Our guide to financial services
Hotcourses Editor

Our guide to financial services

First published date December 04 2013 Amended date December 04 2013

Money makes the world go round – but how exactly? Study financial services and you’ll discover just that. You’ll step into a world that everyone engages with yet few understand, and where the organisations date back centuries – but the products constantly evolve. Interested? Then keep reading!


What will I learn?

‘Financial services’ is a big term. Put simply, it covers the economic (money) services provided by financial companies like banks, building societies, insurers, accountants, stockbrokers and many more. How much of it you cover will depend on the length and type of financial services course you choose. Some areas you may study include:

·         The differences between financial companies – like a building society and a bank

·         Basic economic terms and principles – you’ll learn what inflation is and what ‘quantitative easing’ actually means!

·         The range of careers that exist within the financial services industry


What types of courses are there?

All types! Many universities offer undergraduate degrees, with some lasting up to four years to include a ‘sandwich’ year (normally taken in the third year), where students go and work on placement at a financial services company. There are postgraduate courses too – while for those looking for something that involves less commitment, short and part time courses can be a good option. You can also study financial services online, though the options available are fewer.

There are more specialist courses too. Courses like ‘digital marketing for financial services’ combine financial services with another discipline and offer a great opportunity to develop a niche. You’ll also find vocational certificates and one-day courses from City and Guilds. These courses are usually aimed at finance professionals, and offer learners the chance to hone their skills and gain recognised qualifications.   


Can I earn while I learn?

Yes! There are now tonnes of apprenticeships in financial services, designed to equip people with the skills needed to pursue careers in the industry while earning a wage. As with all apprenticeships, the wages are usually quite low (you won’t be flushed, sorry) but the chances of finding well paid work once you qualify are pretty good – people working in money tend to make a lot of money!


Would it suit me?

If you’ve read this far then it probably would, unless…

·         You hate numbers! Nobody’s asking you be a maths wizard but having a good head for numbers will help you pursue a career in this industry.

·         You’re easily tempted. You may have access to large amounts of money, but your integrity will stop you from ‘fiddling the books’ and taking a cut on the sly.

·         You don’t like paperwork. While you won’t be chained to your desk all day, you won’t be outdoors working with your hands either!


Want more? Five great books about money:

1. The Money Machine: How the City Works by Philip Coggan

This is a must-read for all financial services students – and a favourite of the Financial Times newspaper. Written in plain language that’s easy to digest, it’s jargon-free and a compelling read. It’s regularly updated though, so be sure to buy, or rent out, the most recent edition. 


2. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

A bestselling hit when it came out in 2007, this fun, freaky and downright fascinating collection of essays examines society in a whole new light. The authors, Levitt and Dubner, use modern economic theories to suggest trends in society – one example being their theory that abortion can lead to a decrease in crime.


3. The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, by Niall Ferguson  

When historian Niall Ferguson isn’t on the TV telling us about ancient civilisations, he’s writing awesome books like this one. This biography of money recounts economic crashes and stock market bubbles from as early as the Italian Renaissance and the French Revolution! All told in Ferguson’s trademark easy to digest and gripping style, when it comes to finance, you may be less surprised by how much has changed, and more surprised by how little has changed.



4. Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis

If you want to work in banking, you need to read this book. Written by an ex-banker, Liar’s Poker recounts the (often shocking) affairs of a New York investment bank during the booming years of the mid 1980s. Hilarious, informative and eye-opening, the book became an instant classic when it was published and is loved by bankers and non-bankers alike.


5. The Economist’s Guide to Financial Markets by Marc Levinson

What is foreign exchange? What are equities, bonds, commodities, financial futures and options? They’re complicated – that’s what! Published by the weekly current affairs magazine, The Economist, this brilliant guide helps make sense of the complex world of financial markets – why money and assets are traded the way they are and the impact this has on the wider economy.


By Rebecca Hobson

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