Professor Marohang Limbu
WRA 130- 002
Project 3: Disciplinary Literacy
The Wonderful World of Finance
Imagine sitting in a desk when your phone rings. After picking up, you realize that the person on the other end is the superintendent of a local school district that wants you to set up a retirement fund for the school. Not only does this mean great pay, but more importantly, it will put you in charge of the well-being for most of the school’s employees after they retire. The decisions you will then make are crucial. With a degree in finance, this is just one possible scenario you could face.
Essentially, if you are looking for a career that utilizes math, communication, research, and decision-making skills, than search no further, finance is the path to take. If you are not fully sure yet, that is perfectly fine. Hopefully you will gain a better understanding as to what majoring in finance is all about after reading this paper. First I will talk about what finance is. Next I will detail what kinds of interests best support a student of this major. Thirdly, I will cover the curriculum that schools require in order to earn a bachelors degree in finance, and finally I will conclude with why studying finance is a good idea.
WHAT IS FINANCE?
Everyday, millions upon millions of stocks are traded on the New York Stock Exchange alone. Additionally, thousands of retirement funds, college funds, and mutual funds are opened up each day by a very diverse group of people. The science and craft of managing these investments is known as finance (“Major: Finance”). The Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State has a very thorough definition posted on their website:
“Finance encompasses business financial administration, management of financial institutions, investments, financial markets, and the management of risk. Business financial administration includes obtaining external funds in the money and capital markets, selecting and evaluating investment projects, coordinating the flow of funds from operations, and determining the benefits to be returned to suppliers of capital. An understanding of financial concepts and practices along with knowledge of the instruments and participants in the financial markets is vital to sound financial decision making”(“MSU RO…”).
While many people write off finance as simply playing the stock market to make money, they are just scratching the surface. In every organization, decisions must be made concerning what to do with money: should more money be spent on resources? Can a business afford to pay out bonuses to employees? Those who choose to pursue a degree in finance will be able to answer these types of questions (“Major: Finance”). Simply put, a degree in finance will provide you with an understanding of financial markets, which as defined by Michigan State is “… the environment within which corporations, financial institutions, and investors create financial assets and liabilities”(“MSU RO…”).
WHO’S BEST SUITED FOR THE MAJOR?
Entering college is a stressful time in one’s life. Students are quickly expected to make decisions on their career pathway, which can appear to be quite frightening. A swift choice in a certain field of study’s direction is not only best for the purpose of getting a good jump on earning the degree, but for economic reasons as well; college is by no means cheap. Furthermore, while one of Confucius’s oldest sayings goes, “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” it is not expected that everyone may “love” finance, but rather, this saying can be interpreted to mean “find a job that suits you best.” Finance is an area where having a specific set of prior skills can be astronomically beneficial when earning a degree. For those who are interested in the field, the best skills one can have are in the areas of math, communication, and problem solving (“Majors – Finance – Business”).
The most important of the three skills is math. Just the basics are necessary to be successful. The only math that is obligatory has to do with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division; all concepts learned many years ago in grade school (DeChesare). Furthermore, knowledge surrounding ratios and percentages will benefit any student of finance. A solid foundation in math is quite important in finance since, for the most part, the jobs that finance majors land handle large sums of money. Thus implying that math skills are essential. The best way to summarize the math ability most necessary for earning a degree is to be confident with handling numbers.
Experience with a multitude of communication techniques will also make the process of earning a degree much simpler. In a world that is continuing to become more and more connected each day, communication is becoming an art form. Whether it is writing an e-mail to an executive, or talking with coworkers face to face, both require charisma and skills of equivalent importance. Communication skills are imperative because clients can be lost if they are not properly communicated with; and lost clients equal lower profits.
Problem-solving skills is the last attribute that will benefit students greatly. These skills are developed over a lifetime. Starting with the simple times of putting together ten to twenty piece puzzles as a kid, to getting a difficult word problem in math, the process of confronting issues and getting around them as efficiently as possible has been building on itself for quite some time. Problem solving is a concept that is composed of a couple other skills put together. The first is the ability to analyze a situation in an unbiased manner. The second is to creatively come up with possible solutions, and the third is to make a decision. These three abilities added together can make an excellent combination for a student majoring in finance (“Careers and Employability Service”).
If exceptional knowledge and aptitude in these areas is proven in prerequisite classes, a student interested in a finance degree will apply to a business school, the home of finance majors. As a prerequisite to the business school, classes for freshmen and in some cases sophomores are generally a mix of traditional math courses, English courses, and economics courses. These classes are essentially starting blocks to any major offered in the business school, so many times they are a good way to judge whether you harbor an interest in the topic.
When the exciting news of acceptance into the business school is delivered, many students are unaware that they are not even halfway to the overall finish line known as a degree. Courses focused on the specifics of finance will begin to fill students’ schedules. Even if someone knows what specific discipline he or she wishes to enter in the field of finance, classes covering almost all areas must be taken in order to graduate. Such mandatory coursework includes classes detailing corporate finance, private investment, and investment banking.
WHY STUDY FINANCE?
In the modern world, where the global population’s standard of living is on an upward trend, those who major in finance and pursue careers in the field are increasing in value; simply due to the growing amount of financial services offered across the globe. In fact, as seen in figure 3, a 2012 study reported that the number of Automatic Telling Machines or ATMs per 100,000 adults has more than doubled in the last 8 years (“Financial Services…”). Most people from young to old and almost every organization from charities, to corporations, to the government, wants their money managed in a professional manner. By pursuing a degree in finance, students will be able to make a positive impact on others’ lives by securing their future funds (“Majors – Finance – Business”).
Apart from being genuinely interested in finance, earning a degree in the field is a wise idea for other reasons as well. According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for careers in business and financial operations is looking very bright. As seen in Figure 4, for the years 2010-2020, the average change in employment for all occupations is projected to be 14%, while the average change in employment for business and financial occupations is 17%. Clearly, the growth of the industry is not only positive, but it’s above average. Furthermore, one specific job that I am personally interested in pursuing, financial advising, has growth over the same period projected to be 32% ("Personal Financial Advisors."). While this is simply one job singled out in the entire financial field, it is a strong representation of many other jobs that a person holding a major in finance could land.
When applying for colleges in the fall of my senior year in high school, my intended major was marketing. This was mostly due to influences from my Dad, who at the time was a director of marketing for the Dow Chemical Company. However, over the course of the summer, I had many opportunities to ask questions to my Father’s younger coworkers. A few of which, went to Michigan State. Hearing about the jobs they were holding and what their majors were, I made the decision to change from marketing to finance. This decision is mostly credited to their influences, but is also a testament to my passion for mathematics and interest in understanding how financial markets work.
Finance truly is an art form. By studying hard in a well-recognized program, great success can be achieved by any well-motivated student. As long as he or she can rely on the skills of math, communication, and problem solving that they already have and continued to develop in college, good things will come. Between the job outlook in the coming years domestically and internationally, finance will be around for a long time. Additionally, the diversity of various jobs that can be held is quite extensive, thereby almost guaranteeing an interesting career.
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