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What is a Finance Professional?
Kentucky is a state often associated with bourbon, horses, and horse racing. In fact, the state is the global leader for bourbon, creating 95% of the world's supply, and its Kentucky Derby is one of the top annual events in horse racing. Naturally, these sectors are all hugely dependent on a strong agricultural base. And, while agriculture isn't ranked in the state's top ten industries, manufacturing does lead the list.
Kentucky's manufacturing tops the state's list of economic leaders, with over $37 billion in revenue and a national ranking of 22. Kentucky's manufacturing industry is likely busy processing the state's agricultural products. For instance, most of the state's grains are processed into the liquor that is so famously Kentucky. The state is also home to major endeavors from Nestle and Kellogg, two of the world's largest food manufacturers.
Elsewhere in Kentucky's economy, industries such as real estate, social and government services, professional services, and wholesale trade round out the top five. While each of these industries is wildly different from the other, they do share some common traits. In particular, each industry needs finance professionals who can help keep the funds flowing. After all, neither Jack Daniel's nor Johnnie Walker would have ever made such a huge mark on our culture without sound financial management.
Financial professionals come in many shapes and sizes. Essentially, any businessperson who focuses exclusively on money is a finance professional. Thus, accountants and bookkeepers can be considered finance professionals. Then there are the stockbrokers, bankers, credit analysts, and investment bankers. Hedge fund managers and their staff are also in the finance industry, along with mortgage brokers and insurance underwriters.
Finance professionals seek to enhance the financial position of their employers or clients. Thus, they may be financial advisors who work with wealthy individuals, but they can also work in a corporation where they may oversee the firm's portfolio of real estate, equities, and other assets.
Thus, most finance professionals spend their time pouring over spreadsheets or the various charts and graphs that represent accounts, economic factors, or equities. Most financial professionals spend their days in office buildings where they maintain a very professional environment, though there are a increasing number of roles that allow work-from-home at least part-time.
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Online Finance Education in Kentucky
Kentucky's leaders recognize the vital importance of fostering new, highly skilled finance professionals at all levels. Even small horse farms need bookkeepers, while major distilleries need CPAs to audit their firm's books and even management. These two job sectors only scratch the surface of the demand for finance professionals. The legislature recognizes this need and ensures that state funded community colleges, four-year schools, and major universities all have ample funds to pay for the best finance faculty available.
Faculty bodies use the state funds to recruit financial minds to teach their graduate and undergraduate students. They look both for experienced professionals who hold a master's degree and PhDs who have published interesting and cutting-edge research. Those with experience and a master's can only teach at the undergraduate level, but their ability to relate financial theories to business in Kentucky will inspire young minds. They can also show how real-world experiences make innovation necessary.
Meanwhile, a PhD can help students grasp the loftiest concepts and formulas in the financial sector. They may even help their university by becoming research faculty. Tenured researchers attract grant money to the school and in return they provide their benefactors with the research they need to succeed.
Students interested in attending finance programs in Kentucky will have plenty of options when it comes to the best undergraduate finance programs in kentucky, not to mention the graduate programs available. Some of these options include Western Kentucky University, Eastern Kentucky University, Bellarmine University, Northern Kentucky University, Morehead State University, Murray State University, Asbury University, Spalding University, etc. There are universities in Louisville; Richmond; Lexington, KY; and many more.
Financial professionals are often considered elites of the business world. They work with very complex products that can involve difficult mathematical formulas. They also need top communication skills, especially those who become involved in negotiations, such as investment bankers or stock traders. Thus, degrees are a vital part of entering the industry. While some career paths, such as financial advisors, don't necessarily require a degree, the licensure exams are so difficult that most people need at least a bachelor’s degree as preparation.
For instance, to be a certified public accountant in Kentucky, students will need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a business-related field. They will also need to pass all four parts of the CPA examination, which is perhaps the most difficult professional test. Thus, a strong academic background is vital preparation for this career. In fact, most highly successful finance careers are built on an MBA or some other master's degree.
Online Associate Degree in Finance (AS)
An associate finance degree is a terrific way to start a career in finance. Though the coursework for an associate degree is mostly introductory, students will find that they learn enough to dive into their first entry-level position. Students or graduates might look for starting positions as bookkeepers, insurance adjusters, or a ground floor position with a bank. An associate finance degree makes good sense for other reasons, as well.
One of the advantages of pursuing a community college finance degree is the cost. Kentucky's community colleges charge far less on a per credit hour basis than their four-year peers. Finance students will appreciate how they can complete their first two years of a bachelor’s finance degree at such a low cost. After all, those first years include the core college curriculum, not to mention that community colleges tend to have smaller class sizes taught by fully capable instructors.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Finance (BS or B.Fin.)
A four-year Bachelor of Science in Finance degree is often the preferred degree level for most Kentucky employers. A full, four-year course of study enables students to dive all the more deeply into their finance education. Many bachelor’s finance degree programs allow students the opportunity to become more well-rounded with courses in other, complementary fields.
Finance students may want to add a minor concentration or a double major in accounting. Other options include mathematics, computer science, and economics. Indeed, adding a minor concentration or a double major can be a terrific way to help a resume stand out from the pack and further focus one's career path. These days, it's vital for students to find ways to enhance their resumes.
One great way to differentiate oneself is with an internship program. Most finance degree programs will support students who wish to gain experience with an internship. While Kentucky isn't exactly a hub of the finance industry, students could seek out internships in cities such as Boston, New York, or Chicago. Nevertheless, an internship in Lexington or Bowling Green can offer students valuable experience and contacts.
