Accountancy and finance
The diverse nature of the accountancy and finance sector and its resilience following the banking crash has meant that there are an increasing number of opportunities for new entrants to make up the skills shortages that appeared during the recession. The industry is now proving a more stable career choice – attracting a growing number of graduates.
Opportunities within the sector are widely available with accountancy firms, investment banks, high street banks, insurance companies, building societies, management consultancies and public sector employers.
Although some of the most recognised graduate recruiters are large multinational accountancy firms, there are also opportunities in small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are likely to specialise in a particular area of work or will be based in the local area.
Graduates working in accountancy, banking and finance professions can expect to work in a generally fast-paced and high-pressure environment, but with multiple employee benefits including good opportunities for progression.
Where do I start?
Within the accountancy and finance sector you could be looking at a wide range of occupations. Prospects has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements and career prospects with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.
Job roles in this sector include (but are not restricted to):
- Accounting technician
- Chartered accountant
- Chartered certified accountant
- Chartered management accountant
- Chartered public finance accountant
- Compliance officer
- Corporate investment banker
- Financial adviser
- Financial risk analyst
- Financial trader
- Forensic accountant
- Insurance broker
- Internal auditor
- Investment analyst
- Operational investment banker
- Pensions consultant
- Retail banker
- Tax adviser
As part of your job-hunting strategy you'll need to keep up to date on developments in this sector and keep track of any vacancies that are coming up. Below are some key resources to help you research available opportunities. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to target your applications and will help when preparing for interviews.
- Inside Careers – provides an overview of graduate careers in the sector, including information on actuaries, insurance, banking and investments, chartered accountancy, tax, management consultancy and patent attorneys. The site offers information on a wide range of opportunities, including graduate jobs, internships, placements, events and insights. It is split into tailored sections - Accountancy, Acturial and Insurance
- eFinancialCareers – offers invaluable industry insights, including news and analysis, career-shaping advice and professional opinion. There is access to more information on their featured companies through specific profiles and the opportunity to set up your own profile to be searchable and visible to recruiters.
- TARGETjobs – provides information on relevant graduate jobs and schemes, internships and placements and specifically has careers advice on securing a graduate job in accountancy and financial management, consulting, financial services and insurance
- TARGETjobs – offers an online financial guide, providing information about a range of opportunities and employers in the sector, and advice on career development and the transition from university to corporate life
- Corporate Finance Institute – provides a range of free corporate finance resources, including an interactive career map, a knowledge-base of articles and self-study guides to help master corporate finance, and general career resources that cover information on how to get a job in the sector, interview questions and answers, job descriptions and information on CVs and cover letters.
- BBC Business – offers up to date news and headlines, including market data and information on global companies and developments in the economy
- How to become a Chartered Accountant – a useful guide and insight into becoming a chartered accountant
Securing your first job in the graduate market can be a competitive process. Employers, keen to attract the brightest talent, can afford to look for people who have some practical experience, as well as relevant qualifications and genuine enthusiasm.
Gaining some experience, through a placement, internship or even volunteering, is a valuable opportunity to try out the financial services industry and see whether an employer and/or type of job role is right for you. It is also a unique opportunity for you to network and make contacts that could help you when developing your future career path, in addition to gaining some experience and transferable skills that will boost your graduate applications.
Many employers will recruit directly from internships, placements or other kinds of work experience. For this reason alone, undertaking some relevant experience is invaluable. This is particularly true of this sector where most financial firms, from insurance companies to banks, aim to hire 60-90% of their interns. Overall, in this competitive graduate market, most of your graduate competition will have finance-related work experience.
Finding experience will take time and effort. Employers receive many CVs and applications each week, so you'll have to work hard to stand out from the crowd.
You can find out more about how to create a targeted CV in our CV advice section.
Work placements can provide you with an invaluable insight into working life and offer a unique opportunity to apply the industry knowledge you're learning as part of your studies. Placements will also enable you to develop transferable skills in the workplace, such as communication, teamwork and time management, in addition to finding out more about a specific job role or industry, which will lead to more informed decisions upon graduating.
On some degrees, work placements are part of the programme, while on others you can choose to complete a placement as one of your modules. Many courses at the University of Portsmouth enable you to complete a year’s work placement or self-employment placement should you choose to.
Your first point of contact to arrange this will be your placement office in your Faculty. Find out how to contact your Placements Office here.
An internship is usually a work experience opportunity that is offered for a fixed period or a limited amount of time. Internships tend to be undertaken by students and graduates who are looking to gain more relevant/industry specific skills and experience in their particular field.
These opportunities can be paid for a period of between 1 to 4 months and typically take place over the summer, with closing dates generally around January to March, but some can be earlier. Summer internships are usually for penultimate-year students and are offered by most financial services firms, including the Financial Conduct Authority, Aon, HSBC and Nationwide. Some retail banking and insurance organisations, such as Aviva, will provide internship opportunities as and when there is a business need for them.
Finding placement and internship opportunities
The websites below provide further information about placement and internship opportunities in the finance sector:
- MyCareer – the Careers and Employability Service's online jobs board can be used to search for internships, work experience and summer opportunities across sectors and locations.
