Making the Most of Your Entertainment Internship

If you're looking for a career in entertainment, your first challenge is going to be to get the experience you need to launch your career and still eat.

Careers in film, music, radio, and television typically start with internships—and few of these pay. Those that do won't begin to cover even the most basic costs of living. Why put up with that?

Even if you're not looking to host Saturday Night Live or cut a platinum album, you'll find that entertainment is a sexy industry, and there's lots of competition for the supporting behind-the-scenes roles. The internship is where many a company executive started on the road to money and glamour in one of the most creative industries around.

Still interested? Here's what you should know:

How to Find the Internship
The larger entertainment companies have job hotlines. Call the company's main switchboard and ask for the internship hotline. If they don't have one, ask for the internship coordinator, who can get you the skinny on the opportunities and what you need to do to get them.

Big companies such as Sony and Universal hire between 50 and 150 interns every season. You'll have better luck finding an internship if you look for one in the off-season—spring or fall—as opposed to summer, when there are more people vying for the spots.

The best way to land an internship, however, is probably through networking. One enterprising insider, Stefanie Cohen, landed her internship after talking to a guest lecturer at her college who worked for MTV. He gave her the names of people to contact—and these proved to be the stepping-stones to her internship at VH1, which, like MTV, is owned by Viacom. She then parlayed that experience into an internship at MTV, the place where she ultimately wanted to work.

How to Land the Internship
Opportunities in this industry vary widely, including interactive, artists and repertoire (A&R) (a music-industry function), copyright, distribution, postproduction, and publicity.

If you know where you want to work in a company and make your objective clear when applying, you'll have a much better shot at getting the job you want. If you can show you've got a passion for the work through classes or extracurricular activities related to it, that will help you land the internship.

Finally, mind the deadlines and application procedures. If you blow those, you're going to end up selling tickets to movies rather than helping make them.

Know What You're Getting Into
Interns do a lot of grunt work, so be ready for it. "We have problems with students who come in and complain," says Lindsay Sayles, the internship coordinator for Mercury Nashville, a country-music record label. "A lot of the work is really menial."

Some argue that interns are an exploited class, but if you're going to get in this door, grin and bear it. Sometimes you'll learn from the experience, other times you'll just be getting lunch. "There's a lot of on-your-feet work, so many people asking you to do things at the same time," says Cohen. "Always, always be willing to do things for other people."

Make the Most of the Drudgery
Absorb everything you can on the job: Ask questions, observe how others do things, and talk to people. "We give interns so much photocopying and mailing to do, but they just don't read what they're looking at," Sayles says.

Says Sabrina Tubio-Cid, a production associate in MTV's on-air promos department, "It's easy to be a bad intern by being lazy. You need to show that you're interested in the work you're doing. Ask for stuff to do. Check in with people throughout the day. Be more outgoing. Being timid is no good. You have to realize that you're there to get something out of it."

Use the Internship to Network
Besides experience, interns gain the contacts that will help them land jobs after the internship ends. Collect business cards from everybody you meet. You never know who could help you get a job later on. Once you're in the industry, you'll find that moving ahead is about who you know, who those you know know, and who you end up knowing.

Internships are what you make of them—and what you take away from them. In the entertainment industry, you won't make much money, so you need to make sure you're getting the experience you need to land a job later on. And that experience is something money can't buy.

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Journalism & Publishing

Industry Overview

Extra, extra, read all about it! This just in: The publishing world continues to take a beating. Print publications have suffered for years as more and more people turn to television, radio, and the Internet as news and information sources. Stagnating print readership has prompted advertisers to spend their dollars with electronic outlets, leading many newspapers and magazines to operate with pared down staff.

In some ways the publishing and journalism landscape is strangely unchanged. A free press remains the backbone of our government. Books, newspapers, and periodicals continue to entertain, educate, and bring us the news we need to be informed citizens. They are an outlet for critical thinking—informed and otherwise.

The industry is overwhelmingly centered in New York City. Mass-market book publishing resides in a decreasing number of large corporations, some of them parts of giant worldwide entertainment conglomerates. Each of them publishes under many imprints, the publishing world's term for brands. Academic and scholarly books are mainly produced by publishing houses connected to universities. There is also a huge market for technical books for almost all occupations, from bricklayers to software engineers.

Many mass-market magazines such as Time, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair are also published in the Big Apple. So are many of the special-interest magazines published by outfits such as Hachette Filipacchi (Woman's Day, Elle, Car and Driver, and Metropolitan Home).

However, while many of the thousands of trade magazines are also published in New York, a good number are published in the centers of their respective industries: Variety is published in Hollywood, and numerous computer magazines are published in and around Silicon Valley by companies such as CMP Media.

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Entertainment & Sports

Industry Overview

With the rise of the Internet and other new communications technologies, the field of entertainment is increasingly difficult to define. In this profile, we’re talking about film, television, and music, as well as sports—each a form of entertainment raking in millions of dollars. The first three of these businesses are dominated by enormous, vertically integrated companies such as Sony, Time Warner, and Walt Disney, which have interests in multiple segments of the industry. But there are also thousands of jobs in the entertainment industry at smaller, less corporate companies—film and television production or distribution companies, for instance, and small independent record companies, talent agencies, and management companies. Similarly, pro sports is dominated by the four biggest spectator sports—baseball, football, basketball, and hockey—but there are many other sports out there with varying degrees of business sophistication, and even at the Big Four there are numerous, albeit unglamorous and low-paying, jobs in minor-league outfits.

In entertainment and sports, the profits come from discretionary spending, so these industries enjoy the most success in economically stable countries where leisure dollars flow freely. Industry companies supply their audiences with large-scale sporting events, music concerts, TV situation comedies, and silver-screen masterpieces. Simply put, they're in the business of fun.

Even during economically depressed periods, this industry flourishes as an escape from hard times—for all walks of life. And standing at the pinnacle of entertainment culture are the celebrities: the movie stars and quarterbacks and rock stars and talk-show hostesses who seem to realize our dreams and thereby give us hope. This is the only industry whose product is an illusion—neither a good nor a service, and yet both at the same time.

The culture in this industry is one of anti-corporate, studied casualness. There are still uniforms—an ever-changing array of baseball caps and jackets in the music business, for example. But they're invariably less starchy, more expressive of individualism, than anything worn to work in the fields of finance or law. The people? Well, there's no people like show people, and the sports world has even more pep. This is a high-energy crowd. It's also a big-ego crowd, and working with its members can be both stimulating and frustrating.

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Editorial and Writing

Career Overview

Although many of us are writers and editors in our everyday life—correcting the spelling on a memo, questioning the insight of a newspaper reporter, writing emails—not everyone is suited to turning communication into a career. But the field is perfect for you if you possess an ongoing engagement with language and a keen desire to communicate ideas to people effectively and efficiently. Careers in this industry vary widely: The subject, length, and style of what you write or edit are variables that depend on where you work and the position you've chosen.

