A busy work day on Wall Street in New York City.

The New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street is the symbol of the American financial system. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

This blog post is the fourth in a weekly series throughout July examining opportunities in different sectors of America’s diverse economy.  

While the world economy has become more diverse in recent decades, all of the world’s 10 largest companies by market capitalization are still headquartered in the U.S., and Wall Street is still the hub of global financial markets. The American financial industry supports millions of jobs, including accounting, finance and management roles.

In the late 1700s, when traders began gathering under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street in Lower Manhattan to trade securities, no one could have imagined the importance the financial markets would have over the following centuries. The highs and lows of the global economy since 1900 have largely depended on the strength of the American financial sector.

The financial services industry in the U.S. accounted for 7% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), or around $1.223 trillion in 2014. Nearly 6 million people work in this sector of the economy. The securities industry shows the greatest potential for employment growth, with a 12% increase in employment predicted by 2018.

From the Depths of Recession to Bull Market Expansion

Eight years ago, the U.S. financial system suffered its worst crisis since the Great Depression, with stock indices declining more than 50% from their 2007 highs and many major financial firms surviving only with the assistance of the government through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

Yet despite some gloom-and-doom predictions that the dominance of the U.S. financial system had ended, financial markets have soared from their 2009 lows, creating the second-longest bull market in history. Investors refer to “bull markets” as periods in which stocks are rising in value; “bear markets” are generally defined as periods in which the market declines 20% or more from a previous high.

Jobs in the Financial Industry – They Aren’t All in New York

While Manhattan remains the hub of the U.S. financial industry, you don’t have to move to the Big Apple to work in this big field. There are major hubs of the financial sector throughout the country, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Charlotte, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

In Southern California, Orange County posted the largest increase in financial sector jobs in 2015, with 1,900 new positions created. About 465,300 such jobs exist in Southern California, still below the peak of 544,300 jobs in 2006, yet an increase from the lows post-recession.

Banking Careers

Banking is arguably the most visible sector of the financial industry, employing more than 1 million workers nationwide. While bank teller roles are the most common positions, more than 150,000 people work as financial managers, who prepare financial statements, ensure institutional regulatory compliance, manage operations and supervise employees.

The largest banks in the U.S., by order of employees, are Wells Fargo Bank, JP Morgan Chase Bank, Citibank, Bank of America and U.S. Bank. All of these institutions, and many smaller organizations, have internship opportunities specifically designed for college students or recent graduates.

A federal loan officer speaks with a man who lost his home in Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

A federal loan officer talks to a resident of Louisiana impacted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Financial services careers are available in both the private and public sectors. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Asset Management Careers

U.S. asset managers help oversee the finances of 55% of the global retirement market. Jobs in this field include retail stockbroker and financial advisor positions. These professional roles generally pay well and provide good career paths.

Undergraduates interested in this industry should take statistics and accounting courses and consider pursuing an MBA degree for more opportunities in the field. Entry-level employees can start in sales, marketing, operations and trading.

Careers in Insurance

Nearly 2.5 million American workers are employed in the insurance industry, and California is the leader with more than 289,000 jobs.

Since insurance is a very paperwork and statistics-intensive industry, there are many entry-level administrative positions at all major insurance companies. Interested in sales? Insurance sales is also a good entry point, though a state-issued licensed is required.

For more on landing jobs in this field – from interviewing to résumé preparation – check out this Monster.com article.

Venture Capital Careers

The U.S. financial system created modern venture capital, and this field directly and indirectly employs millions of workers and powers many of the world’s leading corporations.

While there are many paths into venture capital employment, the two main categories are serial entrepreneurship and tech-oriented investment banking. With the emphasis on developing versatile startup models, the serial entrepreneurship route is becoming more common. People with entrepreneurial experience are especially suited for these roles, because they can identify the strengths and challenges of potential startups.

Mihaylo’s Financial Programs

Mihaylo College’s Department of Finance offers undergraduate programs with concentrations in finance, risk management and a joint emphasis in accounting and finance. Graduate students can pursue an MBA in finance.

Among the opportunities offered to finance students are the Applied Securities Analysis Program (ASAP), which involves the management of an actual investment portfolio, and networking and speaker events through the Center for Insurance Studies and the Real Estate and Land Use Institute.

Leave a Reply