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Starting Your Career in Finance

Career Paths in Finance

There are several careers to pursue in the finance and investment industry. A career in the finance industry could include the funding and management of money for organizations (institutional finance) or individuals (personal finance). Here are some careers paths to consider:

Career Path Overview

Institutional Financial Analysis: for professionals who work in the field of institutional money management and stock analysis

Personal Finance: help individuals in a variety of areas related to personal financial planning, such as retirement, investing, education, insurance, and taxes

Financial Data Analytics: expertise in data science and its practical applications in the financial sector

Financial Risk Management: help businesses and organizations manage exposure to financial risk

Select a career path below that interests you to learn more about how to get started. 

Institutional Financial Analysis

A career in financial analysis in an institutional setting can provide a challenging and rewarding career.  The specific job functions of a financial analyst working in the investment industry will vary by job title and employer. Generally speaking, however, the role involves helping clients make investment decisions, constructing and managing investment portfolios and funds, and providing services that help organizations meet financial portfolio goals. 

How to Get Started in Financial Analysis

Step 1: Complete your bachelors degree, preferably in finance.

Step 2: Pursue advanced credentials.

Earning your undergraduate degree will help you enter the industry, but to truly advance your career in financial analysis, further credentialing will be advantageous. 

The CFA® (Chartered Financial Analyst®) charter Is one of the most respected designations in finance and it is widely considered to be the gold standard in the field of investment analysis.  Earning this credential is certainly a challenge, but doing so has been a defining moment for the careers of many investment professionals.

Read More

Earning Advanced Credentials

Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA)

The CFA charter is managed by the CFA Institute.  To earn the CFA designation, you will need to pass three exams that test your mastery of the program curriculum. These exams are split into three separate levels: Level I, Level II, and Level III.  They are quite difficult and there are many reasons why people don’t pass the exams

The entire program takes on average four years to complete, so don’t be discouraged should you not pass an exam on your first try.  A key to passing is to ensure that you aren’t going at it alone, and that you have a team of CFA experts on your side who can guide you through the entire preparation process. 

Read More: How to Prep for & Pass the CFA® Level I Exam »

Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst® (CAIA)

The CAIA charter, offered by CAIA Association®, can also provide a path towards career advancement in financial analysis. This designation is the global standard for professionals interested in managing, analyzing, distributing, or regulating alternative investments, such as hedge funds, venture capital, private equity, real estate, commodities, and natural resources.  

This designation addresses the realms of finance outside of traditional fixed income or equity products.

Read More


An impactful option is to earn both the CFA and CAIA charters.  Doing so will distinguish you with unique expertise in the financial analysis industry.  Not only will you have a broad understanding of investment analysis and management with respect to traditional fixed income or equity products, but you will also be able to offer organizations insight on alternative investments. 

As an added bonus for those who have already earned the CFA charter, you can bypass the CAIA Level I exam and the associated exam registration fee by leveraging the CAIA® Stackable Credential Program. 

Read More: What Is the CAIA® Stackable Credential Program? »

Common Job Titles & Salaries

There are multiple jobs opportunities for financial analysts in the investment industry, each with varying responsibilities and compensation. Your exact role will depend on your credentials and experience. Generally financial analysts have job titles such as:

CFA Charterholders

  • Financial Analysts 

  • Investment Analysts

  • Financial Advisors

  • Portfolio Managers

  • Research Analysts

  • Financial Consultants

  • Fund Managers

Read More: What Can I Do With My CFA® Charter? »

CAIA Charterholders

  • Investment Analysts 

  • Investment Managers

  • Investment Consultants

  • Portfolio Managers

  • Credit Structurer

Read More: What Can I Do With My CAIA® Charter? »

Ready to Get Started?

What’s most important in the pursuit of the CFA and/or CAIA charters is that you are efficient with your time and determined in your preparation. Ideally you want to pass each exam on the first try, so that you do not have to wait months to retake an exam and keep paying exam registration fees. 

By preparing for your exam with Kaplan Schweser, you can take the risk out of exam day and be sure that you’re ready to pass on the very first try. By pairing our team of CFA and CAIA experts who know exactly what it takes to pass either exam with study tools designed to help you master the entire curriculum, you can get a headstart on your career in financial analysis. 

University students who are participating in the Research Challenge can save 15% on their prep for the CFA and CAIA exams.

