferably a CPA designation.
- In New York City, an insurance and investment strategy provider was hiring for a personal financial advisor with an advanced degree and certifications in the field along with a strong business background. Duties included helping clients make decisions about retirement and real estate investments.
Because you'll typically work closely with individuals, good social skills and character may help you stand out. Demonstrable mathematical, communication, organizational and analytical skills are also valuable to employers. Acquiring certifications like the CFP may also help you stand out from other candidates.