Finance: Which Direction Should You Choose?

You’ve always been fascinated by money—not in a greedy way, but in a strategic, “how do I make it grow?” kind of way. So it’s no surprise you’ve chosen a career in finance. But don’t get too comfortable yet. You still have to decide which direction you want to travel within the finance universe. Not sure where you’re leaning? Here’s your own personal guide to the different finance career options that are available, and which one might be best suited for you.

Finance Which Direction

International finance

If you live by the motto “go big or go home,” international finance might be the right choice for you.  Not only are you working in the largest market in existence, but you get to apply theory as well as strategy to your endeavors. You’ll be handing anything from international trade to global banking to foreign direct investment (FDI), all the while dealing with your favorite financial topics like exchange rates, securities and commodities, and financial analysis. 

International Finance is a rapidly expanding field with a wide array of opportunities available. Education-wise, while a bachelor’s degree might be sufficient, you’ll most likely need a masters or an MBA to pursue this career successfully.

Globalization has revolutionized the way financial matters occur, but more than that, it has widened the scope of influence. The standard of living people experience around the world is directly impacted by decisions made within the realm of international finance. So, if making a difference is important to you, this may be the direction you want to head.

Corporate finance

Corporate finance is well-suited to those rare individuals who are analytical and creative at the same time. The equal use of right brain and left-brain skills to solve problems, develop strategies, and make effective business decisions is an integral part of the corporate finance career. Your primary goal will be to create value for the organization. This can entail anything from forecasting financial trends to organizing mergers and acquisitions to developing new paths of diversification. 

In regard to educational requirements, you’ll need—at minimum—a bachelor's degree, but many organizations will want you to have an MBA. The career outlook in corporate finance remains rather favorable. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment of business and financial operations occupations is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 591,800 new jobs.”

Public finance

There are two basic branches of public finance (aka municipal finance). The first entails managing the finances of actual government agencies. The second involves working with publicly controlled enterprises such as schools, public transit, or parks and recreation. Either way, a career in public finance is just as much about serving the people as it is about making money grow. There will likely be a heavier focus on taxes and laws than in the other finance careers, and there also may be a stronger concentration on public research.

The educational requirements for a career in public finance are slightly less stringent, as a bachelor’s degree is often considered sufficient. However, like any career, if you want to go far, a master’s degree never hurts. While the career opportunities in municipal finance are expanding, they are growing at a slower rate than other areas due to tight budget constraints within the government.

Personal finance

As the title implies, personal financial advisors are in business to help individuals. Their job is to assist people in growing their portfolios, plan for their futures, and make prudent investments. This career path has the potential to be more lucrative than the other choices, but there is also a much higher risk factor. If you’re making your clients wealthy, you will benefit as well. But if things go south for your clients, they won’t be falling down alone. You’ll be right there with them. If you’re up for the challenge, and you get an adrenaline rush from risk, this is probably the best choice for you.

Like the other finance careers, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree to pursue this field. But you’ll probably do better for yourself (and your clients) with a masters. In regard to the future, personal finance will continue to grow and provide many lucrative opportunities. As long as people still have money to spend, they’ll need experts to help them manage it properly.

Choosing a career in finance was the easy part. Selecting which type of finance you want to pursue can be a bit trickier. The most important thing is to choose a direction that suits your goals, your personality, and your skill set. Armed with the information provided here, you should be well on your way to making the right choice.

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