Save 15%

Or, learn more by experiencing the CFA or CAIA curriculum with a free exam prep trial:

CFA Free Trial

CAIA Free Trial

Another route you can take is to pursue a Master of Science in Financial Analysis, which includes coursework that is aligned with the learning outcomes of the CFA Institute’s CFA Program. You can earn a graduate degree while concurrently preparing  for the CFA exam. 

Personal Financial Planning

A career in personal financial planning is largely characterized as helping individuals manage their finances and plan for their financial futures. Here's how to get started: 

Step 1: Finish Your University Education

Finish your undergraduate degree to set you up for success in the financial industry. If you're looking to make a change, check out Purdue Global to find degree programs that prepare you to succeed in your career. Find a Degree »


Step 2: Start Earning Financial Licenses & Designations

Beginning your career as a registered representative/stock broker, insurance agent, or support staff in a financial firm will set you up for success as you begin a career in the financial services industry. Check out these resources to learn more:

Insurance Licensing Resources

Securities Licensing Resources

Professional Designations Resources

Save on Exam Prep

Each field requires that you to earn a license, and to do so, you will need to pass various exams. Kaplan makes passing these exams as easy and efficient as possible. As an added bonus, university students, who are participating in the Research Challenge, can save 15% on their prep. Visit our portal to get started. 

Or, try it for free before you buy:


Step 3: Build a Foundation of Credibility and Solidify Expertise

As you advance your career, specializations in areas of financial services will help you build your credibility and solidify expertise. Consider specializations in the form of professional designations in the areas such as asset management and retirement planning.  


Step 4: Become a Certified Financial Planner® 

Becoming a Certified Financial Planner® (CFP) is perhaps the most significant step in your career in personal financial planning. The CFP is earned by passing a difficult exam which is administered by the CFP Board. In 2020, the pass rate was just 63%, so it is crucial that you prepare with a proven exam prep provider. 

View these resources to learn more:

Try the CFP Curriculum for Free

Looking to learn more? Experience the CFP curriculum as well as the exam prep process with free resources from Kaplan. 

Try it for Free

Ready to Get Started? 

University students who are participating in the Research Challenge can save 15% on their prep for the CFP exam.

Save 15%

Step 5: Earn Required Continued Education Credits

Upkeeping your CFP® Certification and Insurance Licensure requires that you earn Continuing Education (CE) on an ongoing basis. Learn more about the requirements here: 

Financial Data Analytics

The financial services industry is being continuously transformed by the emergence of big data and machine learning. Earning credentials that establish you as an expert in financial data science can open a broad range of professional opportunities across all levels of an organization.  Here's how to get started: 

Step 1: Finish Your University Education

Finish your undergraduate degree to set you up for success in the financial industry. If you're looking to make a change, check out Purdue Global to find degree programs that prepare you to succeed in your career. Find a Degree »

Step 2: Begin Your Career in the Financial Services Industry

Before you earn a designation that specializes in financial data science, it is important to first get started in the financial services industry. Almost every position in the industry can benefit from an enhanced focus on data science, so there is no shortage of options to choose from to begin your career. 

If you prefer to work directly with individuals to help manage and maximize their finances, then starting as a registered representative, stock broker, or insurance agent would be good options. Check out these resources to learn more:

Insurance Licensing Resources

Securities Licensing Resources

Professional Designations Resources

Or, if you are more interested in managing the investment and financial risk of holistic organizations or businesses, then becoming certified as a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA), or Financial Risk Manager (FRM) would be the best first step. Choosing between these three designations is dependent on what kind of investment management you would like to pursue. Check out these resources to learn more: 

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Resources

Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) Resources

FInancial Risk Manager (FRM) Resources

Save on Exam Prep

Each field requires that you to earn a credential, and to do so, you will need to pass various exams. Kaplan makes passing these exams as easy and efficient as possible. As an added bonus, university students can save 15% on their prep. Visit our portal to get started. 

Or, try it for free before you buy:


Step 3: Observe How Data Science Impacts Your Role

After you have become certified and have begun your career in financial services, begin to observe how data science and analysis could help improve efficiencies for you, your customers, or your organization. Data science can be applied in countless ways in this increasingly digitized and data-driven industry. Realizing how these skills can be beneficial and gaining additional credentials can provide you with a unique competitive advantage.

