How do I choose the right finance school leaver programme?

How do I choose the right school leaver programme?
Research the array of opportunities on offer in finance to ensure you make the right decision.

There’s a range of school leaver programmes across accountancy, investment management, banking, insurance and the actuarial profession for you to choose from. Working out which is right for you will take time, research and careful consideration. If you want to make the right decision, this is what you should do.

Research the organisation and industry

Thoroughly research the employers and industries (‘What types of jobs and employers are there in finance?’) that interest you in order to get a better idea of the field and type of company in which you’d prefer to work. Visit companies’ websites and YouTube channels to find out about areas of the business that matter to you most, such as size, location, culture and structure.

For your research on the industry, read newspapers, journals and industry-specific publications (often online). If you’re interested in accountancy, for example, you could take a look at, which offers a great overview of current events in the accountancy sector. If you know anyone working in the sector that interests you, they can be a great source of information as well. But don’t panic if you don’t – attending open days and events can put you in touch with professionals.

Within each sector of finance there are several areas of specialisation. If you have a general idea of the sector in which you’d like to work, putting some time into research will help you decide which area of the sector appeals to you most. You might be interested in accountancy, for example, which comprises financial accounting, internal audit, tax, corporate recovery and public sector accounting, as well as other areas of specialisation.

Attend open days and similar events

Many finance employers hold open days at their offices and visit schools and colleges to give talks and presentations to students. Find out (from your school and/or from employers’ websites) where these are being held and try to attend as many as possible to improve your understanding of specific sectors and companies. Recruiters and employees will usually run and attend these events, so they’re a great opportunity to ask questions about their school leaver offering and the working environment.

Some finance employers also run summer schools for A level students. If there’s one that interests you, it’s definitely worthwhile applying. They typically last a week or two and participants who excel are usually guaranteed a place on a school leaver programme. You don’t have to take up an offer of a school leaver programme if you don’t want to. The experience will give you an insight into the business and sector, as well as valuable work experience and new skills to add to your CV.

Think about training and qualifications

The training and qualifications offered in different areas of finance differ significantly. Some employers run programmes that lead to professional industry-recognised qualifications, while others will offer sponsored degrees – and there are variations in between. You should carefully consider what type of training and qualification/s you want to obtain throughout the apprenticeship. If you want to go straight into work after school or college but still want a degree, for example, a sponsored degree school leaver programme would be the best option.

Weigh up your priorities

Think about the aspects of a job that are most important to you: for example, working in your preferred specialism or for your preferred employer; relocating or staying at, or close to, home; qualifications and training, or salary. You may be lucky enough to find a role that meets all of your requirements. But if you do have difficulty deciding between school leaver programmes, you could write a list of your requirements in order of priority and check that against what’s on offer across the different schemes. For instance, you may be interested in retail banking but find the salaries on offer in insurance more attractive. If salary is a higher priority than sector, you could look for opportunities in insurance.

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