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What is Financial Advisor or Analyst?
Alaska is our most northerly state. Most may associate the state with snow, sled dogs, and summer days of endless sun. However, it's also a vibrant economy with a diverse, hardworking population. Sure, some of their favorite modes of transport may include snow machines and ski planes, but the urban hubs are full of banks, movie theaters, and retailers while the remote areas are full of mining, quarrying, and oil & gas extraction sites.
In fact, Alaska ranks 9th nationwide for its resource extraction industry. The state is also 28th for warehousing and transportation, perhaps due more to its ports than highway transport. The state's top industries also include business services, social services including healthcare, and real estate, among others.
A finance professional is a businessperson who focuses their work solely on the numbers that drive business. They see each part of the organization as having a numerical and financial value, which either helps or harms the bottom line. Financial professionals also work in more consulting areas including corporate finance, banking, and the broad world of investing.
Finance professionals work in a variety of business environments. Many work in banks, including non-retail organizations that conduct large corporate transactions, as well as for investment houses and accounting firms. Larger companies also may have finance departments that oversee business functions, such as in-house lending or managing their company's investments. They can also work as consultants who do thorough audits of a firm and help them achieve greater efficiency.
Finance professionals typically spend their days working on computers where they enter and analyze financial data. Some pull data from SEC filings from public companies but others use internal numbers as reported from various departments. They usually maintain regular business hours and work in offices but that may be changing now that many such professions are shifting to remote work.
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Online Finance Education in Alaska
Naturally, all of this economic activity is fueled by money. This means that there must be financial professionals on staff to guide the state's banks, corporations, and governmental agencies through times of boom and bust. Bookkeepers, accountants, financial analysts, and investment professionals are all part of a large financial picture that keeps the land of the midnight sun thriving.
To support the state's need for financial experts, the legislature helps keep Alaska's public institutions of higher education, including community colleges and the largest universities, fully funded and growing. When the colleges and universities are able to offer higher pay to professors, they can attract the very best for their business and finance departments.
While academic faculties strive to hire the best academic powerhouses from across the lower 48 states, they also look for local talent. Since Alaska is unique in terms of its population, geography, and economic make up, a local financial expert may be able to lend special insights on lessons for graduate and undergraduate students alike. After all, businesses in California and New York have very different needs from those in Alaska. While living in one, you may need to invest in solar panels and air conditioning, while in the other you might want to consider a back-up team of sled dogs and a cache of coal for winter fuel.
Finance opportunities exist at a variety of levels, so Alaska students should consider all their options and seek to chart a path to success accordingly. For starters, a community college student can study accounting and start a career as a bookkeeper. They may also be able to start a career in banking as a teller or in some other entry-level position. However, the real opportunities start to accrue once you earn a bachelor’s degree.
Students with bachelor’s degrees can study to become certified financial advisers or, perhaps with additional college credits, sit for the CPA examination. Others may prefer to work in banking or high finance where employers will certainly want to see a bachelor’s finance degree from an accredited college or university. Another option is to work in government, where matters related to tax revenues and tight budgets are very important.
Finally, an MBA in finance will ensure the best success for any Alaskan finance student. The financial C-suite roles virtually require the degree. An MBA can also open up opportunities to work for top consulting firms or to teach at the college level.
Online Associate Degree in Finance (AS)
This is a great degree to start out with. Finance students who supplement their learning with accounting courses can get started with an entry-level position as bookkeepers or perhaps in business management. Banks may also be interested in students with associate finance degrees. Further, an associate finance degree makes great fiscal sense.
This is because Alaska's community colleges charge far less per credit hour than most four-year colleges and universities. A two-year degree thus dramatically decreases the overall cost for a bachelor’s degree while requiring many of the same courses required by their larger educational peers. Those who graduate with an associate degree and go to work with a larger firm may be able to take advantage of tuition reimbursement programs which will render the remaining two years very cheap, if not free.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Finance (BS)
A bachelor’s finance degree is one of the best launchpads for a career in finance. With a four-year finance degree students can look for entry-level positions as financial analysts, bookkeepers, and more. Further, a bachelor’s finance degree can help students meet Alaska's requirements to sit for the CPA examination. Even those who are more interested in cutting corporate deals than filing tax documents will find great value in passing even one part of the CPA exam.
Bachelor’s finance degree students also have the opportunity to enhance their learning with additional majors or a minor in a related field. These days, financial experts rely on data so much that added study in statistics or computer science will be very handy down the road. In fact, some corporate finance experts have built careers solely on their ability to create computer models for the purpose of financial analysis.
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Online Master's Degree in Finance (MS)
A master's degree is increasingly important in the world of business, perhaps especially in finance. It's very common for budding corporate finance professionals to start their career with a bachelor’s finance degree and a two-year analyst position with an investment bank. Then they return to school to complete an MS in finance or, ideally, an MBA with a finance concentration.
For those who are interested in corporate finance, a dual MBA may be the potent combination they need to find great success. A JD/MBA makes students a double threat on the job market. This is because corporate finance is so reliant on law as well as finance. While those who enter the world of corporate finance rarely join their state bar association, their knowledge of the law will help craft the most watertight merger documents possible.
