Can You Get A Job in Finance without the degree?

JayCob20's picture
Rank: Senior Chimp | banana points 16

Just wanted to know if any liberal arts majors have been able to break through into investment banking and other finance positions without an MBA or Business-related degree/credential? I really want to break through on the client services side of finance, but earning a degree in Political Science has really made that difficult. I have had interest from H&R Block for database and bookkeeping roles, but I really want to land at a Deloitte or Morgan Stanley or even Goldman(though that's the furthest away from home of my options.) Any advice?

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Comments (90)

Aug 23, 2014

Yes, if they were studying at a target school and basically networking/interning.

Aug 23, 2014

I did. Have to network hard, get lucky, and do a lot of self study.

Aug 24, 2014

What resources do you recommend for self study?

Aug 23, 2014
DHolliday:

What resources do you recommend for self study?

What area of finance are you targeting?

Oct 22, 2014
td12:
DHolliday:

What resources do you recommend for self study?

What area of finance are you targeting?

I'm in a similar situation, looking to get into a corporate finance development program with a non-business degree. What do suggest for self study in this field?

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Aug 23, 2014

I suggest you check out my thread http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/wso-communit...
it has mostly what you need.

Good luck!

Oct 23, 2014

I have seen kids break into IB/PE without ease, but it happened. I suggest spending a day going through ASimplemodel dot com in order to understand some modeling and excel techniques. Additionally, you need to work your network, ask a lot of questions, review financial statements and study the VAULT guides. MOST IMPORTANTLY YOU NEED TO NETWORK.

Oct 23, 2014

The answer to your first question is YES. However, everything else being equal, the field of study you chose will make it harder to get your foot in the door.

You need to do what you can to manage your trajectory (and the outward appearance of your roles/trajectory) if you want to have a chance of winding up at one of the firms you mentioned. If you appear to potential employers as a liberal arts major in a non-quantitative role on an irrelevant trajectory, your odds won't improve.

Where you went to school and what your grades were will have a significant impact on your situation. Your college major is more important as a signal of the rigor of your courses and your dedication to a certain career path than it is as an indicator of what you learned in school.

I know it has been mentioned before, but you could major in Art History and teach yourself the technical skills necessary to impress an interviewer. That said, you might never get in front of an interviewer because your application was dinged for saying "Art History" instead of "Financial Accounting."

Oct 23, 2014

Yes, having a STEM degree in S&T might even serve you better than a finance degree. Your age will be more of a barrier though.

Oct 23, 2014
confusedanalyst:

Yes, having a STEM degree in S&T might even serve you better than a finance degree. Your age will be more of a barrier though.

Any suggestions on the type of positions I may be able to break into?

Oct 23, 2014

You could try to contact BBs, but their analyst roles are generally filled by recent college graduates. If you have contacts in the industry, they may be able to pass your resume along. One of my interviewers majored in physics at a top ivy and worked in tech before going into trading at a BB, so it can be done. You could also contact smaller firms, especially prop shops, which have less formal recruiting processes.

My only experience in S&T was a summer internship a few years ago, so there are likely others here who can give more comprehensive answers.

I also wouldn't necessarily say that S&T isn't as well paid as IBD. They're pretty much the same, though S&T has more variability.

Oct 23, 2014

Keep in mind that you'll need to network hard.

Oct 23, 2014

Yes definitely, lots of STEMs in FICC. Age is more the issue though. Maybe look at finance Masters/MBA? I've seen slightly older associates in FICC/quant research who were coders who got an MSF.

Oct 23, 2014

Couple of seats away from me is a VP that used to be an engineer and started S&T in either his late 20s or even early 30s.

Possible.

Oct 23, 2014

I have an engineering background and work in trading now, but I think I would be just as employable (perhaps even more so) if I had come from a physics background. If your goal is to work on the technical/quantitative side of things (and it should be, otherwise just study finance, or perhaps math/econ), either major will give you the analytical chops for the job. I'd recommend supplementing your core courses with CS and a few courses in finance. The former because realistically that's what you'll be spending a lot of time on and the latter because you'll need to convince potential employers you have a genuine interest in finance, and it's important that you have stuff to talk about during interviews. BTW this is anecdotal but there are two people at my firm with a physics background and nobody with an EE background, despite EE being a more common major.

