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

eFC logo
Mortar board

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)