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How An MSc Finance Could Help You Land A City Job

Students on MSc Finance programs across the UK point to a range of benefits, from learning to use a Reuters terminal to writing financial reports

By  

Fri Feb 18 2011

BusinessBecause
James Magrane put out ambitious applications to London banks as an undergraduate in Autumn 2010, but it quickly became clear that he was acting prematurely. “I realised it wasn't happening; that I was naive to apply and unaware of the amount of work that’s really needed to get in.”

These doubts drove his decision to apply for an MSc Finance at Cass Business School. Now halfway through, James has already had offers from RBS and BNP Paribas.

The MSc Finance is the main factor behind his success, he claims. “I was just far more confident.

“It gave me a deep understanding of the background and workings of financial markets that a year's work experience couldn’t. I’m more relaxed now, too. Back in November, the main aim was to get a good job. But now I can focus on getting more out of an education from the course.”

And this is a good thing – many would claim that financial MScs give the best grounding a budding investment banker could wish for.

But why? What makes the MSc Finance shine in the eyes of students? It depends who you ask, though every serious answer is about employability.

The post-recession job market is in an unusual state. Although some entry-level financial recruitment schemes remain buoyant, competition is up and recruiters no longer prowl campuses for talent on the scale they used to. Fewer jobs and higher competition mean hirers now expect you to come to them, with directly relevant work experience or qualifications.

For many young graduates, this is the key appeal of the MSc Finance. They look at the practical orientation many courses have and see the chance to gain both experience and a valuable qualification at once.

To these students, a big part of the appeal comes from the way financial MScs are taught. Students are often asked to submit coursework which is effectively a real-life task based around real data from real cases. So rather than setting a class an essay on the theory of financial reporting, many lecturers now ask students to actually write a financial report using a case study, which is then assessed as a piece of professional work. It can be a nerve-wracking test – but the chance to make mistakes in a safe environment holds obvious benefits for those looking to graduate into a successful career.

“I’m studying the full corsage of products that are traded/exchanged in finance,” says Calvin Mhembere, who is studying his MSc at Exeter. “This includes how they are created, regulated, monitored, their full attributes and most importantly, how returns are recognised from these products.

“The program is very comprehensive, hence the intense schedule. There are hardly any free weekends, days or nights and this in a way trains you to develop the necessary tenacity and self management necessary to be a successful in the financial services industry.”

The hard-won practical benefits are clear both to yourself and potential employers, he claims.

However, some would rather study financial MScs to sharpen their knowledge of financial theory. Sebastian Kaufmann had already interned at a few banks before he applied to do his MSc Finance at Warwick Business School. But working with employers made him see the importance of academic credentials. He now believes it is essential to get to grips with the theory behind investment in order to come across as credible in job interviews.

“I’ll have practise when I’m working, so I wanted to get into the academic side now,” he says. “Employers want a mixture of academic and practical experience; up against a rival job candidate who’d done the same internships but had instead chosen a year’s practical experience over the MSc, I’d have the edge.”

He cites the theoretical content of his course - training in statistical software like S Plus, as well as Bloomberg and Reuters terminals. Module options are likely to include everything from vanilla economics to Empirical Finance, Financial Reporting, Investment management and Corporate Finance.

Some courses even cover up to 70% of the internationally-recognised CFA qualification, increasing your appeal to employers who prefer graduates to hit the ground running.

But regardless of whether they first wanted hard knowledge or practical skills, the biggest value-added benefits students get from an MSc Finance are the career connections and the chance to associate themselves with a respected university.

Visits to banks for lectures are also common, and provide the added bonus of scoping out potential employers. James Magrane says a friend even managed to secure an internship by charming a bank representative after a class. James feels that this is the sort of opportunity was only made possible by choosing to study at a top school.

And, of course, getting to know lecturers who networks in the finance industry is a big help for many young aspirants – not to mention the classmates who’ll soon be in high places.

