Major banks can be a good career path since these big banking institutions offer many career opportunities and job security. Major banks typically have retail, commercial, and corporate banking functions, so there are many different job options, including entry-level openings for bank tellers and analysts and options for experienced finance professionals.
In this guide, we’ll go over:
- What Are Major Banks?
- Careers in Major Banks
- How to Get Into a Career in Major Banks
- Major Banks Salaries
- Pros and Cons of Major Banks Career Paths
- Related Career Paths
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What Are Major Banks?
The major banks in the U.S. are the largest banking institutions, typically ranked by total assets (how much money the bank holds) or market capitalization (the bank’s number of publicly traded stocks multiplied by the current stock price). The biggest and most well-known major banks in America include JPMorgan Chase, with total assets equalling $3.74 trillion in 2021, and Bank of America, with $3.17 trillion in assets in 2021.
What Do Major Banks Do?
The banking industry has three main sections: retail banking (direct to individual customers), commercial banking (for businesses), and corporate finance (investment banking). Most major banks handle all of these functions, sometimes under different names or subsidiaries.
For example, JPMorgan Chase & Co. operates under the name Chase for retail banking services like credit cards. Commercial banking with JPMorgan Chase & Co. may be done through J.P. Morgan or Chase. Corporate and investment banking, though, falls under the name of JPMorgan Chase.
By operating in all those sections of the banking industry, major banks offer their clients a wide variety of financial services. These products and services include credit cards and personal loans, savings accounts and ATMs, and facilitating mergers or acquisitions between large corporations.
>>MORE: Explore what working for a major bank is like with these virtual experience programs:
- JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking
- Citi APAC Global Consumer Banking
- Goldman Sachs Engineering
- Bank of America Investment Banking
- TD Securities Investment Banking
Careers in Major Banks
With such a variety of financial services offered, major banks also have a wide range of finance careers available. Some common positions at a major bank include:
Tellers work in both retail and commercial banking sectors, helping customers cash checks, withdraw funds, and make deposits. A bank teller is also responsible for answering customers’ questions and concerns and handling account discrepancies.
An underwriting assistant helps determine if a client is eligible for things like loans, mortgages, and insurance policies. Underwriting assistants work under a lead or managing underwriter, tackling various duties that include data entry, information collection, and administrative tasks.
A loan officer works in retail and commercial banking to determine if clients and customers are eligible for loans based on their credit history and current finances. Loan officers work with underwriters and recommend customers for loan approval.
Accountants can work in all sectors of a bank: commercial, retail, or corporate. In general, an accountant’s job will be similar regardless of what area they work in and involves reviewing and reporting financial information for the company. Some accountants may also focus on ensuring the bank complies with federal and state regulations.
An investment banker works on the corporate finance side of the finance industry in a variety of facets. For example, some investment bankers focus on facilitating mergers and acquisitions, while others help corporate clients find investment opportunities and buy or sell securities (like stocks and bonds).
Portfolio managers are financial managers that oversee investing strategies for clients like wealthy individuals and large corporations. A portfolio manager works primarily in corporate finance in a bank. However, many portfolio managers may work for entities outside banking institutions, such as hedge funds and private equity firms.
Chief Financial Officer
A chief financial officer, or CFO, is the head of a company’s finances. In a bank, a CFO helps direct the bank’s financial strategy, oversees budgeting and planning, and ensures finances are properly managed.
Beyond these careers, banks also need people who work indirectly with the financial side of the business. For example, banks need engineers to create secure websites and mobile applications for banking functions. Banks also need administrative workers who keep the offices running efficiently and security guards to protect branch locations.
>>MORE: Start learning the skills you need for a career in major banks with Forage’s finance virtual experience programs.
How to Get Into a Career in Major Banks
For most careers in a major bank, you need at least a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a finance-focused field like economics, accounting, finance, or business. However, some roles, like higher-ranking investment banking jobs, may require post-secondary degrees like a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA).
Major banks also offer entry-level starting points for those with a high school diploma, such as bank teller roles.
Besides your degree, there are other steps you can take to get your foot in the door at a major bank.
“Many banks offer internships, so taking part in one of these can be a great way to gain experience and forge connections with the industry,” says Tommy Gallagher, founder of Top Mobile Banks.
Gallagher also notes that networking is essential in the banking industry, and attending things like seminars and conferences can help you make the connections you need to get ahead in a major bank.
Entry-level careers at major banks may not require certifications, but you likely need a certification or higher degree to advance. Some certifications for major banks careers include:
- Chartered financial analyst (CFA) certification: typically required for financial analysts
- Certified public accountant (CPA) license: common license for accountants
- Mortgage loan originator (MLO) license: licensing for mortgage loan officers
- Financial risk manager (FRM) certification: accreditation for loan officers, financial managers, financial analysts, and compliance officers to show risk-assessment skills
Successfully navigating a major banks career path, regardless of role, requires certain soft skills like:
These skills are pivotal to handling the ever-changing environment of a major bank and working with various teams in the bank to accomplish shared goals.
However, major bank careers often require hard skills, too. For example, many roles in a bank need to understand the fundamentals of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), different types of financial statements, and how to calculate financial metrics such as EBITDA (earnings before taxes, depreciation, and amortization) and enterprise value.
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Major Banks Salaries
Salaries for careers in major banks vary depending on the level of seniority and experience required for the position. For example, becoming a bank teller typically requires a high school diploma and some customer service experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), bank tellers had average annual salaries of $34,930 in 2021.
You need a bachelor’s degree to become a loan officer. But, that extra education requirement comes with a higher salary — loan officers made average yearly wages of $80,570.
Ultimately, positions requiring higher degrees, experience, or certifications often come with higher salaries. For example, a career as a financial manager, such as a portfolio manager, requires several years of experience in corporate finance and at least a bachelor’s degree. With these added requirements, financial managers made, on average, $153,460 in 2021.
>>MORE: Explore some of the highest-paying careers in finance.
Pros and Cons of Major Banks Career Paths
ProsConsSecurityCompetitiveHigh salariesLong hoursMany opportunitiesPressure
Working for a major bank has many upsides. One of the main benefits is that major banks are huge, meaning there are many directions to move in without needing to change companies. Banks also pay well, especially for more senior roles in management and investing.
“The banking industry is generally very stable and resistant to downturns, meaning you will have a steady income and few disruptions to your day-to-day operations,” adds Gallagher.
However, major banks is not a good career path for everyone. Job openings are competitive, and that competition carries through to the day-to-day. There is a lot of pressure to outperform your coworkers, and even minor mistakes on the job can cost the bank a lot of money.
Additionally, Gallagher notes that, “Banks often operate outside of regular working hours, and employees may be required to stay back or work overtime to meet deadlines.”
Related Career Paths
Some career paths that have similar skills and education requirements as working in a major bank include:
- Finance career paths
- Commercial banking career paths
- Accounting career paths
- Actuarial science careers
Unsure of which career path is right for you? Start exploring your options with Forage’s free virtual experience programs.
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