(ARA) - Despite high unemployment rates and a slow economy, job outlooks are bright for students considering degrees related to financial services. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2010-11, the demand for personal financial advisers, insurance agents and financial analysts is expected to rise faster than average by 2018.

To snag one of these positions, experts say experience and financial prowess are key. "Our incoming financial professionals bring a sound understanding of financial issues and offer a variety of unique skills that allow us to contribute to a spirit of diversity and excellence," says David Simmons, director of marketing at Wealth Concepts LLC, a general agency of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) in Denver. "This has allowed our firm to remain profitable in an intensely competitive financial services environment."

Alyssa Chen, a student at the University of Denver, knows that all too well. As a MassMutual Scholar - a recipient of a $5,000 college scholarship - Chen says the potential for career opportunities in the financial sector and her experience in helping to manage her family's restaurant, are a few of the things that inspired her to explore careers in financial services.

"From my own family's experiences, I have seen how tremendous wealth and material possessions can easily be lost leading to extreme financial anxiety and depression," she says. "A career in financial services would be a perfect way to utilize my skills to help others avoid dire circumstances by helping people prepare better for their financial future and understand their finances more."

Nick Fyntrilakis, MassMutual's assistant vice president of Community Responsibility, says this year the company saw a major uptick in applications for its multicultural scholarship program, which provides $5,000 college scholarships to African American, Asian/Pacific Islander and Hispanic students, who have an interest in financial services.

"More students are seeing the value of financial literacy and what a career in financial services could mean for them," he says.

Part of MassMutual's goal, through its scholars program, is to make students aware of the importance of sound financial planning.

"The younger you start to save and budget, the easier it is when you're older to plan for retirement, purchase a home or simply gain peace of mind that your family will be well-cared for when you're gone," Fyntrilakis says.

Students who are interested in a career in financial services should consider a degree in business, finance, economics, marketing or sales. In addition, good candidates have the following attributes:

* An interest in helping others: Financial services professionals work directly with individuals to assist them with their financial strategies.

* A taste for entrepreneurship: A drive to meet personal and professional goals as well as exceptional time management skills are ideal traits for successful financial professionals.

* A love for learning: The financial industry landscape is always changing so good candidates should be open to feedback and guidance, while continually looking for new ways to gain experience and knowledge.

* A knack for networking: Making new contacts and building long-lasting relationships with individuals are key to developing a strong client base and growing your business over time.

For more information about MassMutual's scholarship programs visit www.massmutual.com/education.Financial services a good field for students to investigate

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