Key facts
- The MSc Finance is designed to be challenging and usually requires an undergraduate degree with economics or statistics content. However, some schools allow students of all backgrounds to apply with GMAT test results.

- A limited number of UK courses have partnership with the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute (including Imperial, Exeter, Warwick, Durham and Cass).

- The classes tend to be highly diverse, often with less than 15% of students from the UK.

- Usually about two thirds of students have finance, accountancy, business or economics undergraduate degrees, and most of the remainder come from science backgrounds.

- Most full-time courses last 12 months, but many part-time courses can be completed in 18 months.

- Generally speaking, courses based closer to the City of London have more practical content, whereas those further away place higher value on financial theory.

- Last year, 50% of Durham MSc Finance graduates went into finance jobs and 20% went into consulting.

- Courses can cost anywhere between £8,000 to £24,000

- Scholarships can range up to £20,000

- Many college career services allow students to upload their CVs for potential employers to browse.

Student Reviews

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When I first stepped onto the campus of City, University of London, I knew I was in for a ride - and not just on the Tube! With its vibrant energy and an impressive repertoire of programs, City U became my home away from home. The Journalism program was kind of a big deal. Rumour was that we were the best in Europe! The lecturers were not just experts in their field; they’re practically journalistic royalty. They were invested, passionate, and had a knack for turning the most flat press release into a riveting news story. With their guidance, I’ve learned to navigate the chaotic world of media like a pro. The campus was a melting pot of every culture, being that we had such a diverse international crowd. Being in the heart of London, I had the world at my fingertips - there was always a new corner to explore, a hidden gem of a cafe to discover, or a street performer! City, University of London wasn't just a university; it was a chapter in my life story that I’ll never forget.

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The teacher-learner ration is manageable, giving each learner a chance to gain personal attention. It is also easier following up on the progress of a student, as the numbers per class is not large. the conducive environment for learning includes clean classes, standard desks, world class instructional facilities and the opportunity to engage lecturers even after their sessions. The team spirit at City is above board, with learners getting chance to learn both from instructors and colleagues. This is the university of choice; the place to be.

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I liked that each class had a manageable number of learners, making the professor-learner ratio favor knowledge acquisition. I also liked that study schedules were manageable, and not overwhelming. The focus on talents and gifts even within the learning environment makes it possible for learners to achieve the best of their potential, and this has worked to the advantage of those that have schooled at City, University of London

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The diversity at City University facilitates interactions and is a direction toward the unity of the world. The classes are well built to match the number and needs of all students regardless of the elements of diversity that set people apart. The use of technology in delivery makes learning even more interesting and achievable. At City University there is no distinction pegged on the issues that make people unique.

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The team of lecturers at the Uiversity are well experienced. Their level of insight and the methodologies of delivery works for the interes of the leaeners. My learning experience was largely boosted by the level of knowledge of the professors at the institution, and their passion to transfer the same to learners. I appreciate every class I attended because of the level of insight I was able to gather

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The best university I’ve been to

The campus and the people I've met have made it a wonderful experience. I was reared in a small town with a graduating class of only 88 individuals, so moving to City University was a huge adjustment for me. My dorm has more residents than my whole high school combined! I enjoy the atmosphere here, and everyone is so friendly. Outstanding academic options and a stunning campus. Really great from beginning to end. The educators genuinely love what they do, and the students are ready to learn. On or around college, there is always something to do with friends, and the social scene is particularly warm.

Antonia

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As a student at City university attending Bayes Business School I would totally recommend choosing this university as the experience is exceptional with great social networking opportunities . Professors are significantly helpful, delivering with excellence and professionalism. Everyone is happy to help and make you feel welcomed in such an esteem university as City, offering exceptional development and guidance through out the course.

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I really like it it’s perfect for me with not too many people and not too few either. All the modules are amazing. I love the toy bar. I love all the societies that I’ma part of. Especially the colour Bollywood society

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