Banking Degrees & Careers How to Work in Banking
American banking and investment institutions are responsible for much of the financial activity in both national and international economies, and tens of thousands of trained professionals oversee a variety of services – ranging from loans and investments to risk management and corporate acquisitions – within their walls. Banking is a massive and ever-expanding industry, and this guide is designed to help individuals interested in a career in this sector learn more about their options and the educations they’ll need to succeed.
A career in banking opens wide the doors of possibility, and individuals in the banking and financial sectors have many opportunities to use their skills in meaningful ways. Professionals who graduate with a suitable degree in areas of business or finance can be found helping first-time home owners take out a loan, advising investors on the best sectors to place their money, analyzing international stock markets, creating budgets for individuals or companies, brokering financial deals or auditing existing financial records to ensure legal practices are being followed.
The Steps to a Banking Degree & Career
- Series 79The Investment Banking Representative Examination comprises 185 questions and is required for individuals who want to oversee company buyouts and direct refinancing.
- Series 7The General Securities Representative Examination totals 260 questions and is taken by those who want to work as stockbrokers.
Banking Degree Levels
Find the Right Banking Degree Program
|Career Goal and Educational Needs||Online||Associate||Bachelor’s||Master’s|
Already in full-time employment, I’m interested in learning more about banking skills or improving upon the ones I already have, but I need a flexible option allowing me to learn while still working.
I’m fascinated by numbers, statistics and projections, but I haven’t yet narrowed down the exact field I want to pursue. I’m hoping a few semesters of related coursework will help me narrow my options.
The financial sector fascinates me to no end, and I have a passion for working with people and helping them achieve their goals. I’m not sure which entry-level role suits me best, but I know a bachelor’s degree in a related subject will qualify me for many.
Having worked in banking for a few years, I’ve narrowed down my options and found the specific niche within the sector that suits me best. Now I’m looking to increase my skill sets and knowledge to be competitive for this advanced position.
Certificates in Banking
Certifications are used widely in banking to provide existing banking professionals with concentrated knowledge in a particular area and to ensure clients know they are educated about the topic. A wide range of certificates exist, but some of the top options include:
- Certified Trust & Financial Planner
- Certified Corporate Trust Specialist Certified Regulatory Compliance Manager
- Chartered Financial Analyst
- Certified Financial Planner
- Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst
Associate Degree in Banking & Finance
These two-year programs, most commonly available at community colleges, introduce students to the foundational principles governing the banking and financial industries through a mix of class discussions, group projects, assignments and examinations. Associate degree programs deliberately exclude courses in areas of liberal arts or the sciences, thereby allowing students to focus narrowly on their field of interest. Graduates go on to find work as junior loan officers, tellers or assistants to the credit manager. Common courses may include:
Introduction to Banking
Students are introduced to the elemental functions and roles of the banking industry, with course topics ranging from monetary systems and payment functions to the role of a depositor in the success of a banking institution.
Awareness of how lending and receiving works
Ability to discuss the broad strokes of the banking industry
Understanding of the major components of a bank
Understanding risk, calculating figures, and examining financial data are all important components of a banking career, and this course introduces students to these concepts and more. Whether studying probability, data sets, or correlation regression, students will have a thorough, basic knowledge upon completion.
Ability to use technology and tools related to statistics
Understanding of the main types of statistical analysis
Awareness of important characteristics within a set of data
With a focus on accounting principles commonly utilized in businesses, students in this course are exposed to foundational topics in the field, including financial statements, reporting, analyzing, and interpreting financial information.
Ability to prepare financial statements
Awareness of how financial information factors into business decisions
Understanding of the lifespan of financial information
Bachelor’s Degree in Banking & Finance
Professionals in banking come to the industry via many different educational backgrounds, chief among them being finance. Other popular degrees may include business, accounting or economics, and many of the classes taught in each of these programs overlap with the others mentioned. Regardless of the title of the major, students in these programs gain valuable insight and knowledge about the financial sector while also learning about topics within the liberal arts or sciences that will help fill out their understanding of societal and cultural forces that affect banking. Jobs for a baccalaureate graduate range from positions as financial advisors or accountants to roles as auditors or loan officers. Common courses include:
Individual Income Tax
This first-year course introduces students to rules and laws surrounding individual income taxation and covers the basic laws surrounding this form of tax. Students learn about how to prepare and analyze individual tax returns and how to use common software utilized for these purposes.
