Getting a graduate job in accountancy and finance

September, 2016

Good numeracy skills and the right qualifications are required to pursue a career in this sector, but relevant work experience is also vital to your progress

It's not uncommon for companies to accept applications from graduates of a range of disciplines, but a degree demonstrating your numeracy and analytical skills is a real benefit - particularly for more specialist roles.

Most large employers, many of which run graduate schemes and work placements, ask for a 2:1 or above and will sometimes specify a certain number of UCAS points or minimum grades at A-level.

Vocational finance qualifications in areas such as tax, accounting and investment management may be viewed by recruiters as more important than a degree. However, you can often gain these recognised awards once you're working in the industry, through part-time study or distance learning.

What skills do employers want?

The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has reported skills shortages in accounting and finance, with a clear demand for suitably-qualified professionals.

Graduate recruiters typically require candidates with a logical mindset, a real interest in finance, attention to detail and accuracy, self-confidence, and the ability to work under pressure.

Gaining work experience prior to graduation can help to develop your skillset, plus demonstrate your enthusiasm and commitment to the sector. You should also keep up to date with industry news.

Where can I look for work experience?

Internships and vacation schemes can often lead to a permanent job or a place on a graduate scheme. This is because many vacancies are filled by those who've already worked for the company during their undergraduate studies, possibly by spending a year in industry.

To find work placements and internships, search for work experience. Alternatively, visit individual company websites or your university's careers service.

How do I find a graduate job in finance?

This will depend on your degree of specialism and the environment you'd like to work in. For a career in accountancy, you may be looking to work within a company's finance department or provide financial services to clients. One route to take is to seek a training contract with an employer while you study for an appropriate accounting qualification.

Graduates schemes also offer a clear pathway into various finance careers, with many placements resulting in permanent positions. They can also sometimes provide an opportunity to gain a professional qualification with a recognised awarding body such as the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). It's important to note though that the structure of these schemes can vary according to the exact nature of the industry and how graduates will fit into the organisation. For example, some finance schemes involve a number of rotational placements at different UK or overseas offices lasting between two or three years. To explore the different types of programmes, see our lowdown on finance graduate schemes.

While larger finance employers including the 'big four' in accountancy and professional services (Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC) and retail banks such as Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland typically take graduates on to gain valuable experience across their main business functions, you'll find that graduate jobs in finance are also available at the local level.

In fact, finance specialists are not only required in this industry - opportunities exist across other job sectors, with the likes of Boots, Centrica, Nestlé, Network Rail, Tesco and Virgin Media taking on graduates in this field (through entry-level jobs and graduate schemes). Additionally there are many routes into employment with the UK's growing number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

When looking for jobs, you'll find details on the main graduate employers' websites, with vacancies also advertised by specialist recruitment agencies. You can also try applying for work speculatively, especially with smaller finance companies.

It's also worth making the most of your university's student services by attending careers fairs and discussing your options with advisers.

For the latest jobs in the sector, search graduate jobs in accountancy, banking and finance.