While many universities advertise fantastic careers their graduates land after completing a finance degree, the truth is that many financial careers don't require a college education. Credentials like on-the-job experience and licenses can be much more important.
Chike Uzoka, founder and CEO of Valentine Global, is a prime example of how you can land a financial career without a college degree. His career began when he joined New York Life Insurance Company by first obtaining his FINRA (then NASD) Series 6 and Series 7 licenses, as well as becoming licensed as an insurance agent. Eventually, Uzoka moved to Merrill Lynch as a financial advisor, a position that did not require a college degree. He did need an additional license, the FINRA Series 66 license. Each licensing exam required plenty of studying, but Uzoka was able to use practice tests and other study materials to prepare for the tests.
If you're focused on careers that let you learn on the job, becoming an enrolled agent with the IRS may be one of the best options to consider. Enrolled agents have the same standing in working with the IRS on taxes as a CPA or even an attorney. There are two paths to earning the enrolled agent credential: you can either work for the IRS (in a specific section) for five years, or you can sit for an exam administered by the IRS that is intended to demonstrate experience. There are a variety of other careers related to taxes that don't require college degrees as well, including tax preparation.
Banking has its fair share of careers worth considering. Many loan officers start with a high school diploma and move up with on-the-job training. Employers tend to look for previous experience with lending or banking for such positions, but it depends on the institution. Due to federal legislation enacted in 2011, loan officers are required to have licenses, which in turn, require 20 hours of coursework and a written exam. Loan officers have many opportunities for advancement throughout banking organizations, offering a path to many other financial positions.
Similarly, many insurance professionals enter the industry by becoming an insurance underwriter. Most insurance underwriters start as trainees or assistants, learning the ropes on the job, so earning a college degree first is unnecessary. It may be useful for advancement, but because continuing education is required for many of the certifications used in the insurance industry, you'll likely find that specific classes offered by industry organizations are more useful for a career in insurance.
There are a wide variety of accounting positions that can offer you a start. Many accountants start as bookkeepers or accounting clerks and build on that experience to earn accounting positions. Employers tend to give preference to accountants with at least some college, but provided you meet certain requirements, college is not required. You'll find the same situation with positions related to accounting, such as cost estimating or credit management. There are a variety of different credentials related to accounting, some of which require a college degree for completion.
The Bottom Line
It is important to note that you may be competing with college graduates for many financial positions, whether or not a degree is necessary for the job. That shouldn't stop you from going after such jobs, but it's a fact that you need to be aware of so that you can build a competitive edge. Provided you're dedicated to working in a financial field, you can build a career with a variety of jobs, whether you plan on going to college or not.