What You'll Do
Writers tell stories. Business writers tell stories about companies and their management teams, organizational structures, and economic successes and failures. Feature writers tell stories about celebrities, movies, and people doing different, sometimes unusual, things. Copywriters use language to convey a story about the benefits of a brand or product. Writing almost always requires research or knowledge about a particular subject. While many writers start out as generalists, in the course of reporting or writing a story, they must become experts.

Editors often start out as writers, and in many cases their role involves substantial writing. However, their role also bridges the space between writer and publication. They help writers craft stories, make sure writers adhere to style guidelines and rules of grammar, and ensure that every article is suitable for a particular publication. Editors straddle management and production, often managing writers and budgets, setting deadlines, scheduling what will run and when, and enforcing general editorial standards of quality.

Varieties of Opportunity
Editorial and writing careers span industries. Advertising agencies hire copywriters to create compelling copy that will sell readers on a brand. PR agencies use writers to create press releases, write annual reports, draft speeches, and create op-eds (opinion pieces that PR firms try to "place" in newspapers to reach target groups). Computer software and hardware companies use technical writers and editors to develop documentation and technical information on software and hardware products.

Who Does Well
Editors and writers need to have a strong command of language. You'll need to understand its rules—and when to break them. Writers and editors should be curious and resourceful, able to find information, synthesize it, and explain it. While some writing is highly persuasive, writers and editors should be able to look at a subject objectively. You will be required to interpret the facts you find, and the best approach to those facts is with an open mind.

An ability to organize language and think critically and a desire to communicate to others are critical skills. A good sense of how to tell a story is also important, as is a mastery of the form in which your work appears.

Most jobs require both writing and editing skills, though people generally start off in a role more primarily writing-based or editing-based. As a truism goes, all good editors are writers, and all good writers are editors.


Most writing and editing jobs require a college degree in journalism, communications, or English. If you're interested in technical writing, you'll need a good understanding of whatever technical subject you're writing about.

Gaining experience as a writer is essential. The way to gain experience is through internships—most papers, including local dailies and alternative weeklies, and many websites, offer them—as well as by working at your school paper, or freelancing for whatever publications are around. Copyeditors can start by copyediting for nonprofit groups' free publications—newsletters for an arts organization, for instance.

Newsrooms can be chaotic; reporters should be able to deal with confusing environments. If you're working online, you should know HTML and other computer-oriented programs. All writers and editors should know the basic word processing programs such as Microsoft Word.

Knowledge of grammar, language, and narrative (storytelling) are essential skills. Writers must be able to conduct research. They need to be strong proofreaders. Editors need tact; when dealing with writers, and sometimes with production staff, they should be able to express clearly what they're looking for.

Writers and editors also need a number of softer skills. Interviewing skills are critical to many roles. Writers are typically curious and interested in a broad range of topics. Self-motivation is important. Creativity in both finding information and telling a story are useful. If you're interested in technical writing, you'll need a good understanding of whatever technical subject you're writing about.

Editors and writers can find plenty of opportunities in traditional media. Many go on to work in broadcast communications, especially radio and television. Some write books. Many journalists shift over to a career in advertising or public relations, where they work on developing stories or publicity favorable to clients. Writers and editors often go into education. Some work as copywriters, a marketing or advertising function. Writers with technical knowledge can often find lucrative work in technical writing.

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of writers and editors should increase at a slower than average rate through the next decade. And competition for these scarce writing and editing jobs will be stiff. Jobs at local newspapers and broadcast communications in smaller markets are easier to find than those in larger markets.

Similarly, those who have experience in and/or uncommon knowledge about a specific industry, such as telecommunications, may find it easier to land a job at a niche publication than at a major-market publication with national cachet. Jobs continue to grow in the magazine and periodicals markets as publishers are increasingly appealing to readers with special interests in niche markets.

Career Tracks

A writing and editing career generally starts with a position as an intern, editorial assistant, proofreader, or fact-checker. Many writers start out contributing on a freelance basis to local newspapers or websites, or by writing for school papers. Once they've accumulated a number of articles—called "clips"—they use them the way a graphic designer uses a portfolio to get hired.

Career tracks vary somewhat in book publishing, newspaper publishing, and website publishing, as do the skills, but the roles have similarities. The ensuing categories do not include a comprehensive list of job titles, but cover the key editorial and writing careers within print and online publications. Similar nomenclatures typically exist in editorial and writing departments in other industries.

Editorial Assistants/Coordinators
People who hold these positions do whatever other writers or editors won't or can't do, whether that means fielding general inquiries from the public or providing PR for editorial or administrative staff. In exchange, they take on increasing editorial responsibilities the longer they stay—editing certain columns, handling overflow from the copy desk, or assisting editors and reporters. If they do those tasks well, they're eventually promoted to more senior editorial positions.

These detail-oriented watchdogs work closely with text, paying meticulous attention to style, grammar, and consistency. Their responsibilities vary from publication to publication. Some are glorified proofreaders, searching merely for typos and errors in punctuation. Others are expected to identify large-scale problems and suggest solutions. Many write headlines, captions, or Web content.

Copyeditors use reference books such as the Chicago Manual of Style (the source of "copyeditor" as one word) and the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual, often in conjunction with an in-house style guide. It's not necessarily a job for those who thrive on variety—most copyeditors do pretty much the same thing all day, every day—but there's no better way to learn a publication's nuts and bolts.

Writers and Reporters
This huge category includes everyone from newspaper beat writers to novelists. The journalist does most or all investigative work through phone calls, face-to-face interviews, travel, or Internet research. Typically, journalists cover a beat or a main subject of interest. You get to be out and about in the community, not sitting behind a desk every day. Your name is in print repeatedly, which could help the drug dealers you exposed find you, but you'll get the glory and byline for your stories. Many writers go on to opinion-page roles; others write in increasingly sophisticated forms—essays, books, and novels.

Managing Editors
If you're torn between a career as an air-traffic controller and a therapist, this may be the job for you. Occupying an editorial department's busiest intersection—where commerce and creativity collide—managing editors oversee the ebb and flow of ad and editorial space, study market trends and reader surveys, and create budgets. They soothe editors' and writers' egos, resolve conflicts, create schedules, and enforce deadlines. In some cases they hire and fire writers. They also make sure that what's written gets through production—on tight deadlines. On top of all that, most managing editors edit content in some capacity, and many help determine a publication's general editorial direction.

Associate Editors/Section Editors
These executive-editors-in-training work directly with writers and assistant editors, often overseeing a particular section of a publication. If a lead's not catchy or a story's not cohesive, the editor spots it and fixes it. Most associate editors spend less time editing and writing than they do tracking down late manuscripts, finding and hiring freelancers, and e-mailing back and forth with writers.

Executive Editors and Senior Editors
Executive editors and senior editors typically set editorial policy, write opinion pieces, and manage teams of editors. As with all types of editing, the foundation is writing—most executive editors got started in writing. You might think of them as violinists who've become conductors. They oversee the content and intervene to enforce quality standards and style rules when necessary. They also plan budgets, set deadlines, and watch market trends.

