So You Want a Career in Finance?

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Finance is the lifeblood of business. You can't have capitalism without capital. A career in finance puts you in the center of the action -- both financially and intellectually.

Opportunities abound. You could be:

  • Taking your internet start-up company public as the CFO

  • Advising CEOs on potential merger candidates as an investment banker

  • Helping clients send their kids to college as a financial adviser

  • Peddling emerging market debt on a sales and trading desk

  • Signing off on a set of financial statements as an audit partner

Cash is king. And if you're the King (or Queen) of the Cash, there is not much happening in the business that you're not right in the middle of.

Sound good?

Well, before you can cash that seven-figure bonus check and buy your house in the Hamptons, there are a few things you need to know. Becoming a Master of the Universe doesn't come without its price.

Doing well academically at a strong school is just the cost of admission. Once you get the offer is when you really have to prove yourself. The hours are long. The pressure is intense. As a junior analyst, the firm will extract its pound of flesh.

The stories about "all-nighters" where you get a couple hours of sleep on an office sofa and keep a clean shirt behind your door are not urban banker myth -- they are the reality.

As they taught you in Finance 101, there is a correlation between risk and return. There is also a correlation between hard work and return. If you're analytical, willing to work very hard and have a passion for cash flow analysis, a successful career in finance can be yours.

An Ivy MBA and a pair of highly polished capped-toed English shoes also help.