The Careers Adviser

How will a degree and MBA help in the financial sector? Is there funding for second BA?
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Engineering an opening

Q. I'm a mechanical engineering student planning to take an MBA to start a career in the financial sector. Would a degree in engineering with an MBA open up opportunities here and what are the salary/job prospects?

A. The combination of structured, analytical problem-solving skills you would be expected to have picked up while training as an engineer plus an MBA is highly regarded in top companies, financial institutions included. As to salary levels, the prospectus of any business school should give you information about where their students come from (and where they end up), plus some notion of salary levels. In a recent survey by the Sainsbury Management Fellows' Society (, a scheme sponsoring high-flyers in the profession, members claimed their salary leapt at least 50 per cent on completion of MBAs. To be considered for sponsorship by the society, you first have to have chartered status in your profession, which would mean spending around four years acquiring that status. Most MBAs are post experience, taken after three years or more time spent in a job. You could look round for a pre-experience masters course, taken after your degree, if you want to move sectors faster. If you want a top school, look up the Association of MBAs on, then look online at the rankings in the Financial Times or Business Week.

Lost in translation

Q. I have a BA in French studies, which I gained 20 years ago. I trained as a secretary. I would like to do another BA. How usual it is to take a second degree, and is there any funding I could apply for - I was previously funded by my local education authority. I am interested in being a translator.

A. Funding may be a problem, as the money you received for your last degree will count against your eligibility for the new student loan and career development loans, which cover only up to two years' study. They are usually approved for vocational subjects, they provide a maximum loan of £8,000 and they have to be paid back once the course ends. You can look up to see if you are eligible, or ring the helpline on 0800 585505. Given the funding difficulty, a long-distance learning course which would enable you to keep working is your best bet. There seem to be no statistics on how many people take second degrees at your age. It's a great thing to do, but, if you have in mind becoming a freelance professional translator, beware. Without a niche (like medicine or the law) it can be a hard market to struggle into, because most employers are looking for translators with experience. But you have another asset - your 20 years' work. You might well have success finding an employer who can use your administrative and language skills. A good site to look for such employers is The Institute of Translation and Interpreting website ( has a "getting started" page, and you could consider joining as an associate member to access language and regional groups - good for networking.

Careers advisers: David Jones, C2, The Careers Group, University of London; Kathy Harvey, former editor, the MBA handbook; the learndirect advice service at

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Second Floor, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to