Oct 23, 2014

Thanks very much for your reply. I'm glad to hear that it wouldn't effect me much in terms of working in trading. As you said, its also key to be able to show interests in finance and although I can't take any modules in finance related areas, I am ensuring that I have relevant work experience and extra curriculars to show this. I also have a small account which I trade with at the moment which I've heard can be a good way of showing beginners knowledge and genuine interest.

Oct 23, 2014

I wouldnt say it matters much in terms of employability.

Thinking like an engineer might be more helpful in terms of practicality and as you say probably more employable in general.

Oct 23, 2014

Thanks for the reply. Good to hear it won't matter much in terms of working in trading. Although a fall back plan is always good to have incase finance doesn't work out, so that's something else I need to consider pretty heavily.

Oct 23, 2014

*Also wondering same thing about math degrees

Oct 23, 2014

You'd be correct, with the caveat that it depends on the quality of your program and the median GPA there, as well as the caliber of other engineering applicants. If you have other engineers from your target with 3.8+ GPAs applying, obviously a 3.4 would be at a disadvantage relatively to those folks in this one narrow aspect of the applicant evaluation process.

Lesson: It's all relative.

Oct 23, 2014

EECS and BioEng double major going into finance, when I applied, my GPA was a 4.3

Edit: 4.3 is essentially a 3.3 at other schools, we use a 5.0 system ;)

Oct 23, 2014

I come from a top engineering school that's not exactly a banking target (at least when I was there). The only 2 people from our entire university that got a BB NYC internship my junior summer were me and another engineer (no finance people made it), and we both had 3.8+ GPAs. I think the lower the rank your school is in finance, the more impressive an engineering degree is to recruiters. With that said, I don't think our engineering applicants were cut ANY slack when it comes to GPAs. (No one under a 3.7 even got an interview). Again, if your overall school rep is better this may change.

Oct 23, 2014

Im also Thinking somewhere like Waterloo (Double Degree Math/Business) or UofT Engineering Science which I hear are pretty good in terms of reputation, but would a 3.5ish gpa suffice for these finance positions?

Oct 23, 2014

GPA bar is lower but it depends how experienced the recruiter is and how familiar they are with your school.

Oct 23, 2014

So would a 3.5 be good enough from a top 2 engineering school in canada to get some major looks

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Oct 23, 2014

The financial knowledge will be taught on the job through training. Algorithms are useful for trading. Programming is useful for Tech roles.

Oct 23, 2014
redsweek:

Hello, I am currently an EECS major finishing my 2nd year. I would like to ask what specific areas of CS can be applied to working on the tech side of finance (building trading systems). I would guess that classes in databases might be useful, but how about AI, security, networking, or algorithms?

Also how much financial knowledge is needed for these roles?

I got started through a similar career path. Yes, all the banks and some of the larger hedge funds (Citadel, DE Shaw, etc) hire CS majors straight out of college and have elaborate rotation training programs. As a recent college grad, you will not be expected to have any finance knowledge -- you'll pick up what you need on the job.
No one will care about your AI or security or networking course. At the college recruiting level, they're looking for generalists. (This is true for all technology employers, not just finance companies). Your interviewer will probably ask something like "tell me about your favorite class" but it's just an icebreaker question. They just want to see you can code well. The only specialized class that MIGHT give you an interviewing advantage is statistics (but only if your interviewer is a quantitative developer. Otherwise they just want to see you code).

Aug 23, 2014

Sorry pal but I think you shouldn't do it.First of all finance is really prestige orientated,so my first recommendation would be that you aim for the top 10 schools in Europe and top 5 in the UK.
Second of all if you'll be blowing out all the money have then I suggest you don't attend at all.

Oct 23, 2014

Thank you very much. I'm looking for straightforward idea and you are right. I have to take my household's budget and my parents' retirement would be more difficult. Working until I have enough money for this degree will take me around 5 years.

