Although the financial markets remain very much in flux, and many of the world’s economies have yet to fully recover from the economic downturn of the past few years, a career in finance is still a very wise and often lucrative choice. If you graduate with a business degree and manage to also complete an MBA you’ll find many doors open to you, and the main question will simply be which one you want to walk through. One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is whether to work in private finance or public finance. Private finance is what you often think of as the standard, with brokers looking to increase equity for private citizens or corporations. Public finance has a bit of a larger scope. It can also be referred to as municipal finance, but either way there are two primary approaches. So what are the details of work in public finance, and how can you find a job?
One of the main branches of public finance involves managing accounts for governments and government organizations. That means financial management for any size district, be it a state, a city, a county or a town, as well as for the smaller organizations that help these districts operate. That could mean working for an airport, a transportation authority, a series of school districts, a stadium or sports complex, a park or even an electric utility owned by the government. As you can imagine, there is an almost endless amount of organizations right here in the United States that require financial management.
The other avenue you could take with public finance is working for an investment bank that then invests on behalf of public organizations or governments. You could specialize in securities underwriting or fundraising, selling bonds or working to set up hedge funds. In this case your position would be with a private sector firm, just working on public finance projects. These situations won’t feel particularly different than the private finance jobs you’ve come across, but will simply have a different focus.
So how do you go about finding these jobs? In many cases, it pays to start as a corporate finance analyst. The work of raising capital is fairly similar when working in the public sector, but you’ll actually have an interesting amount of flexibility due to the tax-exempt status many of those institutions enjoy. All finance jobs are in demand, and if you expect a governmental body to hire you, you are going to have to show a track record of success. You will be in especially strong shape if you can show you were able to help develop large scale projects. Most public programs take quite a long time to come through, and they need to generate the smallest possible burden on resources taken from the general public. As long as you can show a talent in traditional investment banking, you’ll find the requirements to be much the same in the public finance sector.
In order to truly thrive within this sector, you also need to show you have a desire to contribute meaningfully to society. After all, you aren’t just working to pad the bank accounts of billionaires. You are generating revenue that will go into public projects. That means the money you raise could help repair roads, upgrade electrical systems, pay transportation and sanitation workers and otherwise impact the real, daily life of thousands of people. A history of activities in the non-profit sector will help show you have the determination and work ethic to bring real effort. Volunteering in the community may not be why you get hired at a public finance job in your home district or a Michael Gardnyr capital branch, but it may get you in the room for an interview. After that, your passion for the work should see you through.