An independent study on career related services is gaining popularity in many parts of the world. Its aim is to meet individual needs of different students, including those with special needs, specific talent or learners intending to achieve particular academic goal. This type of study has been useful for gifted and exceptionally talented students, child actors, learners experiencing anxiety or bulling in school, expectant, parenting teens, and families that prefer more involvement in their children’s education who want their children to be educated at home. As a student, I also prefer independent study programs because they assist me in gaining deeper insight into financial management and developing my professional career objectives. In addition to my regular studies at the university, I am also independently registered for a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) course that will help me sharpen my financial management knowledge and skills. I have noted that, as a result of stiff competition, attaining a CFA and obtaining a master’s degree will improve my chances of being employed.
Areas of Management
Areas of management I can easily join are strategic management, procurement and supply chain management, and portfolio management. These three areas require firm financial management skills in order to strategically position any organization. For instance, a strategic manager cannot perform his functions without being knowledgeable about the financial aspect of the organization that clearly identifies the source of funds, allocation, and controlling of the funds to ensure they are efficiently used. Similarly, procurement department cannot operate without allocation of funds, and the portfolio manager cannot efficiently manage the operation of all the different lines of production without financial knowledge. For the benefit of my professional goal, this paper will concentrate on financial management.
Based on my passion for finance related field, my objective is to join a financial management sector to help organizations manage funds geared toward the achievement of organizational goals in an efficient and effective way. This is a management function associated with the top management team in an organization, which is also responsible for overall administration of a company. The functions of a financial manager include planning, directing, organizing, and controlling the firm’s financial activities related to procurement services and general deployment of funds of the organization (Bittlestone 2010). Planning function involves financial forecasting to clearly determine the amount of money needed to successfully fund the intended projects or the expenditures to be incurred. Planning also involves identifying sources of funding and timing of the findings. Controlling function of financial managers regards budgeting and ensuring that funds are spent on the right projects and accord with the budget.
The scope of this career presupposes making investment decisions such as investment in fixed assets known as capital budgeting and making working capital decisions; financial decisions, which concern the raise of the required finance using various resources depending on the type of source, cost of financing, period of financing and the returns associated with the financing; and dividend decision, based on the net profit distribution either as retained earnings to finance further organizational goals or dividends to the shareholders (Bittlestone 2010). In order to successfully accomplish the independent examinations and achieve the objective of being a CFA, I have to undertake an independent study.
Qualification for Financial Management Career
Financial manager career requires specialization in business finance, economic finance, accounting, or business administration. These need to be supplemented with strong mathematical, analytical and communication skills among other soft skills. Taking financial management position in any organization requires the following academic qualifications.
Step 1: Bachelor's Degree
A bachelor’s degree in economic finance, business administration, finance, accounting, or any other business related field like management is often the least education qualification desired for a finance manager. Taking an undergraduate finance course, students learn about financial economics, financial planning, financial markets and institutions, securities, and portfolio assessment (Bittlestone 2010). Business administration and accounting programs also cover related topics, including finance principles and microeconomics.
Step 2: Master's Degree
The majority of firms hiring finance managers often desire to employ staff with advanced degree academic qualifications. It is noted that acquiring a graduate degree hypothetically improves job prospects. A master's degree in business administration, financial economics, or finance that cover global financial markets, corporate financial management, financial analysis, and modeling, portfolio management, financial theory and finance research is relevant to the position of an efficient financial manager.
Step 3: Gaining Work Experience
In addition to the academic achievements, financial management career requires having adequate related work experience and references. Usually, career growth in the finance field begins at lower levels in related positions, such as finance assistants, accounting, and financial analysis among others. Through career growth and development, most organizations prefer promoting financial managers within the organization. It is possible because financial managers are considered high-level employees whose academic qualifications and job experience must match the job. This means that firms that hire financial managers from outside the company look for candidates with appropriate experience preferably from a similar position.
Step 4: Obtaining Professional Certification
Attaining additional voluntary professional qualifications related to the finance field is essential to demonstrate a high level of proficiency and competency (Dostis 2012). For this reason, and, as mentioned earlier, I have registered for a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) professional course offered by the CFA Institute as an independent student, studying on my own and with the help of private tutors. Based on the intense competition, most employers look for additional qualification other than a degree as part of the credential for the job. CFA is recognized in many jurisdictions in the U.S and worldwide. However, it should be noted that a bachelor’s degree is sufficient to work as a financial manager. The additional levels like master’s and professional certification come as added advantage for the employment prospects.
