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How to Become a Finance Specialist: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a finance specialist. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career as a finance specialist. View article »

  • 0:00 Finance Specialist
  • 0:29 Career Requirements
  • 1:26 Career Steps

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Finance Specialist

Finance specialists manage budgets, conduct financial analysis and reporting, and provide accounting services, as well as related financial support. Specialists may have expertise in personal or corporate finance and can find jobs at banks, investment advisory firms, government agencies, universities, and other organizations. Most work hours might be spent seated at a desk.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma; bachelor's or master's degree sometimes preferred
Degree Fields Finance, business administration, accounting, or related field
Licensure Securities licensure may be required
Experience Varies;1-5 years of related experience
Key Skills Analytical, communication, interpersonal, and customer service skills; basic computer skills with experience using spreadsheet, database, word processing, financial planning, and accounting software programs; strong math skills; comfortable working weekends as needed
Salary $66,670 (2015 median for all financial specialists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Statistics, Job postings by employers

For this field, a high school diploma is standard, but many employers seek candidates with a bachelor's degree. Some prefer a master's degree. Fields of study can include finance, business administration, accounting, or a related field. Licensure may be required for some positions involving the purchase and sale of securities. Experience can vary from 1-5 years of related experience.

Key skills include analytical, communication, interpersonal, and customer service skills; basic computer skills with experience using spreadsheet, database, word processing, financial planning, and accounting software programs; and strong math skills. You must also be comfortable working weekends as needed. In 2015, financial specialists earned a median annual wage of $66,670, stated the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now let's check out the career steps for financial specialists.

Career Steps

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Preferred job candidates typically have completed a bachelor's degree program in finance, accounting, or a related degree. Bachelor's degree programs in accounting typically cover topics such as financial accounting, income tax, and business law. Students study subjects such as corporate finance, money and banking, and microeconomics in bachelor's degree programs in finance.

It can help to strengthen computer skills. Among their job duties, finance specialists spend a lot of time using financial and accounting software programs, entering data into computer programs, and creating presentations. While earning a bachelor's degree, students can take courses in basic keyboarding, spreadsheets, and databases to prepare for this career.

Additionally, develop professional communication and workplace skills. Finance specialists interact with a wide range of individuals, so they need to communicate and conduct themselves professionally. Employers typically look for applicants who speak with proper grammar, have basic workplace etiquette, and have a professional appearance. Students may build these skills through classes in business communication and speech.

Step 2: Find an Entry-Level Position

New hires may receive some on-the-job training in financial products and customer service. Job responsibilities for finance specialists may include managing budgets and expenditures, preparing and analyzing financial and accounting reports, and processing payments. Duties for finance specialists may also include preparation of financial forecasts and capital asset management documents.

Step 3: Consider Obtaining Licensure

Although a license is not usually required, some finance specialists may need specific licenses. The types of licenses required vary according to the financial product involved. For example, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) requires candidates who purchase, solicit, or sell securities products to hold a Series 7 license. Additionally, investment advisers, depending on how much money they manage, may need to hold a Series 65 license and be registered with either state regulators or the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Both licenses require the passing of an exam and continuing education for renewal. License holders should check with their state for renewal dates and requirements.

Step 4: Earn an Advanced Degree

Job candidates with a master's degree in finance or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) are preferred by some employers. MBA students can typically choose a specialization in finance. Graduate-level finance programs typically last 1-2 years and may include courses in accounting, economics, and managerial finance. Earning an advanced degree may increase career advancement opportunities and job prospects.

To recap, with a high school diploma, undergraduate degree, and experience, as well as possible licensure, a finance specialist can make about $67,000 a year to manage budgets, conduct financial analysis and reporting, and provide accounting services, as well as related financial support.

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