What it is

Also known as “financial services,” this field is about the management, investment, and stewardship of money and financial instruments. It includes banks, insurance companies, investment firms, credit companies, rating agencies, and foreign exchange services. Aspects of finance requiring PhD-level skills include risk calculation, securities analysis, equities research, and communicating about highly complex instruments, plans, positions, or strategies. Hours can be long and pressure intense, but salaries are good.

Starting points

A PhD could start as an equity researcher, evaluating companies related to subject matter expertise; a statistician, working with large data sets; or a risk analyst, calculating potential returns or losses and developing modeling for different scenarios. Most entry-level jobs will be in larger companies based in major urban areas, typically in the New York City area.


The field is highly competitive, even volatile, but it is fairly easy to make lateral moves once you get in, especially in your first few years. The very ambitious can advance into management, or you can gravitate towards smaller companies doing the type of specialized work you most enjoy.


Quants are well-utilized here! Mathematics and statistics are both great disciplines for a move into Finance; data scientists and computer engineers have strong chances as well. Other STEM disciplines have a shot too, depending on skills. The more quantitative data analysis and statistical modeling, the better.

Personality and outlook

If you have no interest whatsoever in business and find the making of money generally distasteful, this is not the career for you. Finance generally favors those with Type A personalities who are driven and ambitious. Those who combine strong analytical abilities with a disposition toward action and generating usable, valuable results, are strong candidates.


Take classes in business, economics, statistics and data science. Pick an aspect of the field and study up on it: read books, blogs, and related news sources daily. The ability to manage fast, wide, and competing streams of information is central to achieving competitive advantage in finance, along with the ability to separate signal from noise.

Real Life Examples