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Specialise early to boost your career prospects

03 December, 2014George Browne

A few weeks ago Education Secretary Nicky Morgan caused something of a stir by suggesting that for young people uncertain of the career that they wish to pursue, a science or maths based degree would serve them better than a humanities degree. She said that the traditional view that studying the arts and humanities keeps options open for young people no longer holds true, and that STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) unlock more opportunities.

These comments attracted criticism from teachers and supporters of the arts, including the General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Christine Blower, who said that ‘downgrading of the arts is the wrong message’.

Regardless of whether one agrees with Ms Morgan’s comments or not, the resulting debate has raised some interesting questions, in particular regarding the employability of graduates.

In the past those seeking a career in the financial services may well have read any of a wide range of subjects rather than a career-focussed qualification such as a degree in accounting. A 2012 report commissioned by the New College of the Humanities found that 60% of business leaders, including the CEOs of FTSE 100 companies, hold degrees in the humanities, the arts or social sciences. Barclays CEO Anthony Jenkins read Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Oxford, while the Chairman and Senior Partner at KPMG, Simon Collins, holds a BA in Economics from University of Manchester.

But does this mean that these are the right qualifications for those looking to launch a career in financial services today? In the current competitive graduate jobs market, it may be those who have displayed an early interest in a particular field who have the edge. For those with clear career ambitions early specialisation could be the surest way to ensure success.

Perhaps you are currently studying for an ifs University College Financial Capability qualification and it has sparked your interest, or perhaps you received your results this summer and are struggling to make up your mind as to whether to focus on a banking career or follow a different path. Maybe you are taking part in the ifs Student Investor Challenge and fancy yourself as the next George Soros. In the past you may have chosen a degree with a broad scope, with a view to specialising later on, even if you were sure of the direction you wanted to take. In the current climate, however, specialising early could put you ahead of the competition.

Edimena Silva, who is studying for a BSc (Hons) in Finance and Accounting for Financial Services, one of our popular banking degrees, found that this approach worked for her. “When thinking about going to university I first considered the more traditional ones, but really wanted something that was focussed purely on finance. I found ifs University College and was impressed that all the lecturers worked in the industry.”

Another current student, Ellen Simmons, who is studying for a BSc (Hons) in Banking Practice and Management said: “Since starting the course and talking to professionals, lecturers and mentors I have realised how much this will benefit my career. We are a step up.” Cole Mills, a third year student on the BSc (Hons) Banking Practice and Management programme was emphatic: “I really couldn’t ask for a more relevant course while pursuing a career in banking.”

So, if you are considering a career in the financial services, have a look at our undergraduate degree programmes – it could be the first step on the path to a very rewarding financial services career.