It is less about your degree title and more about the transferable and unique skills you have developed during your degree
Jasmine Hay graduated with a BA in History, Politics and Economics from University College London in 2019. She then came to Oxford University for her postgraduate studies, completing an MSc in Economic and Social History in 2020 at Oriel College. In September 2020, Jasmine joined M&G (an investment management firm based in London) through the Investment Graduate Programme, where she now works as an Investment Graduate Analyst. As part of her role Jasmine has been rotating across different asset classes and teams alongside studying for professional qualifications including the IMC and CFA Level I.
There is a common misconception that a career in finance requires a degree in a quantitative subject such as economics or finance which often misleads humanities students to shy away from the industry. In reality, the financial industry hires from a variety of educational backgrounds, with many firms opening their graduate programmes to all degrees.
History graduates offer a great set of skills which are useful in various roles in finance; these include great communication and persuasive skills, strong attention to detail, critical thinking and the ability to distil masses of information and pick out the most important points. These skills have been especially useful in my current role as an Investment Graduate Analyst at M&G where my main responsibility is to produce and communicate investment analysis and research to senior managers in an efficient manner. My master’s degree in Economic and Social History built on the quantitative skills gained during my undergraduate degree where I specialised in economics, equipping me with highly transferable skills by learning about how to apply economic theory and quantitative approaches to analyse historical events. This has supported me well in my research-orientated investments role, though it has also helped me to pick up new skills more quickly such as forecasting and financial modelling through my background in quantitative research.
That being said, whilst most financial careers do require a level of comfort with numbers and data, many roles do not require mathematical skills beyond GCSE level and most firms will provide training to ensure all graduates are up to speed on the numerical requirements of the role; as such, a quantitative degree is absolutely not necessary for a career in finance. Even so, it can be helpful for history graduates to get involved in numerical extra-curricular projects to help demonstrate your mathematical competency. Examples could include working on a consulting or investment project or by managing finances as part of a treasurer role with a university society. With such a variety of roles in the financial industry, it is important to research and explore different areas of the industry and to understand where your skillset can bring the most value.
Investment management (or asset management) appealed to me as a graduate as I felt that my quantitative and qualitative skills developed through my degrees, alongside my interests in business strategy and economic development, would be well suited to a research-orientated role analysing investment opportunities with the potential to make a meaningful societal impact. This realisation did not come immediately, but instead through exploring different career avenues which could be suited to my skills and interests. I volunteered and gained work experience over different industries including asset management, corporate law, and business development and strategy. In addition to attending various networking and careers events, these experiences really helped me to understand what career paths were most suited to me. I found that investment management resonated strongly with me, though I also became quite interested in corporate law. Ultimately, I realised a preference for investment management as I wanted to be able to use my quantitative analytical skills to make an impact, and a career in law would provide less of a scope to do so compared to investment management. Altogether, I think it is important to not shut any doors and consider all possible opportunities – it is perhaps too easy to overlook the financial industry as a key careers destination for history graduates given the misconceptions I outlined at the start of this blog post, but I hope my experience has highlighted how it is less about your degree title and more about the transferable and unique skills you have developed during your degree which can support ambitions towards a career in finance.
Advice to my younger self
A key piece of advice to my younger self would be to go to as many networking and careers-related events as possible, and importantly, maintain an open mindset whilst asking lots of questions to learn more about different career paths. Build connections and really try to understand what different roles entail, what key skills are required, and what people enjoy about their role and whether that relates to your personal interests, skills and ambitions. The more events I went to as a university student, the more I understood what I was looking for in a career and where my skills were a good fit (and where they were not). There are plenty of careers in finance that are well suited to history graduates – the trick is to figure out how to best leverage your own skills in a given role or career path! I would also add that Oxford’s careers service is an excellent resource for current and past students trying to navigate and shape their own career path.