Despite the turbulent economic climate of late – whispers of recession, inflation, and the rising cost of education – finance majors are feeling pretty good about themselves.
In a survey of nearly 10,000 current college students and recent graduates, finance overtook healthcare and medicine as the top ranked profession for perceived career prospects. Some 25% of graduates consider finance the top career sector, rising from No. 5 two years prior.
“Despite the uncertainty created by the pandemic, students and recent graduates across the world feel positive about their career prospects, most notably in finance, which now enjoys the confidence of more graduates than any other profession,” said Margaret Franklin, President and CEO of the CFA Institute.
The CFA’s 2023 Global Graduate Outlook Survey released last week also found that students and graduates consider finance the most stable career post-pandemic at 24%, a 10-point increase over 2021’s survey. It is followed by other STEM sectors such as medicine (21%), IT & Telecoms (20%), and STEM (19%, a 9-point increase.)
Further, finance (34%) and tech-related degrees (35%) are considered the most valuable in finding a career, with arts and humanities the least valuable.
2023 GLOBAL GRADUATE OUTLOOK SURVEY
CFA Institute, a global association of investment professionals, surveyed 9,437 respondents studying for a bachelor’s degree or higher, or who have graduated with a bachelor’s or higher within the last three years between April 12-24, 2023. Respondents, aged 18-25, were from the UK, US, Canada, India, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, UAE, Germany, Spain, France, Brazil, and Mexico. The survey examined subjects’ thoughts about career prospects amid economic volatility and how the pandemic generation has reassessed their post-grad plans.
It found that, overall, 77% of U.S. graduates say pursuing a degree was worth it despite the cost of higher education. Key findings include:
- 74% of American graduates agree their career prospects have improved because of undertaking a degree; 73% said their career prospects have improved by undertaking a degree.
- 39% of U.S. graduates’ biggest fear regarding their career prospects is low pay and 29% feel underqualified for the job they want. More than three in five (62%) rated a good salary as what they look for most in an employer, compared to less than half (45%) in the 2021 survey, a 17% increase.
- 28% view the prospect of low pay as their biggest concern regarding their career prospects, reflective of inflation’s impact in many countries across the world.
- One-third of American graduates feel they will be able to get the job they originally wanted even amid a volatile economy.
ON THE PANDEMIC AND UPSKILLING
Respondents’ preoccupation with salary in the survey does not dampen their confidence in their future careers. Some 75% say they are confident in their prospects, a significant jump from 2021 (58%) at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, respondents did rethink their career plans as a result of the generational disruption. Nearly half (47%) reported reassessing their career paths or desired sectors since the pandemic’s onset, while 43 percent say Covid-19 negatively impacted their long-term career prospects. More than half (56%) say they will prolong their time in education while the job market remains volatile.
Perhaps because of their pandemic experience, respondents are highly interested in specialized certificates and upskilling for particular sectors.
- 72% say post-graduate certifications and qualifications will help them secure higher earnings and give them an edge in the job market.
- 93% said upskilling or acquiring certifications are important to the job market, with 69% reporting that certifications will have a big impact on their job opportunities.
- 48% believe skills acquired will give the biggest edge in the job market upon graduation, followed by internships (41%), mastering specialized subject matter (34%), and networks and contacts (34%).
“This generation of graduates displays demonstrable interest in developing the skills needed for career advancement,” Franklin says. “Businesses that are investing in learning and development and partnering with certification and educational institutions will be seen as responsive to the needs of a next generation of talent hungry to further their knowledge and careers.”
(For more on what skills will be needed for investment careers of the future, see this report.)
ON DOING GOOD AND FLEXIBILITY
While finance majors and graduates are confident in their career prospects, they are less confident in the sector’s ability to positively impact society.
Overall, 91% of respondents said it was very important (49%) or quite important (42%) for them to make a positive contribution to society or the environment through their career. Just 9% said it wasn’t important. However, just 8% of respondents believed that investment professionals can make a positive impact.
The highest ranked professions in this category are doctors and scientists (38%), teachers (36%), and social workers (31%).
In terms of preferred workplaces, this generation of workers unsurprisingly values flexibility. Some 43%, the largest proportion of respondents in the category, prefer complete flexibility, deciding when they come to an office and when they work remotely. That’s a 6-point increase over the 2021 survey.
Almost as many prefer hybrid offices, working a combination of remote and in-office work. Another 32% prefer the ability to work abroad while 17% would like the option to work away from major employment city hubs. Just 19% prefer a 100% in-office environment and 18% prefer a 100% remote job. Some 5% say they don’t have a preference.
The full results of the 2023 Global Graduate Outlook Survey can be viewed here.
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