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New @CFAinstitute survey finds finance remains a top career choice; graduates consider more education and credentials; optimism exists while re-evaluating career trajectories.

CFA Institute, the global association of investment professionals, today releases results from a survey it conducted on the career outlook of more than 15,000 current university students and recent graduates aged 18-25 from 15 markets.

The results find that globally, 58 percent of respondents still feel confident about their future career prospects in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings also indicate that traditionally stable fields, such as finance, remain attractive for graduates navigating these uncertain times. In fact, respondents across all 15 markets ranked finance as one of the top five most valuable majors for finding a career. Overall, graduates felt that medicine/science was most stable and attractive, followed by healthcare and then education. 

“Students and recent graduates are more flexible and confident about their prospects than ever,” said Margaret Franklin, CFA, President and CEO, CFA Institute.

“The pandemic forced many grads to reassess their expected career paths, and they have displayed remarkable resilience despite the circumstances. It is now incumbent on companies to adapt to the new realities, such as hybrid workplaces, in order to attract and retain the young talent we need to help lead us out of the pandemic.

“It is encouraging to see that many graduates still view finance as a stable and attractive career path. Worryingly, however, graduates currently don’t see the industry as making a positive social impact. This issue is only going to increase in importance, and industry leaders need to make sure we are on the front foot in educating students about the positive impact an investment career can have for people and our planet,” Franklin concluded.

Graduates have a positive outlook overall, despite COVID-19 pandemic leading them to reassess their career paths

A majority of graduates believe their future career will be as good or better than their parents' generation, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings showed that those studying accounting and finance were particularly confident, with 80 percent believing their prospects are as good or better than their parents’ generation, compared to three quarters (75 percent) of respondents overall. 

Despite this overall confidence, nearly half (46 percent) of the respondents reported they are reassessing their career paths in light of the pandemic — their top concerns now include low pay in their preferred sector (26 percent), lack of jobs in their preferred sector (25 percent) and working in a sector that doesn’t fulfil or interest them (26 percent). 

Further education is key in volatile job market

Another primary concern for students is developing work-related skills during degree programs and after graduating. Those surveyed shared personal insecurities about this, with a quarter of respondents (25 percent) saying they feel underqualified for the job they want, and 22 percent saying they do not feel ready for the working world. 

When approaching the current complex job market, students and graduates see value in further education. Nearly nine in 10 respondents (87 percent) feel that upskilling and post-graduate qualifications are important in the current job market, and 57 percent believe postgraduate qualifications/professional certification will give them an edge when looking for a job. 

This is causing a significant uptake in further studies, with nearly half (47 percent) of graduates planning to prolong their time in education.

Peter Watkins, who leads the University Affiliation Program at CFA Institute in Europe, Middle East and Africa commented:

“Graduates’ strong confidence in higher education is good news for universities but we should be clear about their motives. Graduates are clearly focusing on work-readiness, professional skills, and boosting their job prospects; higher education and credentialling institutions need to ensure their offerings meet this demand.”

Graduates want to make a positive impact

Working in an industry that makes a positive societal and environmental contribution ranks very important to recent graduates, with nearly nine in 10 (87 percent) respondents saying it’s an important part of their career choice. Of concern is that only 8% of respondents consider a career in investment management as one in which they could make a positive environmental and societal impact. This finding shows that, to retain talent, the sector must do more to educate students around the positive impact they could have in an investment industry career.  

“Graduates may be unaware of the remarkable global trend towards environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing and the career opportunities a specialism in sustainability and ESG could offer them in the investment industry. We need to show them that investment careers can be rewarding well beyond the traditional attraction of higher salaries,” Watkins said.

Methodology: The research, conducted by Censuswide, surveyed 15,186 students studying for a bachelor’s degree or higher, or have graduated with a bachelor’s or higher within the last three years. The respondents were from the UK, US, Japan, Canada, India, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, UAE, Germany, South Africa, Spain, France, Brazil and Mexico. 

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