How can you make yourself a more attractive candidate in the world of finance? We look into why studying for professional qualifications can brighten your career prospects and help you stand out.
Whichever industry you choose to get into, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to put your feet up and expect your degree to carry you through to retirement. Getting ahead in your career will require continued personal development to keep your knowledge and skills up to date and ahead of all the other keen graduates following you in a few years.
Professional qualifications are a good way to secure your professional standing and make your CV look great in an increasingly competitive market. Your commitment to lifelong training and education will be self-evident to any potential employer and will demonstrate to them that you have achieved excellence in your chosen field. In fact, many recruiters insist upon industry-approved qualifications as standard for their employees. The benefit here is that companies will often pay the costs involved with taking the exams and may allow time for study leave etc.
Qualifications are usually a mixture of study and on-the-job training; putting theory into practice and allowing you to naturally excel in your day job. The intellectual challenge involved is also a great motivator.
You can study for qualifications by joining the relevant professional bodies in your chosen industry. These institutes are the authority on standards of professional practice and are often the only institutions that can award Chartered (or equivalent) status. They can also guide you as to which qualifications are most suitable for you.
“Professional qualifications in the financial services industry can look like a minefield to those starting out. It is important that you select the right one for the job you want to do. There are specific qualifications for each area of work and individuals undertaking certain activities are required by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the regulator for the UK financial services industry, to gain a qualification from their list of appropriate exams” says Yvonne Dineen, Assistant Director of Qualifications at CISI.
Institutes work alongside universities to ensure the smooth transition between your degree and further study. For example, a degree course accredited by an official institute may offer exemptions from stages of the professional examinations. Look on the individual institute websites to find out which courses they work in conjunction with.
Institutes are also commonly at the forefront of research and development, so becoming a member is a great way to stay up to date with developments in the industry. Advice and support on your career are readily available and conferences, meetings and seminars are a great way to meet other people in the industry. Professional bodies will usually have groups dedicated to graduates too, which offer great networking opportunities.
One of the most advantageous things about achieving qualifications is the potential salary increase they can afford you. Employers will often be prepared to offer more attractive benefits packages to those who have Chartered status.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) tell us that, “once qualified, salaries are extremely competitive. Many ACA trainees can expect to double their salary during their training contract.”
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) confirm this, “a professional qualification such as CIMA does indeed bring an increase in salary. A qualified management accountant with three years’ experience can command salaries in the region of £40,000, with earnings up to £55,000 in the capital for newly qualified CIMA members.”
Professional qualifications can also act as a seal of approval when it comes to finding work overseas. Business is increasingly conducted on a global scale, so securing a qualification that is recognised across Europe, or worldwide, can be incredibly useful. It reassures an employer that you are familiar with the same practices as local business people and adhere to the same rules and regulations. So, if you see yourself working anywhere from Düsseldorf to Dubai, professional qualifications could be the key.
Find out more by reading about the profession you are interested in and the affiliated institute.