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In order of preference, these are the qualifications financial services employers want now

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If you’re about to lose your job and are worried about finding a new one, you may be tempted to seek additional qualifications.

If so, the figures below provide a snapshot of what financial services employers using eFinancialCareers to advertise roles are looking for in theUKat this moment.

Needless to say, the information below has its limitations: the qualifications specified may be necessary but not sufficient to get you the job; the jobs currently advertised on eFinancialCareers may only reflect a slice (albeit a large one) of the UK market; by the time you’ve achieved a qualification, things may have changed.

Nevertheless, here’s what recruiters’ want in terms of qualifications right now. If you’ve already appropriately qualified, feel fortunate. If you’re not, the past isn’t always an indicator of the future, but sometimes it can be.

  1. ACA: specified for 229 jobs

What? An accountancy qualification run by the ICAEW.

Involves: 15 exams, a case study and 450 days of technical work experience.  Takes three years to complete. Most banks will hire ACAs from the Big Four accounting firms.

Jobs you can do with an ACA: Finance and accounting roles in investment banks, product control positions especially. In times of big hiring, ACAs are also recruited into M&A and equity research positions.

Other things to note: Fewer ACAs are qualifying, but recruiters say this doesn’t matter as there are far fewer ACA jobs in banking than there used to be. Nevertheless, there appear to be more jobs for ACAs than anyone else.

  1. ACCA: specified for 172 jobs

What? Another accountancy qualification, run by ACCA, ‘The global body for professional accountants.’

Involves: The completion of 14 exams, plus three years’ relevant supervised practical experience and an ethics module.

Jobs you can do with an ACCA: ACCAs argue they’re suitable for all sorts of jobs in investment banking, but they mostly go into roles like management accounting and financial analysis.

  1. CIMA: specified for 107 jobs

What? Another accountancy qualification, run by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

Involves: 15 professional qualifications which can be studied at your own pace. Requires three years’ work experience.

Jobs you can do with a CIMA qualification: CIMA argues that its qualification will equip you for a front office role in an area like M&A. It’s far more likely, however, that you will end up in a management accounting role, or maybe even in product control.

4. CFA: specified for 82 jobs

What? A series of three exams run by the CFA Institute. Only when all three are completed can you call yourself a ‘CFA Charter holder’, but employers will sometimes specify levels 1 or 2.

Involves: A lot of home study. Taking all three exams usually takes 2-5 years. To be eligible for Level 1, you’ll need to be in the third year of a bachelor’s degree or to have four years’ work experience. To earn the full charter you must complete all three exams and have four years’ qualified work experience.

Jobs you can do with a CFA qualification: CFAs have traditionally gone into fund management and equity research, but are now breaking out into areas like investment banking and private banking. The CFA Institute suggests jobs each level might be appropriate for here. 

  1. MSc: specified for 65 jobs

What? A masters qualification taken after an initial bachelors qualification. Financial services employers typically like to hire people with a masters in a finance related subject, although the figure above represents all jobs with an MSc in their description.

Jobs you can do with an MSc: MScs are popular in risk and sales and trading roles.

  1. MBA: specified for 57 jobs

What? A masters in business administration. Typically takes two years, but can take 1. Banks are usually very fussy about where they hire their MBAs from, favouring places like the London Business School, INSEAD, Harvard, Wharton and Columbia.

Jobs you can do with an MBA: MBAs can get into all jobs in financial services or strategy consulting, providing their MBA is from a top school. In recent years, there has been a shift away from hiring MBAs into sales and trading roles, with the result that more opportunities are likely to be in offer in M&A and corporate finance than trading.

  1. IMC: specified for 37 jobs

What? The Investment Management Certificate, also run by the CFA institute and used as a baseline regulatory qualification to demonstrate competence for people who want to work in the investment industry.

Involves: Two exams: one on the investment environment and one investment practice. Not seen as particularly challenging.

Jobs you can do with an IMC: Mostly back office roles in fund management firms.

  1. Prince 2: specified for 27 jobs

What: A leading project management methodology. Prince 2 practioners must take Prince 2 exams.

Involves: Two exams, a Foundation Exam and a Practitioner Exam. Both must be taken if you want to be a ‘Practitioner.’ Prince itself says you may not need to be a practitioner if, “you are involved in Projects in a supporting role (you may be in a marketing, administration or technical job).” But you will need to be a practitioner if you want to lead projects.

Jobs you can do with Prince 2: All sorts of project management roles.

  1. FRM: specified for 10 jobs

What? The Financial Risk Managers’ qualification.

Involves: Two exams, open to anyone with at least two years’ ‘professional full-time work experience’ in financial services risk management, trading, portfolio management, faculty academia, industry research, economics, auditing, risk consulting, and/or risk technology. Usually requires around 400 hours’ study time.