Now I'm interested in quantitative study. I think CFA can offset the finance degree and finance knowledge while I obtain a more specific degree such as Quantitative Finance, no guarantee though. So right now my best bet might be giving a CFA a shot and I will try my best on GMAT and stuff. Top schools in UK are tough not only because they offer only high GPA students but also because costs will blow away my budget and I have so much to think about this.

Oct 23, 2014

Math/CS/Engineering degrees have and always will be in demand in any field, not just finance.

I think for quant roles though, you need a M.S/PhD or you need to be some kind of math Olympiad..

It probably depends on the firm..if you're at a Long/Short Fund or some type of Macro fund you may be developing software to assist the analysts/traders where as in a Algo/HFT fund you could be building trading systems or making statistical models or whatever...take what i say with a grain of salt though as i don't work in finance or have a CS degree but this is what i've gathered about roles in different funds as there are many different types.

I would focus on the CS stuff, the guy who founded Ren.Tech (Jim Simons) only hires Math/CS/Astrophysics PhD's..if you have the chops to understand this kind of work knowing finance terms/techniques would probably be bitch work for someone like that

alpha currency trader wanna-be

Oct 23, 2014

Quant roles are better paid than tech roles. If I were you I would become a trader or quant researcher at a BB.

Oct 23, 2014

Asset Management companies have 'investment writers' who create articles and content for their investors.

Oct 23, 2014

Hey Stephen.

I am kinda in the same boat as you- B.A. in History currently in the tech business (just nothing related to finance). I was thinking about going into Marketing for a bank. Let me know if you get resources that can help. Thanks!

Oct 23, 2014

Go into private wealth management/private banking, targeting high net wealth clients. In my experience, that's all about collecting business cards, working your rolodex and selling a story (cribbed from a sales sheet) to high net wealth clients. You only need to know enough buzz words about finance for this role. Actual financial knowledge or ability to calculate anything other than your sales commission is likely a hindrance.

Oct 23, 2014

Thanks so much guys

Oct 23, 2014

Hey Stephen Fisher

I am in Big 4 consulting but in a similar situation looking to get more into the M&A side of things or at least industries that are more capital market intensive. I was wondering what you managed to find out, and if you made a move or if you are interested in start up as those are also considerations I am making with a similar background in engineering, public sector and M&A experiences for high tech, aerospace and defense.

Current Big 4 Management Consultant with an Engineering Background seeking new opportunities with more of an entrepreneurial focus in High-Tech, Energy, Capital Markets, M&A, and/or Venture Capital.

Oct 23, 2014

Hey OP,

As someone suggested, private wealth management (PWM) is a good option but given your background, the role that I think would make sense for you the most is investor relations (IR) and perhaps marketing at a financial firm (perhaps at a HF).

IR makes great money and there's actually a good demand for these jobs because many hedge funds really need to court institutional money. Often times IR is filled with dimwit sorority girls who barely put a sentence together (especially at the junior level before they get all weeded out). So if you come from a journalism side, with great writing samples, I actually would approach a few recruiters and ask if they can find you a position where your writing skills could come handy for investment firms (Asset Management to HF).

The pay is pretty great actually. You can easily do 55k-80k your first year.

Oct 23, 2014

Retail banking, then work your way up to the investment side..

Greed is Good!

Oct 23, 2014

You have the degree or are pursuing the degree?

Oct 23, 2014

I have a bachelors degree in Psychology. Not one in finance. But I want to go into this field, and if I progressed, how hard would it be to progress without a degree in finance? From my understanding I also have the option of getting a CFA even though I have no degree in finance. So I'm also wondering if a CFA is sufficient to grow in the industry.

Oct 23, 2014

I have a bachelors degree in Psychology. Not one in finance. But I want to go into this field, and if I progressed, how hard would it be to progress without a degree in finance? From my understanding I also have the option of getting a CFA even though I have no degree in finance. So I'm also wondering if a CFA is sufficient to grow in the industry.

Oct 23, 2014

CFA equals Chartered Financial Analyst

A CFA is not really a necessity in wealth management (which is what I assume you are interested in) but from what you have said I would say that is at the bottom of the list of things you should be worrying about/considering.

but strictly speaking no, you can get a job in PWM without a degree in finance.

seems like you need to do a bit more research...

