Over the past decades, London has developed to become one of the most important financial centres in the world and Edinburgh has also become a powerful player in the sector. Despite occasional setbacks during times of global economic difficulty, the two cities have consistently offered opportunity for talented and ambitious young people. This has expanded to create opportunity in other cities, too, making finance a very attractive career option. With more routine finance ensuring that people with skills in this area will always be needed, it’s a very appealing sector to work in. So how do you start a career in the world of finance?
Although small companies may get by with part time work by one member of staff, larger ones inevitably need a dedicated financial officer or a whole financial department. This means there are opportunities in virtually every sector and though building up a specialism can make you more attractive at interview, it’s relatively easy to transfer between sectors. Within finance you might choose to specialise in accounting, investment, or a subdivision of one of them – there are dozens of different options in many fields. Although you can potentially make a very good salary in any area of finance once you’ve honed your skills, accounting professions offer more security (as they are less dependent on the state of the markets) and investment offers more opportunity to climb quickly up the ladder.
To get into a good finance job you will normally need a degree in business and finance, economics or maths. Sometimes chemistry degrees are also sufficient because they show a good ability to work with numbers and to organise thought. For top jobs, you’ll also need to find an internship, normally between the second and third years of your university course, with one of the leading finance companies. This isn’t the only route into the industry however, and even if you have no university qualifications, you can take a course in bookkeeping or accountancy that can open up lots of opportunities. Many accountancy firms are willing to take on part-qualified individuals and provide them with mentoring, creating a great way to earn whilst you learn and make connections.
Finding your own path
One of the reasons why finance careers are so appealing is that they offer a high degree of flexibility, with many different possible career paths. In most areas, there are a good number of part time as well as full time options, and there’s seasonal work available, especially around the end of the financial year. Contractor accountants can enjoy the variety offered by working for different companies at different times, and often earn very highly as they progress in their careers. Experienced investment managers often go into consultancy where they can earn well and work just as much or as little as they want to.
The finance sector is one of the most genuinely meritocratic areas you can work in. If you’re intelligent, perceptive and willing to work hard, you could go far.