Financial Education

The financial services industry contributes with almost £500 billion per year to the UK's GDP. Given its magnitude, this sector offers a wide range of career opportunities in a variety of roles. The Investing Site has examined the most in-demand careers in finance and what is required in order to get into this industry.

Careers in finance

  • Financial advisor (financial planner)
    • While the demand for independent financial advisors is on the rise, over the past few years this profession has become heavily regulated by the Financial Services Authority, which also set the minimum qualifications required to work as a financial advisor.

      Currently, the minimum qualification is a Level 4 Qualifications and Credit Framework diploma, which is the approximate equivalent to the first year of an undergraduate degree. The most popular level 4 qualifications include the Diploma for Financial Advisers run by the IFS School of Finance, the Investment Advice Diploma offered by the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment, and the Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning offered by the Chartered Insurance Institute. The average student can complete these programmes in 12 to 18 months.

      Most employers also require advisors to pass the Financial Planning Certificate exam at the Chartered Insurance Institute. However, it is worth noting that this certificate is considered an entry-level qualification. You may want to take additional exams that will prepare you to work in specific sectors, like the CII certificates in Insurance Practice, Life and Pensions, and Mortgage Advice.

      Achieving chartered status depends on successfully completing the Chartered Insurance Institute's Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning and on having five years of demonstrable work experience.
  • Accountancy
    • Accountancy is one of the finance-related professions that has not been affected by the economic crisis. In fact, the number of vacancies in accountancy has been steadily increasing since 2009.

      There are two routes available to those with an interest in an accountancy career. The first involves completing a first degree in accountancy. The majority of business schools at British universities offer degree programmes in this subject. Those who already have a degree and wish to specialise in certain areas of accounting can opt for completing an MSc programme in Accounting and Finance.

      Alternatively, it is possible to get certified after signing up for an on-the-job training program and using the skills gained to study towards a professional qualification. These qualifications are exclusively offered by the professional bodies in this sector, namely the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, the Association of Accounting Technicians, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. Completing these qualifications involves studying for a minimum of three years, carrying out work experience programmes, and passing up to 12 different exams.

      The AAT (one of the professional bodies for accounting technicians) offers a fast-track route into accountancy to individuals without a university qualification or previous experience, as well as a recognised qualification in accountancy that can be obtained in three years.
  • Investment banking
    • Investment banking is a broad area of finance that involves roles like market analysis, bond and security trading, hedging, and risk management. To get into investment banking, employers typically require a first degree in business or finance, or in a subject that requires exceptional numeracy skills, like maths, economics, physics, accounting, statistics, or computing. Increasingly more, the knowledge of a second language is a valuable skill for those who want to work in this field. The most sought-after applicants are often those with a degree from universities like the London School of Economics, Oxbridge, Imperial College, Warwick, University College London, and the universities at Bristol, Manchester, Durham, York, and St Andrew's.

      If you already have a degree and are considering a career in investment banking, a postgraduate qualification could open many doors. Some reputable programmes include the MSc in Financial Market Analysis at the University of Hertfordshire, and the MSc Finance, Investment Banking, and Capital Markets, offered by the London School of Business and Finance in collaboration with the London Metropolitan University. Studying towards an MBA can give future investment bankers a competitive edge when applying to work with some of the most renowned investment banks.

      Lastly, it is possible to get into the profession by taking dedicated professional certifications, such as the Certified Investment Banker programme, which is offered by the London Academy of Professional Education and Research and that is accredited by the Association of Business Professionals.
  • Stockbroking
    • Because of the nature of the events that affect the stock market, stock brokers are required to have in-depth knowledge of the global economy, the international financial markets, and of how political events can affect them. It is assumed that stock brokers will also have outstanding numeracy skills gained through hands-on experience (like internships) and preferably, a degree in business, finance, accountancy, or economics.

      To become a licensed stock broker, you must pass a number of exams set by the Securities and Investments Institute and/or the Society of Investment Professionals. Advanced qualifications are available from the Chartered Financial Analysts Institute.