Careermag: Business and Finance

Business and finance careers with all the money in the world…

Working with money isn’t just about the pounds and pence: it can be a very people-focused profession, advising folks on how to save, spend and manage their cash. That’s one side of the coin, and on the other is business and finance – sometimes called financial services – where you help to run the processes that keep stock markets, banks and businesses operating. 

About business and finance 

We all have a relationship with money. Every time we buy or sell something we contribute to the economy and make a tiny change to the big picture. Meanwhile, everyone else – people, businesses, even countries – does the same thing. With so much going on, it’s not surprising that the financial sector employs so many people – around seven percent of the entire UK workforce, in fact – to keep track of it. That’s good news if you want to get involved. 

What can I do?

Because it’s a big sector, career paths in business and finance lead to a few different professions. You might work in accountancy and finance, for example, helping individuals, businesses, charities or even the government; or perhaps you’ll work in banking, taking care of money matters on behalf of all kinds of customers, big and small. 

Knowing what to do with money (other than trying not to spend all of it on nice things) can be tricky for anyone, so another area is financial planning, advising people and organisations on the best way to spend, save and invest it. 

Tied into the fact that we never know exactly what’s around the corner is the insurance industry, which helps us protect against the unexpected. Work in this area and you might be dealing with home, car, life or even pet insurance, collaborating with other companies or dealing with customers directly. 

Finally, investment and pensions companies need people to predict what the stock markets are going to do, trade stocks, provide analysis and support and much more. You could be filling any of these roles in a huge company, maybe working overseas, or even setting up your own firm. 

Skills to pay the bills

While a head for figures is definitely helpful in some roles in the finance sector, it’s not the only thing that employers look for. You’ll need to be good at maths and English, yes, but this is very much a people-focused area so things like being a good team player, communicating well with others and having a responsible, professional attitude are also really important. 

You might be surprised by some of the other skills that come in handy, like languages, or an understanding of different cultures and the way their societies view money (for example, home ownership is a big part of the UK’s financial personality). Imagination counts too, particularly when predicting the markets or what the next big thing in business might be. 

Don’t worry though, these skills (and more) are all things that your training will help you develop. You’ll learn about the technical side of things, but also build your confidence in the workplace – and as the finance sector has lots of opportunities to gain advanced qualifications and move into senior roles, you really could start at the bottom and end up as the boss of a multinational company. 

Training & qualifications

There’s no such thing as easy money, but there are lots of ways to get the skills you need for a career in business and finance…

Vocational qualifications:

Relevant NVQ and BTEC programmes include:

  • Business
  • Finance
  • Enterprise and Entrepreneurship

Don’t forget: BTECs etc. can also pave the way for a degree. 

There are also a wide range of business and accountancy qualifications you can do without having to go to university. Many can be done part-time, which means you can work and study. Have a look at the following organisations: 

  • ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants)
  • CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants)
  • CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy)
  • ICAS (Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland)

Apprenticeships

The level of Apprenticeship available varies slightly depending on the part of the sector you enter. Broadly, though, there are four levels:

Level Two (Intermediate) – equivalent to GCSEs / Standard Grades

Level Three (Advanced) – equivalent to A Levels / Highers

Level Four / Five (Higher) – equivalent to Foundation Degree / Advanced Highers

Level Six / Seven (Degree) – equivalent to Bachelor’s or master’s degree

Some of the UK’s biggest firms – including BDO, Deloitte and PwC – offer Apprenticeships, but you’ll find that many more small to medium-sized enterprises (often referred to as ‘SMEs’) offer them too. 

It’s also possible to do a Degree Apprenticeship in areas like banking – check out our website to see what is currently available near you: www.careermap.co.uk.

A Levels, Highers and Bachelors Degrees 

Useful A Levels / Scottish Highers might include: 

  • Maths
  • Accounting
  • Economics
  • Business / business management

Already know you want to go to university? Head to UCAS and find out what qualifications (A Levels / Scottish Highers / Scottish Advanced Highers / IB modules) you’ll need for the course that interests you. There are hundreds of variations and combinations, so look carefully for the right one for you.

Degree programmes include, accounting and finance, business and finance, international business, accountancy, business management, business economics, business and law and banking.

The banking and finance industries look for talent from all areas, so you don’t necessarily need specific A Levels or a degree in business and finance: many employers want the right attitude and a general set of high level skills, so A Levels (or Scottish Highers etc.) or a degree qualification in anything from German to Art History might be relevant.

School leaver programmes 

Some major employers in this issue offer School Leaver Programmes. These do what it says on the tin: you join straight from school, either after GCSEs or A Levels – depending on the programme – and start work immediately. Along the way you’ll receive training, which can include Apprenticeships, degrees and professional qualifications, as well as on-the-job learning; and you’ll be paid, too.

Life in business and finance 

With so much variety in the finance sector, there’s no shortage of jobs to choose from, each offering a different experience and working environment.

Apprenticeships are becoming more and more popular as a way to get started, with many students and employers seeing them as a great alternative to university. With the right Apprenticeship you can get degree-level qualifications and land a well paid job without any student debt to worry about. Whoever you work for, they’ll help you get the skills you need with carefully structured training – many employers have been running Apprenticeships for years, so you’ll be in good hands.

But whether you arrive via the Apprenticeship route, a degree or perhaps a school leaver programme, the opportunities and challenges will be similar. Lots of people are office-based (although not everyone), so you might be part of a team in an accounts or finance department of a larger company (which could be anything from a bookseller to a bowler hat maker); on the other hand, you might work for a specialist accountancy firm or financial adviser. 

Alternatively, you could work for a branch of a high street bank, which might mean a role where you’re meeting and helping members of the public. Or you could be employed by a big investment bank, wrangling the numbers on behalf of global corporations.

Let’s be clear: at the top levels of financial services, things get pretty competitive. You can expect long hours, a demanding work environment and a lot of pressure to perform. However, many people can and do thrive, and the money is good in return for your efforts. At every level, though, there’s the chance to develop professional skills, gain higher level qualifications and build a career. You might even pick up some handy tips on how to make your money go further along the way…

You could work in…

  • Banks
  • Finance departments
  • Customer service centers
  • For yourself - as a qualified accountant or financial adviser

*to find out more about how much you can get paid on any job role, go to: https://careermap.co.uk/careerometer/

Sign Up

Search Jobs

Be the first to get notified about new jobs from 1000's of employers - register today!