Finding an entry-level finance job can be tough, even if you’re an economics or business major or graduate. After all, finance is a highly competitive field to enter. Interestingly, firms and companies today open their doors for entry-level jobs to students from many non-finance backgrounds, such as computer science and engineering majors. Hence, landing your dream finance job has become even more challenging.
Given these obstacles, from our three decades of experience seeing and helping young ambitious students and graduates get their start in finance, we’ve put together this ultimate list of strategies and tactics you can apply to get your dream entry-level finance job.
So, how do you get an entry-level finance job? Let’s face it - finding a job is a job unto itself. It’s never a question of just one strategy or tactic that will help you get that ticket into the world of finance. There are multiple paths and steps that can be taken, and they are often best applied in parallel.
Instead of worrying about your career, it’s time to take some calculated steps in the right direction.
From our extensive experience working with successful companies in the finance industry, we know that one powerful path you can choose is to start learning the principles of business economics today. Business economics principles are the principles which are the driving force behind modern business. Secure your future dream career by learning the secrets that make the global economy tick.
How to Get An Entry-Level Finance Job
Your first job in finance will depend on several factors. For example, your educational background, college, GPA, experience, and more. The people you know will play an essential role. Landing your entry-level finance job requires you to combine who you know and what you know.
Let's jump into detail on the strategies you can employ to achieve your first finance job.
1) Reach Out to Everyone in Your Circle and Beyond
As a young grad, networking needs to be a strong suit. Networking must become one of your strengths because most fresh grads find their first finance job via their network. Looking for entry-level finance jobs is no time to be shy.
People in your contact list might be finance professionals or know someone who is one. So get aggressive and get in touch with each and every one of them. If that doesn’t work, you have to establish new connections through various avenues.
Before we go on, we need to acknowledge that networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If you’re naturally an introvert, shy, or suffer from social anxiety, networking can be particularly painful and an uphill battle. Keeping this in mind, from the patterns we’ve observed over thousands of business interactions, we’ve put together simple principles of business networking you can follow to land your dream entry-level finance job, without having to be an extrovert or the center of attention. Learn more here.
Your parents, their colleagues, their friends, your friends’ parents, your uncle’s drinking or golf buddy- any of them might be in a position to help you. If they work in finance or do business or work with finance professionals, you might get a recommendation or referral to set up a coffee chat. Almost all of them can provide you with helpful guidance. So, don't hesitate to leverage your relationships and politely request help. Looking for guidance now? Give us a call.
Look up your school’s alumni database to find people who are in finance. This becomes easier when you look up former students of finance, accounting, or economics. You can use networking platforms like LinkedIn to contact them or even their university email addresses if they’re still active. With this method, you have the chance to keep conversations more informal, especially if it’s a corporate executive that your family knows well.
The professors in your school have tons of experience and could have connections in the finance world. So reach out to them like you would reach out to any finance professional. Ask them for advice on how to go about getting your dream entry-level finance job. Who knows? They might even have contacts in the companies you’re looking at and help you set up coffee chats with people who can guide you further.
Attend workshops, seminars, webinars, conferences, talks, job fairs-any and all events. These events frequently bring influential people in the industry together. These events can be great networking platforms for you to meet people who get you that dream first entry-level finance job. You will be unique at such events since none of your competitors are likely to be there!
Career recruiting events are a great way for you to find teams dedicated to entry-level finance job recruiting, including consultants and recruiters. Most of these industry professionals can point you in the right direction and share ideas that help you plan your outreach and development.
e) Social Media
You’re lucky to live in the digital age! Gone are the days of rolodexes. Today, networking sites like LinkedIn can be a huge help in connecting you with finance companies and their human resources (HR) departments. You can also find finance professionals listed there. Social media gives you the opportunity to showcase your skills. Even if you don't find vacancies, you can send out cold messages and emails to the companies to get their attention.
Further, the best opportunities, even for entry-level finance jobs, aren’t necessarily advertised. By consistently showing your interest, enthusiasm, and developing knowledge in finance, you can use social media to stand out and develop a track record to invite the interest of those looking for fresh ideas and great talent.
Another way to stand out with your CV by getting credible and relevant certifications that have standardized testing to confirm your achievement. The Business Economics Specialist (BESt™) certification is one such new program that helps you build the competitive advantage that young graduates and students can use to land their dream entry-level finance job or internship. Learn more here.
f) Targeted Approach
You can start filtering your categories of interest. You can consider investment banking, private equity, capital markets research, corporate finance and more. From there, you’ll be able to figure out who in your circle can help you. You can also make a list of companies and find people holding positions of responsibility.
