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Do I Need a Degree to Work in Business and Finance?

There is a short and sweet answer to this question: no! You don’t need a degree to work in business and finance. There aren’t enough people out there who know that it is possible to form a shining career in banking and finance without a degree and prior encyclopaedic knowledge of your chosen industry.

The financial times, they are a-changing

This is the 21st century, ladies and gents! And the face of banking and finance is changing. Financial services firms and banks have recently started to inject lots of time, money and effort into creating brand spanking new ways for keen young banking and business tycoons to get started in finance – without having to go through the university process.

What’s more, some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs didn’t go to university. Sir Alan Sugar, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs (he quit university after a term…) and Sir Philip Green are a few names that didn’t need a degree to succeed in business.

When it comes to entry level roles in finance, you have plenty of options…

Banking: GCSEs

If you want to leave school straight after GCSEs and have at least four GCSEs at A*-C (including maths and English) then you are very well placed to dive into an apprenticeship scheme in an area such as retail banking. There are a number of high street name banks offering paid Advanced Apprenticeships to school leavers aged over 16 with GCSE qualifications. You could kick start your career in one of these banking areas, for example:

  • Customer services (in a branch, or in a customer services call centre).
  • Providing financial services, such as training to be a financial adviser or mortgage adviser.
  • Business administration, such as ensuring a branch runs smoothly.

You’ll usually complete a vocational qualification too as part of and Advanced Apprenticeship, and these schemes can also form a great foundation for progression onto a Higher Apprenticeship on completion. This could lead to further qualifications and open up even more career opportunities.

Banking: A-levels

Higher Apprenticeships and school leaver programmes for talented, enthusiastic bankers-to-be with a good set of A-levels (usually at least two at grade A*-C or A*-B) are growing in the banking sector.

These opportunities will provide on-the-job experience, a salary and support for a professional qualification, such as the Chartered Institute of Bankers, across a three- or four-year period. Apprentices will have real responsibilities, and will have met the level of a graduate as they begin with the bank on completion of a scheme.

Professional services: A-levels

A-levels could also take you further afield in financial services careers. You could explore areas such as tax, audit (accountancy), technology or even consulting with a Higher Apprenticeship, School Leaver Programme or Sponsored Degree.

There are a number of professional services firms among the UK’s top employers for school leavers currently, and who are also among some of the largest employers in the world.

Alongside a full-time job in a specified service line of the company, school leavers will study for a professional qualification (the ACCA, ACA, AAT or ATT, for instance), which can lead up to qualification as a professional accountant or tax specialist and even lay the groundwork for Chartered Status.

Accountancy firms will offer very similar apprenticeship and school leaver programmes, obviously with a focus on accountancy.

Sponsored degree programmes offered by some professional services firms will also allow you to attend university and study for a degree alongside extended work experience placements with the sponsoring firm. The best thing about this is that they’ll pay for your studies as well as provide you with on-the-job work experience!

In-house finance: GCSEs and A-levels

GCSEs and A-levels can also take you into in-house opportunities with finance departments in large companies across loads of different industries, from the energy and utilities and the legal sector, to manufacturing, engineering, retail and information technology.

GCSEs can be your ticket into administration roles and will allow you to gain office experience. It will allow you to learn about how an in-house finance department works, and perhaps suss out where you want to progress.

A-levels may give you more scope for the type of role you could take on. You may be able to qualify quicker into something like bookkeeping if you have A-level qualifications too.