Paying for college and landing a great finance job after graduation are vital goals for many students in 2023. With the rising cost of college and increased competition for top jobs in Finance, achieving these goals requires careful planning and preparation. This article aims to help students make the most of their scholarship and financial aid opportunities, gain valuable work experience through internships, and set themselves up for future success in a financial services career.
Why Getting a College Degree and Finance Job Matters
Numerous benefits to earning an undergraduate degree and working in Finance make the investment of time and money worth it for many students.
College graduates earn substantially more over their lifetimes than those with just a high school diploma. Government data shows the median weekly earnings for someone with a bachelor’s degree is nearly double that of a high school graduate. Finance careers, which often require at least an undergraduate degree, are among the highest-paying fields.
Beyond increased earning potential, a college education and finance job provide other advantages such as opportunities for advancement, job stability, and access to employer-sponsored benefits.
Finance jobs allow you to work in a dynamic industry at the forefront of the global economy. They provide opportunities to analyze financial markets, manage investment portfolios, provide strategic business advice, and more.
How to Maximize Scholarships and Financial Aid
For many students and their families, paying the annual cost of college is a significant financial hurdle. Numerous options for financial aid, scholarships, grants, and student loans can help significantly defray these costs. Here are some critical steps students can take to maximize their financial aid opportunities:
- Submit the FAFSA – The Free Application for Federal Student Aid opens the door to federal grants, loans, and work-study funds. All students should complete this form as early as possible each year.
- Apply for scholarships – There are thousands of scholarship programs offered by colleges, nonprofits, corporations, and professional associations. Create a master list of opportunities and apply annually.
- Look for tuition assistance programs – Some employers, military branches, and government agencies help pay for school in return for future service. Explore all programs you may be eligible for.
- Consider a work-study job – Federal and state work-study programs provide part-time campus jobs that accommodate class schedules. The money earned can offset costs.
- Compare financial aid offers – Negotiate with financial aid offices if you get a better offer from another school. There may be room for additional grants or scholarships.
- Minimize living costs – Choosing a roommate, buying used textbooks, limiting leisure expenses, and bringing a packed lunch can help reduce costs.
- Leverage federal and private student loans judiciously – Try to limit debt, but don’t be afraid to borrow reasonably to earn your degree. Focus first on federal fixed-rate loans.
Which Degrees and Majors Help Land a Finance Job?
Your specific major and degree can make a difference when getting hired for competitive finance roles. Here are some top options to consider:
- Finance – An obvious choice, a finance bachelor’s degree provides in-depth knowledge of financial markets, securities, banking, and more. This prepares you for jobs in areas like corporate finance, investment banking, and financial advising.
- Accounting – Accounting majors master financial reporting, auditing, taxation, and budget analysis skills. This degree qualifies you for public accountant, auditor, budget analyst, and chief financial officer roles.
- Economics – Understanding economics helps you analyze financial trends. With an economics degree, you can qualify for jobs as a financial analyst, actuary, or in sales and trading.
- Information Technology – A tech degree can open doors to fintech jobs. Options include financial, data, and analytics roles at finance and technology firms.
- Engineering – Engineering majors are increasingly sought after in Finance for their strong analytic and problem-solving abilities. Look for quant finance roles focused on data modeling.
- Mathematics – Math majors are prime candidates for quantitative analyst and data science jobs at central banks and investment firms.
Why Internships and Experience are Crucial
Gaining relevant experience in Finance during college through activities like internships can significantly improve your chances of landing a full-time job after graduation. Here are some of the top benefits:
- Gain industry knowledge – Internships let you learn the nuts and bolts of finance jobs and industries. You’ll gain knowledge to draw from in interviews.
- Build your network – Finance pros you meet during internships can help you access critical opportunities. Maintain these relationships.
- Apply your learning – An internship lets you test classroom concepts in natural workplace settings, enhancing your skills.
- Get a head start on job search – Interns often receive offers to stay on full-time. At a minimum, firms provide valuable references.
- Increase hire ability – In competitive fields like Finance, students with internships on their resume have a significant hiring edge over those without experience.
- Earn as you learn – Many finance internships are paid, helping offset college costs. And unpaid internships can still pay dividends when you land a higher salaried job later.
5 Tips for Getting an Internship in Finance
To secure a coveted finance internship, you must plan and be proactive. Here are five proven tips:
- Start your search early – Begin applying for summer internships the prior fall. Openings tend to fill up fast, so apply to multiple openings.
- Highlight coursework – On your resume, emphasize finance-related classes you’ve taken to demonstrate your knowledge base. List applicable skills gained.
- Target smaller firms – Competition for internships at top banks and Fortune 500 companies is fierce. Smaller regional firms get fewer applicants, and it may be easier to land an internship.
- Ask about opportunities – Set up informational interviews to ask professionals at companies that interest you about possible internship availability.
- Improve soft skills – These are crucial in client-focused finance jobs. Take a speech or writing course. Join campus clubs to gain leadership experience.
Planning Early for Post-Graduation Finance Jobs
The job search process takes significant time and strategic planning. To maximize your chances of securing an excellent finance job after college, begin preparing early:
- Meet with campus career counselors – Your college career center provides a wealth of job and internship search help. Take advantage of resume reviews and interview practice services.
- Build connections – Attend industry association events and use LinkedIn to connect with finance professionals. These contacts help surface job opportunities.
- Target applications strategically – Focus on openings well-suited to your skills and credentials. Customize resumes and cover letters for each.
- Prepare for interviews – Revisit course material and conduct mock interviews to get comfortable showcasing your finance knowledge, skills, and passion.
- Consider further education – Advanced degrees like an MBA or Master’s in Finance can provide advantages for some specialized finance roles. Weigh costs and benefits.