Why You Should Choose a Financial Career

Wall Street reflection
••• Wall Street is just one destination for financial services careers. Hisham Ibrahim/Photolibrary/Getty Images

The financial services industry, as well as financial disciplines common to all industries (such as accounting), have long histories of attracting energetic and ambitious people who are looking for the best career opportunities. Focusing on the financial services industry, here are a few of its most significant selling points for prospective employees.


The financial services industry is noted for compensation structures that are, overall, much more generous than in other sectors of the economy.

See our more in-depth discussion of compensation for details. In particular, successful financial services sales professionals tend to be especially well paid, both relative to other employees in this industry and especially in comparison to sales people in other industries.


Compared to other industries, the financial services firms tend to place less weight on seniority in judging the readiness of employees for advancement. High performers can move ahead regardless of age, making this industry particularly attractive for ambitious young people in a hurry.

Getting Started

Breaking into the financial services industry presents increasing challenges today due to the consolidation of financial firms and the scaling back of traditional entry points such as financial advisor training programs and the renowned Goldman Sachs Junior Analyst Program. Nonetheless, financial internships are growing in importance as avenues to the best jobs in the industry.


Many of the leading firms tend to be relatively thinly-staffed. There are comparatively few layers of management. Decision-making tends to be rather quick. Your opportunities for getting face time in front of senior management also tend to be excellent.

That is, these firms do not normally operate in a highly formalized, chain of command fashion which is more typical of slower-footed traditional industrial companies.

You also are more likely to juggle multiple responsibilities within a given job category, often ranging far beyond the official job description, compared to the norms in other companies. Bureaucracy should be an important consideration in choosing employers.


A premium is placed on quick thinking, quick acting, and constant production of results. This can be trying for some people, exhilarating for others. The thin staffing and comparative lack of bureaucracy requires exceptionally hard work, focus and commitment to stay afloat, let alone to succeed. For those who do, however, the rewards are commensurately great.


As a general rule, the banking and insurance sectors of financial services tend to be rather more bureaucratic, more deeply staffed and less remunerative at all levels than firms whose principal lines of business are in (for example) securities brokerage (or financial advisory services), investment banking, securities trading, investment management (or money management), and/or securities research. These latter types of firms include what is commonly called Wall Street.


For an idea of how a career in financial services can be either a destination in life, or a launching pad for high achievement in other fields, read about these people:

  • Mike Bloomberg--Wall Street systems guru to media mogul to mayor
  • Jon Corzine--from trader to Wall Street CEO to senator to governor and back to CEO
  • Jim Cramer--from money manager to financial TV star
  • Leslie Greis--competing with the men, in sports and in finance
  • Mark McCormack--college golfer to lawyer to pioneering sports agent to family office founder
  • Wayne Rogers--from actor to money manager
  • Jim Spanarkel--from pro basketball player to financial advisor (with an announcing sideline)
  • Martha Stewart-- from financial advisor to "domestic diva" to media mogul