Don't be disheartened when not everyone responds. Getting managers or recruiters attention for an entry-level finance job can be tough. The BESt™ certification, and other high quality certifications, can turn unopened emails into final round interviews.
g) Networking Skills
When you get in touch with people who might be able to help you, make sure you demonstrate your genuine interest. Don’t be shy. Request an in-person coffee chat or a phone or video call to chat about industry job opportunities and what the experience is really like.
It's rude to demand an interview or to ask to be connected to someone who can get you a job straight away. Be subtle but be definitive and don’t be afraid to ask hard but respectful questions. Observe how the conversation goes, and make your requests politely. See our full guide to acing the coffee chat here.
2) Your School, Scores, and Academic Background Matter
There’s no denying it. Even for entry-level finance jobs, many companies and firms in the finance industry look for talented candidates at target and semi-target schools. Attending a target or semi-target school can be the easiest ticket to an entry-level finance job. It’s been observed that as many as 70% of Harvard’s seniors apply for jobs on Wall Street.
As we’ve said, finance is a competitive field. To get the best new minds, companies and firms in the finance industry regularly interview Ivy League graduates and seniors. There is, however, plenty of room for graduates of other schools.
Most graduates from top-ranking colleges end up at only a few firms. Some of these are:
Even if you didn’t go to a name-brand school, if you put in the work at your school and are focused and targeted in your approach, you can land an entry-level finance job at one of these firms, or an equally well-compensated, challenging role at a regional bank or smaller firm.
The top feeder schools from where Wall Street firms hire from are:
f) UT Austin
There is a sense of prestige and status attached to the association between these firms and top-ranked schools. So, if you studied at one of these schools, rejoice! You have one less thing to worry about. If, however, like most finance job candidates you did not attend an elite university, your strong performance at your school will be your saving grace.
Don't be shocked to hear that some firms and companies have fixed their cut-off point for an interview for an entry-level finance job at a GPA of 3.5. Other recruiters and employers may also only consider your application if you have a GPA of 3-3.3 and above.
For recruiters, your GPA is one of the key indicators of your technical knowledge and competence. More than anything, your GPA is also a strong indicator of whether you have the motivation to grind it out. The world is full of intelligent, competent people, but very few have the skills and motivation necessary to execute at the level a high-performance organization requires. In finance, all organizations are high-performing or they don’t survive!
Your GPA, however, is not the final word. You can show the necessary motivation, attitude, and skills to succeed in the world of finance in other ways. For example, your life experiences can show focus, initiative, and your potential. This is why internships can be important. We talk more about internships below.
Further, the willingness to spend the time and effort to acquire solid certifications help demonstrate that you are “industry ready.” The Business Economics Specialist (BESt™ ) is one such certification. Learn more here.
Another important trend is diversification. Companies want to diversify their hires. As an example, financial companies are working very hard to bridge the gender gap. According to one study, the global representation of female executives in finance organizations was only 20% in 2019. So, most of these firms want to employ more women.
Finance firms and companies are also creating more opportunities for minorities. Some of the categories are
b) A person of color
c) An ethnic minority
d) Identification as LGBTQA+
Gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, and medical conditions have been sources of discrimination for far too long. In an effort to correct the imbalance, more and more finance firms and companies are focusing on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (DI&E), creating more opportunities for diverse groups to access entry-level finance jobs.
If you belong to any of these groups, don’t be afraid to identify your background. Think of it this way: these government policy initiatives were implemented to help those who have been marginalized. These policies help create a more level playing field. So, use this advantage to open more doors to entry-level finance job opportunities for yourself.
Additionally, more firms and companies now realize that a diverse team will improve the quality of decisions. Diverse employees bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the firm.
The challenges of getting your dream entry-level finance job are high since you’re competing with target-school grads and high-GPA students. Show your passion for finance and play to your strength of performance, experience, certifications and what makes you different from your competition.
3) Paid and Unpaid Internships
Internships can help you find your dream entry-level finance job. If, however, you fail to get a paid internship opportunity, you can volunteer to be an unpaid intern at a finance firm or company. You may wonder why you should offer your services for free when you can get paid. Your objective is to earn experience and knowledge, not to make money.