Awareness of laws surrounding individual income tax
Ability to prepare individual income tax forms
Understanding of common software used in tax return preparation
Money & Banking
Throughout the semester, students learn about how money factors into both banking and the world economy through studies of the Federal Reserve Board, monetary policies, and fiscal responsibilities of financial institutions.
Ability to explain how the Federal Reserve Board functions within the financial industry
Understanding of the role of money in banks
Awareness of monetary and fiscal policies
Students who plan to work as a loan officer or risk analyst frequently take this course. Common topics explored include credit scores, loan documentation, signs that a loan might be in trouble, and loan interviewing skills.
Understanding of the credit system
Ability to conduct a loan interview
Awareness of different risk factors affecting lending scenarios
Master’s Degree in Banking & Financial Services Management
At the master’s level students are able to concentrate their learning in topics related to banking to an even deeper degree. While associate and bachelor’s programs focus on the financial sector as a whole, a master’s level curricula will delve into topics specifically related to individual components of the industry to provide students with specialized knowledge in the area they hope to work. Some students may also elect to pursue an MBA with a concentration in finance or banking, and these programs are also excellent choices for future careers. Some of the titles a graduate of this type of program may assume include portfolio manager, investment banker, global financial services consultant, or risk management director. Common courses include:
Today’s technologies allow businesses to increase their earning potential exponentially through the use of the internet and financial technologies able to reach clients across the globe. Students learn about common electronic commerce techniques and procedures, such as e-payments, financial security, and how different industries engage with e-commerce.
Awareness of common e-commerce technologies
Ability to implement strategies to increase business growth through the use of the web
Understanding of how e-commerce fits into the banking industry
Mergers and Acquisitions
Many banking professionals elect to focus their careers in the ever expanding world of mergers and acquisitions, and this course introduces them to processes related to takeovers, bidding procedures, valuation, and buyouts.
Development of skills needed to manage mergers and acquisitions between businesses
Understanding of the laws governing capital structure changes
Ability to consult with clients about financially healthy mergers and acquisitions
Portfolio Management for Investments
Whether working with individual clients or corporations, investment portfolio managers must have an exhaustive knowledge of securities, investment options, and portfolio optimization techniques. This course provides students with a thorough knowledge of the field and offers many case studies and simulated investment projects.
Awareness of different types of investments available, and the pros and cons of each
Ability to consult with clients on investment opportunities best suited to their goals
Understanding of various portfolio selection modelss
PhD Degree in Banking and Financial Research
While the majority of careers in the field of banking can be gained without a PhD, individuals who wish to conduct high-level research – at a financial or academic institution – are often required to hold this highest degree of education. Students who wish to dig into financial and market research and help shape the industry can do so after gaining the skills and expertise needed to develop and conduct research studies and analyze how data gathered informs the field. Common courses include:
Corporate Finance for Research
With a large focus on the theory, students in this course learn about the frameworks that inform decisions about corporate finance. Classical theories are examined to understand what did and did not work before moving into a survey of modern procedures.
Teaching Financial Principles
Many PhD students plan to pursue roles in teaching at the postsecondary level, and this course provides them with the tools to do so. In addition to reviewing common teaching methods and curriculum development, students also have the opportunity to teach undergraduate level courses.
Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods
The banking and financial sectors can be researched via countless models, but many institutions, be they academic or financial, are looking for research that fits into one of these models. Students learn about different approaches to research, problem-solving, and industry analysis through hands-on work and case studies.
Career Paths in Banking
Banking jobs are always in demand for one simple reason: people are interested in money. When the economy is booming, people want to know how to spend their money. When it is in hibernation, people want to save and make the most of their investments. This constant interest creates a number of diverse career paths for bankers, with many showing projected growths of nine percent or greater between 2012 and 2022. A few of these include:
An auditor is an accountant that reviews an organization’s financial records to make sure everything is above board. Auditors also use their insight into these records to recommend more efficient ways of working. Their deep knowledge serves not only a legal purpose by helping an organization remain tax compliant, but also an advisory function by helping it plan for the future.
