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How do people get jobs in finance without a degree in the subject?

I always see people who manage to get jobs working at on of the Big 4 or elsewhere doing finance or accounting, when they did a degree in religion, philosophy, or something else totally unrelated.

How do they manage this? Does going to Oxbridge really give you that much of an advantage even if what you studied has no relation to it at all? I can't see how a degree in one of the above mentioned subjects would make them in any way prepared, other than the name of the uni they went to giving them a boost and suggesting they are clever?
(edited 1 year ago)
Your first mistake is thinking that such degrees are "unrelated" - they teach transferable skills such as analysis and logical reasoning, something vital in accountancy.

Second mistake? Big 4 firms (and Magic Circle) don't actually require, or necessarily want people with degrees in accountancy and law. Many firms believe that university teaching is too theoretical and not practical, and therefore can't be usefully applied to their business operations - which is why they all offer training contracts suited for their style of operations.

Third mistake? Oxbridge does not confer "huge advantages" - firms want intelligent people. Yes, they value Oxbridge degrees, sure, it'll give you some advantage, but they aren't hiring people based off where they went to university - they operate their own tests and interviews, they recognise that people aren't reduced to the perceived value of their degrees, or even their lack of degree.
Original post by BarnabyK
Your first mistake is thinking that such degrees are "unrelated" - they teach transferable skills such as analysis and logical reasoning, something vital in accountancy.

Second mistake? Big 4 firms (and Magic Circle) don't actually require, or necessarily want people with degrees in accountancy and law. Many firms believe that university teaching is too theoretical and not practical, and therefore can't be usefully applied to their business operations - which is why they all offer training contracts suited for their style of operations.

Third mistake? Oxbridge does not confer "huge advantages" - firms want intelligent people. Yes, they value Oxbridge degrees, sure, it'll give you some advantage, but they aren't hiring people based off where they went to university - they operate their own tests and interviews, they recognise that people aren't reduced to the perceived value of their degrees, or even their lack of degree.

Thanks for replying. Yes, my fault I completely see that those degree provide logical reasoning, but I always thought that as it's (obviously) so heavily numbers focused, they would want a degree where you're required to use maths skills, which they don't. If they desired transferable skills, why if you did a degree in say, English, History or any humanities etc., is your degree called effectively useless? Because then it wouldn't be, if you could use those to go into accounting? Not arguing btw - just curious!

If Oxbridge or Russell Group doesn't incur huge advantages, why are people so encouraged to go to them and why do so many of their staff come from those backgrounds? It seems like you hardly see anyone that went to a lower ranked uni like Hertfordshire for example, maybe because they didn't so well at A-Level but have a first class degree, in positions at those companies? It feels like they're a little out of reach if you didn't go to even a top 20 uni.

Sorry, not having a go. Just feeling a little disheartened like I made the wrong decisions in and feel limited because of where and what I chose to study as I didn't;t know what I wanted to do at the time.
Original post by FrameOfMind
Thanks for replying. Yes, my fault I completely see that those degree provide logical reasoning, but I always thought that as it's (obviously) so heavily numbers focused, they would want a degree where you're required to use maths skills, which they don't. If they desired transferable skills, why if you did a degree in say, English, History or any humanities etc., is your degree called effectively useless? Because then it wouldn't be, if you could use those to go into accounting? Not arguing btw - just curious!

If Oxbridge or Russell Group doesn't incur huge advantages, why are people so encouraged to go to them and why do so many of their staff come from those backgrounds? It seems like you hardly see anyone that went to a lower ranked uni like Hertfordshire for example, maybe because they didn't so well at A-Level but have a first class degree, in positions at those companies? It feels like they're a little out of reach if you didn't go to even a top 20 uni.

Sorry, not having a go. Just feeling a little disheartened like I made the wrong decisions in and feel limited because of where and what I chose to study as I didn't;t know what I wanted to do at the time.


You make good points. Essentially, the degree acts as an ostensible proof of intelligence. Accountancy firms believe that they can teach the required skills to anyone from any discipline. Many people do not go further into the field of their degree past university, this is super common and no degree is regarded as "useless" (unless we are talking about very low-quality universities and "media studies" sort of degrees).

As for the whole Oxbridge/RG debate, I can see two conclusions. We can either correlate university performance and achievement with higher-level jobs -> achievement tends to breed more achievement, people at these institutions will always do well due to their work ethic and intelligence. Alternatively, people from outside these groups do not feel like they're either suitable or welcome in these spheres (something many firms are working hard to combat) and do not attempt to enter these industries. And there is, of course, elitism in some companies over degree classification (which is thankfully quickly disappearing).



All these problems essentially boil down to the middle-class obsession with Oxbridge and Russel Group unis, the idea that there is a delimited path to success.
Reply 4
Your experience of breaking into the banking industry over the last five years might be helpful for the OP
Got a data entry job and then worked my way up. End up as a credit analyst / risk underwriter with no relevant qualifications. I don’t know that I knew anyone in finance with a related degree. Having a degree in any subject was just a box tick in the recruitment process for most roles.

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