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Careers advice for commerce students

James Davis

Commerce degrees are well-rounded, opening a lot of doors in the business world. We’ll walk you through some ways to figure out what careers might suit you.

If you’ve yet to choose a major, or are simply unsure of your choice, fear not! Much of any graduate career comes down to skills learned on the job. Your commerce degree, whatever your major, is likely to be a solid foundation upon which the practical skills are learned. All you need to determine is which career might suit you. The question is, how do you do this without getting some sort of first-hand insight? University classes don’t tend to provide students with insight into careers, unless internship units are baked into the curriculum. Seeking out those internships yourself, which we’ve written about here, is a great way to figure this out. In this article, we’ll outline four popular career choices, what graduate careers entail in these fields and skills required. Please note this is highly general advice; we always recommend looking into personalised advice from a counsellor on-campus or elsewhere for additional certainty.

Accounting

Accountants prepare financial reports, reviewing profit and loss, auditing, ensuring payment of taxes, advising new businesses and other activities dependent on specialisation. Generally speaking, accountants are the lungs of a business. They make informed efficiency decisions based on financial records and make sure best practices are followed. Day-to-day activities for an accountant vary between specialisations. Common to most are the preparation of financial reports, conducting investigations and preparing profit/ loss statements. Accountants average about NZ $53,912 p/a according to PayScale.

These careers require majoring in accounting. Acquiring CA or CPA accreditation is the educational goal for entering these professions.

Accountants need to be comfortable reading financial statements and interpreting data, but this isn’t all. Cyclical times of increased demand, such as tax season, can disrupt work-life balance, meaning accountants must be prepared to sacrifice for their career. If you’re good with numbers and thrive under pressure, this could be just the thing for you. If you’re looking for strictly a 9 - 5 job all year round, or struggle to interpret large volumes of financial data, this may not be for you.

Financial advice and associated services

Financial advisors can operate in several areas, from insurance and planning to investments and personal banking. They help clients make informed, personalised financial decisions regarding myriad financial instruments and strategies in compliance with the FMA. In addition to a keen understanding of these instruments and financial markets, financial advisors must be charismatic relationship builders. Variety of client needs can result in varied day-to-day operations ranging from analysis to client-facing tasks. Careers in this field are as much about relationships as they are about the nitty-gritty. Financial advisors average NZ $67,018 p/a according to PayScale.

These careers generally require majoring in finance, with a CFA, CFP or similar additional qualification being a great way to bolster your employability. The end goal is registration on the Financial Service Providers Register.

If you’re good with numbers but crave a meaningful, interpersonal component to your job, financial advice can be a great way to have both. Those who fancy themselves a bit of a salesperson will feel right at home. It also helps to be quite self confident, as in many cases commissions will be a significant portion of pay. If you’re not comfortable with this, you may have a hard time coping with the field. In addition, if you’d rather do calculations behind the scenes and leave client interactions to someone else, this may not be the field for you.

Investment banking

Investment bankers raise money to fund ventures. As with the other professions in this article, the types of work investment bankers do vary depending on field. Sometimes they can be specialised, while at others their duties are fairly broad. Generally speaking, investment bankers are looking to issue debt or sell equity in companies in the form of corporate bonds or otherwise. Connecting buyers to sellers is at the crux of the job, so charisma and is key. Investment bankers average NZ $77,419 p/a according to PayScale.

Majoring in finance is a great choice, but investment bankers can come from other majors and degrees altogether.

This isn’t a profession for the faint of heart, as competition for these roles is brutal and the job itself can demand ludicrous hours. If you see yourself as an ambitious, assertive salesperson who lives for the job, this could be your thing. If you value a work/life balance and don’t operate well under high levels of prolonged stress, this probably isn’t something you’d enjoy.

Management consulting

These professionals assist businesses in solving complex, multi-faceted problems. They utilise diverse skill sets to define, interpret, evaluate and issue recommendations. Working as a management consultant can take you all over the world, both in the public and private sector. Day to day life is almost impossible to define, as the type of project and nature of work vary substantially between projects and industries. They average NZ $82,403 p/a according to PayScale.

Management consulting, or any type of consulting for the matter, isn’t contingent on any particular major. Anything you do in commerce can be of use in a management consulting firm.

This is another highly competitive field with long hours, but the rewards can be well worth it. It requires well-developed problem solving, analytical and interpersonal abilities. Thinking outside the box is regularly required. If you're curious, ambitious and think you can break down complicated problems, this may be a career for you. If you’re not prepared to travel, work long hours and never really have a set-in-stone routine, you might want to consider something else.

Summing up

These careers are by no means the full extent of opportunities available to commerce grads in New Zealand, but they are among the most popular. To close things out, there are general precautions to keep in mind:

  • See a career counsellor in person. They’ll be able to take your circumstances into account and make a more informed career recommendation. You can use this article to guide questions you may wish to ask them.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you’re looking to be a management consultant for instance, make sure you’ve got skills for something else if you don’t get in. Businesses are always going to need accountants, for instance. If you apply and don’t get in, you’ve still got a solid degree behind you that represents a valuable skill set.
  • Learn all you can about these fields. We’ve given you a short primer, but drinking in all the information online will help you make a more informed career decision.
  • Feel free to give these companies a ring. They’ll likely be happy to answer your questions about life on the job. If they aren’t, no harm done.

That’s all for now! You should now be better acquainted with the opportunities available to you, what they entail and who they’re suited to. If you’re interested in getting stuck right into some graduate job applications, we’ve got a comprehensive guide to graduate jobs in New Zealand that’ll but you in good stead.

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