The diversity of job roles in the finance sector means that there are opportunities for graduates with any degree background.
The finance sector offers a wide variety of roles for graduates in financial and non-financial organisations alike, spanning the public and private sectors. While it is true that many graduates with accounting, business and finance-related degrees enter the finance sector, the majority of employers are also interested in applications from any discipline.
Even areas that you might think would demand a financial or mathematical background, such as investment banking, actuarial work and accountancy, accept graduates from all disciplines. What’s more these graduates (known as ‘non-cognates’) go on to enjoy successful careers in these areas.
Skills for the financial sector
Employers recognise that any degree discipline will teach students skills that are vital in the financial sector, and they don’t want to miss out on top graduates just because of their degree background. Degrees develop non-technical ‘soft skills’: qualities such as clear communication, the ability to analyse information, time management and good organisation. Non-cognates often find that their degree subject complements their work in finance. For example, a modern language degree is helpful when talking to international clients, an arts degree is useful when report writing, and a medical background can provide insights when working in the specialist healthcare market.
Some non-cognates are put off from applying for finance roles because they feel that they will be at a disadvantage compared to their cognate colleagues. If you have some numeracy, this won’t be the case. Training schemes are designed to give all graduates a comprehensive knowledge necessary to do their work, regardless of their degree. Large employers typically provide ongoing training to ensure you’re up to scratch.
Some areas of finance will require you to complete a professional qualification. Here again provisions are made for non-cognates, as the professional association will teach you ‘the basics’, while exempting cognate graduates from these courses.
Demonstrating your interest in the job
The most important thing employers look for in all potential graduate recruits is a genuine interest in the sector. One way of demonstrating your interest is to gain an internship – something offered by most financial institutions, larger industry organisations with finance departments, and certain departments within the public sector. Not only does it demonstrate your enthusiasm for a finance career, but it’s also a good opportunity to decide which area you’d like to work in.
Whether applying for an internship or a permanent position, you need to convey your desire for a finance career in your application. State your reasons for wanting to work in finance and for this organisation and demonstrate your knowledge of the sector. Read the business news to get used to financial terminology and an understanding of recent deals. Also research the services offered by leading players. The press sections of their websites, which often contain annual reports and press releases, are good places to start.
Alternative careers within the financial sector
If you fancy working within a financial environment but don’t want a finance role, don’t forget about other available opportunities.
All financial institutions incorporate a range of roles to enable them to function correctly. Essential job functions exist in the IT/technology departments, for example. Graduates in these areas ensure transactions are processed and provide IT support to all members of staff. Working in these departments usually requires an IT undergraduate degree or postgraduate conversion course.
Other areas include marketing and HR, so there are lots of chances for you to join the finance sector.
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