Before you enroll in a master’s in finance program and pursue one of the highest paying master’s degrees, you may wish to gain some work experience. Master’s in finance programs often accept applicants who have only internship experience and have only recently graduated from college. However, you may gain more out of your graduate education – and more thoroughly impress admissions personnel – if you have more extensive work experience. Some areas of the finance world in which you may gain early-career finance work experience include investment and commercial banks, consulting companies and accounting firms.
Investment Banks and Commercial Banks
Master’s in finance applicants often have internship experience or entry-level work experience in many of the same areas of the finance world where they might work as an analyst upon completing their graduate studies. Those settings include investment banks, commercial banks, consulting companies and accounting firms, according to U.S. News & World Report.
If you’re new to the finance world, you may wonder what the difference is between investment banks and commercial banks. Investment banks focus on the sales and purchases of investments like stocks, bonds and securities. They cater to the financing needs of large corporations rather than the banking transactions of the average individual. An entry-level financial analyst role in an investment bank should involve tasks like compiling and analyzing financial reports, specifically as they pertain to investment opportunities and mergers and acquisitions.
New finance professionals also work in commercial banks, the kind that provide savings and checking accounts, loans, and similar services to individuals and small businesses. An entry-level job as an analyst with a commercial bank might include analyzing loan applicants’ credit history or doing research and analysis work to support the services of financial portfolio managers.
Besides their more finance-focused job duties, many entry-level analysts also perform some tasks outside of the field of financial analysis, such as assisting with operations or sales. The more experience and specialized knowledge you have, the more focused your job duties will become.
There are entire companies devoted to helping other businesses run their companies better. The field of consulting needs skilled financial analysts, just as banks do. When you attain an entry-level or junior-level financial analyst role with a consulting firm, you may handle financial reporting and financial statement analysis for both internal departments and external clients. You may have the chance to perform investigations and analyses that support the work of more senior-level financial consultants as they identify ways for their clients to improve their companies’ financial operations and performance.
If you’re interested in a career in finance consulting, you may want to look for a master’s degree program that offers coursework specifically designed to educate aspiring financial consultants.
Although there are differences between finance and accounting, there are also a lot of similarities. When you work in a finance role at an accounting firm, your responsibilities in analyzing financial documents may serve to support large corporate transactions, such as company mergers and buyouts. Some financial analysts, especially those working in accounting firms, may come from an accounting background rather than a finance background specifically.
Financial analysts also work in fields like insurance, engineering, retail sales and more. Experience in a financial analyst role is likely to add value to your application to and aptitude for a master’s in finance program, regardless of the area of finance in which you work.
Full-Time Work Experience or Internship?
Although having some work experience in finance prior to starting a master’s in finance program is valuable, it isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker if you haven’t yet landed a full-time job. Some master’s in finance programs will accept recent graduates with only internship experience. Most undergraduate finance internships are in areas similar to the kind of employers you look at for your first full-time job, including investment and commercial banks, consulting firms and accounting firms. What’s most important isn’t where or with what kind of company you did your internship but instead what extent of real-world work experience you acquired through your internship.
If you’re counting on internship experience to help you get into a master’s in accounting program, consider asking your internship supervisor for a letter of recommendation. When explaining your work experience in a personal statement, discuss the work you accomplished and the skills you gained.