Financial Career without a degree in finance
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How to Get a Financial Job Without a Degree in Finance

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Starting a financial career without a degree in finance is difficult but not impossible. Can you believe that SunTrust Bank will not consider candidates for management positions without the coveted bachelor’s degree?

This has never made sense to me because, in my opinion, real-life experience is far more valuable than classroom education.

While some companies value a college degree over experience, there are ways to work your way into a great financial career without taking on massive student loan debt.

Before we dig into it, let’s state the obvious…

A Finance Degree is Expensive

Depending on where you decide to go to school, college, in general, is really expensive. Now, this is coming from a gal who dropped out of college and started a career in the financial industry at the age of 21. But let’s look at some numbers.

According to ValuePenguin, the Average total cost of public colleges in 2019 is $25,290 (in-state) $40,940 (out-of-state). Private colleges cost a total of an astronomical $50,900. 

Now consider that too many students are leaning on student loans to cover not only tuition and books but also cost of living that could be covered with a job or a side hustle.

And before you tell me ‘I can’t work while I go to school! My studies will suffer!’ save it. I don’t buy that for a second. I’ve known plenty of people who have worked full-time while attending school full-time.

It can be done. You just have to hustle and focus (and stop worrying about your social life).

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My husband was able to work his way up to a position as Director of Life and Retirement at a major insurance company without a degree in finance.  Here’s what his career progression looks like (without a degree in finance).

  • 2006 -Started working as a bank teller. He had very little cash handling experience, having worked for Pepsi and Interstate Batteries previously, but they took a chance on him!
  • 2007 -Was promoted to Personal Banker, a position in which he was able to offer clients financial solutions, such as deposit accounts and loans. He also began working closely with other lines of business, such as merchant services, business banking, and mortgage, referring them business and further expanding the clients’ banking relationship.
  • 2011 -After several years in his role as a Personal Banker, he obtained his FINRA Series 6 and 63 licenses, paid for by the bank he worked for at the time. You cannot obtain these licenses without sponsorship from a company.
  • 2012 -Was promoted to Licensed Branch Manager, able to offer investment products and services while managing a team of up to ten employees.
  • 2015 -Started working for a major insurance company as an education specialist, training the insurance agents in the field on solutions-based selling of financial products to educators. This position was a huge stepping stone for his career.
  • 2018 -Promoted to Director of Life and Retirement Operations, managing two teams of approximately 20 employees. This position was a slight raise from his last position (which he loved) but was less travel and better for work/life balance with a family.

 

How to Step into a Financial Career Without a Degree in Finance

 

Unless your career absolutely requires it, a finance degree isn’t always necessary. If you’re in your twenties and college didn’t work out or you decided it wasn’t for you but you desire a career in finance, here’s what you can do.

Financial Career Path Without a Degree in Finance
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1. Start a Career as a Bank Teller

I’ve already shared that my husband’s career began as a teller. But what I haven’t shared is that I also started my career in the financial services industry as a teller. I was working as a pharmacy technician, and the bank manager came in and offered me a job making $7.51 per hour.

This was more than I’d ever earned hourly at the time, so I jumped at the opportunity!

By starting as the “face of the bank”, the first line of communication to the customers, you really learn a lot about banking and finance. You learn about cross-selling and organic growth and client retention. A teller’s job isn’t just to count money all day.

After you’ve comfortably settled into your role as a teller, determine if you enjoy being customer facing. Do you enjoy selling or do you prefer to lead and teach? This makes a difference and will determine your career path.

2. Personal Banker or Lead Teller?

If you really enjoy offering needs-based solutions for your clients, a personal banker role may be perfect for you! If, however, you find yourself cringing when asking a client if they’ve heard about your latest home equity loan promotion, you probably might want to go in a different career path.

I’ve personally worked in both positions, and my husband has as well. It helps to understand multiple positions if you’re wanting to go into management in the future.

Personal Bankers are less of a service role and more of a sales role. Their job is to retain and sell the clients as many products and services as they can in order to keep them with the bank. The more products a client has tying them to a financial institution, the more difficult it is to leave and move to the competition.

If this is your path, go for it! If you would rather manage a team of tellers, learn auditing procedures, and enjoy the operational side of things, then a lead teller role would better suit you.

3. Get Licensed to Sell Investments with FINRA

As I’ve said before, you must be sponsored by a company in order to obtain your Series 6, 63, 7, or other licenses with FINRA. In other words, tellers who will not be providing clients financial solutions directly are not eligible for licensure.

If you can convince your financial institution that it’s worth it for them to put you through the exams, this will set you up for great potential jobs in the future. Licensed bankers and managers can offer products, such as annuities, that might pay more than the average CD or money market account.

This is a win-win for the bank and for you!

4. Decide Your Career Path

At this point, you’ve worked in most of the retail positions within the bank, and it’s time to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life (or at least until you get bored or reach FIRE).

Possible career paths for someone with your experience include:

  1. Internal Auditor
  2. Insurance Agent
  3. Financial Advisor
  4. Learning and Development/Trainer
  5. Mortgage Lender
  6. Mortgage Broker Manager
  7. Merchant Services
  8. Business or Commercial Banking
  9. Trust Management
  10. Credit Risk
  11. District Manager
  12. Area/Market President
  13. Realtor
  14. Personal Finance Blogger

The possibilities are endless. By laying a foundation of financial stability, you are in control of your career growth. Of course, there will always be the companies (like SunTrust Bank) who shun those without a degree in finance. And that’s okay! There are plenty of other options out there.

It’s your turn! Who do you know that has an amazing career without a degree? Share your story in the comments!

 

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