Technical Writers
Technical writers transform technical mumbo-jumbo into logically organized, easy-to-read text that's precise and exact. Technical writers typically develop instruction manuals, training guides, and how-to pamphlets or edit technical reports and oversee the preparation of illustrations, diagrams, and charts. Think of the handbook that came with your PC—that's technical writing in action.

Science and medical writering is a subset of technical writing, and includes preparing formal documents on the physical or medical sciences. For all types of technical writers, clarity and accuracy are valued above lively or engaging writing. This growing field promises to provide the most opportunities in the industry, particularly if you have expertise in medicine, economics, or technology.

In exchange for their freedom, freelancers take on an extra job: finding work. Freelancers must be able to pitch ideas and schedule their time. In exchange, they can work at home, cozy in their bathrobes, but they must be able to create their own structure and be comfortable working outside of an office. Office romances are pretty much out the window.

Other Writing and Editing Careers
Editors work under a variety of titles. Developmental editors work on longer manuscripts, such as books, helping the writer fulfill the publishing house's idea of what a book should be. Acquisitions editors often work in a developmental role, finding appropriate writers or manuscripts to publish. The editor in chief often has the final say on what gets published.

Salaries for those in writing and editorial roles vary widely. Small-market publications pay far less than big-market publications. Business writers and others with special knowledge about an industry or technology in general will make more than feature writers or general assignment reporters, who are doing the work that more people are interested in doing.
  • Copywriter: $32,000 to $50,000
  • Senior Copywriter: $50,000 to $85,000
  • Editor: $35,000 to $63,000
  • Senior Editor: $63,000 to $98,000
  • Reporter: $25,500 to $33,000
  • Senior Reporter: $39,500 to $62,000
  • Technical Writer: $36,000 to $50,000
  • Senior Technical Writer: $52,000 to $84,000
  • Web Writer: $32,000 to $84,000
  • Proofreader: $29,000 to $42,000

Editorial and Writing Job Listings
Acquisitions Editor
Developmental Editor
Editor in Chief
Editorial Assistant
Executive Editor
Managing Editor
News Writer
Section Editor
Technical Writer


Career Overview

We all know the faces and voices of the most famous people working in broadcasting: the Katie Courics, Anderson Coopers, and Howard Sterns of the world. But for each one of these media darlings, there are hundreds of relatively anonymous broadcasters working more niche or regionally focused broadcast outlets. There are also hundreds of other folks who work behind the scenes, doing things like producing broadcast segments, writing broadcast scripts, operating cameras and other equipment, and applying makeup to broadcasters before they go on the air.

What Broadcasting Is
From world news to local high school sports reporting to the countdown of the top music videos on cable TV, broadcasting generally encompasses any audio or visual programming that is disseminated to a large number of radio or television receivers. Although that definition could be expanded to include Web-based media outlets, this career profile focuses on opportunities in radio and television news production and station management.

What You'll Do
Broadcasting is a lot like other entertainment sectors. At the end of the day, the success of a broadcast outlet like a TV or radio station depends on its ability to entertain its audience, satisfy its audience's hunger for information, or both.

Announcers, producers, directors, and everyone else must work together to tailor a station's programming to attract the largest possible audience, which in turn attracts advertising revenue or, in the case of nonprofit stations, public funding and support. In smaller markets, stations may also be responsible for producing ads.

Who Does Well
If you want to work in broadcasting, it helps to have a background in journalism, communications, or production, depending on the position you're after. But talent and skill alone may not be enough to succeed in broadcasting—it takes a certain amount of business smarts and determination to become the next Peter Jennings or Ted Turner, not to mention serendipity and star quality.

In truth, the glamour jobs in broadcasting are few and far between, and the competition for entry-level jobs is fierce. Many jobs in fact are unpaid internships, and even permanent positions don't often pay very well, and require grueling hours. If it's money you're after, you might have more luck teaching in a public school.

Those with more realistic goals, however, can find creative and engaging careers in broadcasting. Not everyone in the business gets the chance to interview the president, but many more are satisfied by the opportunities to speak with local political figures, produce new programs and commercials, and get intimately involved in their communities.


In the end, talent drives the broadcasting industry. The bottom line is being able to attract an audience and do whatever it takes to keep it tuned in.

Consequently, employers often couldn't care less where you studied or how well you did on your English papers in college. Rather, they want to know how well you can perform under pressure and whether you bring fresh ideas and an ability to think creatively to the table. As in other talent-driven professions, a portfolio of solid work and hard-earned experience usually outweighs formal schooling.

That's not to say that formal education doesn't matter. Getting a degree in communications or journalism from a university, or a broadcasting associate's degree from a technical school, can provide that crucial level of base skills needed just to land an interview. This is especially true for people interested in pursuing news-related careers within broadcasting, where a strong journalism background is the norm.

However, unlike the career path set out for doctors, certified public accountants, or public schoolteachers, there's nothing that says you even have to go to school to work in broadcasting.

Regardless of your background, it's imperative to build a portfolio as quickly as possible, whether it's a demo tape of a mock broadcast put together during class or samples of the show you hosted for your college radio station.

Due to the talent-driven nature of the broadcasting industry, landing a job at a larger station in a major metropolitan area without any experience is next to impossible. Rather, most inexperienced job seekers start at smaller stations in rural areas or small towns to get the experience they need to work their way up the ladder. Unpaid internships are an extremely common means of entry.

Even the superstars of broadcasting almost always come from humble beginnings. Tom Brokaw, for instance, started his career at the age of 15 at a small local radio station in South Dakota.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth in broadcasting is projected to grow more slowly than job growth overall between 2004 and 2014. That, plus ongoing heavy demand for jobs in this field, means it will continue to be difficult to build a career in broadcasting. Industry consolidation, the increased use of syndicated content, and the substitution of technology for skilled labor will put downward pressure on job growth in broadcasting careers.

However, there are some areas with better career possibilities in broadcasting. Camera operation is a bright spot in terms of job growth, with growth expected to outpace average job growth across all industries. And the digital revolution makes it extremely difficult to predict the shape of broadcasting moving forward. Already we're seeing the movie and book businesses undergoing changes, as moviemakers and authors who would have been unable to get their work to the screen or between the covers in the past use cheaper digital technology to make their voices heard. With so many cable TV channels out there, and so much programming time to fill, there may be room for would-be broadcasters to get their work on the air without having to go through traditional production channel.

Fast-growing geographic markets should also see better-than-average broadcasting job opportunities. Metropolitan areas like the Las Vegas, Phoenix, and other locations should see especially strong growth in broadcasting career opportunities as they expand.

Career Tracks

At smaller stations, broadcast professionals usually wear more than one hat. For instance, a single announcer might pull reports off the news wire, write his or her own scripts, and help develop the advertisements, and then deliver it all on the air. At larger stations, however, there's a higher degree of specialization (which staff members at smaller stations might call pampering).

On-Air Announcers
Announcers are the public personae of broadcasting. They tell the audience what will be presented, read the news and weather reports, open and close programs, introduce and read commercials, and sometimes moderate panel discussions or interview guests.

