Postgraduate study in finance: the pros and cons

Postgraduate study could give you an edge and increase your chances of employment in finance institution if you do it for the right reasons. Before accepting a place however, think about what you want to get out of the course and how it will help your career.

Unless you're financially independent or wish to enter academia, postgraduate study purely for its own sake has become something of a luxury. Its principal appeal is no longer immediate intellectual fulfilment but the opportunity to invest in the future. It seems that these days CVs can never boast too many qualifications, so candidates are using postgraduate study more and more as a way of standing out from the crowd - and they are willing to pay (or get into debt) now to increase their salary later.

Why study?

If you truly are fascinated by finance, further study could help you explore the theory underlying the practice. Alternatively, you may be unsure if finance is for you, in which case a postgraduate degree will be an expensive but sure-fire way to find out. For some careers postgraduate study is a requisite. If, for example, you wish to specialise in certain areas of quantitative finance or deal with particularly complex financial products, it's likely your first degree will have left you inadequately equipped. In this case you only need to consider where and what to study. Alternatively, non-finance graduates wanting to enter the City may wish to prove their enthusiasm and ability by taking a finance-related course. If this is the case, it's wise to select something directly relevant to your eventual career path.

Make an impression

Even if an additional qualification isn't mandatory, it can still give you an edge if researched properly. In a fiercely competitive global marketplace, recruiters are eager to employ candidates of the highest calibre, but if your prime motivation for pursuing postgraduate study is to improve your career prospects, remember that you won't necessarily make yourself more attractive to recruiters simply by studying an area of interest. Before accepting a place, evaluate what you intend to get out of the course and how this will boost your employability. In order to be financially justifiable, an extra qualification should add more to your CV than the same period in the world of work would add. If you can't see how additional study will help your career, it probably won't.

Be honest with yourself - are you already sufficiently qualified for what you want to do? If you decide you still want to go ahead, when considering where to study look at the statistics available - most institutions offer salary details and the job destinations of their graduating classes on their websites, which means you can make sure the course you are planning to take is the right one for you and will help you to achieve your aims. Another top tip is to speak to recruiters at careers fairs or on-campus presentations to see if they have a preference as to which postgraduate course you should follow or whether you should follow one at all. They will also be able to tell you if a period of postgraduate study will atone for previously poor academic performance and whether you can expect a higher starting salary on joining the company with postgraduate qualifications.

Justify your study

Whatever your reasons for choosing to study, beware of appearing reluctant to enter the workplace. Many first graduates can't quite face getting a job yet and see further study as a way of putting the real world on hold. Show that you can thrive outside the library by getting work experience during the holidays: this will demonstrate that you can apply your knowledge to a practical, working environment. Finally, don't forget that while intellectual achievement will never fail to impress, you must be able to convince recruiters that your skills are transferable.

Find out more about postgraduate study in business and management