How to Land a Finance Job with a Bachelor’s Degree (2024)

Landing a finance job with just a bachelor’s degree is highly competitive but it isn’t impossible. The inboxes, both digital and physical, of industry professionals and human resources (HR) folks at banks and brokerages are stuffed with resumes of students with dreams of big money, lavish lifestyles, and getting on the path to being Masters of the Universe by the time they are 30.

If that weren’t enough, the financial and investment services job market is cyclical. When the stock market booms, jobs in finance boom as well. But when returns dwindle, so do the openings. But even when the market is flush with jobs, they may not be what you want. Follow these five tips to dramatically increase your chance of landing a finance gig with a bachelor’s degree—possibly even before you graduate.

Key Takeaways

  • You don’t need an MBA to work in finance, but the field is highly competitive, especially at the entry-level.
  • Internships offer experience, exposure, and a tryout for a full-time gig.
  • If you qualify, take advantage of the diversity-oriented programs that many firms use to recruit women, minorities, veterans, the disabled, and LGBTQI community members.
  • If you don’t want to major in a finance-related field, minor in one—or at least take a course or two.
  • Read financial publications and literature regularly; learn the basics.
  • Consider sitting for financial industry credentialing exams, like the CFA or the SIE.

1. Seek Internships, Early and Often

An internship can be ideal between college years, during the college year, and even right after college year if you can find a program that is open to graduates. It helps to fill in for the lack of full-time experience and is not as difficult to get as a real job.

Many finance internships offer academic credit or are paid so there are no excuses if you need to earn some green. If you plan to get a summer job anyway, it is better to do something that will further your career instead of just flipping burgers. The same holds true for working during the academic year. Instead of a part-time gig at the local clothing store, offer to file papers or prepare PowerPoint presentations for a local investment advisor.

What to Expect

Most internshipswill likely feature plenty of routine tasks. Expect days of printing out documents, assembling materials for presentations, and similar chores. But they alsoprovide learning experiences, references, networking opportunities, and something tangible to talk about in an interview. You’ll also get a sense of the atmosphere of different types of workplaces and how well this type of work might fit your interests and work style.

Don’t just stop after one: Doing several internships not only builds your experience and connections but alsodemonstrates a strongwork ethic. This is a sought-after quality in the financial industry. Try to pick the jobs strategically. For instance:

  • Don’t do five internships for equity traders unless you’re 100% sure that you want to trade stocks for a living.
  • Try to switch it up a little. This means going after internships that will take you around the industry. Not only will this will help you gain a better perspective, but exposure to different sectors can also give you an edge in the job market.

The finance industry is famously hard-charging, especially at the junior levels, and you need to show you can handle it and more. Good references are valuable no matter what, but, more importantly, impressing your bosses during an internship can be a great way to open doors for a future full-time job with that company. Many summer analyst/internship programs at big banks are created to look for entry-level hires for the next year.

Work very hard at any internshipthat you land. Try to arrive before your supervisors get there, and leave after they do. Always go the extra mile and volunteer for more if the opportunity arises.

2. Use Your Background

Diversity has become important in the labor force, including the finance industry. Highly conscious of its dominated-by-white-men ranks, the industry is trying hard to change and become more in step with a multicultural society. Part of its initiative is to offer internships, entry-level training programs, and symposia specifically for women, ethnic minorities, and other protected classes (as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC] calls them), at the undergraduate or even high school level.

Consider the following programs in the finance industry:

  • Goldman Sachs (GS) mounts a four-week HBCU Possibilities Program for students and recent grads of historically Black colleges or universities.
  • Credit Suisse sponsors a Women’s Mentor Program for female sophom*ores, involving a multiday career conference and interviews for summer internships.
  • Students with disabilities are eligible for J.P. Morgan’s (JPM) We See Ability—Undergraduate event, which outlines the firm’s different divisions and internship opportunities, plus a fast-track application process.
  • The dbAchieve Internship offered by Deutsche Bank wants diverse applicants who identify as veterans or as LGBTQI, as well as people of color and people with disabilities.

If you qualify for a diversity program, course, or scholarship, don’t be shy—apply. Many of your classmates will be tapping every family connection they can muster as they hunt for openings. In a competitive job market, play every card you have at your disposal.

For other ideas, check out financial job boards or employment-resource sites like 10X EBITDA.

3. Target Your Studies

Many companies say your major does not matter, claiming they hire people from all backgrounds, including art majors. No doubt they do, but it is certainly better to apply for finance jobs with a finance-related degree. You should ideally concentrate on a numbers-oriented discipline, such as business, economics, applied mathematics, etc.