At music-formatted radio stations, announcers are usually called disc jockeys and provide commentary between songs. At television stations, announcers are often hired as hosts for variety and talk shows.

In the context of broadcast news, announcers read and coordinate the delivery of news reports. Both national and local television stations hire news anchors to deliver the morning and evening news. News reporters are involved not only with researching and writing stories, but also with their on-air delivery.

Generally, professions in broadcast news are similar to those in print journalism. Consequently, a strong background in journalism (either a degree or commensurate experience) is usually a prerequisite.

Unlike their counterparts in print journalism, broadcast news professionals are concerned with the on-air delivery of reports. Stations compete fiercely to find news anchors and reporters with enough charisma to attract viewers. Often looks, charm, and grace can outshine intellect in an interview. And for those seeking television jobs, it might be a good idea to add a regimen of Slim-Fast and health clubs to your journalism-textbook reading.

Program Directors
Today the broadcasting industry is increasingly moving away from programming for breadth (trying to reach as many viewers as possible, hence broadcasting) toward more focused programming (often called narrowcasting) that allows stations to tap into lucrative niche markets targeted by advertisers.

Program directors are responsible for determining the content that will best capture a market that a station is trying to reach, be it soccer moms, angry teenagers, or thirty-something IT professionals. Ultimately, program directors are responsible for a station's "feel," and work closely with managers, marketers, and salespeople to tailor a station's overall presentation.

At music-format radio stations, program directors are often called music directors. They have every college freshman's dream job of picking the music that a multitude of people will hear. At television stations, not only are program directors involved in picking the shows that will run, but also when they run, to attract the greatest number of viewers.

The passive listener or viewer may take for granted how smoothly a station switches between various programs, news updates, commercials, and station-identification segments. Producers, on the other hand, know firsthand that a seamless presentation doesn't happen by itself.

Producers are responsible for integrating a station's varied content. Producers coordinate the schedules of various departments such as news, programming, and advertising, as well as assigning and managing the workloads of announcers, writers, and even other producers. If a station creates original content, producers oversee the production of shows and commercials. At larger stations, a producer might be called a director.

Like their Hollywood counterparts, broadcasting producers need to focus on the big picture in order to sew everything together and be able to troubleshoot problems quickly as they arise.

Writers: News, Copy, and Script
While it's common for on-air announcers to ad-lib (often in embarrassingly banal fashion, which keeps the “talking heads” stereotype alive and well), the vast majority of broadcast content is prepared well before show time. At smaller stations, it may be an announcer's job to write his or her own material. At larger stations, however, staff members usually help create original content.

News writers are in charge of writing news reports that will be read on-air by announcers and reporters. While many broadcast reporters write and report their own stories, at larger stations many are aided by news writers who perform background research, interview sources, and adapt wire reports. Since news writing for broadcast is quite similar to print journalism, a strong background in journalism is often a prerequisite. Naturally, writers who switch between print and broadcast media are not uncommon.

Copywriters think up the material used for commercials that are produced by a station. While in larger cities, advertising firms create much on-air advertising, in smaller communities, a large part of a station's workload may involve creating commercials for local sponsors.

Scriptwriters are responsible for creating the material used during original entertainment programs, such as variety shows, skits, or dramas. Such positions are hard to come by and are usually available only at larger stations.

Other Roles
In addition to the people who are responsible for creating on-air content, there's an entire corps of professionals that manages the technical aspects of broadcasting and makes sure a station gets paid for its efforts. Such people include camera operators, engineers, and technical directors, who set up and maintain equipment needed to broadcast; marketing professionals who work to build an audience, and sales professionals who sell ads that bring in the revenue necessary to keep a station running.

Median salary ranges for those working in broadcasting are as follows:
  • Camera operator: $16,000 to $76,000
  • TV reporter: $20,000 to $95,000
  • Broadcast technician: $25,000 to $80,000
  • Technical director: $75,000 to $95,000
  • Producer: $30,000 to $90,000

Broadcasting Job Listings
Broadcast News Writer
Camera Operator
Disc Jockey
On-Air Announcer
Radio Producer
Radio Program Director

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Consumer Products

Industry Overview
Consumer products is one of those elastic phrases that can include any of the jars, boxes, cans, or tubes on your kitchen and bathroom shelves—or it can expand to include pretty much everything you charged on your Visa card last year. This industry manufactures and, perhaps more importantly, markets everything from food and beverages to toiletries and small appliances. (We do not include industries sometimes put in this category but covered in other profiles: autos, apparel, entertainment products, and consumer durables, which are large appliances and other products expected to last more than three years).

The consumer products industry can be divided into four groups: beverages, food, toiletries and cosmetics, and small appliances. Most firms offer products that fit primarily into only one of these groups, although a firm may have a smattering of brands that cross the lines. Virtually all companies are similar in organizational structure, emphasis on brand management, and approach to business.

Consumer products are the foundation of the modern, consumer economy. The industry itself not only generates an enormous portion of the gross domestic product, it also pumps huge amounts of money into other industries, notably advertising and retail. Individual consumers make up the majority of this industry's customers; sales are concentrated in the United States, Japan, and Western Europe, though other parts of the world are working hard for the privileges of wearing clothing emblazoned with company logos, eating processed food, and chopping vegetables with an electric motor instead of a traditional utensil. Success in consumer products is all about marketing an individual product, often by promoting a brand name. The competition is ferocious for shelf space, so package design, marketing, and customer satisfaction are key elements.

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Consumer Brand Manager
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Brand Management

Career Overview

Success in consumer products—which is where most brand management careers are found—is all about marketing, often by promoting a brand name. While the actual job description varies widely, most brand managers have at least one thing in common: They're part of huge conglomerates that produce many name-brand products. Size gives these large companies economies of scale, and a diversity of products provides protection against down cycles. Which is not to say that cute little mail-order pickle and jam companies don't crop up every now and then and make a serious go of it. They do. These places aren't where the majority of the jobs are, however—at least not until Unilever or Nestlé takes them over.

In the packaged goods game the competition is ferocious for shelf space, so package design, marketing, and customer satisfaction are key elements. In brand management, you'll be responsible for managing all of these elements as they relate to the brand to which you're assigned.

What You'll Do
The basic analogy for brand management is that brands are treated like businesses within the company and brand managers are essentially small-business owners. The job involves:
  • Monitoring the competitive landscape in the category within which your brand competes;
  • Developing strategies to exploit market opportunities;
  • Executing those strategies with the help of a cross-functional team; and
  • Delivering the sales volume, market share, and profit projections for the business.

Brand managers craft elegant business plans and submit them to senior management. Then, when the price of the key ingredient in their product goes through the roof because of locust plagues, they rewrite the business plan from scratch with many more contingencies. They focus on the minutiae of a daily sales volume report, and they dream big dreams when it's time to update the vision for the brand. They approach upper-level management for capital to fund a new product launch or a line extension in much the same way that small business owners go to venture capitalists or banks to fund expansion.

