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Getting a job in finance with a non-finance related degree

If I said I have applied for grad jobs at companies like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley or J. P. Morgan, what degree would you expect me to study? Economics? Accounting and Finance? MORSE? Or, History?

The latter happens to be correct, but it has not stopped me from applying to these big financial firms. Yes, I find maths challenging and yes, I realise I don’t have a direct link to finance with my degree, but I still wanted to apply. Why? Because I have an interest in finance and that really is all that is needed.

Each degree discipline provides different skills and the more skills available to these firms, the better

I don’t think it is common knowledge amongst humanities or arts students that these companies actually offer opportunities to these disciplines or more importantly, actively look for them. Like most businesses, they like diversity on their workforce so why would they limit their recruitment search to solely finance related degrees? Each degree discipline provides different skills and the more skills available to these firms, the better.

There is a misunderstanding by students surrounding who gets hired by banks and why. This is something that the former senior recruiter from Goldman Sachs and Blackrock, Jonathan Jones, has discussed. He acknowledges that the majority of those being hired by banks are still coming from ‘traditional’ degree backgrounds. However, he argues this is because they are who apply for the roles in the first place. Up to three quarters or more of the applicant pool for most entry level banking jobs are finance and economics students, barely 7% come from arts and humanities disciplines. There is no surprise, then, that each year’s crop of new banking hires continues to tilt so heavily towards the ‘traditional’ disciplines. Ultimately, it’s correlation, not causality.

It is important to have what Jonathan Jones has called an ‘informed interest’ if you are to succeed

It may be then that the mentality is what needs to be addressed and considered. Why are humanities and arts students not applying? Is it because they don’t want to work in finance? (Which is fair enough). Or is it, because they are concerned that they don’t stand a chance against these economic and finance students in the first place?

I believe it probably lands somewhere in the middle of these two. I know a lot of people that chose a non-related finance degree because they knew they never wanted to get into it. However, I also know that a few of my degree friends are put off by their lack of knowledge in the field. But, this shouldn’t be the case because recruiters are not hiring based on knowledge. No one leaving university is going to know how to do the job, no matter what degree they studied! Therefore, humanities and arts students should see themselves on a level playing field.

However, it is important to have what Jonathan Jones has called an ‘informed interest’ if you are to succeed. What does this mean exactly? Well, my articles for the finance section of the Boar are an example of this. Employers are looking for people who have an interest in finance, not necessarily an advanced knowledge on the subject. Therefore, doing things like independent reading, applying for spring weeks in first year or going to finance society or company events will get you noticed, regardless of you degree. Recruiters (unless explicitly said) don’t require you to study a particular subject but an interest is still important for success.

Remember that many of these companies also offer opportunities in HR, Marketing and Communications, PR, Operations, Services and so many more! You don’t even have to work in finance at these banks because there are so many jobs outside of their main operations. These banks are such a good place to start your career in any area so why not have a look and see what other opportunities they offer.

So, if you’re studying a subject that you assume won’t make you a candidate for a banking or investing career, think again. The door really seems to be wide open, so what are you waiting for? It’s time to give those economics and finance students a run for their money.

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