Qualified by Education or Qualified by Experience in the Finance Industry?

Jun 30, 2016 | Blog

B.com, National Diploma, CA(SA), CIMA, MBA, etc. There are many finance qualifications available for school leavers and professionals to study in South Africa. Whether you go to a small college and get a bookkeeping certificate or a mainstream University and complete your Degree or Masters, there are plenty of courses to take and institutions to study at. There is also a lot of post graduate qualifications you can attain to enhance your skill set and knowledge, such as Chartered Accountant (CA), Chartered Financial Analyst or (CFA) Certified Internal Auditor (CIA).

But how does your qualification compare with experience?

Every year we see hundreds of graduates competing for a limited number of grad programmes and graduate level jobs in the market and quite often they end up taking a role that they don’t really want or that doesn’t line up with their studies. Often this is just to get into the job market and get some experience. Sometimes this leads on to a great career, sometimes not.

There are 3 stages in your career as a finance professional when the question is usually asked ‘Qualification vs Experience, which is better?’

  1. Applying for your first job: The Company will be asking what do they need in the role. Do they have the capacity to train someone with no experience? Do they need someone to hit the ground running? Experience edges out qualification at this level, particularly in a smaller company environment.
  2. You have some experience and you are applying for a new job or promotion: Depending on the specific skill set, qualification has the advantage over experience as technical skills and core principles in Finance, which are learnt in an education environment, are important. Experience can do the job but education should have the underlying technical knowledge to potentially take the job to the next level by understanding the processes and drivers of the role from the ground up.
  3. Management, Senior Management or Director Level: Qualification dominates this area, particularly post graduate qualifications such as CA, CFA, Masters, etc. The continued studying and keeping up to date with regulations and industry standards puts the Qualified Professional in a strong position to not only manage the finances of a business but to also advise the business on strategy, management, growth and various other factors.

The South African market is unusually obsessed with qualifications and as such, perfectly capable individuals with a wealth of experience and skills are often overlooked for a position because they do not have a relevant, or any qualification. Compare this to the UK market, for example, where qualification is still important, but experience packs a much bigger punch than in SA.

If you are looking to build a career in finance, studying a relevant qualification can make your career progression a lot easier in South Africa. Continuing your studies whilst working should also give you the edge when looking to build your career towards senior management or directorship.

Even if you are already employed, there are night classes, correspondence studying and qualifications designed to complete hand in hand with a career such as CIMA and CIA. Give yourself the opportunity to succeed in a career in finance by keeping up with your studies.

Here are a few suggestions:

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) – www.cimaglobal.com

University of South Africa (UNISA – www.unisa.ac.za

University of Cape Town (UCT) – www.uct.ac.za

Varsity College – www.varsitycollege.co.za

CFA Institute – www.cfainstitute.org

Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) – www.iiasa.org.za

South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) – www.saica.co.za

University of KZN – www.ukzn.ac.za

Damelin – www.damelin.co.za


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