Who Does Well
Insiders tell us that successful brand management professionals are natural leaders who aren't afraid to take the initiative, who are comfortable working with cross-functional teams to get results, and who can communicate their vision to others. This field draws on both creative and analytical skills, so be prepared to switch gears from one to the other.

If you're interested in developing your leadership skills, brand management is the place to be. Sure, there may be layers of decision makers above you, but how many other settings allow a 30-year-old to own and operate a $60 million business after five years of work experience and an MBA? For many aspiring entrepreneurs, brand management looks like the perfect training ground.


Brand management is considered part of the marketing function, and most aspiring brand managers have had some experience in advertising, promotions, or sales. However, consumer packaged goods companies are very interested in candidates who have honed their analytical and leadership skills in other disciplines, including consulting, investment banking, or strategic planning. If you have no previous experience in marketing, a summer internship can be enormously helpful. Many companies offer summer internships, which often result in a job offer after graduation.

Recruiters look for leadership, analytical skills, problem solving ability, teamwork, and creativity. Successful applicants should have at least an undergraduate degree in business, liberal arts, or a related field. Philosophy majors and engineers are equally welcome to apply, if they can demonstrate skills in the five areas just mentioned. Most companies look for candidates with at least a 3.5 GPA. The more work experience and leadership and teamwork experience (in a sorority/fraternity, school club, or sports team) you can show, the better.

Job Outlook

According to the 2006-07 Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in the field of marketing overall is expected to increase faster than average—at an 18-to-26-percent clip—through 2014. The BLS says that this sustained job growth will be supported by increasingly intense domestic and global competition in consumer products and services, but cautions that budding marketers should expect increased competition for full-time corporate marketing positions as marketing projects (including brand management) are increasingly outsourced to ad agencies and contract specialists.

Brand managers who were able to hang onto their jobs through the recession have been forced to work with drastically reduced budgets, leaving them hard-pressed to deliver the major product wins they need to advance their companies—and their careers. On the other hand, brand managers with specialized scientific or industry expertise may find they are in a stronger position to land plum jobs with major ad agencies as the economy begins to show signs of life. Specifically, technical and health-care sector expertise will prove most valuable, as these industries will certainly be hiring.

Career Tracks

The career tracks at most companies feature plenty of opportunities for cross-functional experience and varied work assignments. At some companies, experience in functions other than marketing has become a prerequisite for advancement.

Despite the flexibility in career path development, there are clearly defined entry-level positions: marketing analyst, or sales representative, or assistant brand manager (MBAs).

The path from marketing analyst to assistant brand manager to brand manager is a progression from executing to developing strategy. Continuing along the path involves a shift from participating in cross-functional teams to leading them and from monitoring a business budget to assuming profit-and-loss responsibility. At some point along this path, most companies send aspiring managers out into the field for extensive sales training, aka "the reality check."

Marketing Assistant/Analyst
Supporting a few brand managers or assistant brand managers, a marketing analyst must balance tasks to keep everybody smiling. Most analysts spend two to three years honing their skills, then accept a promotion to assistant brand manager or head off to business school. You may work on one major brand (say, Diet Coke) or a group of smaller brands. Most of your work will involve poring through reams of data. Yes, you will have the opportunity to sit in on divisional meetings and strategy sessions, but the bulk of your work will be more "tactical," a euphemism for number crunching. You'll be balancing budgets, constructing competitive analyses, tracking consumer premium orders, and other such duties. Successful marketing analysts execute assignments efficiently and accurately.

Assistant Brand Manager
As an assistant brand manager, it is your job to coordinate the various marketing functions, including packaging, advertising, promotions, and public relations, in order to execute the marketing plan.

In the course of executing the plan, you will head up a number of cross-functional teams that work on various parts of your business. For example, a product improvement project may bring together R&D, marketing research, packaging, finance, and operations. A change in your consumer promotion plan might require a coordinated effort between representatives from promotions and operations.

Assistant brand managers shift gears all day long. One minute they're brainstorming new promotion ideas, the next they're wading through monthly volume projections.

Brand Manager
Our insiders describe this role as being "captain of a ship," guiding your cross-functional crew through such treacherous waters as annual plans, new product launches, competitive analyses, promotional strategies, and capacity planning at your production facilities. The safe port you're steering toward consists of the volume, market share, and profit targets for your brand—you now own the bottom line on the profit-and-loss (P&L) statement for your business.

You also take on additional responsibilities at the business unit, division, or corporate level. These might range from serving on a company-wide task force that is reviewing trade spending across different brands to leading the recruiting team at your alma mater. You are also responsible for the performance of the marketing analysts and assistant brand managers who work on your business.

Marketing Director
Marketing directors are responsible for a whole business unit, guiding overall strategy by coordinating the efforts of brand managers and assistant brand managers and ensuring that the brand teams remain focused on the key strategic issues. It is your job to communicate with the executive wing and to ensure that your brands receive the resources and capital they need to grow. Because you are responsible for the business unit's P&L, the workload can be heavy at times, but your generous compensation package justifies the effort.


Recent college grads can expect a starting salary of $35,000 to $50,000. MBAs used to start at paltry salaries compared to their banking and consulting peers, but today MBAs from top-tier schools going to large consumer packaged goods companies routinely start with salaries of $90,000 or higher and signing bonuses of $15,000 or more. Most companies have end-of-year bonus programs. Bonuses can be generous, depending on individual and company-wide performance. Stock options programs vary from company to company, but they are often offered to both undergrads and MBAs. Though stock options may not be as plentiful (or as valuable) as during the boom years, many companies still offer stock options to employees to keep everyone focused on winning in the marketplace.

Most brand management companies offer a generous 401(k) plan, match charitable contributions, and support volunteer activities. Many of the large companies have cafeterias and health clubs in-house. As part of their effort to retain employees, companies are adding such services as a personal concierge who will get you tickets to the theater or send flowers to your mother for her birthday. VIP coupons from your brand offer the bearer free products at the grocery store; they make fine gifts and stocking stuffers, especially if you work on a brand like Häagen-Dazs.

Brand Management Job Listings
Assistant Brand Manager
Brand Manager


Years in Business: 4

Education: BA, political science, Kenyon College

Hours per Week: 55 to 70

Size of Company: 750

Annual Salary: $55,000, with a potential bonus of 25 percent to 150 percent
Chet Randall, Portfolio Analyst/Assistant Portfolio Manager in the Financial Services Industry
What do you do?
I work for an investment banking firm. We raise capital for companies before their IPOs. I’m part of the fixed-income group within the financial services department—we manage our clients’ money on a low-risk, short-term basis. I’m responsible for all the client reports that let corporations know how their securities portfolios are doing. I work with our senior managers to structure clients’ portfolios and trade securities to meet the performance needs of the portfolios—based on performance benchmarks that have already been established.

