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Postgrad diploma viable alternative to master's

Published on Thursday, 05 Jul 2012
Christopher Aukland

I am a 2011 graduate from HKU who majored in engineering and am currently working for a Big Four company as a system engineer. Last year, I completed an HSBC summer internship which aroused a passion to embark on a career in finance. I'm considering enrolling in a postgraduate programme in finance to help with this. There are two options: a master's and a postgraduate diploma. What do you recommend? Can I apply for graduate posts when I am studying a postgraduate diploma? Calvin

When applying for positions, the general rule of thumb is that the higher the level of academic qualification, the better. In this case, a postgraduate master's degree would be more highly regarded.

A postgraduate diploma in finance, however, is still an advanced level of study. It is also easier to manage in terms of study requirements and you could complete the diploma part-time while gaining relevant work experience. This approach can give you a quick, yet solid, fundamental understanding of the financial field.

While it is a significant plus to be a graduate in finance, it is not a pre-requisite, nor guarantees success in gaining an entry-level position. You, therefore, must also work hard to ensure you are as competitive as possible against other candidates.

As well as a very strong academic background, other key criteria employers will look for are relevant internships and work experience, excellent presentation and communication skills, knowledge of the industry, and interpersonal skills. To increase your chances, identify whether you have weaknesses in any of these areas and then focus on improving them.

In terms of work experience, you need to network extensively and apply for internships and entry-level positions. If this proves unsuccessful, consider taking contract roles in system-engineering positions within the financial-services sector to gain experience in the industry and then look to transfer into a finance role in the future.

Christopher Aukland is regional director of Michael Page International and Page Personnel in Hong Kong, one of the world’s leading recruitment companies operating in 161 offices in 33 countries worldwide

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