The financial and related professional services sector in the UK employs 2.2 million people in the UK in organisations including banks, insurance companies, investment firms, credit companies and foreign exchange services.

Both the research and quantitative skills of Postgraduate Researchers are in demand in the financial sector. Some larger organisations offer positions specifically for PhD-qualified candidates, whilst in other cases PGRs will apply alongside bachelor’s graduates or applicants already in the workforce.  

Quantitative and statistical skills and strong economic and numerical abilities are sought-after in finance, making it a destination for a range of postgraduate researchers from physics, mathematics, science or engineering fields, as well as economics and finance. Nevertheless, since the financial sector also employs a large number of people in marketing and communications roles, there are also opportunities in the sector for PGRs from humanities and social science disciplines.

The financial sector is vast and offers a range of different roles and career routes. The working environment and activities involved vary widely across different areas of the sector, so it is a good idea to do your research and think about the kind of financial career and setting that might suit you best.

Principal areas of work in the financial sector include:

  • Investment banking: helping corporations, governments and other large companies or institutions to raise capital or provide strategic advice. Long hours and a demanding workload are typical
  • Financial Trading: buying and selling shares, bonds and assets for investors, including individuals and banks. A fast-paced and demanding field
  • Financial Advice: providing clients (often individuals) with specialist advice on how to manage their money. A customer-focused role for candidates with strong ‘people-skills’
  • Corporate Banking: providing financial services especially for the needs of larger companies. Often involves large and complex transactions
  • Retail Banking: working for the banks we see on the high street. Often includes promoting products such as loans, insurance, savings accounts and credit cards
  • Accountancy: helping clients (be they individuals or business) manage their cash flow and provide financial information to inform strategy. There are numerous graduate schemes offering entry into accounting careers that are often open to graduates of all levels and academic disciplines
  • Insurance and actuarial
  • IT roles in finance

Job roles in the finance sector in which postgraduate research skills are especially valued include:

  • Analytical roles and Risk Management : use of mathematical and statistical methods and models to predict future financial markets and thus help firms make financial and business decisions about issues such as investments or how to price banking products. Roles include Quantitative Analyst ('Quants'), Economist and Strategist
  • Financial technology (FinTech): the use of technology to support banking and financial services
  • Analyst roles: a broad area of work, varied depending on the setting. Includes Financial Risk Analysts and Investment Analysts

Find out more about working in finance

PGR Case studies


Professional Services