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Mutual Funds & Brokerage

Industry Overview
When a large amount of money is needed for any enterprise, from building a factory to funding a corporation to drilling wells in a new oil field, that money is raised from investors—usually a large number of them. Commonly, the enterprise raises that money by either selling ownership shares in itself or simply borrowing it. When ownership is sold, the investor gets shares of stock. When money is borrowed, the investor gets bonds. Stocks and bonds are both securities. Investors buy and sell individual securities through brokers, also called securities dealers.

Additionally, mutual fund companies—and other so-called asset management firms—form funds, which consist of a variety of securities. The asset management company buys and sells the securities in a fund, seeking to maximize its value, and it sells shares in these funds to investors directly and through securities brokers.

More people invest in securities today than ever before, and they have more choices. Not only are there more investments to choose from, including stocks, bonds, real estate trusts, limited partnerships, and an ever-growing diversity of mutual funds; there are also more ways to invest: full-service brokerages, discount brokerages, and electronic trading for most of us; exclusive opportunities such as hedge funds and venture capital funds for high-net-worth individuals, such as multimillionaires, and institutional investors, such as pension funds, insurance companies, and university endowments.

There is an unimaginably large amount of money chasing investments these days, which is part of the reason that the stock market rose so steeply during the 1990s. Brokerages and mutual funds are the two primary means by which all these investments are made.

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Mutual Funds and Brokerage Job Listings
Financial Advisor
Fund Accountant
Institutional Sales Manager
Mutual Fund
Portfolio Manager
Retail Brokerage
Stockbroker Assistant

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Corporate Finance

Career Overview

It’s a blast of the obvious that companies make money. Some of them make a lot of money. Of course, someone has to manage that money or else the company doesn’t stay in business very long. That’s where the corporate finance team comes in. In corporate finance, you’ll deal with the financial decisions made by the company you work for, with the goal of maximizing the value of the corporation while minimizing risk.

Corporate finance and accounting professionals are responsible for managing a business's money—forecasting where it will come from, knowing where it is, and helping its managers decide how to spend it in ways that will ensure the greatest return. They pore over spreadsheets that detail cash flow, profitability, and expenses. They look for ways to free up capital, increase profitability, and decrease expenses. If any department wants to make a big expenditure, it’s usually got to be run by the folks in finance first to ensure that the company is in a position to fork over the dough. They’ll look at the best growth path for the company, whether that’s through acquiring other companies or re-investing in the business to expand internally.

A company's size, complexity, industry, and stage of development—for example, whether it’s a startup or established business—determine its corporate finance department's specific responsibilities. All companies need to balance their books. But some large technology companies, for example, also need to hire financial experts to valuate potential acquisitions. Others (e.g., insurance companies) have hundreds of millions of dollars to invest and need financial wizards to manage that money. Note that for the purposes of this career profile, "corporate finance" does not refer to those in investment banks who help their corporate clients raise funds. To learn about this and other areas in financial services, read WetFeet's industry profiles of investment banking, mutual funds and brokerage, commercial banking, insurance, and accounting. These profiles detail a variety of specialized financial functions beyond those in private industry.

What You'll Do
Corporate finance includes two key functions: accounting and finance. Accounting concerns itself with day-to-day operations. Accountants balance the books, track expenses and revenue, execute payroll, and pay the bills. They also compile all the financial data needed to issue a company's financial statements in accordance with government regulations.

Finance professionals analyze revenue and expenses to ensure effective use of capital. They also advise businesses about project costs, make capital investments, and structure deals to help companies grow.

In spite of their different roles, finance and accounting are joined at the hip: The higher levels of accounting (budgeting and analysis) blend with financial functions (analysis and projections). Thus, finance and accounting are often treated as one, with different divisions undertaking particular tasks, such as cash management or taxes.


Finance and accounting jobs require strong analytical and quantitative skills. If you have a knack for using numbers to understand patterns that influence business, you'll be of great value to your employer. If you can't crunch and analyze numbers, this isn't going to be the right job for you. You should also enjoy and excel at solving problems and be able to think critically about the numbers you're working with. Think of it as cracking a code: You need to take all of these numbers—income, expenses, profits, investments, cash flow—and decipher them in order to make the best decisions for the company.

To succeed in these careers, you need a strong attention to detail. To make wise business decisions, your employer will be depending on you to get the numbers right—every time. In order to do that, you’ll also need to have an understanding of and interest in business. That includes reading industry and business publications to understand market conditions, economic forecasts, and trends. Finance professionals need to look at external factors that could potentially help or hurt profitability. This may be the career for you if you can effectively evaluate business scenarios and recommend a course of action based on quantitative research. If you're in college and want to work in corporate finance, your best bet is to demonstrate your interest in finance with relevant undergraduate courses in accounting, finance, and economics. Get involved in business, accounting, or investing clubs on campus. Internships are always a great way to strengthen your resume and differentiate yourself from other candidates. An MBA will make you attractive to companies hiring for budgeting, planning, and strategy functions.

Many firms hire outstanding undergraduates and MBAs for training programs; some programs are finance- and accounting-specific, and others rotate trainees throughout the company. If you have your heart set on corporate finance and analysis, do a knockout job during that particular rotation and develop a good relationship with your manager.

If there is no formal finance or accounting program at your company, you'll have to make the most of on-the-job training, so try to find a position that will expose you to a variety of projects. Find out what the career path in corporate finance is at your company and cultivate a mentor. A mentor can explain what projects will round out your background and what courses you can take to prepare yourself for a higher-level assignment. You can also check out job listings on the Web to see what kind of experience and certification are required for the jobs you're interested.

If you want to pursue a lifelong career as a number-cruncher, you'll probably have to knuckle down and get an advanced degree or certification—a CPA, MBA, or CFA, depending on the career—at least to work in the more senior budgeting, planning, and strategy functions. You'll also need to keep track of the regulatory changes that affect how information is reported.

There are other ways to get your foot in the door in a corporate finance career. Experience with an investment banking firm can lead to a financial analysis position for a specific business line or to a corporate development position if you have several years of experience. At the higher levels in accounting, one of the most straightforward routes to becoming a controller (a supervisory accounting role) is to start working for one of the large accounting or auditing firms and then go into corporate finance. The largest accounting firms and investment banks hire BAs directly from school.

Job Outlook

The outlook for folks in corporate finance and in-house accounting is bright. In spite of the credit crunch that took hold in summer 2007, putting a damper on mergers and acquisitions, the market for money has continued to loosen. That means more corporate spending, more mergers and acquisitions, and so on—and more work for corporate finance types.

Longer term, globalization means more opportunities for sophisticated financial analysts and planners. Increased merger and acquisition activity will create more opportunities for people in finance who are able to think strategically. This means a greater demand for people with higher degrees who can develop more theoretical financial models, develop currency hedges, or estimate another company's future earnings and current value.

As more and more accounting functions become automated by software, those accountants and financial analysts able to do analytical work and think strategically will have much better prospects than those who stick to keeping the books. Graduate degrees, extensive analytical experience, and good regulatory knowledge will help keep you employed over the long term.