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Online Master's Degree in Finance (MS or M.Fin.)
Finance professionals should all consider a master's finance degree or an MBA with a financial planning concentration. The field is so deep that it all but demands a deeper knowledge to succeed. While some finance careers, such as financial advisers, don't really need a master's finance degree, they can still find great benefits from earning that diploma. For one, their clients will feel more assured when they work with an MBA or MS graduate. To take things to another level, graduate students should consider certain options.
A dual MBA is highly valued in the investment banking sector. There are many options for the second master's degree, but one very popular one is a law degree. Investment banking professionals who have both a JD and an MBA have a keen advantage when it comes to putting together and executing deals. Further, the credentials are sure to attract clients who want every assurance that they are dealing with the very best professionals possible.
Online PhD Degree in Finance (PhD)
A doctorate degree is not often pursued by employers in the business sector(s), but finance may be something of an exception. These days, finance is increasingly dovetailing with data science and computer science. Thus, a doctorate degree that focuses on the data science aspects of finance can be invaluable. Also, a computer scientist who can craft top algorithms may be in high demand on Wall Street. After all, much of trading is done by algorithms.
Another option may be a doctorate in mathematics or one of the hard sciences. A character in the film Margin Call was a rocket scientist who transferred into a finance firm. When asked about the shift, he simply explained that both fields hinge on numbers and that corporate finance pays better than rocket science.
Become a Finance Professional in Kentucky
Finance is one of the more popular career choices for young, business-minded Kentucky students. After all, finance is literally where the money is. However, the career path is not for everyone. Furthermore, it's vital to make all the right moves in preparation for a career in finance. For starters, it's important to identify key skills that will lead to success in the finance arena.
One of the primary skills for a finance professional is mathematical abilities. Every finance expert relies on complex formulas that they employ every single day. Thus, young students in high school should strive to take as many math courses as possible. If they can complete Calculus I or better, they'll be off on strong footing. They should also consider expanding their computer skills and gaining familiarity with Excel spreadsheets. High school students can also feel confident in taking upper-level science courses that encourage analytical thinking. Students who have access to courses in economics should consider those courses as well.
When it comes time to seek out post-secondary finance degrees, students should be discerning. They should look for finance degree programs that focus on the sorts of topics that interest them the most. They should also look for complementary courses or departments that can inform their finance studies. For instance, accounting or computer science can make for excellent complements to finance. However, other students may want to stick with management or economics for a scholarly option.
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The college search should always include scrutinizing a school's accreditation credentials. Kentucky's system of public community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities should all have CHEA-approved regional accreditation credentials. Students should also look to see if the finance degree program is accredited by either AACSB, ACBSP, or IACBE. Those are nationally recognized accreditation agencies who focus exclusively on business degree programs. Those who are eager to use their bachelor’s finance degree as a stepping-stone to a top MBA degree program will do themselves a favor by studying with one of these top undergraduate programs.
Indeed, finance professionals should all aspire to earning an MBA. While an MS in finance will serve them very well, an MBA is the gold standard. They should also strongly consider a dual-MBA program that pairs their business studies with a law degree. A JD/MBA is a very potent combination for those in investment banking.
Potential Careers for Finance Graduates
- Public Accountant
This career is one of the most esteemed in all of business. To qualify for this position, candidates need to pass all four parts of the CPA examination, a test that is considered to be one of the toughest professional exams. That license must also be maintained with continuing education units. Public accountants are licensed to sign tax documents, and they also are known to conduct audits of people and corporations.
- Claims Adjusters, Examiners, and Investigators
The insurance industry needs claims professionals who can verify the veracity of claims against their policies. This position does not necessarily require a bachelor’s degree, but candidates will need strong math skills on top of a high level of organization. Most often claims adjusters work from an office, but they sometimes visit sites to examine the information on a claim.
- Budget Analysts
Every sort of firm works on budgets to help contain costs and prioritize certain projects or parts of their business. Budget analysts can evaluate the firm's current pool of resources, as well as the long-term returns expected from any particular project. Many firms have quarterly budgets but may also have half-year or annual budgetary reviews. Budget analysts are also vital in governmental agencies.
- Personal Financial Advisors
Nearly everyone could benefit from a personal financial advisor who can help them or their family manage their finances. Many personal financial advisors work with wealthy individuals who need help managing their estates so that they can pass along what they want to their children or other loved ones. This is a licensed position that may not necessarily require a degree, but the testing is rigorous, so a bachelor’s degree is recommended.
- Investment Banker
These bankers work exclusively with corporations or very wealthy individuals. Their business often revolves around large investments including corporate buyouts, mergers, and stock offerings. Entry-level positions at the analyst level require a bachelor’s finance degree and those jobs typically last only two years. After the two-year analyst position, most go back to school for an MBA and then return at the associate level. This is perhaps one of the best-paid careers, but it's also terribly competitive and requires very long hours.
Actuaries are insurance professionals who study the statistical likelihood of various events. They use their actuarial tables to assess individual policies and determine how much premium is due and how much and what kind of coverage that pays for. This position requires a high level of mathematical ability, and many actuaries have a master's mathematics degree, if not a doctorate.
- Fundraising Manager
The non-profit sector is largely driven by fundraising efforts. Fundraising managers help to organize and manage fundraising events. For many non-profits, those events are things like annual charity balls, auctions, or simply mailings to past and future donors to their organization. Fundraising managers need to have a keen sense of marketing and a creative flair when it comes to devising new approaches to fundraising.