Online PhD Degree in Finance (PhD)
While few job descriptions require a PhD in finance, that may someday change. Since master's finance degrees and MBAs are increasingly common, finance professionals may soon return to a university to compete doctoral work in finance. It's also possible that non-finance PhDs may soon find their way into finance.
In particular, mathematics and data science PhDs may find increasing demand. This is due to the fact that stock trading and other financial activities increasingly rely on the best algorithms possible. Thus, financial firms will want to hire experts who are able to write the best code on the market. Given that this area is already full of brilliant minds, Wall Street firms will soon clamor for the most cutting edge financial and computer science researchers.
Furthermore, a PhD in finance will open the door to a second career, for those who desire a change. Universities will hire a PhD in finance to work as full-time professors in their business departments. While it is possible to teach undergraduate students with a master's finance degree, a PhD will enable professors to land the best full-time, tenure track positions.
Become a Finance Analyst in Alaska
Finance is central to any business venture. Without sound financing, no business can function. Thus, finance is a popular topic for many Alaskan students. On top of this, our media is full of financial wizards who have become household names. Warren Buffet and Bernie Madoff are two who brought the world of finance to main street America, for better or worse.
Young students who are interested in the world of finance may wonder how they might be able to rise through the ranks of the financial world and achieve even a fraction of the success that Buffet still enjoys. While there are many answers to this question, it's clear that students who get an early start may have the best long-term success.
One of the most important ways to form a foundation for a life of success in finance is to excel in mathematics. After all, finance is nothing if not a study of mathematical relationships. Thus, high school students should strive to get as far as possible with mathematics, including Calculus. On top of that, if their high school offers any business math or accounting courses, those should be given top priority. Students might also look into ways that they might augment their learning with online resources.
Online learning platforms such as Coursera or the Khan Academy offer mathematics and introductory finance courses. High schoolers in their third and fourth year might even pay a bit extra and earn a bona fide college certificate for taking the course. Even without a certificate, the added knowledge will help any student when they enter college.
All aspiring finance professionals should start looking for the best college degree program possible during the latter half of their third year of high school. They should seek out schools that offer a finance major degree program that will suit their needs. After all, not every program is broad enough to meet everyone's needs. They should also ensure that their desired program has appropriate accreditation.
At a minimum, any finance degree program should have a regional accreditation from a CHEA-approved agency. Most any public college or university in Alaska should have this, but those that hold credentials from AACSB, ACBSP, or IACBE are the best for those looking for the highest possible credentials. Those agencies are program-specific to business and are nationally recognized as indicating excellence in business education.
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Additional Careers for Finance Graduates
- Public Accountant:
This title indicates that the professional has passed all four parts of the CPA examination and holds state licensure to complete and file tax documents. Public accountants work for a variety of employers including accounting firms, corporations, banks, investment banks, and consulting firms. Those who are fully licensed may also establish independent accountancy firms and forge an entrepreneurial path.
- Financial Managers:
This job title goes to financial professionals who have years of experience in the field. Financial managers oversee the financial well-being of their firm. This includes assessing the firm's assets and liabilities including its equity positions and other investment vehicles.
- Claims Adjusters, Examiners, and Investigators:
The world of insurance relies on these finance professionals to assess claims against their policies. Claims adjusters seek to arrive at equitable claims settlements for their firm and their clients. They rely on their wider team, including adjusters, examiners, and investigators, to ensure that the claims are valid and not fraudulent.
- Budget Analysts:
Every project needs the best budget possible. Budgets help to dictate the parameters of even the smallest project. Government finance experts are perhaps most beholden to their budgets since they are typically working from a finite pool of money. Nevertheless, even private firms need to stick to their budgets. A budget analyst assesses every aspect of a project including personnel, materials, and time to create a feasible financial structure for everyone to follow.
- Financial and Investment Analysts:
Before any corporate body makes a major decision, they ask their financial team to assess the situation. Financial and investment analysts take a thorough look at the opportunity to ensure that the acquisition target is financially viable and that their firm can afford the purchase. In the case of mergers and acquisitions, they will review the financial statements of the target for the past few years as well as current quarterly statements.
- Personal Financial Advisors:
In order to build and maintain wealth, most people need a personal financial advisor to help them achieve their goals. Personal financial advisors are licensed professionals who review their client's accounts and help them structure their assets in such a way that they minimize their tax exposure while also maximizing fiscal growth. With the right balance of risk and prudence, a PFA can help their clients flourish.
- Loan Officers:
Banks grow and become powerful based on their ability to write the best loans. Loan officers are thus needed to ensure that the bank's credit customers are worthy of the funds they borrow. Loan officers who are able to work with customers and help them make the most of their borrowed funds are considered highly valuable to both the bank and the wider business community.
- Economic Analyst:
Banks and corporations increasingly value the work of their in-house economists. Economic analysts typically hold a master's economics degree and they continually monitor the local and national economy to thereby help guide their firm toward the best success. Those who focus their work on microeconomics may be more concerned with individual firms or industries.