Oct 23, 2014

I'm sorry I meant A Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
I want to be a Financial Advisor.
I am new to this and don't know acronyms or what PWM is.

You said "you CAN get a job in PWM without a degree", did you mean CAN NOT?

Oct 23, 2014
luigi123:

I'm sorry I meant A Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

I want to be a Financial Advisor.

I am new to this and don't know acronyms or what PWM is.

You said "you CAN get a job in PWM without a degree", did you mean CAN NOT?

Read up on @"thebrofessor"'s blog and posts about PWM (private wealth management) and check out this site in general. You'll learn a lot about that particular field within finance.

Oct 23, 2014

agreed.

also given how your post is written you don't appear to have a clear understanding of how PWM works at all, do your homework because you could be in for a rude awakening.

Oct 23, 2014

Thank you Sir. I will check out your blog soon.
And, no I don't have a clue of what I'm talking about because I'm just becoming interested in the field, so I'm just curious here about what kind of opportunities I would have without a bachelors or masters degree in the field.
At this point I'm mostly interested in becoming a financial advisor, and a friend in the field told me that he is one and has a CFP and that that would be enough for me to get started, maybe also a license I would think. And he said a degree in finance or any master is not necessary, as long as I'm willing to work hard to start off.

Oct 23, 2014

yes, you can get a job without a finance degree in PWM

PWM = private wealth management

As @"Dingdong08" just said you should be able to figure out what you need to/ will be able to ask more directed questions after going through @"thebrofessor"'s blog posts and the corresponding Q&A.

best of luck

Oct 23, 2014

Thanks so much!

Oct 23, 2014

Definitely depends a lot on your alumni network, but a finance degree certainly is not a necessity.

    • 1
Oct 23, 2014

Doesn't really make a difference to me when I'm interviewing candidates. Yes, you'll have to come up with a story of why you fit, and work harder to learn the technicals. At the end of the day I think most people are just looking for smart people who can fit into the team, regardless of what you studied at school.

Oct 23, 2014

you're worrying your pretty lil head about the wrong shit

heister:

Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

Oct 23, 2014
GoldenCinderblock:

you're worrying your pretty lil head about the wrong shit

so true. the nescac schools are all liberal arts and have a good representation on wall st.

Oct 23, 2014

This could be a good start:

https://www.coursera.org/learn/wharton-accounting/
http://www.amazon.com/Economics-One-Lesson-Shortes...
Check out Chandoo for excel tips/intro excel classes.

Oct 23, 2014

Start with financial accounting and an intro to finance class. After that I would review macro economic principles and take a corporate finance class. Once you feel comfortable with the basics take a crack at the Harvard Business cases and from there you can really focus on improving your modeling.

The combination of the above should give you a good foundation that you can build on going forward.

Oct 23, 2014

First research different careers in finance. The CFA would only be worth the investment if you wanted ER or portfolio management; IBD, S&T don't care about CFA. But you are ruling out "high finance," so I will assume you want one of:

  1. FP&A
  2. Corporate Development
  3. Corporate Strategy
  4. Investor Relations
  5. Treasury
  6. Accounting
  7. Internal Audit

I will assume you want something like FP&A for simplicity's sake. The CPA is the premier designation in corporate finance, however for FP&A the CMA or the FP&A certificate are more functionally useful. But compared to a CPA, they are not well respected yet and absent experience in corp finance, are not worth pursuing. The CFA will take 3 years to pass and another 3 years of investment-related work experience to receive. Given all the above, If I were you, for now I'd ignore all of these types of certifications.

Depending on what you do for work, you need to spin your experience to:

  1. convey interest in the finance position you want
  2. be able to explain why you are transitioning
  3. craft a resume and have a series of anecdotes that prove to employers that you can accomplish the goal of the specific corporate finance role you want, ultimately showing that you can drive value for the employer

All that being said, the most effective route to go about getting the job you want is to go onto LinkedIn and find some people in your network who work in the role you want. Ask them the question you posed to us (be less verbose than you or I have been in this thread). Ask for an informational interview and explain you are interested in starting a career in finance. Can be over Linkedin, phone, email, or in person - whatever. They can clarify what they think would be the best way for you to show that you are the guy employers want to add to their finance team.

