On top of helping to secure employment in the competitive finance sector, postgraduate studies can take you down your desired career path of specialisation. But before you make your move, conduct thorough research to consider your options:
• Do you have the commitment to complete the course?
• Do you meet the prerequisites?
• Where do you foresee yourself going after your studies?
Do it at the right time for the right reasons
Going back to school is typically for those who want to make a switch to finance after having pursued an unrelated first degree, or others who wish to specialise in a particular area of finance. For these reasons, a postgraduate degree is an investment in yourself. But it doesn’t come without risks and costs; for instance, you’ll have to spend time away from the workforce, especially if you choose to study full-time.
Speak to the recruiters
If you’ve already decided on a certain career path, your best option would be to speak to recruiters first. They can advise on recommended courses and where you should take them. At the end of the day, though, you’ll still need to show that you have both the hard and soft skills to get the job done.
Know your options
Postgraduate options in the financial sector range from a Master of Business Administration (MBA) to Finance, Accounting, Management and Economics (FAME) degrees, as well as professional qualifications for the technical aspects of accounting and financial management.
If you’ve just started out in a finance career, an MBA would be the traditional option for investment banking pathways. However, it’s not focused on technical foundations, unlike the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) qualification, which costs less and suits early career investment bankers dealing with fund management.
Enrolling into a MBA programme is still prestigious, feasible and offers a wide network of contacts into industries beyond finance.
Make it a point to look into the syllabus before registering for a programme, though! Make sure that you understand exactly what you’ll get out of it, and that it offers the right balance of management and technical knowledge you’re looking for.
Other short-term courses include the Certified Treasury Professional (CTP), Certified Professional Risk Manager (CPRM), Corporate Finance Qualification (CF), Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) and the Certificate in Quantitative Finance (CQF).
A Master of Science in Finance (MSc) is another viable option. Popular choices include the MSc in Applied Finance offered by the Singapore Management University (SMU), the MSc in Financial Engineering awarded by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the University College Dublin’s MSc in Finance found in Kaplan Singapore. Some prefer an MSc in Finance over an MBA because it doesn’t require much work experience in a related field – a vital criterion for entering an MBA programme.
Figure out what you want to learn
In finance, you’ll need a strong understanding of theory, business and industry practices on top of knowledge of markets, trade and investment. Skills in research, numeracy, statistics, analysis and communication are also needed. On the other hand, degrees in FAME subjects usually include accountancy skill certifications.
This is because accounting calls for quantitative skills, specialised accounting knowledge, an understanding of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and regulation and industry knowledge.
So, if you’re interested in entering the accounting sector but hold an unrelated degree, consider a Master of Accounting (MAcc), Master of Professional Accounting (MPAc), or other certifications, such as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Chartered Accountant (CA).
In short, choose the right course for yourself after looking carefully at the costs and possible returns. Don’t forget to consider your end goal(s), too, whether it’s specialisation, advancement, or something else!