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Six Figure Jobs in the Financial Industry for MPA Graduates

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Chelsea Binns
July 21, 2015

Most MPA graduates assume they will have a job in the public or nonprofit sectors. However, the MPA is a versatile degree, due to the breadth of its curriculum. One career option that is sometimes overlooked is a career in the financial industry.

Jobs in the financial industry provide MPA graduates with both the opportunity to earn a lucrative salary and to achieve career satisfaction, all over the world.

That being said, two of the most common questions posed by job-seeking MPA graduates are: (i) What are the available jobs? and (ii) How can I find them?

What are the available jobs?

By way of definition, “financial industry” refers to the finance and insurance sector as defined by the Department of Labor, to include “establishments primarily engaged in financial transitions and/or in facilitating financial transactions.” The general activities performed are raising funds, pooling risk and providing specialized services, such as employee benefit programs.

This industry is poised for job growth. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected an increase of 10.6 percent in this category, or 1.7 million new positions, from 2008-2018. These positions are likely to include the “Hot Jobs in Demand 2015″ identified by the staffing organization Randstad, which are very well suited for MPA graduates, including human resources, office and administration roles.

Photo by SalFalko via flickr/Creative Commons

Photo by SalFalko via flickr/Creative Commons

The salary potential in the financial industry is strong. According to career specialists, Glassdoor, the average person with a “vice president” title in the New York area makes $144,080.

At any given time, there are thousands of available jobs in the financial sector. For example, in the top 5 firms, (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs) a search of each one in Indeed.com collectively yielded over 4,000 job openings in the New York area alone. When location was expanded that pool became even larger. For instance, an Indeed.com search for positions at JPMorgan Chase without narrowing by location, yielded over 4,000 results in that firm alone.

Of those positions, many would appeal to MPA graduates. Possible areas of interest include roles in anti money laundering (aml), business continuity/emergency management, compliance, corporate security & investigations, due diligence/know your customer (kyc), human resources, information security, legal and risk.

So how do MPA graduates decide which position is right for them? One way to narrow down the scope is to consider “favorite classes” in their MPA programs. For instance, students who enjoyed Cyber Crime, Forensic Analysis, Investigations, Policy Analysis, Project Management or Human Resources courses, will likely find positions involving similar subject matter in the financial sector.

Financial industry jobs are commonly found in global corporate offices and headquarters locations, in major cities like Manhattan. Yet there are even more opportunities for MPA graduates in suburban locations. In recent years, as reported by The New York Times, there has been a trend toward moving certain corporate positions to towns in Utah, North Carolina and Florida.

How can I find them?

There are many ways to find available positions. The best way is to go directly to the firm’s career website. When a job seeker is unsure where they want to work, industry job boards and Meta search job boards, such as Indeed.com or SimplyHired.com, are also good options.

The quality of the search technique is crucial. To get the best results, a job hunter should be tenacious in his/her approach, and use multiple keywords associated with his/her interest (investigative, investigator) and wild card searches (investigat!). To get an edge on the competition, these keywords can be used to set up alerts, which will send immediate notifications when new positions are posted.

Networking is also critically important. It can lead to countless opportunities. Fellow MPA graduates are ideal connections. The American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) offers great opportunities for recent MPA graduates to network at conferences, training sessions and other events.

MPA graduates that are particularly interested in fraud, investigations, AML, or related positions may also consider joining the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) and/or Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS). All of these organizations have local chapters, to allow recent graduates to network with professionals all over the world.

In summary, fantastic positions exist in the financial industry for MPA graduates. Upon receiving a coveted job, a recent MPA graduate will be glad s/he chose such a versatile degree program.


Author: Chelsea Binns is an assistant professor in the department of public management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is also the second vice president and training director of the New York Chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (NYCFE). Chelsea previously worked at Citibank and Morgan Stanley in Manhattan. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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