Oct 23, 2014

Oh yes.

Oct 23, 2014

yes you can

but will be more difficult

Oct 23, 2014

It will be very difficult, esp if your gpa is below 3.7. You will be held to a higher standard with a liberal arts or social science major because bankers perceive those to be "easy" majors (just to clarify - im not saying they are... i'm just saying thats what people hink). You should supplement with the important classes (corp fi, accounting, macro micro etc)

Oct 23, 2014

This would have been a good question for the search function.

The answer is yes, you can.

Oct 23, 2014

You have to make sure you have a "story" to go with it to. A track record of interest in finance, through internships/finance club/investing/starting a business, whatever it is.

Oct 23, 2014

.

Oct 23, 2014

Everyone on this board is crazy. It is very possible (I did it) and I didn't do anything extraordinary. Don't listen to everyone on this board that is going to tell you how difficult to get a job and how extraordinary you have to be, in terms of GPA, major and pedigree, to get hired. If you're intelligent, show an interest and have some legitimate internship experience you can break into i-banking. I am going to a top tier firm in a top group and I don't have an econ or math major and I don't consider myself to be smarter than the average student at a top school. It's about focusing in and preparing for the interview.

People over-estimate the difficulty of breaking in for many reasons, but be confident in yourself, prepare and go get it if it's what you want...

Oct 23, 2014

Bump.

Oct 23, 2014

Networking and internships. You'll find that to a certain extent, on the job training and practical methods are often nothing like what you get out of a textbook-so people who are familiar with various systems, software packages, and practical techniques will offer more value than someone with a business degree and no work experience. Back when I was doing the entry-level screening at a Financial Services firm, we would often take the Liberal Arts kid who knew his or her way around SAP, Excel, and a Bloomberg Terminal from various internships over the Accounting majors who'd never seen Oracle.

The short answer is that it's always better to have practical skills regardless of your major. We don't expect a 21 year old with a Bachelors Degree to REALLY know anything, so at that point the major isn't particularly as relevant as the actual skills they can demonstrate.

Oct 23, 2014

I really want to attend ND, but the chances of me internal transferring to Mendoza is slim to none. Should I still attend ND and do a social sciences major like econ or poli sci and get a high GPA, or go to Stern where I will be able to get the undergrad bus. degree and easier employability in NYC, but have a considerable less enjoyable time at Stern?

Oct 23, 2014

you people really need to stop through stern under the bus in terms of enjoyability
this isn't uchicago we're talking about

happy to give advice; no asking for referrals please

Oct 23, 2014

I second that.
Plus logical thinking and analytical ability. They don't really come from Quant disciplines--they come with a ready mindset. On-the-job training is a big part of BB/MBB rookies anyways

Oct 23, 2014

Does this mean it is better to not get an undergrad bus. degree unless it is a top bus. school like Wharton?

Oct 23, 2014

Four ways:

Kill it at semi-target
Go to a target
Be attractive
Some sort of combination above

Oct 23, 2014

Look at taking the CFA for people to take you seriously, but I have to warn you it's expensive without company sponsorship/reimbursement (around $1000). That said, it'll be a great way to get your foot in the door.

"He was the guy who always won the game of chicken because his opponents suspected he might actually enjoy a head-on collision."

Oct 23, 2014

Definitely use the search function on the site. Given your background it will obviously be an uphill battle for you. Your best bet is to attend a top tier b-school so that you can re-brand yourself and switch careers. You also need to do a lot of research on what specific fields of finance you are interested in and why. An alternative to b-school would be to land an entry level position through a network contact or alum but this would be a long-shot given how competitive the market is right now and all of the down-sizing.

The CFA would allow you to demonstrate that you have a serious interest in finance as it requires a great deal of time and effort but it may not be your best use of time in the near term unless you are certain that asset management is most likely the path you want to take down the road.

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