Career in Finance

  • you’ve finished your education and now it’s time to enter the work place. (or)
  • you’ve been following a career path that you’ve grown tired of.

You’ve decided that you’d like to persue a professional career in finance but are unsure of how to go about that.  You’re in the right place we can guide you and show you the path to calculator heaven.

Why finance?

finance career change
There are many positive elements to a career in finance, these are just a few of those:
  • Dynamic. The evolving ecosystem. Always giving you something new.
  • Engaging. You’ll face problem solving challenges on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis.
  • Loyal.  Companies always need financial expertise and their need for finance candidates is increasing rapidly.
  • Reliable.  Finance is a very structured and organised professional with clear set paths and routes for progression.
The world is your oyster. As a result of globalisation, companies are expanding to all the corners of the earth, but the finances of a corporation need to be consistent, if you’ve familiarised yourself with the SP&Ps (Standard Processes and Procedures) of a multination and you want to explore the world, they’ll have a need for you in all the far-flung corners.

If you search for “how do I get into working in finance” there are generally get one of two answers:
  1. Go to university and study finance full time, then join a graduate finance program.
  2. Join an employer immediately after leaving school and ‘learn as you earn’.
That’s all well and good, but I’d argue (one could suggest but I like to argue) that knowing what you want to do with the rest of your professional life at the age of 17-18 is only true for a tiny minority.  The dreams and aspirations of a young mind are generally not focused on the practicalities of the everyday.  They’re about changing the world, making things right, putting right the wrongs of those that have botched and bungled before you.  Impressive and mighty and aspirational but once those lofty ambitions die down and reality sets in, generally somewhere around the 30s or 40s, one has to find how to take home a decent wage.   Okay we agreed to stop being overly aspirational ‘enough to survive’, a living wage will do. So if you’ve followed a different career path and it ended up being a dead end. Or you studied a subject because you enjoyed it, because it engaged you and you never for a second thought – ‘what am I going to do with this’.  Does that mean that the finance ship has sailed, that there is no alternative route into finance?  No, that isn’t the case and we’re here to show you the way.

Introduction to finance base principles:

A great place to start your journey is with a free introductory finance course.

This will lay a good foundation introducing you to the basic theories upon which finance is build, let you learn some finance jargon and show your enthusiasm to employers when you apply.  It will also give you a feel for what working in finance would be like, letting you decide if the reality will be as good as the idea, giving an early indication if this path is for you or not.

These are available through: Alison a free online education platform predominantly focusing on workplace-based skills.  There are quite a few options, take your pick:

The two which I believe would offer a good starting point are:

Fundamentals of Accounting – Revised 2017

This is a quick course, it will take a couple of hours and by the conclusion you’ll have learnt:

  • Key accounting terms
  • Accountancy base principles
  • Main financial statements
    • Profit and Loss account
    • Balance Sheet

That’s the record keeping and reporting aspect. Another tenant is the planning, so:

Fundamentals of Budgeting and Variance Analysis

Again, it’s short and sweet, although a little longer than the previous course, expected to take 4 hours this time.  This time they promise:

  • Impact of budgeting in cost accounting
  • Control systems
  • Standard cost vs material cost
  • Variance analysis

An alternative route to try for free introductory courses on finance is LinkedIn Learning.

2. Degree equivalency finance qualification – AAT

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The chartered accountancy qualifications require a university degree.

But there is a nice work around that saves you time and money – AAT.  Although the AAT officially counts as a diploma (the first year of a three year degree course) it is sufficient to gain access to the professional accountancy qualifications.

So that’s the first bit done.  You decided you wanted to move into finance.  You took some free courses on Alison and LinkedIn.  That gave you the base knowledge and proved your interest in and aptitude for finance enough to get you an entry level position within a company.  Accounts Payable Clerk, Biller, Accounts Assistant.  Job done, now it’s just a matter of putting in the hours, learning as you work and slowly, step-by-step, climbing the finance corporate ladder.  Well once upon a time that was true, QBE (Qualified By Experience) used to be very common on finance job descriptions.  But things have changed and the competition has built-up to such an extent that now qualifications are an absolute must have.

University is a 3-year commitment, three years of not earning and on top of those lost earnings there are tuition fees to pay.  The average graduate debt is 40k (£40,000 UK, $40,000 US).   Rather than burdening yourself with that sort of debt, a work and study solution is a much safer option.

The AAT is a just such an option. UK based, internationally recognised qualification.

