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Further study in accountancy

The best and worst reasons to do further study in accountancy and financial management

Will a postgraduate degree increase your chances of getting a job in accountancy or financial management?
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Taking your study to the next level is an increasingly popular choice, despite the cost, and the huge array of different postgraduate accountancy courses on offer means that you can tailor your study as you see fit. But is it right for you? The vast majority of accountancy and financial management employers do not look for any postgraduate qualifications in their graduate applicants, so if you’re going to go down the further study path, make sure your reasons are sound. It’s vital to be clear about what you want to get out of it and why you think it’s necessary, so that you’re fully prepared to sell your qualification to accountancy employers and reap the benefits of your extra academic effort. 

Really good reasons to do further study

  • To further explore a burning interest in a particular aspect of accountancy or financial management – make sure you research course content thoroughly so you can pursue your passion to its fullest potential.
  • To network and gain new contacts – getting yourself known will no doubt pay dividends, particularly if you’re looking to cross over into accountancy from an unrelated field or your first degree is in a non-finance subject.
  • To gain specialist skills you’re currently lacking – while these will no doubt be handy in your career later down the line, balance your new found expertise with practical work experience and commercial thinking so you can offer employers the whole package.

Really bad reasons to do further study

  • To make up for poor first degree results – most firms look for consistent academic ability so having a good postgraduate degree won’t erase the fact you only just scraped a 2.2.
  • To fill time – the current climate is tough but further study shouldn’t be a fall-back option if you’re reluctant to grapple with the tricky job market. Be honest with yourself: if you can’t see how further study will benefit your CV, how will you sell it to future employers?
  • To up your employability – in the current job market, a postgraduate degree alone will not give you a competitive edge in the eyes of employers.

What Deloitte says

We asked Rob Fryer, head of graduate recruitment at Deloitte, to give us his thoughts on the matter. ‘Minimum entry criteria for our graduate scheme is a solid academic profile including a 2.1 degree,’ he says. ‘We do not look for a post-graduate qualification. However, having a post-graduate qualification can help differentiate a candidate. It can provide a deep theoretical understanding and insight into the business world, which you can use to your advantage when your motivation and commercial awareness are assessed.’ 

Rob also points out that once you’ve been accepted and are on the graduate programme, ‘Having a postgraduate qualification can prove advantageous if learnings are applied correctly to support job performance (it may even allow some exemptions in exams!). However, there are other ways to develop these skill sets and a post graduate qualification is not a ‘must have’ to join our profession’.

So, the qualification alone will not get you the job, but the confidence and knowledge gained as a result of further study could help you during the application and assessment process. Iosif Tsaparas, an associate within corporate finance at Deloitte, sees his further study as beneficial: 'I have a masters in management from the London Business School.  I gained exposure to the business world through the programme, which included various company visits and presentations, networking opportunities and on campus job interview preparation.  It was through the masters programme that I was introduced to Deloitte recruitment events and viewed a presentation about the company which really helped when I then applied for a role with the firm.  I am now part of the restructuring services team in corporate finance, studying towards the ACA and I see the benefits of the knowledge acquired during my masters in various aspects of my job as well as my studies.’

How postgraduate study could help your graduate job application

  • Further study can demonstrate your intellectual capacity to employers.
  • The sustained effort of working on a dissertation or thesis is a good example of self-discipline, organisation, independent research and project management – particularly if you managed it while juggling part-time work, work experience and extracurricular activities.
  • Presenting papers, giving talks and working on group assignments will hone your presentation, co-operation and communication skills.
  • Your university’s facilities can help you use your free time wisely – get involved in extracurricular activities, attend any additional training modules and network at conferences. 

 Choose your course wisely

If you do decide to go ahead with further study, it’s time to make an important choice. The more time and energy you put into choosing the right course and institution, the better off you’ll be in the long run. There is a huge array of different courses to choose from – some lasting for one year, others for three years, Masters, MBAs and PhD courses – and each requires and develops a different set of skills and abilities in its students. The key to making the right choice is to think about what you want to get out of the experience: do you want to gain detailed knowledge of a specific area of accountancy and financial management, exempt yourself from professional exams, cross over from another sector, or get a broad understanding of general business issues? Whatever the reason, the course you choose should enable you to meet those needs.

Use the checklist below to make sure you’ve done all your research, then speak to course directors and, if possible, prospective employers before accepting a place. And don’t forget to consider issues such as how you are going to fund your study and where you’re going to live early on – due to the popularity of postgraduate qualifications the loan approval process now takes longer than in previous years, so apply in good time to guarantee secure finance.

Postgraduate study checklist

In general, when choosing courses, investigate and compare:

  • the institution’s reputation and facilities
  • its teaching and research ratings
  • the course content (core and supplementary electives) and structure
  • the job destinations and salaries of previous students
  • industry links, work experience and networking opportunities
  • which courses or institutions employers rate most highly, particularly if you already have an ideal employer in mind.

Use for help with choosing and comparing courses, and finding funding.