Ask most people how to be successful in a finance career and they’ll probably tell you to go to university to study Accounting, Economics or Finance. But it’s a misconception that a degree is essential for a career in finance. 


In this guide, we’ll look at how to start a career in finance in the UK without a degree, addressing some of the urban myths surrounding the industry, and plotting out a road map to help you prepare for a career in finance, without attending higher education. 

How to prepare for a career in finance

For obvious reasons, a good grasp of numbers and mathematics will be beneficial for a career in finance, so you should aim for a high pass in GCSE Mathematics as an absolute minimum. 


Under the old grading system, that’s a grade of C or above. Under the new numbering system, it’s anywhere from 4-9, although the higher the better. If you have a lower grade or you did not pass GCSE Mathematics at all, it may be worth resitting (and may be essential to do so). 


Any relevant work experience will also help you get your foot in the door. Ask local banks and financial services providers if they will allow you to observe them, even if only for a week or two. Alternatively, look for finance businesses that offer internships, either paid or unpaid. 

How to start a career in finance with no experience

If you can’t find any relevant experience, consider a finance apprenticeship. This is an alternative to progressing through the academic education system and can get you into the finance sector from a school-leaver age of 16. 


Apprenticeships offer several advantages over unpaid internships and work experience. You’ll get paid for the hours you work, you’ll get a recognised qualification, and there’s plenty of structure in terms of your training. 

How to start a career in finance without a degree

Fast-track graduate schemes mean university leavers can progress faster through the early years of their career, but the time spent at college and university means school-leavers have a five-year headstart. 


Be prepared to start from an entry-level role and prove your worth to your employer. Focus on picking up transferable skills and proven achievements you can include on a future CV. Work your way up and/or look for next-step opportunities elsewhere, and you’ll rise through the ranks over time. 

Commonly asked questions

What does a career in finance look like?

Careers in finance can vary a lot. You’ll likely work with numbers, and may be responsible for large sums of money. Most roles are clerical in nature, and you might be office-based (either in a bank or in an office building) and/or work some or all of your time from home. 

Why pursue a career in finance?

Finance can be a rewarding career path. It’s an industry with significant top-end salaries and plenty of entry-level opportunities. There’s relatively little specialist training needed to get into a beginner role, as we’ve seen above. 

Is a career in finance right for me?

If you enjoy maths and money, or you’re looking for a job that doesn’t get your hands dirty, a career in finance could be a good option. There’s relatively little risk – you don’t have to spend upfront on training or equipment, and the skills are highly transferable if you change your mind at a later date.