Other areas of study can be apropos, though. Concepts learned in physics and pure math offer good preparation for understanding currency swaps, derivatives trading, and structured investment products.

A knowledge of science or engineering can be useful—even crucial—for becoming a research analyst, investment banker, or fund manager specializing in industries like natural resources, energy, biotech, communications, and pharmaceuticals. And in this era of robo-advisors, digital stock exchanges, and algorithmic trading, those with degrees in information technology or computer sciences find their skills welcome, especially on the support system or services side.

Still, all is not lost for art history majors or other humanities types. The ability to research, synthesize, and analyze information—and to write well—is valuable in any industry, finance included. Even so, if you are going to major in the liberal arts, try to minor in a more numbers-crunching discipline. At the very least, take a course or two.

4. Learn to Talk the Talk

Another great way to prep for a finance career is to make reading financial news part of your regular routine. Pick up a subscription (physical or digital) to The Wall Street Journal and/or the Financial Times and read it every day. Then there are periodicals like The Economist, which is good for an international point of view. Barron’s or Bloomberg Businessweek will help expand your knowledge as well. As a student, you can probably get discounted subscriptions.

Immersing yourself in financial literature will help you get used to the terms and jargon of Wall Street, which is one of the biggest hurdles to cross. Do you know what MBS, CDS, BPS, EBITDA, and the federal discount rate mean? Regularly reading the financial news throughout college will help you pick up the basics in due time.

Even if you study the vocabulary in your courses, reading about real-world finance will help you solidify that knowledge and feel more comfortable discussing it—and the topics and issues of concern to it. This is always good to do in an interview.

Other ways of picking up financial knowledge include reading investing books, from basic to advanced topics, watching financial news coverage and videos online, and tutorials and guides from financial websites (the fact that you’re reading Investopedia proves you’re already on the right track). Treat learning a financial language the same as learning a foreign language.

5. Start Garnering Credentials

Many applicants will have high grade-point averages and degrees from good schools and will have done the things listed above. How else can you go above and beyond to differentiate yourself?

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

One way is to take the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Level I exam. The CFA is well-respected in the financial industry. You’ll need to pass three exams and have four years of eligible work experience to actually obtain the CFA designation, but the first exam can be taken in the final year of a Bachelor of Arts program.

Financial professionals know the amount of time and dedication that the program entails (a minimum of 300 hours of study is recommended per exam). Coming out of an undergraduate program having passed the first exam will definitely make you stand out among other job candidates.

The Level I CFA exam is offered five times in 2023: once in March, July, and August, and twice in May.


Brokers, registered investment advisors, and others who plan to deal with investments and financial products in the United States must take certain licensing exams.

Traditionally, one had to be sponsored by a member firmor a self-regulatory organization to sit for these qualifying Series exams. However, in 2018, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) finalized a new test, the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam, which can be taken without sponsorship or association with a company.

Open to anyone age 18 or older, the 75-question, 105-minute SIE is ideal for “demonstrating basic industry knowledge to prospective employers,” the FINRA website states. It alone won’t qualify you to work in the securities industry, but it certainly demonstrates your familiarity with the field and the seriousness of your interest in it.

What Are Some Entry-Level Positions in Finance?

Some of the most common entry-level positions in finance include financial and investment banking analysts, financial advisors, accountants, and junior tax associates. You may also be able to get your first job as a credit analyst, financial specialist, or working with an audit department.

How Can I Start a Career in Finance Without a Finance Degree?

Although most employers in the finance industry prefer candidates with a degree in finance, it isn't impossible to find your place in the sector with a degree in another discipline.

Is a Bachelor's in Finance Worth It?

If you're looking to get into a finance-related career, an undergraduate degree in finance is always a good idea. It gives you the fundamentals and foundational knowledge of the world of finance. Upgrading and getting certified or special designations can also help land you that first job or move up the ladder to a higher position. You may also be able to find some success in a related academic field, such as economics or accounting.

The Bottom Line

For entry-level positions, interviewers do not expect candidates to know the nitty-gritty of the industry. That's why many companies have orientation and training programs that teach new recruits the specifics. Still, the more background knowledge you have, the better.

The competitive nature of the finance job market means that focusing on your studies early, gaining experience with internships, and gleaning knowledge from following the financial press will help you stay at the front of the pack. And doing something to break away from the pack, such as earning a financial credential like the CFA or joining a diversity program, can increaseyour chances of landing that first job.