Career Tracks

Although conditions vary at different companies, people going into corporate finance generally start their careers either as staff accountants (for the corporate reporting function) or as financial analysts (for a business group or function). In both roles, you'll supply management with the information it needs to make smart, opportune decisions.

Staff accountants consolidate information for the official corporate financial reports—primarily comparing the present to the past. Financial analysts, on the other hand, are assigned to either a product line or business unit. They help management set up profit objectives, analyze current unit results, and anticipate future financial performance. Over time, financial analysts and staff accountants eventually specialize in one of the areas described below.

General Accounting
General accountants are responsible for producing all of the financial records a corporation uses to track its progress internally and to meet government regulations. Such workers also gather all the information needed to compute a company's balance sheet, profit and loss statements, and income statements. They also track the corporate budget, cash flow, and pay all the bills.

Usually, your first job in general accounting will be in accounts payable or accounts receivable. Success in accounting might lead you to a position as a controller, overseeing a larger group, aggregating information, or working on portions of the corporate budget.

Internal Audit
When most people think of an audit, they think of an outside audit—a large accounting firm like Ernst & Young checking the corporate books on behalf of the shareholders. However, most large companies have an internal audit group that regularly visits individual company branches and checks the company's accounting systems.

Internal auditors perform the investigative and corrective work that ensures the external auditors don't find anything. The internal audit group reviews the quality of the data, making sure it's both accurate and complete. They also evaluate whether the corporate accounting procedures are effective and universally followed. Finally, internal auditors introduce or revise procedures to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

Divisional Financial Services
In this area, you work with each division's business team to prepare financial plans, make forecasts, and compare actual financial results to forecasts. You may also evaluate the financial consequences of alternative strategies.

Responsibilities include everything from analyzing new business opportunities to restructuring a business or developing a capital spending program. The primary concerns are to find better ways of using company assets, reduce costs, and research better methods of forecasting. Financial services evaluates the risks versus potential return of any course of action and develops recommendations so that managers can pick the most profitable strategies, depending on their goals.

Activities in this area involve administering taxes (i.e., paying taxes on time—or finding loopholes to avoid paying them) and determining how to decrease the company's tax burden. Responsibilities include working with attorneys on tax litigation, researching tax laws and reporting requirements by nation (if the company is international), and keeping up with new government rules and regulations.

Large companies have an entire department dedicated to recommending methods to minimize the tax impact of any business decision such as a new division launch, a capital spending plan, or purchasing a new company. Investments and pensions also need to be managed with an eye toward minimizing taxes. The tax department helps structure transactions, makes recommendations on the timing of acquisitions or sales based on what else will be written off that year, and can decide what corporate reporting structure reduces taxes—for example, creating a wholly owned subsidiary versus having an internal division.

The treasury department is responsible for all of a company's financing and investing activities. This department works with investment bankers who help the corporation raise capital with stock or bond sales or expand through mergers and acquisitions. Treasury also manages the pension fund and the corporation's investments in other companies. The department also handles risk management, making sure that the right steps are taken to safeguard corporate assets by using insurance policies or currency hedges.

Cash Management
This is a company's piggy bank. The cash management group makes sure the company has enough cash on hand to meet its daily needs. The group also sees to it that any excess cash is invested overnight by picking the best short-term investment options. And it negotiates with local banks to get regional business units the banking services they need at the best price.

Corporate Development and Strategic Planning
Corporate development involves both corporate finance and business development. (For more on these types of jobs, check out WetFeet's business development career profile.) Finance experts in corporate development study acquisition targets, investment options, and licensing deals. Often they assess the best firms to buy or invest in, such as pre-IPO cutting-edge technology companies with complementary products that could either extend the company's product line or mitigate competition.


Corporate finance compensation will vary by region, size of company, and industry. Following are average salary ranges for a variety of corporate finance functions:
  • Chief financial officer: $163,000 to $437,000
  • Treasurer: $133,000 to $208,000
  • Controller: $110,000 to $237,000
  • Director of risk: $115,000 to $187,000
  • Financial analyst: $44,000 to $72,000
  • Accounting manager: $72,000 to $100,000
  • Accountant: $36,000 to $44,000
  • Internal auditor: $42,000 to $52,000
  • Payroll clerk: $29,000 to $36,000
  • Payroll supervisor: $43,000 to $58,000
  • Cash manager: $67,000 to $92,000

Corporate Finance Job Listings
Chief Financial Officer
Corporate Accountant
Corporate Development
Internal Auditor
Strategic Planning

Asset Management

Career Overview
If money makes the world go ’round, the Earth would grind to a screeching halt without the asset management industry. Asset management is the business of making money with money—or at least trying to. When we say “money,” we’re not talking about salaries and bonuses (which can indeed be significant), but the gains you endeavor to make for investors who have forked over their cash in hopes that you, through your market savvy and keen instincts, can turn their nest egg into a fancy omelet with toast and hash browns on the side.

Asset management companies manage the money of their clients to achieve specific financial objectives within guidelines under which the investment pool is organized. The pool might take the form of a mutual fund, hedge fund, retirement or pension fund, or other institutional fund and, depending on how the fund is organized, could invest in any range of investment vehicles including equities, fixed-income securities, and derivative products.

What You'll Do
Asset managers manage money—other people's money, and gobs of it. Generally, they convert that money into assets—stocks, bonds, derivatives, and other types of investments—and try to make that money make more money as fast as possible. Mutual funds, for instance, hire asset managers; so do corporations with lots of money sitting around, banks, and high-net-worth individuals.

Asset managers have one simple goal: to invest other people's money wisely and profitably. Asset managers use a combination of investment theory, quantitative tools, market experience, research, and plain dumb luck to pick investments for their portfolios, ranging from high-risk stocks to commercial real estate to cash accounts.

Who Does Well
As an asset manager, you can't just bet your hunches. The profession requires excellent quantitative and analytical skills—if you hated statistics, you may want to look for a career elsewhere. But asset management isn't just a matter of adding up the numbers. It requires the organizational skills—and nerve—to make split-second decisions with millions of dollars riding on the line. The profession is notoriously tough to break into, especially for those who only have an undergraduate degree. MBAs most often start as analysts to prove they have the right combination of caution and chutzpah to make a great asset manager.

Competition for jobs is fierce at all levels, but if you have strong quantitative and analytical skills, good nerves, and can consistently beat the market, there's probably a place for you. Networking and a single-minded pursuit of your goal are big helps, too.

Undergraduates with their hearts set on a career in asset management should take as many statistics and accounting classes as possible to prove that they can handle all of the number crunching and financial modeling that the profession requires. Undergraduates may be able to land jobs as researchers, though competition is tough and they may be going up against candidates with MBAs.

If you're really serious about the profession, start with a job in sales, marketing, operations, or trading at an asset-management firm, then consider going back for an MBA before switching into asset management per se. You may also consider a 2-year analyst or research position in investment banking. Such jobs are more plentiful and provide excellent training for asset management.