This article can help you to begin identifying these opportunities: Applying Data Science in Finance


Step 4: Earn the Financial Data Professional (FDP)® Charter 

Becoming a Financial Data Professional® (FDP) is perhaps the most important credential for any finance professional looking to maximize their output by using data science. The FDP Charter is the first of its kind in the financial services industry and reflects expertise in data science and its practical applications in finance. Administered by, the globally recognized FDP designation immediately conveys that you possess an advanced understanding of data analysis skills in an increasingly data-driven industry.

View this article to learn how to get started: How to Become a Financial Data Professional®

Ensure You Pass the Exam

To become a FDP Charterholder, you must pass an exam and meet requirements set by FDP Institute®.  By studying with Kaplan Schweser’s FDP OnDemand Review course, you can ensure exam day success by reviewing the curriculum with an industry expert. Plus, university students can save 15% on their prep for the FDP exam.

Save 15%

Step 5: Apply Your Learnings

As a FDP Charterholder, you will possess an enhanced financial acumen and mastery of data analysis, which are skills needed to succeed in the financial services industry. By applying what you have learned to maximize efficiency and effectiveness in your role, you will advance your career and benefit your organization. 

Financial Risk Management 

Financial risk management is a critical specialty within the global financial services industry. It is the practice of using financial instruments and data analysis to identify the sources of risk, measure it, and develop plans to mitigate it.  There are multiple types of financial risk including: credit, market, operational, liquidity and treasury risk. 

Careers in Financial Management

Financial risk managers are employed at nearly every major asset management firm, hedge fund, consulting firm, and regulator in the world.  Financial risk professionals have titles such as:

  • Risk Analyst
  • Risk Manager
  • Credit Risk Analyst 
  • Market Risk Analyst
  • Regulatory Risk Analyst 
  • Operational Risk Manager
  • Chief Risk Officer

Read More:

How to Get Started in Financial Risk Management

Earning an undergraduate degree in finance provides entrée to the financial services industry.  To truly advance and establish a career in financial risk management, however, requires specialized training and experience.  
Achieving the Financial Risk Manager (FRM®) certification credential, is a proven way to fast track a career in risk management.  Achieving this internationally recognized professional accreditation provides evidence to employers that your understanding of risk management concepts per the latest international standards, thereby adding value to a firm.  
As the field’s leading designation, the FRM certification is trusted by firms looking to identify candidates with proven ability and experience.  Those with the FRM designation often hold managerial and executive-level positions.  More than 70,000 financial risk management professionals have successfully obtained the designation

Read More:

Earn the Financial Risk Manager (FRM®) Certification

To achieve the FRM certification, you’ll need to

  • Pass two multiple-choice exams (FRM Exam Parts I and II), and 
  • Demonstrate 2 years of relevant experience

There are two FRM exam cycles each year – May and November.  

Learn More: 

Get Started

As you consider pursuing the FRM certification, we recommend: 

Step 1: Decide if the FRM® designation is a good fit for your career.

Get advice from FRM professionals, who have successfully gone through the program, and see what it takes to succeed in the risk management field by reviewing the following eBook. 

eBook: Before You Decide to Sit for the FRM Exam

Step 2: Understand what it takes to successfully prepare to pass the FRM exams.  

Signing up for a free study package trial can serve two purposes to this end. It can help you get a sense of the breadth and depth of the FRM curriculum. And it can help you recognize the effort required to be successful on the FRM exams.

Read: How to Pass the Financial Manager (FRM) Exam

Get a Free 7-Day Study Package Trial

Step 3:  Recognize your study style and identify your preparation strategy. 

Read: FRM Exam Study Materials: Self-Prep vs. Guided Instruction

Sign up for a free study package trial to experience how step-by-step guidance with instruction and integrated study tools provide the edge needed to be successful on the FRM exams.

Get a Free 7-Day Study Package Trial

Step 4:  Select your study materials and start preparing for the FRM Exam 

Kaplan Schweser’s FRM experts have optimized exam preparation materials that have helped thousands of candidates like you pass the FRM Exam.  

If you’re going the self-study route, there are multiple options to select from:

  • Individual core study tools, such as SchweserNotes™ to master the curriculum and QBank for practice questions
  • Mock Exams that replicate the format, difficulty, and length of the actual exam
  • Schweser’s Essential Package, which bundles the core study tools and Mock Exams with step-by-step guidance

If you’re interested instruction with an expert, choose from:

  • OnDemand class
  • OnDemand review
  • Premium Package, which includes the class complemented by core study tools, mock exams, and a review 

View FRM Exam Part I Study Materials »