How to Land a Finance Job with a Bachelor’s Degree (2024)


Is a bachelor's degree enough for finance? ›

A minimum of a bachelor's degree is required for nearly all finance professions. Whether you want to work on Wall Street, for the SEC, or a financial planning consultancy, a finance degree will give you the foundational knowledge you need to start your career. Set the stage for getting professional certifications.

How hard is it to land a job with a finance degree? ›

You don't need an MBA to work in finance, but the field is highly competitive, especially at the entry-level. Internships offer experience, exposure, and a tryout for a full-time gig.

How to answer why do you want to pursue a career in finance? ›

Tips to answer "Why do you want to pursue a career in finance?"
  1. Showcase your passion. ...
  2. Highlight your analytical skills. ...
  3. Discuss the impact. ...
  4. Emphasize the challenge. ...
  5. Show your understanding of the industry. ...
  6. Link it to your skills. ...
  7. Highlight the potential for continuous learning. ...
  8. Discuss the potential for growth.
Jul 6, 2023

How to land a finance job with no experience? ›

How to Become a Financial Analyst with No Experience?
  1. #1 Do as much networking as possible. ...
  2. #2 Learn the Wall Street lingo and follow current events. ...
  3. #3 Start and maintain a finance blog. ...
  4. #4 Leverage your university career center. ...
  5. #5 Use a Trading Simulator. ...
  6. #6 Enroll in an online financial Analyst training program.

How do I know if finance is for me? ›

What Traits Should I Possess? When dealing with finances, it is extremely important to be detail-oriented, organized, analytical and a good communicator.

Which bachelor's degree is best for finance? ›

If you are interested in a career in Finance here is a list of 5 majors you might consider when thinking about your degree options.
  • Finance. Finance majors learn how to make financial decisions for organizations. ...
  • Economics. ...
  • Business Administration and Management. ...
  • Accounting. ...
  • International Business.

What is the hardest finance job to get? ›

1. Investment Banker. Roles in investing banking are highly sought after. For investment bankers, it's often a higher competition to land a role in one of the largest firms.

What is the toughest finance job? ›

Trader is one of the most stressful jobs in finance. Traders may not work quite the crazy hours of investment bankers, but they have a sharper, more acute level of stress.

What is the highest paying finance job? ›

Top 5 Highest Paying Jobs in Finance
  • Chief financial officer (CFO)
  • Investment banking.
  • Hedge fund manager.
  • Private equity associate.
  • Actuary.
Feb 6, 2024

How to ace a finance interview? ›

Six expert tips for your next finance interview
  1. Get to the point. ...
  2. Know your finances. ...
  3. Make yourself the added value. ...
  4. Talk confidently about the industry. ...
  5. Engage with the interviewer. ...
  6. Keep learning.

How to excel in finance career? ›

Here are the top 10 finance skills that will put you in prime position for a promising career in finance.
  1. A formal accounting qualification. ...
  2. Interpersonal skills. ...
  3. Ability to communicate. ...
  4. Financial reporting. ...
  5. Analytical ability. ...
  6. Problem-solving skills. ...
  7. Knowledge of digital tools. ...
  8. Management experience.
Aug 9, 2021

Why should I major in finance? ›

Finance students are taught key knowledge that is both broad in scope and in-depth in nature. A finance degree can teach you important topics to potentially enhance your own financial health, such as: Portfolio theory, management and application for business and individual investment decisions.

Can I get a job in finance without a finance degree? ›

While each employer will dictate their own requirements for job applicants, there are no formal industry requirements to apply for finance positions.

What certifications should I get for finance? ›

Common certificates include Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Life Underwriter/Chartered Financial Consultant (CLU/ChFC), certified public accountant (CPA), Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA), and Financial Risk Manager (FRM).

What are the top colleges for high paying jobs in finance? ›

The top five private colleges for high-paying jobs in finance are MIT, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and Dartmouth College.

What GPA do you need to major in finance? ›

Most finance programs require a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0-3.0. Some schools also require minimum SAT or ACT scores.

Is finance a hard degree to get? ›

Is Finance a Hard Major? Finance is a somewhat difficult major. The difficulty with finance comes down to its concepts that students would not have experienced before in their lives, the financial lingo in the field, and the concentration of math in the subject.

Is a bachelor's degree enough to be successful? ›

Not quite. There are plenty of wonderful jobs out there that do not require a bachelor's, or even an associate degree. If you are wondering if you need a college degree to be successful in life, the answer will largely depend on your professional goals.

What are the cons of a finance degree? ›

The median annual wage for business and financial occupations is $46,310 higher than the median annual wage for all occupations. Drawbacks of a career in finance can include high stress, long working hours, continuing education requirements, and, in some cases, limited job stability.

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