Internship opportunities are more than just the cherry on the cake of your CV. They can play an essential role in securing your first entry-level finance job. You know that firms and companies look at scores, school, and the academic background of candidates. They also give significant weighting to internship experiences.
The benefits of having an internship on your CV are -
a) You have experience
Internships show you have first-hand knowledge and experience in the industry. You’re already familiar and you do not need basic training. For all their strengths as places to work, most companies are not set up to train you at your entry-level finance job.
Banks and firms will invest resources in teaching you but there is no replacement for learning on the job. Most companies expect you to have a basic understanding of what’s expected of you in your entry-level finance job. An internship shows recruiters that you have witnessed and engaged in some daily duties on the job.
b) Your skills are refined
A degree from a target school or semi-target school and an impressive GPA are signs of academic knowledge. Your internship, however, helps train you in the practical application of your education. It prepares you with practical knowledge and introduces you to business skills that universities don’t teach, like networking. You also get the chance to hone and upgrade your skills giving you a clear edge over other job applicants.
c) You become more employable
An internship experience can teach you soft skills like networking, collaboration, communication, and more. These skills are just as critical as your knowledge of finance. They can make you better prepared, and prospective employers will find you far more employable. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these practical every-day business skills make or break finance careers.These may be the most important skills that, despite years of study and tuition invested, university programs just don’t teach you. Internships thus become important to begin development of these critical everyday business skills.
Interested in finance but haven’t done any finance internships? The BESt™ certification and intern programs can help you develop practical business skills you need.
You’ll gain only basic knowledge during internships. That, however, will help differentiate you with employers. So, you will want to find an internship that’s related to your area of interest. Even if it means that you have to volunteer your services, you should do so and make sure to prioritize learning while completing the internship. Internships are a great way to overcome skills gaps.
Finding internship opportunities, both paid and unpaid, can be as tricky as finding a full-time job. It's best to start putting your networking skills to use and reach out to people who might help you. It can be a summer internship at your dream company or providing free services at a local firm. See the section above on how to reach out to your circle of friends and acquaintances to get your dream internship
You must find and seize any finance internship opportunity that you can source during your final year of high school or any summer at university. Many internship programs are designed to pave the way for full-time employment. Employers often choose to hire interns. Sometimes, employers organize internship programs (often paid) themselves with this very purpose in mind.
Another great thing about internships, whether paid or unpaid, is building new contacts. You can connect with people who can give you
a) A reality check; and
b) Useful guidance.
If you’re hard working and display interest and enthusiasm for the work, you usually can get a recommendation for the paid opportunities to which you subsequently apply.
4) Aim to Gain Experience and Education Around Finance
Choosing finance means that you have to be ready every step of the way to identify, apply and get your dream entry-level finance job. Defining your career path early will help you keep your eyes on the goal. What should this path look like, though? It starts with finding the right university, internship, and entry-level finance job, but that’s not all that matters.
If you’ve read this far, you know you need to sharpen your networking skills to get your first finance job. It begins with your internship program and moves on to your first finance job after your undergrad. You need to pro-actively search for your first finance job if you did not attend a target school or have an impressive GPA.
Don’t let your past, however, determine your future. It’s not what you’ve done so far that counts, but what you start doing today. The BESt™ course and certification can become the stepping stone to your dream entry-level finance job and career. Learn more here.
Finding your first internship or first finance job could be a long and arduous journey. The work doesn't end there, though. Once hired, it's time for 7-day work weeks, late nights in the office to meet and exceed your client’s and your boss’ expectations. You can kiss work-life balance goodbye, at least for a while.
Once the novelty wears off, you will begin to wonder how to get more out of your finance job. On average, an entry-level financial analyst earns around $61,000 a year. On the other hand, if you’re lucky enough to get a paid internship, your average monthly salary will be less than $2,500.
So, what should be your big move after this? We recommend that you
a) Gather two years of work experience; and then
b) Consider getting an MBA
You could be a finance, economics, or computer science graduate - an MBA, however, can fast-track a career in finance.
You might wonder at this point what is the importance of work experience before an MBA. Having two or more years of industry experience before pursuing an MBA degree will give you a better chance to:
a) Get into a prestigious MBA program at a top ranked school;
b) Attract better job offers at the end of your MBA education;
c) Understand and apply what you learn in an MBA program;
d) Save up for your future education, since an MBA is expensive; and
e) Network seriously and establish professional relationships.
