When it's time for college students to decide their majors, many go with finance or economics in hopes that it will lead to high-paying and relatively stable employment.

It's certainly true that there are career opportunities in banking, insurance companies, and accounting. There also are high-paying jobs in investment banks, hedge funds, management consulting, and private equity. You also could be considered for a job in the financial department of a corporation, a commercial bank, insurance company, accounting firm, or consulting firm.

Key Takeaways

  • Consider your real interests.
  • There's virtually no endeavor that doesn't need people with financial savvy.
  • The military, non-profits, schools, and government agencies are just a few of the organizations that need someone with your skills.

But there may come a time, at the start of your career or in mid-career, that you find that none of the above really appeals to you anymore.

You'll find that there are plenty of other places you can go with that degree in finance or economics.

When Finance Doesn't Suit You

If you're no longer happy with your choice of a financial career, first consider your other interests, even those you may have let go over time. Perhaps it was an art class, a volunteer opportunity, a study abroad program, or community activism that brought you experiences and interests well beyond the world of finance.

This kind of personal reevaluation is not rare among those working in finance. A high-stress job combined with a competitive job market spurs many to think again about their job choices.

That doesn't mean you should regret the degree that got you there.


Mohamed El-Erian: Inside Track

Non-Traditional Finance Jobs

Your set of skills is valuable in many endeavors well outside the financial world.

Consider matching your personal interests with your finance and business skill sets. If you think about it, virtually any endeavor needs someone on hand who has financial skills.

You might also consider switching to a new, non-financial role to get broader experience within your company.

You might also consider taking your financial skillset to another department of the company you already work for.

Below are several examples.

Move to Sales and Business Development

Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, recommends that every business professional undertake at least one sales job at some point. In fact, the novice who shuns a sales job may never be promoted beyond middle management. 

On a broader level, a role in sales, business development, or marketing can help you understand your company's products and get attuned to customers' preferences and sensibilities.

Look at the partners at investment banks and consulting firms. Most of their time is spent on client development. Hedge fund managers and private equity partners go on roadshows to raise capital and sell their investments. Executives of private equity shops develop relationships with intermediaries and investment banks that bring them deals.

Take a Chance on a Startup

In your search for career opportunities, you might come across startups with interesting products. You'll be taking a risk here, as most startups fail within their first five years.

In an entrepreneurial environment, you'll probably find yourself multi-tasking across administration, accounting, marketing, and strategy. Based on your personality, you might find you greatly prefer this to a more structured and narrowly defined role in a big company.

Be an Analyst or Associate for a Nonprofit

The nonprofit sector is always in need of financially savvy individuals. There are, of course, high-profile nonprofits like the Ford Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. And there are countless others that are in need of the skills you have.

Consider the causes and organizations that interest you most. Then go for it.

Teach or Volunteer

If you want to dip a toe in, you may find that your company offers sabbatical leaves to employees who want to teach or volunteer other skills to a charitable endeavor.

Or you may be ready to commit to a new career in education.

Sign up to Be a Military Finance Officer

The U.S. military has quite as much need for financial skills as the private sector, and if the pay isn't great the benefits are. Roles in the military include contract management, budgeting, and forecasting.

If you consider this option early enough, the military may help pay your education costs and guarantee employment upon graduation.

Later on, your military service will be a great addition to your resume no matter where you want to go.

Be a Government Financial Analyst

All of the major government agencies, both federal and state, have a need for people with financial skills.

At the federal level, financial experts dominate the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of the Treasury.