Careers in Capital Markets

Many people find the mechanisms by which financial capital flows through the economy fascinating.  Turning that interest into a professional path may seem daunting.  Some research, however, will uncover a surprising variety of conduits to capital market careers.  A willingness to pursue associated educational and professional designation opportunities can put one on the path to sustainable, long-term career success.

What are Capital Markets?

For many, the words “capital markets” conjure images of Wall Street investment bankers feverishly trying to close multi-billion-dollar buyouts.  Another stereotype is the ruthless private equity professional stalking under-valued businesses or distressed assets.  Others may picture crowded trading floors, screens looming overhead, market information streaming steadily by as paper flies in every direction.

These are in fact examples of careers in capital markets.  They are colorful depictions of investment banks, private equity funds, securities trading firms, and hedge funds.  Careers with these firms are possible.  Competition, however, is very high.  Simply to qualify for entry-level consideration, one may need an advanced degree from an elite school, combined with extremely specific industry experience.  These positions are certainly worth pursuing, as the financial rewards can be extreme.

Career seekers may be unwise, however, to depend on securing such opportunities.  Most capital markets careers require a significant investment in time and money.  Focusing solely on a relative handful of positions could dissuade some from making a serious commitment.  Those interested in capital markets careers should be aware of the entire range of opportunities.

Attainable Career Opportunities in Capital Markets

The term Capital Markets actually includes all of the activities associated with the flow of financial capital between investors and borrowers.  While public perception centers on public securities exchanges and a handful of specialized investment firms, financial capital primarily flows through other channels.  These include:

Capital markets careers are in fact as diverse as the broad range of activities they encompass.  Developing a career in all of these fields does indeed require a commitment of resources to education and training.  Gaining relevant experience is extremely valuable.  These careers, however, are reasonably achievable for people dedicated to their professional ambitions.  Furthermore, they can be financially rewarding and professionally and personally satisfying.

A representative sample of capital markets positions (by sector):

Graduate Educational Qualifications

A traditional way to pursue a career in capital markets is obtaining an advanced degree.  There are a number of options.  Some degrees offer exposure to multiple fields, with less emphasis on a particular discipline.  Others specifically target a single business function, with highly focused curricula augmented by necessary supporting topics.  Many are also offered online. The following lists some graduate degrees well suited to capital markets careers:

Professional Certifications

Industry associations, regulatory agencies, and related bodies offer other official forms of recognition.  Specific designations are required to pursue a career in certain areas.  Others are not mandatory, but offer greater access to career opportunities and enhance career progression.  A list illustrating the range of possibilities:

  • CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst)
  • CPA (Certified Public Accountant)
  • CCRA (Certified Credit and Risk Analyst)
  • CRCM (Certified Regulatory Compliance Manager)
  • CSPL (Certified Sustainable Property Licensee)
  • CERA (Certified Enterprise Risk Analyst)
  • AU (Associate in Underwriting)
  • CFCM (Certified Federal Contract Manager)
  • CPCM (Certified Professional Contracts Manager)

Synergies often exist between education and certification.  For example, pursuing an MSF is an ideal path to preparing for the CFA designation process.  In some instances, degree programs directly incorporate certification training in their curriculum such as Creighton University’s Online Master of Investment Management and Financial Analysis.  Others include specific subsets of courses leading to additional academic qualifications.  Both graduate education and relevant certification can not only lead to formal designations, but also prepare students for immediate capital markets career opportunities.