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The Student Insider

A niche programme with broad appeal: Accounting and Financial Management


Written by
Allie Fitzgibbon

An accounting programme for non-accountants might sound like a contradiction in terms, but that’s exactly how Programme Director, Associate Professor Barry McCarthy, describes the MSc Accounting and Financial Management.

Professional discussing finance data

Rather than providing further training for financial professionals, this programme aims to support people with no formal training in accounting and finance to be able to contribute meaningfully to decision-making within their business. So if you’re looking to get to grips with the numbers, this Master’s is just the programme for you.

Whether you work in HR or Marketing, IT or Operations, the further you progress in your career, the more you will be expected to understand and contribute to financial discussions. It may not be your job to prepare the spreadsheets, but you will almost certainly need to be able to analyse the data and use it to make business-critical decisions – from managing your own budget to advising senior management on strategy for the year ahead.

If your background isn’t in finance or accounting, this can present a real barrier to career development and promotion. Almost any C-suite role requires broad business knowledge and a firm understanding of the relationship between finance and all other business functions.

“Our programme enables non-financially trained people to have financial conversations at a senior level.”

The MSc Accounting and Financial Management provides an essential opportunity to gain that all important financial understanding and confidence.

“Our programme is aimed at a very niche but large group,” said Associate Professor Barry McCarthy. He believes it fills an important skills gap for a lot of people.

“The idea behind the programme is it enables non-financially trained people to have financial conversations at a senior level with, for example, the CFO and the CEO. It’s not just about learning how to crunch the numbers. Yes, you need to appreciate the numbers, but really it’s about gaining an understanding of the meaning behind the data rather than learning how to build the financial models yourself.”

Far from being a typical maths-heavy finance programme, the MSc aims to help students gain essential analytical and critical thinking skills that are useful in any role or function. With modules including ‘Corporate Governance, Audit and Assurance’ and ‘Analysing Risk for Decision Making’, the MSc takes a wide perspective on the subject and considers the complex internal and external relationships for organisations when management must make decisions.

We’ll teach you not only the core principles of accounting and finance but also help you to apply them to your job and your organisation.

As Professor McCarthy explained, students come from a huge range of different backgrounds.

“Some of our students are already in management positions, others are aspiring to management roles. Some students have undergraduate degrees in subjects like psychology and engineering, but we also have students who have been doing their job for upwards of 10 years but with no formal qualifications to back it up. This programme gives them validation and helps to put what they’ve been doing in a wider context.”

Professor McCarthy is also keen to assure anyone considering the programme that a background in maths is not essential.

Don’t be put off by a fear of numbers,” he said. “We take you from the bare basics and work up and we’ll do everything we can to make sure you have the self-confidence to handle more complex topics.

In fact, accessibility is a key aim of the programme. With academic direction from UCL’s world-renowned School of Management, the University of London’s MSc in Accounting and Financial Management is available to study fully online from anywhere in the world. Not only do you not need a background in finance and accounting to join, you can study flexibly around your career and family.

It also means you can apply your learning instantly, as Professor McCarthy explained:

“The flexibility offered in this programme allows you to study while you work and put your learning into practice immediately. We’ll teach you not only the core principles of accounting and finance, but also help you to apply them to your role so you can understand how it fits into your job and your organisation.”

A highlight of the programme for many students is the award-winning simulation, Icarus, which is used in the Capstone Project.

“In the final Capstone Project, we bring students together in groups and challenge them to turn around a struggling airport. The gameification of this module certainly incentivises students because it’s competitive – which is no bad thing. But I think the other reason students like it is because it brings them together with their peers around the world.

“It can be lonely to be a long-distance learner, but we know from alumni who’ve completed our programme that many of them have made friends in their project group. It teaches them a lot about themselves and other people.”

Take your career to the next level with the University of London’s MSc Accounting and Financial Management.