Generally, MBAs come aboard as researchers or analysts. Analysts and researchers generally serve at least 2 years before they come up for consideration as fund managers. You are more likely to get an asset-manager position earlier if you run smaller portfolios for institutional asset managers or private banks that offer services to the wealthy. On the mutual-fund side, you might become co-portfolio manager, sharing the management responsibility with a senior manager. The larger the pool of assets, the fiercer the competition.

There is no single prerequisite to becoming an asset manager. It all comes down to how much money you can make with other people's money. That said, virtually all successful asset managers possess these skills:

Quantitative and Analytical Skills
Asset managers have to be able to read spreadsheets and earnings reports. And they have to be able to take those numbers and crunch them into financial models and future projections. Even if you're dealing with less volatile investments such as bonds or real estate, you have to do the math in order to stay ahead of conventional wisdom. Classes in accounting and statistics are a big help, as are jobs that require number crunching, from I-banking to management consulting.

Managerial and Organizational Skills
Whether you're a researcher or a fund manager, you'll have to keep track of reams of facts in order to glean the really important information. Furthermore, you'll have to be able to make decisions—and execute them—quickly and accurately. Delay can cost big money. Finally, you need to be able to motivate and manage a talented staff of researchers and analysts if you work your way up to portfolio manager. Without their coordinated efforts, you may not have the information you need to make the best decision possible.

Professional Licensing
In general, asset managers who work behind the scenes and make the big decisions don't need professional licensing. But if you're dealing with the public at all, you probably will, especially if you're in a position to make buy and sell recommendations directly to a client. For example, you may need an NASD license (Series 7, 63, or 65), or certain insurance licenses. Employers will generally give you the time to get such licenses once you're hired and may even pay the costs.

Job Outlook
Anyone considering a career in asset management should be keenly aware that markets not only go up, but also go down—sometimes way down. There was a time, in another century, when the markets were on a rocket ship to the moon. The year was 1999 and the entire financial industry was, well, partying like it was 1999. Everyone was a financial genius—not just brokers and fund managers, but secretaries and butchers. Even pimply-faced kids in junior high were expert stock pickers.

The hangover from all that partying made the financial services industry a much more sober place. The rookies were largely sidelined, and investments became once again the bailiwick of professionals. The market quietly inched back up in late 2003 and early 2004. Worldwide mutual fund investment shot up 9 percent in the last quarter of 2003 to $13.96 trillion, a 30 percent increase over the third quarter of 2002. Still, the upsurge in the market hasn’t translated into commensurate levels of hiring. Indeed, few hired aggressively in the 2001 to 2003 market swoon, while companies like Charles Schwab shed their headcount by nearly 15 percent. “We’re hiring, but it’s pretty conservative,” says an insider. Indeed, Goldman Sachs’s headcount remained static in 2003, while Merrill Lynch’s sank 4 percent.

The hiring picture doesn’t look brighter when you consider the merger-and-acquisition activity taking place in the industry. As more and more firms follow Citigroup’s lead by increasing their service offering through the roll-up of second-tier players, you, the job seeker, get hurt by these efficiencies. Bank of America’s acquisition of Fleet Financial at the end of 2003 continued this trend. But don’t get too discouraged. Asset management firms are still hiring, albeit in a more modest capacity than in the past. There is still money to be made, but you will have to make it the old-fashioned way, by earning it. And you will earn it through hard work and a proven ability to create real financial value. Amidst the broken chandeliers and shattered vases of the postbubble financial industry, some potentially exceptional opportunities still lurk. So if you do manage to find (and keep) a job in the industry, you can still expect to make a solid living and retain something of a life, particularly compared to the slave-labor existence of your investment banking peers.

Career Tracks
Mutual funds, such as Vanguard or T. Rowe Price, are perhaps the most visible road into asset management. Hedge funds—which specialize in high-risk, high-return investments for wealthy clients—also offer opportunities for would-be asset managers.

Large investment and commercial banks, from J.P. Morgan Chase to Citigroup, as well as private firms such as Soros Fund Management, offer private banking (i.e., asset management) for wealthy clients with very large private accounts. Some large-scale investment institutions such as universities and retirement funds hire their own investment staffs, though often they rely on mutual funds and other investment management companies to make decisions for them, from Fidelity to the Capital Group.

If you prefer real estate to stocks and bonds, you can work for a real estate investment trust (REIT) such as Equity Office Properties Trust. REITs operate like mutual funds, except they buy and sell hotels and shopping malls rather than stocks and bonds. Finally, a number of boutique asset-management firms take money from a small group of wealthy clients and invest in specialized areas such as start-up companies.

No matter where you work, asset management boils down to this: researching and analyzing potential investments and deciding where exactly to allocate funds. Of course, companies require a raft of other employees, including corporate managers, IT specialists, marketing and sales people, and back-office staff. But if you want to be on the front lines where big investment decisions are made, you will fulfill one of these three functions:

The job of the researcher is implied in the name: He or she gathers the primary source material from which investment decisions are made, such as SEC filings and quarterly earning reports. As time passes, researchers are granted more independence and may even perform the kind of higher-level analyses that lead to actual decisions about buying and selling. Generally, researchers are hired straight out of undergraduate or B-school programs. MBAs enjoy better odds of getting hired and generally command better salaries. All candidates should have strong quantitative, analytical, and organizational skills.

Analysts take the work of researchers and apply higher-level financial modeling to make specific recommendations to portfolio managers about which securities to buy or sell. In addition to crunching numbers, they may conduct more subjective research, such as meeting with representatives of potential investment companies to assess management style. Or they may pick the brains of sell-side analysts at brokerages and other financial institutions to gather tips about specific investments and to gauge overall market trends. Seasoned analysts may even participate in developing overall investment strategies for their investment fund.

Fund Manager
Fund managers are the people who decide what, when, and how much to buy or sell. They must work to ensure that their fund's overall investment philosophy is borne out in actual investments and be willing to change course midstream if their strategy isn't working. They must also make sure their decisions are executed, which means following up on the work of traders and other agents. And of course they're responsible for managing the work of researchers and analysts to ensure that the fund manager is receiving the best, most complete information possible.

Besides poring over numbers, they spend a great deal of time meeting with managers of companies they might invest in to make more subjective managerial assessments. Finally, they may have to engage in a certain amount of marketing and public relations—for example, helping to design sales strategies or talking to the press.

The following approximate salary ranges apply to positions in the mutual fund industry, investment counseling firms, bank trust departments, and hedge funds:
  • Fund accountant: $35,000 to $50,000
  • Researcher: $40,000 to $100,000
  • Junior research analyst: $60,000 to $100,000
  • Economist: $65,000 to $150,000
  • Buy-side research analyst: $80,000 to $150,000
  • Quantitative analyst: $100,000 and up
  • Sell-side research analyst: $125,000 to $1 million-plus
  • Portfolio/fund manager: $150,000 to $1 million-plus

Asset Management Job Listings
Asset Manager
Buy-Side Research Analyst
Financial Advisor
Fund Accountant
Portfolio Manager
Private Banker
Private Client Services
Sell-Side Research Analyst
Stockbroker Assistant