- InsideCareers – provides the opportunity to search internships, placements and insights across career sectors including actuaries, insurance, pensions, banking and investments and accountancy.
- RateMyPlacement – offers information on banking internships and work experience, including careers advice and an insight into the banking industry.
- TARGETjobs – provides a specific section on different career sectors, with the ability to search for placement and internship opportunities in accountancy and financial management, financial services and insurance and investment banking.
- The Big Choice – includes a search tool for work placement opportunities in accountancy and taxation, actuarial, banking, finance and insurance and pensions.
- Wellcome – a global charitable foundation, supporting scientists and researchers, offering a summer internship programme allowing undergraduates to gain experience in investment, finance and grants management.
- Step Recruitment – provider of paid student and graduate internships, placements and permanent opportunities.
Larger organisations sometimes offer taster or experience weeks providing hands-on alternatives to internships. For example, BDO’s Summer School, PwC’s Talent Academy, Deloitte’s ‘Spring into Deloitte’ event, EY’s Summer Intership Academy or Skills Sessions run by the likes of KPMG, which give you a chance to meet recruiters and learn about the employer you’re interested in.
Some insight programmes are targeted specifically at first-year students or second-year students for those individuals taking a 4-year course.
There's a high chance that by attending these tasters, you'll increase your chances of securing an internship the following year as you'll have gained an insight into the company and potentially made contacts within the firm itself.
The websites below are those of some of the biggest employers in the finance sector. By accessing these sites and carrying out some initial research about the companies, you may find additional information about some of the opportunities available to you.
The ‘big four’ accountancy and professional services firms are:
Many well-known high street brands can be found among the UK's retail banks and building societies, including:
In investment banking, large companies that employ graduates include:
The main UK insurers are:
Volunteering gives you the opportunity to develop employability skills and experience a variety of working environments to assist you in discovering the right career path for you. It also provides the chance to network, meet new friends and boost your confidence.
Volunteering also enables you to gain practical experience and working examples to support your graduate applications. If you choose to commit a significant amount of time and impress the organisation during your volunteering, they may also provide you with a professional reference.
Volunteer to gain practical experience
Being a student at the University of Portsmouth provides you with access to numerous student groups, clubs and societies at the students’ union, with the opportunity to offer your skills as a volunteer treasurer if this committee position is available.
Alternatively, you could approach local organisations, charities or community groups who would benefit from your skills. The transferable skills gained from such experience will be invaluable and enhance any speculative applications you make for further work experience.
The Careers and Employability Service offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank, which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies. Similarly, you can access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located in the Careers and Employability Centre building.
Examples of finance-related or business support roles that the Volunteering Team have previously advertised and recruited for include:
- Assistant money tutor volunteer with Citizens Advice – supporting the delivery of money workshops to members of the public in line with changes in policy and legislation.
- Bookkeeper volunteer with Toucan Diversity Training – assisting with the general bookkeeping for the organisation, creating and recording financial transactions and reports from the data.
- Funding researcher with Portsmouth Foodbank – researching potential funding streams and compiling a report of the findings to present to the board of trustees with advice and suggestions on suitable opportunities to explore and apply for.
- Administration volunteer with The Roberts Centre – assisting with administrative tasks, including data inputting, statistics collection and inputting and dealing with enquiries over the telephone.
These opportunities will provide you with invaluable experience and an opportunity to develop and enhance multiple transferable skills that you'll be able to discuss as part of future applications.
If you have any questions regarding the volunteering opportunities available to you in Portsmouth then please contact the Volunteering Team on email email@example.com.
Tips for success when looking for experience
Initially, it's important to identify whether or not there is specific experience you wish to gain in the finance sector, or could your search be broader where you are looking to gain transferable skills?
Some key considerations for your search may include:
- Are you looking for experience that relates to a specific module you're taking as part of your course?
- What are your career goals and aspirations? How might the opportunity help you work towards these?
- Are there any gaps in your skill set that need to be addressed? How might an opportunity enable you to fill this gap?
- What is the time commitment and location of the role? Does this fit in with your plans and other commitments during term time or over the summer period?
- What type of organisation would you like to gain experience with? A bigger national or multinational company? A small to medium-sized enterprise (SME)? A charity or non-for-profit organisation?
Make sure you carry out thorough research
Explore the various areas within the finance sector before you apply for work experience. Knowing what you want to specialise in will help you focus your research and ensure you gain the relevant skills.
As a starting point take a look at the job profiles included on the Prospects website to consider the type of work experience recommended and the skills you will need to develop to enhance graduate applications for specific roles.
Use your networks
Use your personal networks to find out if anyone you already know in the business world can offer work experience. When you're studying, your network also extends to your tutors and other members of Faculty staff who may be researching in the areas that interest you. They may have opportunities or contacts that they are willing to share with you.
Use your initiative and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively – send a targeted CV and a cover letter focused on why you're interested in them and why they should be interested in you.
