Why would you want to work on Wall Street?

College students aspiring to work on Wall Street are flocking to the Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan, this week for the ENGAGE student-investing conference, where they will get to put their investment savvy to the test and meet some experienced Wall Streeters and other financial professionals. Before the conference, we asked them why, given how much has happened in the past few years – blame for the financial crisis, regulation, layoffs, etc. – they still wanted to work there. And, if they couldn't get a job on Wall Street – what would their second choice be? Here are some of their answers.

Wall Street sign in subway station, New York City.
Scott Mlyn | CNBC
Wall Street sign in subway station, New York City.

Mediocracy scares me

I want to work on Wall Street to make a difference. It's not about the money. It's about pride and knowing that if you work on Wall Street, you have made it in the financial world. Wall Street is the eternal icon of the financial world and working there would be the ultimate prize. I have heard the many horror stories of Wall Street — having to work incredibly long hours. But all of that seems worth it. Long hours do not scare me; what scares me is living a life of mediocracy.

Backup plan: If Wall Street is not the answer, I would want to work in commercial real estate. Working in development or project funding would be perfect.

— Benjamin Cloutier, senior, finance major at Xavier University

Wall Street talking market reversal

I want to be an investor

Wall Street or not, I want to be an investor. I realized from an early age … the only way to get the type of lifestyle I want someday … is to own things. I'm not a superstar programmer, or a genius inventor, so I won't create the next Facebook or Apple. That being said, I decided to study money while in school so I can understand what tools are available in the world and make money work for me. By being disciplined, knowledgeable and having a plan, I am confident I can get all that I want in life through investing.

— Joel Florek, senior, finance major at Michigan Tech University

My passion is economics

Efficient capital allocation will always be integral to a successful economy, and that's Wall Street's job. Since it is a magnet for the "best and brightest" in terms of human capital and technology, it's no surprise that fewer people are doing this Herculean task; individual efficiency has expanded dramatically.

So honestly, as much as I admire Wall Street and would love to be in the beating heart of global capitalism, it's not my first choice. My passion is for economics, so central banking is more my speed.

— Andrew Roby, senior, economics major at Truman State University

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Finance is exciting

I want to work in the investment finance industry because it is exciting. The market changes every day. The best part about investments is that it is a giant competition, where everyone is competing to come up with the best ideas, discover what others overlook, and hopefully beat the benchmark. I am optimistic about the future of the industry because many of the people I talk to are truly passionate about finance and investing. Despite the bad press that sometimes clouds the industry's reputation, the industry really does help people achieve goals that would be otherwise impossible without investing.

Backup plan: If I can't get a job, then I will keep trying because I don't want to work in another industry.

— Jacob Westphal, junior, finance major at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

'The majority of the population are uneducated'

The majority of the population are uneducated in how to invest their money and because of this they feel safer giving it to a trained professional to invest. As stock markets continue to push towards a completely digital system, the population is still going to need professionals to invest their money. The U.S. economy is only one piece to the puzzle; with tremendous potential in developing economies there will always be opportunities to make money.

Backup plan: My second choice would be working for an accounting firm.

— Luke Aspell, junior, business administration at Colby-Sawyer College

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I'm confident in Wall Street's future

I'm confident about industry's future and my career in it for many reasons. The number one reason I know I have picked a solid career path is that the industry is the backbone of world business. The most recent publications I'm aware of say over $4 trillion on the forex markets and $150 billion on the stock markets are traded daily. Although the markets tumble from time to time, an actual collapse of the industry would mean a collapse of the world's monetary system. If Wall Street goes down, so does the rest of the world. No world government is going to let that happen, and that's some major job security.

I have already accepted an amazing opportunity to work for KPMG in Chicago as an economic valuations associate. The position is under their tax practice, and it's my understanding that I'll be specializing in valuing intangible assets mainly for the purpose of impairment tests, but also to support mergers and acquisitions. Honestly I'm just a kid that's been very lucky to find a professional path that I'm actually going to enjoy, as well as a prestigious starting point in what I know will be a long career in the finance industry.

— Jacob C. Adams, Western Michigan University

Wall Street shrinking? That's just normal volatility

In my opinion, the financial-services industry implied by the term "Wall Street" is generally more volatile in comparison with other industries. Undeniably, Wall Street shrinking is just a normal stage of the finance industry. And it will be back to the track like it often is.

Backup plan: I don't have a second choice. My goal is to keep working till I achieve my dream of landing a job on Wall Street.

— Duc Trinh, junior, accounting and finance major at Colby-Sawyer College

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