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Is university necessary for a successful career in finance?

by LLB Editor
20th Apr 21 11:38 am

With the last year in lockdown having left many prospective students questioning university fees for a lesser standard of education and experience, many are turning to alternative forms of career progression and professional qualifications. While alternative forms of education are common in many industries, finance roles generally see progression starting with a Bachelor’s degree. However, for many roles, including accounting, while holding a degree is the norm, this is usually preferred as opposed to essential.

As with many roles in the finance sector, accountancy roles, opportunities, and internships are often oversubscribed with thousands of applications for each position at large accounting firms. While this means that many firms set a degree or current study towards a degree as a prerequisite, there are a variety of accounting firms that recognise that aptitude, and an ability to manage and analyse data, paired with good experience on real projects can develop great talent with even greater potential in the industry.

Chris Biggs, Partner at Theta Global Advisors – a consultancy and accounting disruptor – comments on the need to look outside immediate pools to identify and nurture burgeoning talent for the accounting and wider finance sector:

“With many prospective students having changed tact over the last year to develop their careers while they work and progress through more vocational routes, employers in the accounting and consultancy industry must likewise adapt in order to maintain a steady flow of top talent for these roles. This is also an excellent opportunity to provide for more equal opportunities for candidates regardless of background, with many socially mobile candidates less likely to see attending university as a natural next step.

Instead, employers should be focussing on providing internships to top talent, offering experience on real projects and identifying those with the aptitude to undertake qualifications such as: CIMA; AAT; ACCA; and ICAEW and see their careers progress rapidly regardless of whether or not they hold a university degree. This is not to say that the value of a university degree is any less, and indeed they are an excellent way of developing skill sets essential to a successful accounting career, but employers should not view them as an essential check list item when experience and vocational training can prove just as effective.

As such, what we need is for firms, be they large or small, in the accounting and general Finance sector to open internship opportunities to those beyond just university attendees. This will serve to widen the net for top talent, identifying candidates who could be hired without a degree and nurtured to undertake qualifications, excelling in the sector. This will also improve opportunities for candidates from more diverse backgrounds, and as a result will see firms flourish as we consistently see of companies with a diverse workforce with ranging backgrounds and experience”.

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