In today’s economy, there’s a nagging question that plagues most college students and those thinking about switching careers: is grad school a good investment for me? In most cases, the answer is a resounding no. Getting into debt for a minimum of ten years for a job that you haven’t even secured yet is very risky. However there are still ways to land lucrative careers that don’t require a masters degree.
There are many fruitful careers in the finance world that you can often secure with only a bachelor’s degree in a finance-related field. Keep in mind they involve specialized exams to obtain required certifications, but those can generally be completed within a matter of weeks or months, not years. Thus the costs are much, much lower than trying to get a masters degree. With that said, here are a couple of the best investment careers to choose from that don’t require a masters.
Generally, people who work in this job description have finished their degree in finance, economics, or some other business related field. They enjoy the process of gathering a bunch of numbers that most people would not think were related and figure out how to make sense of them from an investment perspective. Jobs typically involve analyzing financial statements of companies within specific industries and/or countries and predicting how they will perform over the short and long term. Financial modeling is an important component of being a financial analyst and requires a lot of attention to detail.
Financial analysts usually tend to streamline most processes as they look for the parts of the process that don’t add any value and remove them from the equation. They’re very methodical, numbers driven, and analytical in nature and those characteristics are perfect for what they do for their job. What makes these people different is that they are always looking at time-tested methods and don’t just accept them, but rather try to improve them or completely change the process for the better. Taking the guess-work out of everyday tasks is what these people do best; they often try to automate many processes to allow employees to concentrate instead on tasks that a computer could not do for them.
For only needing a bachelor’s degree, this profession also makes a very good amount of money with the mid-career salary nearing six figures in the smaller markets. Most jobs will require certifications from FINRA, The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Common qualifications are the Series 7, Series 63, Series 65, and Series 66. Many financial analysts also try to complete their CFA aka Chartered Financial Analyst designation which is an intense series of exams that requires roughly 250-300 hours to pass, sometimes more. But many serious financial analysts study for these exams and certifications while they are working. Financial Analysts at non investment banking firms often make $80,000-100,000.
Becoming an accountant is a flexible and often stable career path. You might think that you would need some sort of finance or accounting degree to get a job as an accountant. But that’s not really the case. If you have a bachelor’s with 150 hours of college credit you can generally still qualify to become an accountant, but you may need to take some extra classes to qualify for the prerequisites to sit for the CPA exam.
The CPA exam, aka Certified Public Accountant exam, is a lengthy test that consists of multiple exams within itself. Recently it’s becoming harder to qualify for and pass in order to better control who gets certified. Many people who take this exam will already have completed master’s programs, which gives them an advantage. But it’s not a current requirement to sit for the exam. An accounting career is often rewarding in pay. If you do well, you’ll earn steady pay increases over the time that you are working with a certain company, and you may even consider opening you own private practice.
Accountants work with numbers and help with the day to day processes of a business. They also assist with filing tax forms throughout the year as well as completing annual tax returns which requires a thorough understanding of the tax code. They help businesses minimize their tax liabilities and ensure that all the necessary paperwork is completed accurately and on time. Accountants regularly make $80,000-120,000.
Many times students are hired to be an entry level investment banker right out of college with just a finance-related degree. However, if you want to move up the competitive corporate ladder you should consider getting your MBA within a few years.
The great part about entry level programs is that many firms subsidize current employees’ tuition to these programs, leaving you partially or potentially fully debt free. But keep in mind that this requires a commitment to meet a minimum GPA and continue employment at the firm for a certain amount of time. A lot of people who take entry level jobs at Investment Banks choose to get their MBAs part time so they can continue working while benefiting from the advantage of tuition reimbursement. This is a winning situation for everyone because the firm gets a better version of you while you get paid to further your education. There is always the option to pass on a masters and just stay in your current job if you can survive however, but you will have an edge over your competition with a completed MBA.
Similar to financial analyst jobs, investment banking also requires FINRA certifications typically the Series 7, Series 63, Series 65, and Series 66. Plus every state has its own additional requirements. Investment banking jobs are known for the intensity and require very long hours. Working 80-100 hours a week is not uncommon early on in this type of career. Often times a fair amount of travel is also required due to the high number of client and company meetings, pitches, and conferences. Strong sales and communication skills are important if you want to be able to succeed in this type of role. Investment banker salaries have averaged $200,000 at JPM for $300,000 at Goldman Sachs.
Untemplaters, did you ever consider one of these lucractive careers? Do you have a masters degree? If not, are you thinking about going back to school at all?