More Than a Degree in Finance
Ms. Vinitha Guptan of Taylor’s University College explores the opportunities for finance graduates in an era of globalisation.
Finance is the staple of every business. Those with expertise in this field will enjoy a diverse and promising career in an increasingly dynamic and global industry.
In layman’s terms, finance is the study of money and how it is used. A branch of economics, finance focuses on resource allocation and management, acquisition and investment. The function of finance covers people, technology, processes and policies that govern decisions related to a company’s financial resources. It may be simple or complex depending on the organisation and industry in which it operates.
It is a fallacy that finance graduates have thick glasses and their noses permanently stuck in books. In fact, they probably have unlimited opportunities to choose an employer. Their potential careers range from running a high street bank to working in a hospital to being a financial analyst; there are numerous choices available.
The field of finance is one of the fastest-growing over the last few years. It is also a very competitive industry. This demand is leading to higher starting salaries and excellent benefits.
With a recognised degree in finance and the distinctive qualities of a graduate, it will be impossible not to find employment.
Getting an education
To get a job in finance, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting is essential. To start a typical three-year degree programme, SPM leavers must first complete a pre-university or business foundation course.
A degree programme in this field will develop a holistic knowledge and skills in core business functions, as well as build competencies in specific areas such as corporate finance, corporate governance, financial management, investment analysis, risk analysis and portfolio management. In addition, students will be equipped with a host of soft skills that include communication skills, critical thinking and problem solving abilities, and leadership capability.
Among the courses offered in a bachelor’s degree programme in this field are:
- Business information systems – enable students to understand the importance of information systems within a business environment and use it to develop solutions for business problems
- Corporate finance – introduces students to concepts and techniques required in analysing and implementing effective financial decisions for a corporation
- Financial accounting – gives students an in-depth understanding of accounting concepts that are used in preparation and presentation of financial statements
- Financial management – exposes students to the concepts and tools used by financial managers to maximise the market value of their firm’s shares
- Portfolio management – equips students with portfolio theory and investment management knowledge that will be used to analyse, and management investments for various organisations.
Prospects for career progression in finance are excellent. However, working graduates should broaden their knowledge and competence through further training and qualifications which can be obtained through part-time study while in employment.
While employers can be choosy, most do not look for specific subjects (actuarial work is an exception). However, employers frequently require applicants to have high academic results. They may also look back to your pre-university records, setting minimum standards for those too.
It must be highlighted that academic excellence isn’t enough; employers also want an impressive combination of skills. Among these are resilience and commitment as well as teamwork. Other common requirements are communication skills, problem solving ability, computer proficiency, business awareness, interest in customer service, time management, leadership potential and of course numeracy. In addition, cultural awareness and intercultural sensitivity are becoming increasingly important.
Large financial companies are global organisations. Some graduates can expect overseas postings, while others work in this country with colleagues of other nationalities and backgrounds.
Some of the exciting careers in the area of finance are in retail banking, corporate finance, financial and wealth planning, real estate, insurance and financial analysis to name a few.
The financial industry is one of the largest employers. Graduates with a degree in finance will be in for a lucrative and rewarding career worldwide. To succeed, one must be committed to life-long learning and keeping up with constant changes in the marketplace, especially in the areas of technology and regulations. Making money by managing money is certainly an exciting job!
Ms Vinitha specialises in service learning and experiential learning in both academia and industry. She holds an accounting qualification from Australia and an MBA from UK.
This article first appeared in doctorjob's CoursesNOW! Business 2010.