What do you need to get a job in Finance? Quite a broad question with quite a broad answer as well. Obviously, there’s no one golden rule that applies to all situations, to all countries, or to all jobs. The answer is very much that it depends on the parameters just listed and much more when you are to evaluate if you stand a chance of landing a certain job. What experience do you have, what education do you have, are you a qualified accountant or do you have a certification? In some countries, you can have a very successful career with a university degree and in others, this will never be enough on its own. At least that’s what I’ve found doing a bit of research into the educational requirements to landing a job as either a Senior Accountant or a Financial Analyst. And WHY is this important to know? Because if you want to manage and plan your career you better know what’s in store for you.
So, tell me what exactly do I need to land these jobs?
Even when you narrow it down to two positions out hundreds of positions in the finance function the answer is still that it depends. Now, this is by no means a scientific research study and one could spend a significant amount of time digging through the data. I limited my research to these two roles across three countries being the US, the UK, and India. In total, I looked at 110 job ads on LinkedIn (50 Senior Accountant roles and 60 Financial Analyst roles).
I found that if you want to become a Senior Accountant then in only 20% of the cases you would be able to get by with a bachelor degree only. In most cases candidates having a CPA, ACCA, ACA or Master’s Degree would be preferred and don’t be fooled. If a job ad states preferred then 99 times out of a 100 it means it is required. Other degrees also mentioned were MBA, CMA, CIMA, AAT, CTA and CA. No wonder people get confused when trying to plan their career. For 20 Senior Accountant positions in the UK, no less than eight different degrees or certifications were mentioned as a viable road towards becoming a Senior Accountant.
It doesn’t get less confusing when looking at the role of a Financial Analyst albeit in 37% of the cases you would be able to land the role with a bachelor only making it the most popular route to the position of Financial Analyst. Again, there are country-specific differences though. In the UK, you still need either an ACCA, CIMA or ACA if you want the job. In the US, it rarely requires more than a bachelor. India is more mixed with bachelor also being the most popular route.
What exactly does this mean to me then?
First, it means that you can rarely get hired for a job in finance with a bachelor only unless you go for entry level jobs. As you gain experience you also need to further educate yourself. Second, it means that you need to be serious about planning your career in Finance and take a good look at what certifications/qualifications are needed to land your dream job. I’d reckon that these demands haven’t changed much over time meaning that even you’re not quite sure where your career will take you five-ten years from now then you can still look at what qualifications are needed to land a role as Finance Director or even CFO. Third, it means that if you want to have an international career moving from country to country then you’d do well to stay within a similar educational domain or look for certifications that are internationally recognized. It also means that if you’re a Dane like me where a Master’s degree is always enough you will have a tough time going international if not within the company you’re employed in your home country. At least not without further studies. Finally, even you think something like an MBA is internationally recognized it wasn’t mentioned even once as a requirement for landing one of the two roles in the UK so you really need to do your homework if you want an international career in Finance.
To answer the initial question of whether you can get a job in Finance with a degree only the answer of “it depends” still stands as in 1/3 of the job ads you can get the job with either a bachelor or a master’s degree. However, in the UK this only applies to 8% of the job ads meaning essentially you can’t get a job in Finance in the UK without something on top of your degree. Now tell me how does it look in your country and how have the demanded qualifications affected your career path through the finance function?
The need for certifications to have a successful career in Finance is not really part of the new career path for finance professionals and my take on is that these certifications, unlike most university degrees, manages to change when businesses and the finance function change. That means they help you stay up-to-date whereas a university degree could be obsolete the day you graduate. Some further food for thought for the career path of finance professionals!