From education to employment

How to Break into Finance without a finance Degree

portrait of man in suit on a colorful background

 In this article, Nick Bartlett advises readers on how they can pursue a career in finance without a degree in finance. This involves keeping up to date with the industry, staying involved with finance, building a strong network, gaining extra qualifications and securing an internship.

The UK’s well-documented economic challenges have put downward pressure on wages, with many experiencing a fall in salary in real terms. However, the finance industry has largely withstood these headwinds and figures reported by ACCA earlier this year showed that jobs continue to be in high demand and salaries are reaching all-time highs.

So, it’s little surprise that careers in the finance industry are more popular than ever. In fact, UK graduates and university students ranked finance as the most attractive and stable career choice in this year’s CFA Institute Global Graduate Outlook Survey, ahead of careers like STEM and medicine.

The path to a career in finance is almost always thought to involve a degree in economics, finance, or accounting. However, the industry is evolving and the job opportunities on offer are expanding. In 2022, there were over a million financial services jobs on offer in the UK. This includes roles in relatively new fields such as AI, crypto, and ESG Investing that might not be what people imagine when they think of ‘traditional’ finance roles.

In fact, according to the CFA Institute Global Graduate Outlook Survey, less than a third of (28%) UK students and graduates think subject matter expertise can help give them an edge in the job market, whereas over half (55%) of respondents believe that acquiring the necessary skills would help to lift their job application to the top of the pile. Similarly, more than nine in ten (93%) said upskilling and professional/post-graduate qualifications are important in the current job market.

So, if you’re passionate about finance but lack a finance degree, don’t be discouraged. Professional qualifications like the CFA Program, which aims to provide candidates with expertise and real-world skills in investment analysis, welcomes applicants regardless of their degree discipline.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways to kickstart your finance career:

Stay involved with finance – Whether you’re currently in a non-finance related job or studying at university, it’s important to stay involved with finance in some way. For instance, university fairs and societies are incredibly useful for finding out more about potential careers, and will help to connect you with likeminded individuals, build your confidence and give your career path more direction.

Keep up with the industry –To keep your finance knowledge fresh, it’s always good to subscribe to industry publications that focus on your particular interest, whether that be, investing, sustainable finance or crypto. Knowing your field and having a view on current affairs will help you feel more comfortable discussing it with peers and potential employers. Be sure to brush up on your financial jargon too!

Build a strong network – It’s never too early to build your network, particularly in an industry like finance, where having a good network is invaluable. It can often lead to mentorships and even job referrals, and we found that 40% of students and graduates believed that networking gave them an ‘edge’ in the job market post-graduation. A third (32%) of students and graduates aren’t confident they know what employers are looking for, so not only is reaching out on LinkedIn to those in roles you’re interested in is a great tactic to expand your network, but looking at people’s career history is a useful way to see how they progressed and what experience they had when they started out.

Gain certifications & qualifications – If you’re looking to navigate the basics of the finance world or just want some extra knowledge, it’s always worth looking at acquiring qualifications. The Investment Foundations Certificate offered by CFA Institute is a flexible learning option to give you an overview of the essentials in finance and investing. There’s also the option to pursue more specialised finance pathways, such as the Certificate in ESG Investing, which helps users meet the growing demand for ESG investing and succeed in the evolving investment landscape. The great thing about these courses is that you don’t need to have completed an undergraduate qualification, making it accessible to anyone, regardless of your career direction.

Secure an internship – Seek out internships and work experience to add colour to your CV and build your confidence. A quarter (24%) of students and graduates said they fear feeling underqualified in the job market, but internships are a great way to get real-life experience and are often just as valuable as formal qualifications. When applying, make sure to highlight your transferrable skills, such as analytical thinking, problem solving and organisation.

Breaking into finance without a finance degree might sound challenging, but it is entirely feasible. Demonstrating a tangible interest and willingness to learn will show prospective employers just how passionate you are about pursuing a career in the industry.

Nick Bartlett, Senior Head, Learning Content, CFA Program, CFA Institute

Related Articles