The asset management industry has a variety of different career paths. Depending on what asset management area you would like to enter, getting started may require an advanced degree and a considerable amount of work to earn difficult certifications, or it may require a simple job transition.

Asset Management for a Mutual Fund Company or a Wall Street Firm

If your goal is to be a portfolio manager for a mutual fund company or a prestigious Wall Street firm, a degree in finance or economics from an ivy league or other top-tier institution would be a good start. These firms are selective and generally only hire extremely promising graduates.

If you're later in your career, consider going back to school for an MBA with a concentration in finance. Even after you are hired, you may be expected to pursue advanced certifications such as the chartered financial analyst (CFA) certification. (For related reading, see "Preparing for a Career as a Portfolio Manager.")

Asset Management for a Local Bank Trust Company or Lower-Tier Mutual Fund

If you're happy not playing in the big leagues, you may be able to land a job as an analyst at a local bank trust company or a lower-tier mutual fund without getting an expensive degree. Over time, you may be able to advance to a true portfolio manager position. This offers an opportunity to learn the industry and see if it's a good fit. If you perform well, this type of company may assist you with further education or certifications as they become necessary.

Starting Your Own Private Asset Management Company or Joining a Local Financial Advisor's Office

If you're able to study and pass the required securities examinations, you can work as a financial advisor or support an existing advisor. This path is likely to involve selling yourself to increase the number of clients and amount of assets under your management. Further certifications would earn you a trusted reputation with your clients but are not required.

(For related reading, see "Best Schools for a Career in Asset Management.")