Professional finance qualifications can open up a range of employment opportunities, while guiding you down a clearly defined career path
If you choose a career in finance, you'll almost certainly need at least one professional qualification to progress. Many people study while working - especially as a large number of part-time and distance learning options are available in accounting, banking, investment management, insurance and risk management, and financial management and tax.
The following finance qualifications are necessary for many professional routes, but for specific roles, see graduate finance jobs.
Masters courses in finance
Although the Masters in Finance (MiF) may sound like a general postgraduate qualification, in practice it can be a specific financial services programme which leads to achieving the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, offered by CFA Society UK through the CFA University Affiliation Programme.
You're still likely to learn the essential knowledge and quantitative skills required for a career in the financial industry, whether that's in retail, commercial or investment banking, corporate finance, or broking in both public and private sector organisations - but this course is reserved for ambitious candidates with a clear career plan.
MSc Finance courses from institutions including Alliance Manchester Business School, Imperial College Business School and London Business School typically ask for a related maths, economics or finance degree (among others) while some require a number of years' work experience before you'll be accepted onto the course.
One most the most far-reaching areas of finance, a career in accountancy would suit anyone who is well organised, analytical, logical and numerate. To progress to management level or even start your own business, you'll need to consider taking a relevant accounting course.
This is a vast area, but the Chartered Banker Institute provides a number of distinct core banking qualifications designed for new entrants to the sector all the way through to experienced professionals looking to achieve chartered banker status. These include:
- Associate Chartered Banker Diploma - to build upon your current skillset and gain a professional qualification which entitles you to use the Associate Chartered Banker designation.
- Professional Banker Diploma - supports the development of your technical knowledge and job-specific skills.
- Professional Banker Certificate - an introduction to the sector for those working in non-banking specialisms such as marketing, HR or IT.
As High Fliers' The Graduate Market in 2019 points out, investment banks (£47,000) and banking and finance companies (£32,000) featuring in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers offer some of the most generous graduate starting salaries, with continuing professional development further increasing your earning potential. To explore this high-paying career path in more detail, read our top tips on getting into investment banking.
If you're interested in postgraduate study but want to ensure that the curriculum is current and relevant to the competitive business world, you may wish to explore industry-approved banking courses such as those available from Cass Business School.
Both full and part-time Masters programmes are available in areas such as banking and international finance, corporate finance, global finance and investment management. These degrees are often designed in partnership with industry professional bodies, such as the CII, CISI and CAIA.
Many finance graduate schemes offered by leading employers also give graduates the opportunity to achieve a professional banking qualification as part of the programme. You may also wish to consider the top UK banking apprenticeships, which provide on-the-job training as you study towards a recognised qualification.
Financial services qualifications
The field of financial services is broad, and can be divided into commercial and investment banking. As banks and other financial institutions provide a range of services for both types, there will be some overlap between the different specialisms.
For an overarching qualification, the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) has developed the Level 3 Certificate in Financial Services. This award offers two targeted learning routes for those working in operational and technical support positions. With the CII qualification, you can choose to go down one of two routes - life and pensions or general financial services.
The Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI) also has various pathways for those working in financial services, with options at foundation, qualifying, advanced and professional levels in capital markets and corporate finance, compliance and risk, financial planning, Islamic finance, operations and wealth management.
These finance courses have been designed and developed in conjunction with industry so they're considered the benchmark for employees at major banks and financial organisations.
As you progress your career in financial services, you may wish to consider the professional qualifications available from The London Institute of Banking & Finance. These include the Diploma in Business & Commercial Banking & Conduct, the Level 5 Commercial and Corporate Lending and the Diploma for Financial Advisors.
If you're looking to achieve an insurance focused qualification, the CII also offers the Advanced Diploma in Insurance. From this, and having gained five years' relevant experience, you may be eligible to apply for chartered status as an insurance broker, insurer, insurance practitioner or insurance risk manager.
Wealth management courses
You could decide to follow the Certified Financial Planner certification with the CISI, which covers pensions and provisioning, and pensions advice. However, you'll only be eligible to study towards the award once you've gained at least one year of supervised practical experience, or three years unsupervised.
Other routes include the wealth management study pathway for wealth managers, discretionary portfolio managers, independent financial advisers, private bankers and private client managers. The seven levels range from foundation level to the Level 7 Chartered Wealth Manager qualification.
Recognised pensions qualifications are available for those working in employee benefits and retirement savings. The Pensions Management Institute (PMI) offers relevant courses for those entering the industry, as well as established pension scheme managers and pensions consultants.
If you wish to undertake postgraduate study in this specialist area, Cass Business School runs dedicated programmes designed in partnership with respected organisations such as the CFA Institute, CISI and the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst Association (CAIA). This includes the one-year full-time MSc Investment Management, which costs £28,500.
Financial planning certificates
Following the Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) Retail Distribution Review (RDR), advisers were required to attain minimum knowledge levels. So, if you've achieved the necessary standard, such as the CISI's Investment Advice Diploma or the Chartered Wealth Manager qualification, you may now wish to study the Diploma in Financial Planning. By choosing the professional route, you can become a Certified Financial Planner.
Qualification for Chartered Financial Planner status is also possible if you hold the CII Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning, have at least five years' industry experience and are a member of the CII or the Personal Finance Society (PFS).
Whether you're applying for a bookkeeping job or are hoping to start a business, the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) allows you to study a bookkeeping course either at home or through an accredited training provider such as Kaplan.
If you complete the core ICB bookkeeping qualifications in order, you can study all three certificates at Level 4 and achieve the Diploma in Advanced Bookkeeping and Accounting. This allows you to become an ICB-certified bookkeeper, become a member of the professional organisation and carry out roles to a senior employed or self-employed standard.
The AAT offers five short bookkeeping courses, from introductory and foundation levels to the Advanced Certificate in Bookkeeping qualification, which can be used to progress to professional AAT bookkeeping member status (AATQB).
The Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification from the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) is the highest attainment for those involved with tax. As well as passing the entry exams, you'll also need three years' professional experience in a relevant role.
A joint programme between the CIOT and ICAEW enables students to achieve the CTA and ACA qualifications, leading to becoming an ICAEW Chartered Accountant and Chartered Tax Adviser within three to four years.
Students working in a relevant role can choose one of three routes: the Taxation of Major Corporates (FTSE 350 companies), Indirect Taxation or Taxation of Owned-Managed Businesses. You'll need to pay separate registration and exam fees to each organisation.
Another option is the ATT CTA Tax Pathway, which gives students the chance to study for both ATT and CTA qualifications - through a flexible approach of classroom-based teaching, distance learning or self-study - while becoming members of these organisations within a shorter timeframe.
Explore what it takes to become a tax adviser.
The Association of Corporate Treasurers (ACT) offers a progressive learning path for those looking to become a treasury professional. Their qualifications are mapped to four treasury job levels: tactical, operational, managerial and strategic. This means there's a qualification to suit your needs at whatever level you're at. You can study to support your career development as your progress from a junior to more senior position or jump on and off the study pathway at your appropriate level. Flexibility is a key part of the ACT learning experience - you can make progress at a pace that suits you.
Read about the role of a corporate treasurer.
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