The Best Careers for Finance Graduates

Are you struggling to choose a route into the Finance & Accountancy sector? Manager and Sellick Partnership recruitment specialist Martin Parr offers his advice to new graduates on how to get onto the career ladder and build a long and successful career within the sector.  

Choosing a career path within Finance & Accountancy can be a daunting experience for new graduates. The sector is vast and there are various options depending on one’s ambition and career aspirations. From my experience, there is no ‘best’ career route, but there are a number of options that can help give Finance & Accountancy candidates the springboard and experience needed to be hugely successful within the sector. Whatever career path graduates decide to take, they will be required to study towards a professional qualification (ACCA, CIMA, ACA) so it is beneficial to know what route is most useful and why.

A good grounding will open up doors throughout a candidate’s career

It is very hard to say what job roles are best within Finance & Accountancy because this would be based on the individual aspirations of each graduate in question. Each path will suit a different skill set and type of candidate, and it takes experience and basic training for candidates to decide what niche they want to specialise in. In my opinion, graduates need to fully understand the finance sector before they can decide what their dream job may be. For example, some people may wish to become the future CFO of an FTSE listed business, and others may be driven by a certain charity, each of which is very different, and it is hard to determine what career choice is best without a good understanding of the basics.

For that reason, we generally do not discuss achieving specific roles with students or recent graduates, but instead, steer them towards gaining a good Finance & Accountancy qualification within Practice or Industry. People that have gained a solid understanding of the finance sector early on, and have a background in either Practice or Industry will be in a very strong position throughout their career. Candidates will be able to transition into their dream job/sector once they have learnt what the role of a finance professional involves.

The first and best career choice, in my opinion, is securing a graduate position or entry-level role within one of the Big 4 Accountancy Practice firms – Deloitte, PwC, EY and KPMG – or a well-recognised firm within the top 10.

The best career option for graduates within the Finance & Accountancy sector

Finance & Accountancy graduates we work with at Sellick Partnership are always ambitious individuals looking for a role that can offer them fast progression. They generally also strive for a long and varied career, and there are two routes that I believe offer what all of them should consider, regardless of what sector or area of finance they want to end up working within in the future.

The first and best career choice, in my opinion, is securing a graduate position or entry-level role within one of the Big 4 Accountancy Practice firms – Deloitte, PwC, EY and KPMG – or a well-recognised firm within the top 10. Training through a respected Practice firm means that candidates will automatically go down the ACA route which is widely recognised as the most prestigious qualification within the sector.

From my experience, candidates that are ACA qualified and have experience within a top 10 firm will have much better career opportunities and can command the highest salaries on the market. It only takes a bit of research to realise that the majority of Finance Directors within FTSE-listed businesses have all gone down the technical ACA Practice route. For that reason, this is most certainly the route for any ambitious candidates that have their sights set on a leading finance role within a large and highly respected business.

It will be no surprise that these roles are incredibly competitive. For example, PwC usually have around 2,000 graduate and internship roles in the UK and often receive more than 40,000 applications, while KPMG receive up to 20,000 applications for its 1,000 vacancies. It is therefore vital that candidates are switched on and perform exceptionally well throughout the application process. It is also important to remember that the Big 4 look at the whole person and are often impressed by candidates who do extraordinary things outside of their academic life, such as volunteering or sector relevant internships.

PwC usually have around 2,000 graduate and internship roles in the UK and often receive more than 40,000 applications, while KPMG receive up to 20,000 applications for its 1,000 vacancies.

An alternative route for highly ambitious graduates

Big 4 roles are hugely competitive, and rejection should not be taken personally. Instead, I would urge candidates to use the application experience to their advantage and think of alternative options. A lot of the graduates I work with set their sights on a Big 4 role when instead they should be casting the net a little bit wider. A good second option is a similar graduate position within Industry. We are witnessing an increasing number of Industry organisations – such as AJ Bell, Manchester Airport Group, Marks & Spencer and The Cooperative Group – promoting their graduate schemes, so this is fast becoming a great career choice for ambitious graduates looking for a fast-paced and rewarding career within the sector.

Candidates entering the profession this way will generally study CIMA or ACCA qualifications and will learn the trade from within Industry from day one. This route is a good choice for graduates that like variation as it gives candidates exposure across multiple areas of finance. It also gives them a more rounded knowledge of accountancy and allows them to develop commercial skills early on. Graduates starting out within Industry will learn how businesses operate and learn first-hand how important a finance function is to the success and profitability of a company.

A successful career within Finance & Accountancy takes drive and determination to build

Regardless of the route into the Finance & Accountancy sector, the journey to qualifying and success will be down to a person’s own determination to succeed. The prospects for driven young people are excellent, with structured career progression and management opportunities often arising within two years after qualifying, however, the journey will be challenging and will require a huge amount of commitment. Any candidate that is considering a career within Finance & Accountancy needs to be aware of this, and ensure it is the right career choice for them. Graduates that are prepared and succeed can expect to enjoy high earning potential, flexibility, room for growth and job security for years to come.

If you are graduating soon and would like more advice on the right career choice for you we would be delighted to help. Feel free to get in touch with Martin or a member of the team at Sellick Partnership directly by calling 0161 834 1642.

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