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How to get a graduate job in banking when you haven’t studied finance

Kym Freedman

Campus Recruitment Lead at Susquehanna International Group, LLP (SIG)
Do you want to get a graduate job in the banking and finance industry, but second guessing yourself because you haven’t studied finance?

No need to give up just yet. With statistics from GradAustralia’s survey showing that 37% of graduates in banking and finance have never studied business, finance or accounting, you can rest assured many people with different degree backgrounds break into this industry.

How to sell yourself when you don’t have a finance degree

Banking and finance firms want staff with a whole range of skills and backgrounds. The trick is to know how to effectively sell the different skills you have and position them as relevant to the industry. 

For example, if you ran a small side business while you were at university studying fine arts, this shows great business acumen. 

Or maybe you were president of a university club – this can demonstrate leadership strengths. 

Think about your various skills and pull out those you think could relate to the finance industry. There are many different skills you will have picked up in your studies that will put you in good stead for a finance job – you just need to be good at explaining why they are relevant. Here are a few ideas for different fields of study to give you a head start.  

How is a technical degree relevant to banking & finance? 

It might not be immediately obvious how a technical degree such as engineering or IT can apply to the finance industry, but students with a tech or engineering background are among the most highly sought-after. 

For example, if you have worked with computers, you will probably be able to quickly grasp how investment banking operating systems work. Modern banks rely heavily on technology, and will employ an army of tech experts to keep things running smoothly and ensure they’re at the cutting edge of new developments.

An engineering background shows you have great analytical skills and problem solving skills, which can be applied in a banking environment. You’re likely good with numbers and a logical thinker. Engineering graduates will often take quickly to financial modelling and analysis, taking advantage of excel skills and structured problem solving skills they’ve developed while studying.

How is a geography degree relevant to banking & finance? 

Studying geography gives you a whole set of skills that can be applied to the business world, even if the crossover isn’t immediately apparent. For example, working in the geography field teaches you how to collect data, research various elements, analyse and evaluate and then write a report to be presented. 

When described in this manner, it is immediately obvious how producing a geography report based on field work could set you up for business skills such as creating a business plan or researching stocks. 

How is an arts degree relevant to banking & finance? 

You may think an arts degree, such as one involving languages, has nothing to do with business, but this simply isn’t the case. For example, someone who speaks multiple languages is often highly valued in a finance and banking environment, as the markets you and your colleagues will be working in are international. If you have taken the time to study a foreign language overseas, highlighting how you got outside of your comfort zone to push your limits and learn a new tongue is bound to impress. 

How is a politics degree relevant to banking & finance? 

If you have studied politics, it often demonstrates you have a worldly interest in different global events, and this knowledge can be practically applied to the finance world. Financial market performance can be closely intertwined with local and global politics. If you have a genuine interest in finance which you have gained while studying politics, make sure you mention this in the interview.

How is a law degree relevant to banking & finance? 

The legal landscape in banking and finance can be complex, with many banks using large in-house legal teams in the course of their day to day business. Think about how the banking or finance field you’re applying to is influenced by the law, and be prepared in your interview to talk about examples that interest you. Have you studied any commercial law subjects in your degree? These are often directly relevant to how banking and finance business is conducted. For example, having an interest in and understanding of legal framework of mergers and acquisitions is sure to impress.

How is a marketing or communications degree relevant to banking & finance? 

Large financial or banking firms often have huge communications teams working within their staff. If you have studied communications or marketing and have an interest in finance, you could well become a part of the team writing media releases, covering public relations or publishing marketing materials for the company.

If you’re interested in other divisions within banking and finance such as research, sales, or trading, make sure you showcase your relevant strengths in the recruitment process. For example, with a marketing background you may be familiar with consumer opinion and sentiment – paint this as a strength that will help you judge how stocks can move with company announcements.

Regardless of your field of study, graduate jobs in banking and finance are still well within reach. It simply takes some insight into how your skills are suitable for the role, then going after the position with passion. Good luck!