Bachelor’s degree in accounting
Brokers work for investment firms to find clients and sell them securities and commodities, including stocks, bonds and gold. They must also maintain an extensive and up-to-date knowledge of how these items perform and match investments to client needs.
Bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting
Budget analysts are found in boardrooms rather than in banks, working closely with an organization’s staff to craft a budget. The analysis portion takes place when analysts review managers’ budgets to make sure they add up. Once all departments are complete, these professionals consolidate the budgets and run cost-benefit analyses to see whether the organization should seek alternative ways of meeting its financial goals.
Bachelor’s degree in any field, although accounting coursework is a plus
Financial analysts look at the performance of various investing tools, including stocks and bonds, to guide investors on where to place their money. Most analysts have expertise in a particular sector, product or region. For example, an analyst may understand the business environment in Japan and how a devaluation of the yen would affect investors. Others may know the ins and outs of the pharmaceutical industry and have a handle on how new government regulations would influence stock prices.
Bachelor’s degree in economics, statistics, math or a related field, with many positions requiring MBAs or master’s degrees in finance
Examiners are essentially compliance officers. Although they may be hired directly by financial institutions, the largest single employer is the federal government. In this setting, examiners fall into one of two broad roles: consumer compliance or risk scoping. Those in the former role ensure banks follow legal practices for loans, while those in the latter make sure banks keep adequate cash reserves to cover losses.
Bachelor’s degree with coursework in accounting
Managers ensure an organization is financially stable by monitoring finances and creating strategies to protect revenue and limit expenses. They are often responsible for forecasting, budgeting, engaging in cost reduction analysis and reviewing overall performance. As managers, they also have supervisory roles over the organization’s accounting staff.
Bachelor’s degree in finance, economics, business or a related field, although an MBA or master’s degree in finance or economics is preferred for advanced roles
These bankers link businesses with financiers. For instance, a startup tech company may turn to an investment banker to handle its initial public offering and look for investors to scale up operations and turn a profit. More established companies may rely on an investment banker to handle a merger or acquire a smaller company.Education requirements
Loan officers assess an applicant’s ability to pay back a loan through a processed known as underwriting. Officers look through financial documents and apply a formula to assess the likelihood of loan repayment. Underwriters are increasingly reliant on software to automate the process, but loan officers are still needed to provide customer service and sell loans to businesses and private citizens who might want to buy a house or attend university.
Bachelor’s degree in business or finance
Components of a Successful Banking Career: Skills, Tools and Technology
It should come as no surprise that bankers must be adept at working with numbers, but there’s more to being successful in banking and finance than mathematics and accounting.
Top professionals need all the same communication skills — both written and oral — to make the world of finance accessible to clients who may or may not have financial backgrounds themselves.
Critical thinking is a must, both because banking is fraught with risk and because profits vacillate based on the regulatory environment, seasonal trends and consumer confidence — all of which must be taken into account when making decisions.
From a successful teller to the investment banker, they must be able to sell products and services offered by the company. This includes skill sets like persuasiveness, understanding a client’s needs, and excellent oral and written communication.
Many financial positions also require certification or licensure, but these mandates are dependent on the role and, often, the employer. Most banking credentials are provided by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, an independent oversight organization charged by Congress with consumer protection. Brokers, investment bankers and some financial analysts must pass FINRA exams to register as representatives before they can sell to consumers. They must also earn continuing education credits on legal regulations and financial services to retain their licenses. Several other industry certifications are available, including:
Financial examiners, auditors and accountants, can advance their careers by becoming CPAs. In fact, auditors must have this designation to audit public companies. This level of certification verifies that the test taker has the skill set to knowledgeably complete all the tasks associated with public accountancy. State and local governments also use their own standards for work experience and education to license candidates.
Bankers who have worked in the industry for at least two years can take this exam from the Association for Financial Professionals. This test demonstrates that a person with this certification is competent in liquidity, capital and risk management functions.
Financial analysts, financial managers, brokers and investment bankers may earn this credential from the CFA Institute, which is completed by passing three rigorous exams. Passing the test proves competence in broad range of topics relating to investment management, financial analysis, stocks, bonds and derivatives, and a generalist knowledge of other areas of finance.
