Three careers for which your university matters

A barrister holding a wig
Do employers really care which university you study at? Sometimes – but not always. Read on to find out about three careers where successful applicants have often attended a top university.

Most employers are happy to receive applications from students at all universities and you’re very unlikely to see a graduate job ad that specifies where you need to have studied. But there are three key careers where large numbers of new recruits have studied at leading universities. It’s well worth trying for a place at a top university if think you might want one of these careers, even though it’s not a requirement.

Aim for a top university if you want one of these careers

If you want one of the following careers, attending a top university is a very good start:

  1. management consulting
  2. the Bar (working as a barrister – a type of lawyer)
  3. investment banking.

All of these careers require a high degree of intellect and academic ability. Showing you’ve got into and thrived at a highly rated university will help prove that you have these.

However, it is possible to get in from a less prestigious university. And wherever you study, you’ll have to use your spare time to build up skills and experience through other activities rather than relying on your degree alone to get you a job. Getting into Oxford won’t help you if you spend all your free time in the pub.

Keep in mind also that some new recruits to these professions studied at leading universities as a postgraduate, not an undergraduate. If you can’t get in now, you might still be able to after you graduate, if you do very well in your degree.

Management consulting

Management consultants advise businesses on how to make improvements, such as putting a new system in place to increase efficiency. They are typically employed by a firm of consultants, who work on lots of different projects for different clients. Consultants need to be highly analytical and good at coming up with new solutions to complex problems. They have to get their heads round new areas and new businesses very quickly, and come up with ideas that clients haven’t thought of for themselves.

Many management consultants have studied at leading universities such as those in the Russell Group. See our article on universities employers like to find out more about which universities are particularly well respected.

Becoming a barrister

Barristers are a type of lawyer. They represent clients in court and provide specialist legal advice. Barristers are typically self-employed but, crucially, they need to get a training place known as pupillage in order to finish qualifying. This usually involves working for a year in a barristers’ set, which is an organisation run collectively by self-employed barristers who share a building and facilities. After pupillage, barristers need to be allowed a join a barristers’ set permanently; this is known as tenancy.

Getting pupillage or tenancy is extremely competitive and a significant number of those who succeed have been to the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge. However, there are plenty of barristers who studied elsewhere – try for another leading university if you can’t get into Oxford or Cambridge.

Investment banking

Investment bankers help helping raise money for business ventures, such as buying another company, and are also involved in trading – for example buying and selling shares. Investment banking is unsurprisingly a popular career, given the high salaries you can earn. Again this makes for tough competition, with recruiters able to be very picky about who they hire. Employers favour top universities but their hit-list is a little wider than Oxford and Cambridge.

Other careers for which your university can be important

Traditionally your university was also very important if you wanted to join the solicitors’ profession or get a job in a big accountancy firm. It’s still ideal to go to a well respected university if you want one of these careers, but it’s not quite as important as it was in the past.

For many other careers the university you attend can give you an advantage in certain circumstances but isn’t nearly as important as other aspects of your application when it comes to applying for graduate jobs. Read our article on which universities employers like to find out more. And for quite a few careers, the courses that employers most like aren’t necessarily at universities traditionally thought of as the best. Discover how to find out which universities employers most like for the career you want.

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