Create a positive online presence
Making the most of your experience
Once you've secured your work experience, it will be important to recognise that you'll be working in a professional environment – your appearance and attitude will need to reflect this. Importantly, let your enthusiasm for the opportunity shine through and aim to get involved. A positive, 'can do' attitude will help you stand out.
Below are some ideas on how to impress the organisation while on your internship or placement:
- Maximise the variety of different experiences you'll get while you’re there. Be sociable and get to know the different people within the organisation. Don’t be afraid to volunteer for more work if you see something that needs to be done and you’ve got time.
- Ask for feedback on your performance from an early stage. This will help you to identify any gaps in your skill set and enable you to develop these while with the company.
- Recruiters will look for interns who can work as part of a team and get along with their colleagues – offer your support and assistance with tasks where you can.
- Use the opportunity to network – the experience will provide a great way to build your professional network. Before you start your work experience, be prepared. Savvy networkers know who they are going to meet, so carry out some initial research on the organisation’s website.
- Use the professional networking site LinkedIn to connect with your co-workers, enabling you to stay in touch after your work experience has ended. The contacts you make can be a valuable resource when you're looking to source further experience or a job opportunity in the future.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make suggestions. Take an active interest in the company and the sector to enable you to develop commercial awareness. This will involve you developing an understanding of what makes the organisation successful in the sector. Graduate employers are increasingly looking for this as a key attribute during the recruitment process.
Before you leave your work experience…
Don’t forget that before your work experience opportunity comes to an end, you may want to do the following:
- Ask if the organisation/your manager will write you a reference to use for future applications.
- Ensure you have the contact details of colleagues who may act as mentors, sources of advice or may even help with finding employment opportunities in the future.
- Ask for feedback on your performance – this may include seeking your manager's or colleagues' perspective on what you need to do to further enhance your employability and be successful in your chosen area of work.
- Make sure you've clearly identified what you've gained from the work experience in terms of skills, experience and personal development. You could complete our Key Skills Audit to help you think about the different skill sets you've developed such as when you've worked with others, problem solving skills and work ready skills.
Finding a job
There are many different job roles within the accountancy and finance sector and the work can be extremely varied. You could choose to go into accountancy and finance, financial planning, insurance, banking and building societies, or investment and pensions – so some thought as to which area(s) you're particularly interested in will help you to target your job search.
Opportunities may be available with larger companies, which may also be multinational and therefore could offer the opportunity to travel or work overseas. In the UK there are also multiple opportunities with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and this type of employer can offer positive prospects for graduates by providing support for professional training and development and varied experience.
Useful websites to help you start your job search
- MyCareer – can be accessed through our website to search the latest vacancies, save job searches and set up job alerts.
- TARGETjobs – provides information on relevant graduate jobs and schemes, internships and placements and specifically has careers advice on securing a graduate job in accountancy and financial management, consulting, financial services and insurance.
- Careers in Audit – a specialist site offering hundreds of careers within the audit industry. You can upload your CV and the site includes an employer listing and career guides.
- Guardian Jobs – allows you to browse through a variety of finance and accounting jobs, including those at graduate level. Tailor your search to meet your needs and interests and sign-up to receive regular job alerts.
- The Big Choice – provides one of the largest UK graduate databases, offering opportunities in accounting, banking, finance and consulting. Also includes details of placements, internships and part time work.
- graduate-jobs.com – provides details of graduate schemes, jobs and internship opportunities throughout the UK.
- Accountancy Age Jobs – promotes UK financial and accounting job opportunities ranging from graduate and trainee to finance director vacancies. You can carry out a search by role, sector or location.
- Investment2020 – careers site where you can learn about the investment management industry and all its opportunities.
- Step Recruitment – provider of paid student and graduate internships, placements and permanent opportunities, including in finance, sales and business.
- Our Graduate Recruitment Consultancy – works with over 6000 local employers across Hampshire and the South Coast, offering a job match service unique to University of Portsmouth students.
- FS people – a specialist bespoke recruitment company dedicated to the financial services industry.
- TopFinancialJobs – specialist recruitment website for accounting, banking, insurance and financial services worldwide.
- Hays – the Banking and Financial Markets team at Hays specialise and place graduates, whether they are looking for a permanent job or temporary role in investment management companies, banks, private equity, investment banking and more.
- Randstad – offers specialist recruitment services for jobs in accountancy, finance and banking and financial services.
Tips for finding a job
Keep your online job search flexible as some employers might use different titles to describe the same role.
Keep up to date with economic and business news and trends by following professional organisations on social media – this information might help you to identify opportunities to network and tap into the hidden job market.
Useful Twitter feeds
Check out the following Twitter feeds for news and information about current projects and to tap into the hidden jobs market.
Another set of resources that may be helpful to support you in both your job search and personal/professional development is provided by the Corporate Finance Institute who offer:
The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:
- Career options
- Further study
- CV and covering letters
- Application forms
- Job search
We have an online jobs board advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy that delivers a personalised job matching service.
You can also access our services by calling or emailing us:
Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone us: +44 (0)2392 842684
Office hours: Monday – Thursday, 8.30am – 5.00pm; Friday, 8.30am – 4.00pm