Thousands of graduates enter the job market each year competing for a few job opportunities available. This results in intense competition and employers have to choose from a bigger pool of candidates. There is competition not only for job opportunities but also for internship positions in which companies receive hundreds of applications to fill in very few slots (Bailey & Manning 2014). For instance, Terra Firma who recruits fresh graduates is one of the few private equity firms noting that it received 1,589 applications in 2013 to hire only six employees.
In the finance industry, most of the graduates applying for positions are trained and experienced in economics or finance. Further, as a result of globalization, companies draw their employees from all over the world as long as they have the necessary skills. This means that graduates from the U.S. universities compete with the graduates from all parts of the world. Every student and job seeker in this case must outdo the others despite attaining advanced degrees and certifications as well as gaining experience in order to secure the few job opportunities available.
Competition for graduate job opportunities is even stiffer in investment banks, with only approximately 2-5% of the applicants ultimately getting full-time position. The large investment banks recruit hundreds of graduates from Asia, Europe, and the U.S every year, and each single position advertised attracts over 40 applications (Clarke 2014). This proves the level of competition. In investment banks, they prefer recruiting junior level employees who are trained and allowed to grow with the firm, while highly paid managing directors are forced out.
Other firms such as Aberdeen prefer recruiting employees directly from their pool of interns instead of fresh advertisement. In this case, interns are recruited into the firm for six weeks during summer, and then some of them are given full-time positions at the culmination of the internship period. In 2010, the firm offered approximately 60 internship and 7 job positions, while in 2014 54 interns were recruited and 22 were offered permanent positions at the end of their internship (Clarke 2014). In this regard, finance graduates need to seek internship offers to gain experience in order to improve their chances for employment.
In a study done by Forbes.com, 60% of U.S. college graduates fail to secure a full-time employment in their selected field (Crotty 2012). This study was dubbed ‘Generation Jobless’, in which college graduates aged 24 and below are facing tougher unemployment conditions, which is expected to worsen if institutions continue to release graduates without the needed skills. Presently, based on the competition, it is inadequate to only have quality undergraduate training finance, but there is a need for practical application of right skills, which are imparted using professional courses, and further advanced degrees (Dostis 2012). This intense competition communicates that students and employees need to position themselves above the competition by attaining advanced degrees, acquiring professional certifications, and gaining right experience even if it means taking internship programs.
Since employers can recruit managers from all over the globe, they seek applicants with core business proficiencies. Unfortunately, most U.S. undergrads released to the job market lack the focused technological skills and soft skills such as critical thinking to aid the finance competencies, project management, marketing, and business administration (Rit.edu 2014). As indicated earlier, master’s degree offers more job prospects than bachelor degree. In the U.S, there is a new emerging trend in which the U.S. universities seek to bridge the ‘Generation Jobless’ by introduction of specialized, accelerated program of Masters in Management (MiM). The new program costs less and takes a shorter duration to accomplish than the common MBA course (Crotty 2012). Despite the fact that MiM programs target undergraduates from non-business backgrounds, it is a course that helps the undergraduates improve their experience and skills needed in the job market.
Employer’s Expectations when Hiring Students Interested in Management
Employers all over the world are interested in recruiting a workforce that is knowledgeable and skilled in the area of work. The first consideration to be made by employers relates to academic qualifications. In the finance sector, any graduate hired by employers must have qualifications in business administration, finance, accounting and economic finance. However, most employers feel that undergraduates are not ready for job market challenges by the time they are released to the market (Casner-Lotto & Barrington 2006). To be assured of competency, employers prefer recruiting people with professional certification such as CFA, CPA, and CIMA among others. Meeting this employer’s expectation and being more competitive in the job market is the main reason that prompted me to begin an independent study of CFA in order to be a certified financial analyst to prove my competency.
For senior financial management positions, most employers prefer five years plus experience. Nevertheless, all graduates with internship experiences can take various management positions. Extra-curricular activities are desired based on the type of organization. There are organizations that may consider the ability of the applicant to actively participate in extra-curricular activities like staff choirs and sports, while in other organizations such abilities are not mandatory, but the only point of concern is keeping physical fitness. Other soft skills such as communications skills, interpersonal skills, and the ability to think critically are core and must be tested by employers during the recruitment process. Finally, industry knowledge and understanding is key, especially in a highly competitive environment where thousands of graduates join the job market every year.
The paper has focused on the independent studies on career related services. It is noted that an independent study is very practical in sharpening skills in career related services. It is steadily gaining popularity among parents who prefer involvement in the learning process of their children. The paper has explored financial management as my preferred career, identified the qualification needed to take a financial management career, which include attaining a bachelor's degree, master's degree, gaining work experience and professional certification to authenticate the qualification. The paper has also analyzed the competition currently existing in the finance industry since recruitment has gone globally. Finally, the paper has outlined employer’s expectations when hiring students interested in financial management.