Debating whether or not to get an MBA? See our guide to whether an MBA is necessary to start your dream entry-level finance job.
Besides an MBA, there are other educational pursuits that may be right for you. You can choose to pursue the
a) CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst); or the
b) BESt™ Business Economics certification
These will help you find your first finance job.
A CFA will set you back three or more years. If, however, you wish to dedicate the recommended 300 study hours to each level, you could complete your CFA in 3-4 years. The BESt™ program, on the other hand, can take as little as 3 months and costs a fraction of the CFA. In both, you'll complete the program with improved skills in financial analysis, research, and management.
You can also choose to pursue a master’s degree in finance. Those take between 18 to 24 months of full-time study to complete. A Master’s in Finance can make you stand out in a group of candidates. It can enhance your knowledge. This will increase your chances of getting a job that demands financial analytical and planning capabilities.
5) Focus on MBA and Job Experience if You Don't Have Pre-MBA Experience
An MBA can make you a well-rounded professional, whether or not you have a background in finance. You can pursue an MBA in a wide range of financial disciplines. These include -
a) Financial Accounting
b) Data Analytics
c) Managerial Finance
d) Managerial Accounting
e) Microeconomics for Management
We have found that many young graduates struggle with their MBA program’s mandatory economics courses. You can prepare yourself to survive and thrive in your MBA program’s economics courses using the BESt™ business economics course as a preparatory course.
There are other disciplines in the MBA program to pursue, as well. After completing the MBA introductory courses, you can choose specialized courses such as Investment Analysis, Advanced Financial Management, and Corporate Budgeting.
An MBA will help you improve your thinking and skills in
Fortunately, it is possible to find your way to a bright future in finance even if you don’t have pre-MBA experience. Work or internship experiences in the final years of your undergrad or after graduation can help you build your CV for a finance career.
Interested in finance but don’t have a finance background? The BESt™ business economics program is designed for young and ambitious graduates looking to quickly and effectively cover gaps in knowledge they may have. The skills you’ll learn from the BESt™ certification are skills you’ll use everyday in your finance career.
An MBA from a top ranked school can be a significant asset for a career in finance. The finance industry is primarily a service industry delivered by the best and brightest. Financial services firms know that their success is determined by the quality of their hires and that many of the best and brightest hires come from top MBA schools and that those hires bring strong alumni networks with them.
Many companies hire MBA interns, often between the first and second year of the MBA program. If you work hard and display competence, such opportunities regularly turn into full-time offers. You’ll need to demonstrate to your employer that you can apply your academic knowledge to practical situations.
You can also find part-time internships or jobs while pursuing your MBA. These will give you even more hands-on experience. Your aim is to be a candidate with skills that companies would like to hire. You don't want to be the guy who has the same capabilities as an undergrad but wants a higher salary because of an extra degree.
Many financial services companies now seek non-finance majors with advanced degrees in finance. Recruiters seeking such candidates know that the candidates they’re seeking may not have pre-MBA finance experience. For example, many banks are looking to hire computer science students with an MBA. Your work experience and certifications will make a difference during the final round of interviews.
6) Use Your Education in Data Science, Engineering, and IT to Get Your Entry-Level Finance Job
You already know that many companies want to diversify their workforce. This is not just a drive to create opportunities for the marginalized. It is also to attract employees with different skill sets, life experiences, and knowledge. That's one reason why banks want to hire data scientists, engineers, and IT specialists!
There are many areas within financial services companies where data scientists and technical experts can apply their knowledge. These include:
a) Consumer Analytics
b) Algorithmic Trading
c) Customer Data Management
d) Predictive Analytics
e) Real-Time Analytics
f) Risk Analytics
g) Service Personalization
h) Fraud Detection
i) Data-Driven Decision-Making
As a data scientist, programmer or engineer, you can help your employer use all the available data to its maximum potential. Banks pay well for data analytics skills. So, if you have majored in these technical disciplines and would like to switch to the finance industry, it won't be too difficult a task to find opportunities out there.
Your technical background and education gets you in the door. From there, you’ll have to quickly ramp up in areas with which you are not familiar. One frequent blind spot of data scientists, engineers, and IT specialists entering finance is economics, specifically the principles of business economics. Consider taking the BESt™ certification program to fill such a knowledge gap.
