Career Paths - The Traditional Route
In the majority of office-based or administrative-type jobs, the traditional route can involve starting as an office assistant and progressing through the hierarchy to more specialised and responsible positions. Sometimes a graduate route presents a fast-track option, but even these options are likely to include a period gaining practical experience in order to convince employers that your academic progress is underpinned by a real aptitude for your chosen career path.
The financial sector covers a variety of job roles, with banking an important mainstream option. Non-graduates with strong general academic qualifications would be eligible for a bank cashier position. Over time, and with the backing of internal qualifications and experience, this could lead on to a senior cashier role and then to bank management.
Specialist routes at senior level could then include areas such as card services or operational management. Alternatively, banking operations also include important financial and investment services open to those keen to transfer into these business-oriented areas from the domestic banking sector.
Graduates, especially those with a good business degree, are usually fast-tracked into management roles before progressing into specialist finance and investment areas suited to their higher-level industry-related skills.
Accountancy requires similar entry-level skills to banking. A non-graduate would start as an accounts clerk before training and qualifying as an accounts technician. Specialist pathways can then lead on to positions such as taxation analyst, auditor or financial controller. Rather like banking, graduate entry offers the chance of fast-track promotion to senior levels after some initial experience has been gained.
Even though the products offered are quite specific, insurance-industry careers have much in common with the rest of the financial services sector with an internal qualification structure leading to management and specialist routes. All financial institutions are part of the private sector, though qualification structures are usually based on industry-wide certification. Thus it is important to choose an employer and institution well-matched to your own aspirations.
The Civil Service
The Civil Service create and deliver government policies to the public through various departments and agencies working across diverse specialist sectors, such as DEFRA in agriculture and HMRC in taxation. Graduate entrants will tend to have appropriate qualifications – for example, science degrees for DEFRA and economics, business and finance for HMRC.
Those graduates selected for fast-track entry can usually gain experience across different sectors prior to choosing a specialism. Non-graduates with strong academic qualifications are eligible for clerical-grade posts and can gain access to training and certification within their chosen area, leading to promotion and responsibility.
Across all civil-service sectors, the usual path to higher-level positions lies within a candidates chosen department, and dependent upon departmental function, some promotions can involve positions of responsibility overseas. However, only a few very senior civil servants have the opportunity to move between the different public sectors.
This is a competitive sector where graduates will often need a degree, or equivalent, in English, Business or Management, Advertising, Marketing or Communications.
If considered, non-graduate applicants will be expected to demonstrate strong and successful industry-related experience, and all applicants will find relevant work experience will boost their chances of acceptance.
Advertising account executive is the entry-level role, and successful experience brings promotion to account manager with line-management duties and responsibility for important client accounts. Those gaining experience at this level could then be considered for an account-director role with broad responsibility for the workforce and all company clients, with the possibility of further promotion to group account director with regional and/or strategic organisational responsibilities.
Career advancement depends entirely upon results and experience, plus the ability to acquire and develop a comprehensive set of transferable skills. This is particularly important for moving into the allied specialisms of marketing and PR where a sophisticated understanding of how organisations and institutions work, and what their goals are, is absolutely essential. Networking skills are also vital, as is an aptitude for understanding and working with modern media technologies.
The non-graduate route into the law requires strong academic qualifications up to A level, and then acceptance as a legal apprentice. Working as a paralegal, an apprentice studies for a law diploma in order to become a chartered legal executive. This is a qualification in one specialist legal discipline which allows diploma holders to operate within that specialism up to the same level as a solicitor.
Graduate entry to the profession requires a law degree, which is then followed by applying for a training contract with a law firm – and also completing a Legal Practice Course during the duration of your contract – in order to become a solicitor. Those who want a career as a barrister must apply to Chambers instead for a pupillage and also complete a Bar Professional Training Course.
Students on a non-law degree at university who later decide they wish to study law can transfer across to a Graduate Diploma in Law. This is then followed by progression through the training-contract or pupillage route described above.
New entrants to the teaching profession are mostly graduates, or those seeking to transfer into teaching having gained experience elsewhere. All must complete an Initial Teacher Training Course to gain practical experience of teaching, a theoretical understanding of the principles of education, and formal Qualified Teacher Status.
Teachers qualify at junior or secondary level, becoming subject generalists or specialists accordingly. Further progress involves continuous professional development and promotion to head of department, year head, deputy principal, and then to principal (head teacher).
Opportunities outside of the state education system include private-sector schools, and work in colleges and universities as a lecturer. Qualified Teacher Status is still usually a requirement, though upward progression in these areas of education tends to be very closely connected to subject expertise. In addition, universities will generally expect lecturers to have acquired a reputation in a relevant area of academic research.
Some local authorities recruit specialist teachers, for example as advisors in subject areas, special needs teachers, or educational inspectors. In addition, the Prison Service also employs qualified teachers as part of its own educational provision, whilst the government school inspection service, Ofsted, recruits experienced teachers to work within its school inspection teams.