The qualification and training are performed separately.  You must sign up become an AAT member and take their exams. How you wish to prepare for these is up to you.  One option is to buy the text books and read, do the practise exam question, mark these and compare your efforts to the model answers.  In other words, do it all by yourself.  It is possibly, some people no doubt manage to pass that way.  The literature is available from training colleges: Kaplan | BPP.
But it’s good to have a tutor, someone that can guide you, and steer you when you run into difficulties.  It’s very hard to self-appraise.  Not only the tuition but finding people who have made the same choices as you, have made the same decisions and are your peers can be very rewarding and motivating.  I believe it is really useful to find a college that can help you on this journey.

There are many colleges offering accountancy and financial training.  It’s a good idea to work out a check list of the qualities and offerings that you deem to be important:

AAT approved  |  Online texts & Videos |  Distance learning Aid | Competitive Price  |  Tutor & Mentor Support

One college we found that ticks all these boxes is Eagle Education.

Professional qualifications: ACA / ACCA / CIMA

Which body to go with?

  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland (ICAS)
  • Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)

First off it doesn’t really matter, they are proving a capability, not developing a speciality.  All of them build a strong foundation, let you attain senior finance positions.  But it is within the role that you develop specific areas of speciality and professional focus.

That said there are some generally accepted differences between the bodies listed and what is traditionally expected of/from their graduates.

Many people that become qualified chartered accountants through a training programme or an accountancy apprenticeship scheme. Through these routes the employer is ultimately picking the qualification type and the training college.  That brings advantages and disadvantages.  You get paid and don’t have the expense of the tuition.  But this can mean you’re tied into a position and a contract that requires you to repay all of the tuition fees if you leave during within a year of qualification.  This ultimately means that they recoup the cost by paying under the average qualified wage (which is £60k 2021).  There’s also the fact if you fail an exam you normally have to pay for the tuition and the exam yourself, at their college of choice.  The two that employers usually go with are BPP and Kaplans, they’re good but they’re expensive.


This is a huge investment of time, effort and money, and expenditure of that proportion just simply isn’t possible for most.  There are other options:

You can buy the text books and take the self-taught approach, discipline and self believe are vital to that, it is certainly possible but with pass rates as low as 32% (ACCA – APM – Advanced Performance Management – March 2020)  the odds are against you.  It’s fine for most elements, indeed even with class room tutorship, a huge proportion of the learning is done on your own from a text book.  The problem that comes from going solo is if there is something you have difficulty with, a module for some reason you just cannot get to grips with, you have noone to go to, someone to explain it differently, an analogy or two can help massively.

So if only there was an college that you could pay an manageable, affordable, monthly subscription to, regularly and consistently from start to finish…

There is:  Eagle Education

You can pay monthly for access to their learning resources.  There are no ties, no contracts, so if you need to take a break.  Either because you are getting tired or your wallet is that’s fine you can take a break and recommence without losing anything.

Take a look, they offer a free trial so rather than me telling you what they offer, go and find out for yourself.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

You started with AAT, you added to that by becoming a qualified chartered accountant, you’re surely finally finish with study. Right?

Well no, in the competitive workplace as soon as you take your foot off the pedal you stall, to rest is to fall.  All the professional qualifications have a set Continual Professional Development (CPD) requirement.  These are not determined by the bodies but by the individual so this is the stage at which you get to choose where you wish to focus.

Integrating computer science into the finance processes: 

Or widening the scope and looking to control the company not just through the finance channels.  One qualification which tues in neatly with a professional financial qualification is an MBA, a Master of Business Administration.

An MBA can be useful on multiple levels:

  • Develop advanced and flexible management skills
  • Build an extensive business network
  • Holistic insight into company operations
  • Entrepreneurial Strategy
  • Universally acknowledged qualification

So why doesn’t everyone study an MBA? well the primary barriers to entry are qualifying qualifications (see above, everything above) and price.  The top 5 MBA schools (according to the ft rankings table 2020) are very costly:


There is an element of you get what you pay for, especially in the business networking area. But  if you can afford those sort of fees (and that’s just the tuition, there’s accommodation, loss of earnings, course materials…) do you really need to work? 

But there is a much more affordable option from a still reputable university:

University of Chichester – MBA study remotely, available worldwide

  • UK Accredited MBA Program
  • Top 30 University UK
  • 96.5% Graduates employed within 6 months
  • Internationally recognised

Only £7k – not a small amount of money, but compared to the other options…