What to Expect From a Realistic Career in Finance

As much as you might want to live the glamorous life you see depicted in finance films like “Wolf of Wall Street” and “The Big Short,” the reality of working in the finance field is much different. Finance is undeniably a rewarding career path for those who are analytical, tech- and business-savvy and detail-oriented; certain roles can provide a high level of job security and satisfaction as well as high salaries and other compensation perks. Still, working in finance isn’t easy. Here are some hard truths you might want to accept before you launch into a finance career, so you can set yourself up for success.

You Won’t Immediately Be Rich

Securing a job in finance might mark a turning point for your career earning potential, but it doesn’t immediately grant you unlimited wealth. Entry-level positions in finance typically provide salaries between $55,000 and $93,000 — depending on the employer, the location and your qualifications. This is to say that most finance professionals start their careers making only just above the average nationwide salary in the United States.

Of course, there are ways to increase your earnings. Many finance professionals earn bonuses based on their performance, so the harder and better you work, the more you can grow your wealth. Advanced credentials like an online master’s in finance from UAGC can also boost your starting wages. With time and effort, you can start commanding high compensation packages, but you shouldn’t expect to buy a boat during your first year on the job.

You Might Not Work at a Bank

Investment banks seem like the typical employer for finance professionals, but they are far from the only places looking to hire finance experts. Insurance providers, money management firms and private corporations all demand the expertise of finance professionals, and many of these employers are willing to pay much more than you might earn from a bank. During your job hunt, you shouldn’t limit yourself to applying only to investment banks; you might find greater career satisfaction by working in the finance department of a different type of firm.

You Will Work Long Hours

Though financial markets might only be open for a few hours every day during the work week, finance professionals are typically developing strategies, communicating with clients and performing other tasks well beyond market close. At massive investment banks, it is typical for employees to maintain 80-hour work weeks, and at smaller firms, finance professionals might even put in 90 to 100 hours every week. For at least the first few years of your career, you might not have much balance to your work and home life — especially if you want to scale the career ladder quickly.

You Will Be Surrounded by Men

Though the gender gap is starting to show signs of closing, the fact remains that finance is a male-dominated field, and female representation drops off dramatically the higher you climb up the career ladder. It is against federal law to discriminate against employees based on their gender identity or sexual orientation, but there are other factors that can impact how quickly and easily finance professionals find achieving career success. If you are not a cis man, you may want to take care in choosing an employer that is prioritizing support for minority employees.

You Should Expect Cutthroat Competition

There are many industries in which employees band together to support one another — but finance is not one of them. Competition amongst finance professionals tends to be fierce in every arena, so you need to be willing to fight for the positions you want. This starts long before you apply for your first finance job; you need to equip yourself with enviable credentials that allow your application portfolio to stand out. You also need to put in extra work and avoid any errors that might put you out of the race for promotions. Finally, you should try to avoid becoming emotionally attached to your employer or coworkers, as you may need to abandon them if it benefits your career.

You can’t believe what you see in films about careers in finance. However, if you are willing to put in the time and effort, you can create for yourself an immensely rewarding career — that could eventually make you very rich.