The finance sector has been continuously progressing towards digitization. From maintaining digital records to decreasing transaction time - technology is essential to finance today. So, if you are an IT professional eyeing finance careers, the doors are open for you.
Just like data science, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning play essential roles in finance and banking. The industry has embraced many innovations, like Blockchain and Robotic Process Automation. Financial technology has numerous applications including -
a) Collecting data and statistics
b) Managing transactions
c) Electronic communications
d) Managing cryptocurrencies
e) Building crowdfunding platforms
f) Creating channels for online transactions
g) Building mobile applications and gateways
h) Providing data security
i) Offering customized services
j) Automating compliance processes
The list of applications of IT in the finance sector is endless. Banking and financial organizations are looking for capable individuals with engineering backgrounds for finance jobs. You also have the opportunity to consider many finance career paths. These include Quantitative Finance, Investment Banking, Trading, and Equity Research.
What if you want to move to hardcore finance instead of just a fintech role? Your background in subjects like computer science or engineering will help you get an finance job. You can always consider an MBA in a finance discipline to help you take that career path. Your quantitative educational background will make the MBA admission process easier to navigate for successful admission.
Now let’s say you want to move into corporate finance, especially investment banking. In that case, it's ideal to make your decision at an early stage in your career. It's easier to make early career progress if you start looking for opportunities as an undergrad. If you are a computer science grad, you will need some finance-related experience and education first. An MBA, CFA, BESt™ or Masters of Finance can be helpful at this stage.
7) Differentiate Yourself with Certifications
As we’ve stated, finding a way into the competitive world of finance is quite a challenge. Chances are, there's a long queue of educated and experienced applicants for entry-level finance jobs. So, what can you do to position yourself differently? One of the surest ways to differentiate yourself from the rest is with targeted special courses, training, and certifications.
You'll find many boot camps, seminars, market simulators, and more, both online and offline. Some will train you in finance and its practical applications within flexible and relatively short timelines. You can learn and master financial terminology and how to build financial models .
Apart from such courses, recognized certifications add value to your academic profile. Examples of such certifications are:
You can even prepare for examinations and financial industry certifications like Series 7, Series 63, and SIE. These certifications deliver a basic understanding of the tools, practices, and terms used in the financial services industry. They help build CVs, too.
While many business certifications have their merit, most were not designed or built to be delivered online. Many courses operate out of legacy systems that require self-study and in-person classes thus presenting an inflexible path to completion. Usually, they are heavily text based and primitive digital learning experiences.
The BESt™ business economics course and certification was specifically designed and built to be delivered online. The course’s professional videos, for example, have been successfully teaching students the principles of business economics digitally for nearly a decade.
Furthermore, it’s the only certification which takes a practical, holistic approach, teaching you not just the principles of business economics, but equipping you with essential business skills such as networking, through a mentored, project-based, and guided approach. We are committed to your success.
Now Go Out There and Get Your Dream Entry-Level Finance Job!
Getting an entry-level finance job with a bachelor's degree is challenging but very doable. You have to be determined to push yourself in every way possible and show your interest and knowledge. For recruiters, your enthusiasm and diligence matter.
Your certifications show that you've made an effort to learn about the industry's workings on your own initiative. Every organization in the finance sector receives many job applications. The job candidates with whom you will be competing are bright and big dreams and impressive CVs too.
This process is highly competitive. Certifications and training is one important way to differentiate your profile. Certifications can show your future employers that you are keen, ambitious, and a self-starter.
Don’t forget that the financial job market has cycles. Job opportunities vary with returns in the financial markets.
Even if you are not a finance student, demonstrating mastery of a number-oriented discipline like economics or computer science will always make a positive impression on recruiters. Adding certifications to your profile will make your profile even more credible. Such certifications can demonstrate your readiness for jobs in finance.
Your first job is your gateway to the world of finance. Most junior finance jobs present
a) Number-crunching work;
b) Unpredictable work hours; and
c) Above-average paychecks.
Understandably, you will be competing with other very talented people.
Preparation, commitment, and a go-getter attitude are essential to being a success. You must network, learn, and build your experience. In parallel, keep adding accomplishments and certifications to your profile. Study the industry. Even if your first job is not your dream job, keep advancing your qualifications. You will find the path that is right for you.
If you would like to add a Business Economics Specialist (BESt™) certification to help you successfully compete in your career journey, find out how it works here!