finance careers: the education vs. experience debate

One of the most important things to consider if you’re looking to start a career in Finance & Accountancy is the Education vs. Experience debate.

What do employers prefer when it comes to recruiting their new hire? Do you have to have a degree in Accountancy before you’re considered for a role? Luke from polkadotfrog discusses:

“When it comes to recruiting for junior roles within the Finance sector, I have found that employers tend to prefer candidates with experience as these candidates generally tend to hit the ground running and don’t need much training. This can create a barrier for newly qualified candidates who are coming into the market – I often see highly skilled AAT level 4 candidates that struggle to find their first finance role because they don’t have any hands on experience.

At a more senior level however, the industry is highly reliant on qualifications and certifications. This ensures Finance professionals are knowledgeable about the strict regulations, compliance and accounting standards within the industry. As a general rule, qualified candidates with 2-5 years post qualification experience are highly desirable.

A finance degree is always going to be the best way into the market. It proves a 3-4 year commitment that home learning doesn’t offer and gives plenty of exemptions from the most common accounting certifications further down the line. If you can get some hands on experience whilst you are studying – even better. An internship, freelance bookkeeping or even an administrative role with some accounts involved will also be a huge bonus for whenever you’re ready to start your career.

An AAT qualification is another great option if you’re looking to work whilst studying or are changing careers, as it is held in high regard and allows for flexible learning options. If you do go down this route, ideally you will already be working (or have experience) in an administrative or accounts role. It’s best to see it as confirmation of what you can do already rather than as a gateway qualification – this isn’t always the case but certainly a good rule of thumb.

Of course there is a third thing to consider – soft skills. Personal skills are really important in Finance candidates of all levels. Intelligence, attitude, team fit, communication – all these things add to the potential viability of a new hire. Ultimately, the candidate with the right mix of experience, education and company fit will usually secure the role.”

Luke is our Specialist Finance & Accountancy Consultant at polkadotfrog in Cambridge. He has a background in Accounting and Sales & Marketing and is ideally suited to match clients & candidates in terms of both skills & team-fit. Using a genuine & honest approach to recruitment, he is relentless in his goal of providing a unique tailored service to all parties. For more information on how he can help you please call him on 01954 213400 or drop him an email at luke.jones@polkadotfrog.co.uk.