Updated on Wednesday 27 February 2013
People who do well in jobs in finance love crunching numbers, analyzing lots of data and drawing conclusions from it that will hold up in the real world. Jobs in the public sector vs. the private sector of finance tend to be significantly different, but both have much to offer. There is no question that the recent financial crisis has changed the landscape of careers in finance, but finance remains among the most competitive and attractive of all career fields.
Jobs in the finance sector have consistently attracted and continue to attract some of the brightest, most motivated talent from all over the world. There are few fields that compare with the rigor and prestige associated with any job in the finance sector. Historically, this has rightly been credited to the high stakes, high pressure, and high salaries and bonuses associated with careers in finance. However, finance may be something different than they were five years ago pre-crisis, but how different?
Pre-crisis and post-crisis jobs in finance are two different worlds, but which one is better for international students considering this career path? In the last five years, major banks have cut more than 60 thousand jobs, but some say that it's a good thing. By contrast, jobs in compliance and regulatory finance are growing.
The private sector is characterized by incentive structures within banks that force you to be competitive, but that can also reward handsomely. Generally the jobs in this field have to do with gathering and interpreting financial data that can assist in corporate financial decisions and new investment opportunities for their company or client.
Jobs in banks before the recent financial crisis were known for what could be bonuses in multiples of what a person's annual salary was, which is much less the case after the financial crisis. Most jobs in this sector are shrinking, and many of the most respected experts think they should be. However, opportunities for international students to have careers as certified financial planners are likely to significantly increase in demand as the next generation retires.
Generally, jobs in the public sector – within government – tend to incorporate a much more robust view of what is happening in financial markets as a whole. Responsibilities tend to be structured around gathering and interpreting financial data to facilitate funding for public projects. International students will also find career opportunities to work with public officials to analyze their government's cash flow and bond reports, or advising on matters relating to satisfying other regulatory and compliance structures.
The financial public sector still offers higher salaries than most non-financial fields, but clearly less than the private sector. These jobs also afford the opportunity to spend your career gaining a wider understanding of international markets as a whole, not just on a micro-level for a client or business.
People who do well in careers in finance love crunching numbers, analyzing data and drawing conclusions that apply to the real world. They also need to be persuasive. Large pools of data and information can be quite nebulous and complex – the world of finance requires professionals who can translate them into something practical and concrete that can be depended upon in the real world, often with high stakes riding on their predictions.
Perhaps the most helpful and influential factor contributing to a healthy and satisfying trajectory for a career in finance are internships during college. Internships put you in the reality of what a career in finance is like. It can give you perspective on and connections to positions in the field. In many cases it can teach you what you do – or, don't – want to do for the rest of your life, which is really helpful, especially in a demanding, high stress field like finance.
Most entry level jobs in all branches of finance only require a bachelor's degree and minimal experience, which can be gained through internships during college. Even with significant changes to the finance sector, some of the most common career titles still include banker, financial analyst, actuary, or accountant. There are also increasing opportunities in fields with titles to match courses that are becoming increasingly more available on college campuses like urban fiscal policy, venture capital & finance innovation, global monetary and financial stability. There is no question that the financial crisis has majorly changed the landscape of careers in finance, but finance remains among the most competitive and attractive career fields.