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Advantages of the IB for a Finance Career

What is the IB?

The IB curriculum consists of six groups, with three or four subjects taken at a higher level (HL) and the remaining subjects taken at a standard level (you can take a look at the different study groups here).

The IB Diploma Programme also entails three core elements that encourage students to apply the knowledge and skills they develop. These are: the Theory of Knowledge,  a 4000-word extended essay which you have to write individually, and 450 hours of creativity, action and service activities.

Why did I choose the IB?

The decision was not easy! My school had only been teaching it for one year and the majority of my peers chose to take the more traditional A-level route. I, however, did not know what career I wanted at that time and the IB offered the chance to continue to study a wide breadth of subjects.

What did I do?

I chose to take HL English, maths and physics with SL geography, psychology and French. Upon finishing school, I secured a place to study BSc Mathematics with Placement at the University of Bath and I am currently in the fourth and final year of the programme.

Last academic year I undertook an 11-month placement at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and following that I was offered a graduate position. PwC is one of the ‘Big Four’ global financial services firms with audit as their main service line.

Since starting to gain work experience in the finance industry, I have been able to identify aspects of the IB which have given me an advantage in the sector.

What are the advantages of the IB for a finance career?

Determination & persistence…

Throughout the time I spent studying the IB, there were times when I felt extremely challenged. Continuing to study subjects in most areas of the curriculum can be difficult as these may include those in which you do not excel. In particular, I found studying a foreign language at this level to be a struggle but I worked hard to ensure I achieved the best level I could. I took advantage of magazine articles and tried to speak in French with my friends so as to improve at every opportunity.

In a finance career this determination and resourcefulness is crucial to succeed. Frequently problems arise which must be solved, for example there are times when figures should balance in audit calculations…but don’t. The IB taught me  how to approach  problem solving and how to persist.

Organisational skills…

In truth, following GCSEs the volume of work required for the IB was intimidating! With so many subjects I sometimes felt overwhelmed as I found myself in a situation I had not faced before. I was not alone in feeling this way. But the work had to be completed, and I began to find ways of managing my time, organising tasks and prioritising.

In a financial career you will often have a long list of tasks to work on simultaneously with varying deadlines, so organisation and time-management are vital to be able to do the job well.

People skills…

The IB requires you to not only study six subjects but allocate time to the core aspects of the programme. These developed my research skills and my ability to question things I was told or what I learnt. Through  extracurricular activities such as running a debating society and helping children with learning difficulties in maths, my confidence and leadership skills also improved. At PwC I had to approach new people on a daily basis and I utilised what the IB had taught me to ensure I appeared self-assured and personable.

Teamwork…

A main focus of the IB is working well with others with specific tasks dedicated to working in groups. Whether working in a financial services company or out in industry within the financial department of a company, you will most often be working closely with other people. This skill developed by the IB is thus crucial to thriving in a financial role.

Mathematical/logical thinking…

I realise that I am in the minority having found a love for maths, and the thought of having to study maths for the IB was daunting to many of my peers at school. Although a mathematics degree is by no means essential for a financial career, an ability to think logically is certainly important. The IB  forces students to continue to develop this skill beyond GCSEs giving students greater suitability for a finance role.

By Paige Wilkinson, Final Year Mathematics Student, University of Bath