Jobs you can do with the FRM: All sorts of risk management jobs

Other, less popular qualifications being requested right now:

The Certificate in Quantitative Finance: 3 jobs (quants)

The CAIA: 1 job (hedge fund analysts)

The PRM: 1 job (risk)

The Certificate in Corporate Finance: 0 jobs (corporate finance, in theory)

Comments (7)

  1. Sarah,

    Pls don’t put INSEAD and LBS in the same bracket as HBS, Wharton, Stanford and Columbia.
    The TOP 8 US schools are in a different league – Kellogg (Northwestern), Tuck (Darthmouth), Sloan (MIT), BOOTH (Chicago).

    Ask any INSEAD and LBS candidate and they will tell you that the top US school candidates are always taken for roles ahead of them even in their home market. INSEAD and LBS are definately great schools and probably come after the above mentioned names. Like in banking, there are the bulge bracket and those operating just outside. INSEAD and LBS lack the US franchise, the largest market.

  2. Quite?

    Only Tuck and Sloan are any good. All the rest receive the accolade because most the employers are US banks or from the US.

  3. Booth and Kellogg rank higher on US rankings that actually count unlike the biased FT and Economist Rankings. Sloan is a biotech and technical focused school. Kellogg is no 1 for marketing globally and a great general management school. Booth has the best finance and economics faculty the world over.

  4. Oh dear, topmba seems to have misread the article..it says about hiring in the city/UK. Look who is biased and US centric? Kellogg is the pre-eminent marketing school but not known for finance and Tuck is only good in the States. MIT/Sloan? great tech school but not exactly a hiring ground for finance in the city. Booth, granted, is a top notch school that providers a fair bit of traders and quants into the city. I think INSEAD and LBS ranks comfortably higher than the above mentioned for finance except for Chicago.

  5. Booth has lost its prominence in economic on the global scene after Milton Friedman had been proven wrong. Look at where the Nobel prize winners in economics have been coming from.
    Also many US schools have Phd programmes that are based on exams and a dissertation that has to be orally defended. Many US PhDs do not require a Masters degree firstA UK MSc brings you to the edge of examinable knowledge.
    In many US colleges , a PhD requires composition of a substantial and original contribution to human knowledge in the form of a written dissertation. In many cases, depending on the discipline, a dissertation consists of (i) a comprehensive literature review, (ii) an outline of methodology, and (iii) several chapters of scientific, social, historical, philosophical, or literary analysis.
    In the UK, all doctorates are research (unless honorary) doctorates, in that their main (and in many cases only) component is the submission of a thesis or portfolio of original research, examined by an expert panel appointed by the university and are awarded to students who have demonstrated:
    1. the creation and interpretation of new knowledge, through original research or other advanced scholarship, of a quality to satisfy peer review, extend the forefront of the discipline, and merit publication;
    2. a systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge which is at the forefront of an academic discipline or area of professional practice;
    3. the general ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the generation of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline, and to adjust the project design in the light of unforeseen problems;
    4. a detailed understanding of applicable techniques for research and advanced academic enquiry.
    The situation is similar in Europe.

  6. Despite the ranking of the piece above I would much rather have an MBA from a top school (US or if not European) than the CFA or an MSc. The reason MBA shows less positions is that the very nature of the education dictates the relevant positions are more senior to those requiring just a CFA…

    Doing the appropriate search on Linkedin for School+Industry+Location shows all the top US schools (Kellogg, Booth, Wharton….) show more graduates working in the sector than from the European schools. All are great schools, and the idea of Wharton being “finance”, Chicago being “economics” and Kellogg being “marketing” is dated.

    For example: Kellogg (Northwestern) won the Nobel in economics in 2010 and has the designer of the Feds Treasury Auction process – also used by the ECB for REPO auctions – on the faculty (Bob Weber).

    Wharton marketing faculty is larger than that of Kellogg and has more publications and citations.

    There are also other US names (Yale, Stern, Stanford) who all have at least as much (and prob more) gravitas than INSEAD and LBS.

    In short all of the top schools offer a great Finance AND Business education and will kick down the doors into top jobs in the city. US schools still come out ahead simply because they have been in the game longer and attract the higher calibre students who go on to occupy the more senior roles.

  7. yuck yuck –
    I disagree Kellogg is a diversified program sending its class into different fields 20% actually went into finance.
    LBS is considerd a finance school as you claim yet only 30% went into finance.
    Students from the TOP US schools can easily get something in the City. Yet candidates from the top European schools can rarely get something on wall street. BTW there was an article from an INSEADER on this very site mentioning how it is a consulting school and expressing his frustration on how difficult it is to get a finance gig from INSEAD.

    Finally I am not sure if you know but LBS have started a masters in mgmt program for candidates without any work experience totally diluting the school MBA brand. Atleast my LBS friends think so.

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