Consumer banking might offer more career avenues than you think. Sure, you can opt for the standard customer service position, such as teller work. But your neighborhood bank branch has many other paths, including lending, sales and management. What's more, there's a job for every education level. There's just one catch: Employment in the field is growing slowly, so expect stiff competition for some jobs.
If you enjoy helping others, customer service can be a rewarding career path. Tellers are the public face of a bank, helping patrons cash checks, make deposits and set up accounts. With experience, you could advance to head teller. Head tellers set work schedules and deal with complicated customer concerns, such as account errors. Plus, they make sure other tellers have cash for their shift. If you’re more interested in staying behind the scenes, banks have service jobs in call centers, where customers phone in with account questions.
As a loan officer, you could help customers achieve their dreams. Officers go over loan applications and find the best loan for a borrower. Because loan officers bring in new business, a lot of their work involves building relationships with potential customers. Typically, you’ll start as a credit analyst and advance after one to three years. If you distinguish yourself as a loan officer, you can become a loan workout officer, selling bank-seized assets such as homes or cars, or helping consumers figure out how to pay late loans. Loan officers with leadership skills are often promoted to loan supervisor.
Consumer banks hire salespeople to compete for clients. Banks offer many of the same services as brokerages, investment banks and mutual funds, and they need sales professionals to rustle up new business. Some sales reps prefer to focus on building an account portfolio and maintaining relationships with clients, but salespeople can advance to sales manager, or even director of investment services. Banks are particularly interested in salespeople who understand product development or investment management.
If you like to look at the big picture, branch management is an option. Branch managers supervise operations, including overseeing workers, tracking sales goals and developing business relationships. Expect to begin as an assistant manager after a year of on-the-job training. Assistants manage customer service and monitor compliance with regulations. After three to four years, a bank may promote an assistant to branch manager, with responsibility for performance and service. As branch manager, you’ll be in line for promotion to regional manager in charge of deposit and loan growth among several branch offices.
Education and training can launch your banking career. For customer service, get a high school diploma, learn basic math and English and expect a month of on-the-job training in software and products. For lending, sales and management, banks prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, economics, statistics or business administration. Also, take courses in risk management, professional selling, human resource management and negotiation. University career centers recommend college internships, and many banks require grads to work as a summer associate before being hired as a full-time employee.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts below-average growth of banking jobs. The agency expects employment of financial managers to grow 9 percent from 2010 to 2020, compared with 14 percent for all U.S. occupations. Teller jobs will grow 1 percent in that period. Positions will shrink as branches need fewer workers to help customers, who are doing more and more banking online. Despite slow growth, big turnover should mean jobs for new tellers. Higher-level employees might need certification or an advanced degree.
- William & Mary College Cohen Career Center: Commercial Banking Career Paths
- Appalachian State University: Retail Banking
- Columbia School of International and Public Affairs: Career Opportunities in Banking and Finance
- Wake Forest University: Commercial Banking
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Teller
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Financial Managers Job Outlook
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Tellers Job Outlook
- Truckee Meadows Community College: Bank Teller Training
- Des Moines Area Community College: Position Yourself for a Career in the Financial Services Industry
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: What Tellers Do
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images