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Samantha Maida

Choosing A Career - Financial Planner & Computer Programmer

By: Samantha Maida
College Now Course - SD 11

The first career I chose to research was that of a Financial Planner. The job of a financial planner is to do just that, develop financial plans for individuals, businesses, and organizations. They provide investment analysis and guidance to people to help them with their investment decisions. They do not necessarily just make the decisions for the client. Personal financial advisors, also called financial planners or financial consultants, use their knowledge of investments, tax laws, insurance, and real estate to recommend financial options to individuals based on their short-term and long-term goals. Some of the issues they address are retirement planning, estate planning, tax issues, funding for college, and general investment options. While most planners offer advice on a wide range of topics, some specialize in areas such as estate planning or risk management. Finding clients and building a customer base is one of the most important parts of a financial advisor's job. Many advisors contact potential clients by giving seminars or lectures or meeting clients through business and social contacts.

Personal financial advisors usually work indoors in offices or their own homes. Personal financial advisors usually work standard business hours, but they also schedule meetings with clients in the evenings or on weekends. Many teach evening classes or put on seminars in order to bring in more clients.

Personal financial advisors held 239,000 jobs in 2000. Approximately one fourth of the personal financial advisors are self-employed, operating small investment advisory firms. The majority of salaried advisors work for security and commodity brokers, exchanges, and investment services firms. About 1 in 7 personal financial advisors work for commercial banks, saving institutions, and credit unions. A small number work for insurance carriers and insurance agents, brokers, and services.

A college education is strongly preferred for personal financial advisors. Most companies require financial analysts to have at least a bachelor's degree in business administration, accounting, statistics, or finance. Coursework in statistics, economics, and business is required, and knowledge of accounting policies and procedures, corporate budgeting, and financial analysis methods is recommended. A master of business administration is desirable. Advanced courses in options pricing or bond valuation and knowledge of risk management are also suggested. A license is not required to work as a personal financial advisor, but advisors who sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds, insurance, or real estate, may need licenses. Also, if legal advice is provided, a license to practice law may be needed.

Increased investment by businesses and individuals is expected to result-in "faster-than-average" employment growth of financial analysts and personal financial advisors through 2010. People are living longer and must plan to finance more years of retirement. The rapid expansion of self-directed retirement plans, such as the 401(k) plans, is expected to continue.

Annual earnings of personal financial advisors were $55,320 in 2000. The middle half earned between $34,420 and $96,360. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,110 and the top 10 percent earned more than $145,000.

The second career I chose to research was that of a Computer Programmer. Computer programmers write, test, and maintain the detailed instructions that computers must follow to perform their functions. They also conceive, design, and test logical structures for solving problems by computer. Computer programs tell the computer what to do, such as which information to access, how to process it, and what equipment to use. Many programmers update, repair, modify, and expand existing programs.

Programmers generally work in offices in comfortable surroundings. Many programmers may work long hours or weekends, to meet deadlines or fix critical problems that occur during off hours. Given the technology available, telecommuting is becoming common for a wide range of computer professionals, including computer programmers. As computer networks expand, more programmers are able to connect to a customer's computer system remotely to make corrections or fix problems, using modems, e-mail, and the Internet. Like other workers who spend long periods of time in front of a computer terminal typing at a keyboard, programmers are susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Computer programmers held about 585,000 jobs in 2000. Programmers are employed in almost every industry, but the largest concentration is in the computer and data processing services industry, which includes firms that write and sell software. Large numbers of programmers can also be found working for firms that provide engineering and management services, telecommunications companies, and manufacturers of computer and office equipment. There were 22,000 self-employed computer programmers in 2000.

While there are many training paths available for programmers, mainly because employers' needs are so varied, the level of education and experience employers seek has been rising, due to the growing number of qualified applicants and the specialization involved with most programing tasks. Required skills vary from job to job, but the demand for various skills generally is driven by changes in technology. Bachelor's degrees are commonly required, although some programmers may qualify for certain jobs with two year degrees or certificates. Employers are primarily interested in programming knowledge, and computer programmers are able to get certified in a language such as C++ or Java. Required skills vary from job to job, but the demand for various skills generally is driven by changes in technology.

When hiring programmers, employers look for people with the necessary programming skills who can think logically and pay close attention to detail. The job calls for patience, persistence, and the ability to work on exacting analytical work, especially under pressure. Ingenuity and imagination are also particularly important. The ability to work with abstract concepts and to do technical analysis is especially important for systems programmers, because they work with the software that controls the computer's operation.

For skilled workers who keep up to date with the latest technology, the prospects for advancement are good. Employment of programmers is expect to "grow about as fast as the average" for all occupations through 2010. Annual earnings of computer programmers were $57,590 in 2000. The middle 50 percent earned between $44,850 and $74,500 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,020; the highest 10 percent earned more than $93,210.

I chose these two careers because they both interest me in some minute way. I chose Financial Planner because I always liked to deal with money as a child, and whenever I had any I would constantly count it and put it in different piles and orders. I was very specific as to what I did with my money, so I decided to research something involving something everyone loves, money. My mom is never very good with money and that bothers me too, so to have a job that concentrates on using your brain to manage your money might help me not become her in that sense. I chose Computer Programmer because as far as I can remember I have owned a computer. Before computers had a mouse or Windows for that matter, I had a computer. So since I've grown up with them, I've become very familiar with software as well as hardware. I like working on things with parts, so working on the hardware would be just as fun as managing programs and Windows. Neither of these careers are anything I'm really considering because I still haven't found anything I really like, but finding out more about them and using the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and the Outlook Handbook helped me to realize how many jobs are really out there. I will continue to use that to research for things that interest me, to help me decide my major for college.