What Makes A Good Finance Student?

Before you decide to become a finance major, it would be to your benefit to perform a self-assessment of your skills and capabilities to determine your chances of success in the field of finance and if the careers a finance major typically pursues would be a good fit for you. The attainment of a degree in finance will require significant time, effort, and resources on your part. A self-assessment before you begin this pursuit to gauge your probability of success in obtaining a finance degree would be well worth your time.

Some of the characteristics necessary for successful finance majors include:

  • Strong math skills. Obviously, someone who makes a living handling other people’s money needs to be adept with numbers. The consequences of one addition error or misplaced decimal point could be catastrophic. Recently, the Dow Jones Industrial Average went down several percentage points in a matter of minutes because someone accidentally sold 1 million shares of a major corporation’s stock instead of 1,000 shares. While most finance majors will not be able to directly impact the value of a stock in such a way, the principle remains the same. If math has been a weak subject for you, you may want to consider either taking remedial math courses before beginning your degree program or considering a major other than a finance major.
  • Strong computer skills. The days of doing calculations by hand are long gone. You will need to use a computer in finance-related careers the majority of your working day, every day. Financial and accounting software is virtually all computer-based in the twenty-first century. If computer skills are a weakness for you, you will definitely want to consider taking some computer classes before beginning your finance degree program. Strong computer skills will serve you well even if you decide not to become or complete a finance major.
  • Ability to multitask. This is another skill that will serve you well no matter what major or career path you ultimately decide to pursue. A finance major typically takes more than one class at a time; therefore, you will have competing deadlines in your class schedule and it is your responsibility to make sure all class projects are completed to the best of your ability in a timely manner. These competing deadlines will only intensify as you enter the work force. It is virtually assured that you will be working on multiple projects at the same time and tight deadlines are commonplace. Common deadline bottlenecks occur during tax season and at the end of the year (because many companies have the end of their fiscal year coincide with the end of the calendar year, although other companies follow different calendars for their fiscal year).
  • Attention to detail. Finance majors must be detail-oriented. The example illustrated when discussing the need for strong math skills in a finance major shows why attention to detail is critical for success in this degree or profession. The misplacement of one decimal point can make the difference between showing a profit or a loss for a fiscal year. Profit or loss margins affect virtually every aspect of how a business is run. In the case of publicly held companies, it can affect that company’s stock value.
  • Analytical reasoning. Finance majors need to be able to figure out not only what things are happening with a company’s finances, they need to be able to figure out why things are happening the way they are. If finances are robust, they need to be able to offer recommendations for how to keep profits up. If things are not going well financially, they need to be able to figure out why the company’s finances are going south, what can be done to fix the problem, and how to keep it from recurring in the future.
  • Good verbal and written communication skills. This is yet another skill set that will serve you well regardless of your choice of major. It may be necessary to communicate what is happening with a company’s finances with other departments or with company management. People working in other departments may not have the financial acumen that a finance major does, so finance majors need to be able to explain financial concepts clearly, both orally and in writing, to people who may not have a strong grasp of financial concepts. Depending on the type of position a finance major decides to pursue after completion of a finance degree, oral presentations and written reports may be part of the job requirements. Both require solid communication skills.

If you have all these abilities and enjoy working with numbers, a finance major may be right for you.

Last Updated: 06/08/2014

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