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Is it Important to Get a Job as a Banker While I Pursue My Accounting Degree?

bank employeeA degree in accounting is always in demand. Every business requires three detailed skills offered by a degree in accounting: (1) training, (2) expertise and (3) experience. The first two can be provided in school. It’s that last one, the dreaded “E” word that presents the biggest challenge.

What about banks? What are the advantages and disadvantages of working at a bank? Five things to consider:

The Industry

The banking industry underwent a massive upheaval after 2008. The results were catastrophic. According to the FDIC there were three bank failures in 2007, 25 in 2008, 140 in 2009, and 157 in 2010. Failures have dropped annually since then to 92 in 2011 and just 51 in 2012 just (13 so far in 2013.)

The industry has now consolidated and cleaned up and is more stable than it has been in many years. Federal laws changed the ability of banks to engage in risky behaviors. The cleansing was painful, but the industry is in a stronger position to grow and hire.

The Choices

Banking offers a variety of jobs for accounting students. We highlight some of the most popular jobs that provide great experience for any accounting major.

  • Bank tellers, accounting clerks and bookkeeping clerks: While these positions are simple, they require skills that are transportable for future accounting jobs. The pay may not be ideal, but the experience can outweigh the modest income.
  • Lending, treasury management, investment and insurance divisions: These positions enhance the experience levels for an accounting student because they mandate skills that are in demand. These positions require more general skills. They require marketing and sales aptitude, people skills, and communication ability to succeed. They need legal knowledge as the industry is highly regulated, but the employee need not be a lawyer. They want an understanding of finance and capital markets, yet the employee need not be an investment banker.

All of these positions demand that an employee gain experience in a team environment. Bank clients come from every industry, and the bank needs to be able to understand the wide variety of types of industries, companies and individuals that pay them. The choices for jobs are varied, and require many general rather than specific skills, thus broadening the range of experience.

The Demand

The demand for aspiring accountants is always high, particularly now. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Job Outlook 2013 Spring Update Survey reports opportunities for accounting students are excellent. The report reflects accounting as one of the most in-demand academic disciplines, with “51 percent of surveyed employers planning to hire accounting majors”. “It’s an especially positive report for students studying accounting,” said Dan Black, Ernst & Young’s Americas director of campus recruiting and NACE’s president-elect.”

The Supply

There are many applicants pursuing a supply of banking jobs that are fluid. The industry consolidated after 2008. There is always a need for accounting students, but the continued economic problems and lingering unemployment figures for the nation plague banks and make the prospect for consistent hiring of accounting students a moving target for all banks every year. In addition, the industry has become so heavily regulated that it has become almost nationalized, and thus subject to the whims of governmental changes.

The Reality

Banks offer the following excellent opportunities for accounting students: (1) accounting is a discipline in growing demand, (2) banks are healthy again, (3) they offer a variety of potential experiences in bookkeeping, retail, lending, treasury management, investment and insurance, and (4) banks deal with many different industries that warrant a broad understanding and expertise.

However, the following areas need consideration: (1) the experience is broad, so a specialized study of a particular accounting will not be part of the job, (2) banking has become a “de facto” nationalized industry due to heavy regulation, (3) and unemployment worries for the nation have not stabilized.

The Result

Choosing a particular field of accounting study is important. It’s not important that it be in banking, but if a broader enhancement and a generalized experience are sought, banking could solve the “E” word dilemma.