Tools and Technology
The modern banker and financial professional can expect to use software — a lot of software. Programs available today are able to produce attractive financial reports faster than a financial manager, calculate multiple risks in the time it takes an examiner to press “enter” and visualize data much more efficiently than an analyst with a marker and blackboard. Depending on their position and the employer’s software preferences, a banker might be expected to know or learn any of the following:
Intuit QuickBooks, Sage 50 Accounting
SAS, StataCorp Stata
IBM Cognos Impromptu, Tableau
Delphi, Wolfram Research Mathematica UnRisk Pricing
Corel QuattroPro, Microsoft Excel
Unsurprisingly, individuals responsible for monitoring the flow of money in the country are typically well compensated. Professionals in management positions average six figures, but salaries tell only part of the story. Bonuses and commissions heavily motivate brokers and others involved in sales. Many of the figures below, which are the median averages as of 2014, are baseline numbers offering a lot of room for growth.
Banking Job Growth, Prospects, and Outlook
The financial activities sector, which includes banking, insurance and real estate, is expected to grow between nine and 10 percent between 2012 and 2022. A closer look reveals this growth is most pronounced in two areas:
Funds, trusts and other financial vehicles
Securities commodity contracts and other financial investments.
Each of these subsectors is expected to grow 2.1 percent each year, meaning that by 2022, jobs in these arenas will have grown by 20,500 and 186,600, respectively. These projections, initially made in 2012, are already coming true. In 2012, there were nearly 7.8 million people employed in the sector; as of 2015, the number had increased to more than 8.1 million.
Aside from the benefits of job growth, the arena is also known for job stability – a surprising fact for an industry influenced by the ebb and flow of Wall Street. As of August 2015, unemployment rates across banking and insurance sectors stood at 2.1 percent, a significantly lower figure than the national average of 5.1 percent. Even during the worst of the financial downturn in 2010, the highest unemployment rate reached was 7.8 percent, more than two percent lower than the general population.
For those with an interest in the field, finance is an excellent industry based upon the low levels of unemployment and the projected job growth rates. Some states, of course, will experience more growth than others. Between 2012 and 2022, states with the largest growth for financial specialists include:
What Do Related Occupations Make?
The financial services sector is a massive industry; in addition to including banking, the field is also composed of the real estate, finance and insurance sectors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics places five subsectors within the finance sector:
This arena includes bookkeepers, accountants, auditing clerks, financial analysts, and financial examiners.
This subsector is filled with employees a citizen might find at a local bank or credit union, including loan officers, loan interviewers, financial managers, and customer service representatives.
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Securities, commodity contracts and other financial investments.
This subsector has a heavy presence on Wall Street and big financial firms, employing brokerage clerks, financial analysts, financial managers, personal financial advisors, and sales agents.
Funds, trusts and other financial vehicles.
Accountants, auditors, clerks, and financial analysts are all needed in this subsector.
Below are salary figures comparing jobs from each of the above subsectors:
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Related Occupations: What You Need to Know
Since the Bureau of Labor Statistics groups real estate and insurance alongside banking jobs, it is informative to compare the same sampling of banking careers given above with insurance and real estate jobs. Not only are salary variations apparent, but also large differences between education requirements and job growth projections.
Education and Training:
Bachelor’s degree plus certification
Education and Training:
Education and Training:
Education and Training:
Education and Training:
Bachelor’s degree with certification highly recommended
Education and Training:
Education and Training:
High school diploma
Education and Training:
Bachelor’s degree plus licensure
Education and Training:
Associate/bachelor’s degree plus licensure
Education and Training:
High school diploma
Banking Career Resources
American Bankers AssociationThe ABA serves as the voice of bankers throughout the country, advocating on their behalf while also providing opportunities for training, networking, events, and news in the industry.
International Association of Investment BankersSince 1994, IAIB has served as a global community for investment banking professionals, providing industry insights, research, and resources for its members.
The Institute of Internal AuditorsThe IIA is a 170,000 member professional organization serving the needs and interests of internal auditors across the globe. The institute provides a number of certifications and opportunities for training in addition to events and local chapters.
The Professional Risk Managers’ International AssociationPRMIA is the professional organization for risk managers across the globe and offers countless valuable services to members. These include an exhaustive array of risk resources, training seminars, webinars, events, and local chapters.
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