Many individuals who could be interested in finance careers, such as private equity jobs or risk management jobs, don't apply for these positions due to their educational background. It's understandable that individuals who hold degrees in fields like journalism or literature wouldn't bother applying for highly competitive finance jobs – but it would also be a big mistake. When it comes to careers in finance, many hiring managers keep their minds open and are willing to hire the best candidate regardless of what they studied in college.
Goldman Sachs, for example, has posted a graph on its website that illustrates the fields of study from which its current employees emanate. Shockingly, the company is currently employing more liberal arts graduates than it is workers who majored in business, engineering, economics, math, science or many other fields directly related to the finance industry. You may think that a background in a non-financial field may put you at a disadvantage when applying for wealth management jobs, for example, but this data suggests otherwise.
This flies in the face of conventional wisdom. EFinancialCareers, for example, published an article last month saying that the three degree subjects most likely to get you a banking job would be economics, math or business. The report noted that none of the front office analysts polled had studied anything "even resembling" art history or English literature. However, at Goldman Sachs, liberal arts educations are second in numbers only to finance degrees.
Major executives testify that non-finance grad hires are important
Deloitte recently hired 700 college graduates for its U.K. offices, according to an eFinancialCareers report – and many of them studied media studies or drama in college, as opposed to a financial track of study. This further supports the theory that an education in a financial field isn't necessary to earn a job in the sector.
Rob Dyer, head of graduate recruitment at Deloitte UK, spoke to eFinancialCareers about the practice and why individuals with non-typical degrees for the industry are being hired. He noted that four out of every 10 graduates hired by the firm had majored in a field that wasn't considered "typical" in terms of the finance sector.
"People from different backgrounds often have different thought processes," Dyer told the news outlet. "If they've studied history, for example, their research skills give them a huge boost. They're self-starters – they're used to going away, studying on their own, and coming back with a view. These are important skills for us."
Dyer went on to tell eFinancialCareers that it can be difficult to persuade non-finance graduates to apply for these positions – but promised that they often make extremely proficient employees.
Janet Raiffa, of Goldman Sachs, spoke to Businessweek years ago about the prospect of hiring non-finance students for positions at the aforementioned firm. She explained that liberal arts majors, for example, are creative thinkers who can add a missing element to the company's practices. She noted that college educations are not meant to lead directly into a career but rather are meant to broaden horizons – offering hope to many non-finance grads who would like to work in positions within the field.
"One of our challenges in recruiting is to attract liberal arts students to show them there's opportunity for them in banking and also to prepare them for the interviews," she explained to Businessweek. "A lot of students who are finance majors who read the Wall Street Journal every day and follow CNN just have a better grounding in finance. So a lot of our recruiting job is aimed at leveling the playing field."