I frequently get contacted by individuals eager to enter the contemporary Islamic finance industry asking for recommendations regarding the best Islamic finance qualifications. Insha Allah, I aim to discuss the different qualifications on offer by various institutes on an ongoing basis. However, before delving into these qualifications, there is an important point that I would like to address in this first post.
With the rapid growth of Islamic finance, over the past decade or so, many conferences, articles etc. have discussed a severe talent shortage within the Islamic finance industry. This perceived talent shortage has led to a huge number of people being interested in pursuing a career in Islamic finance and landing a job with an Islamic financial institution. Due to this increased interest and perceived demand, many institutions began offering specialised Islamic finance qualifications around the globe.
Due to the above reasons, I personally know many people who have, in order to study Islamic finance:
1) Left their well paid jobs in other industries (IT, Engineers etc.)
2) Spent a lot of money on specialised Islamic finance qualifications
3) Travelled abroad (sometimes very far) for higher education
The reason many of them made such sacrifices, was that they thought that they would easily walk into a good job with an Islamic financial institution and many of them felt that this was an area in which they could really benefit the Muslim community.
However, the sad fact is that, after spending a lot of time, effort and money, they found that the reality was very different and in fact it is very difficult to find a job with an Islamic financial institution even with a specialised qualification. Financial institutions tend to focus more on experience as opposed to paper qualifications. This is the reason why someone with conventional finance experience would be more likely to be hired as opposed to someone with an expensive Islamic finance qualification and no experience.
Hence, my advice to you, before you spend your money and time on any Islamic finance qualification, is to get the idea out of your head that with a specialised Islamic finance qualification you will easily find a job within the Islamic finance industry. Yes, there is no doubt that some of these qualifications are great in terms of the knowledge that you will gain, but not one of them can guarantee you a full-time job. The chances of finding a job within the Islamic finance industry are even slimmer, if you are coming from a country where there is no Islamic finance industry to begin with as it is even harder to get a job in a foreign country.
If you are really interested in taking a specialised Islamic finance qualification, let your intention be that you want to personally learn about the Halal & Haram of transactions in Islam and that you want to use this knowledge to teach others or even to start your own Start-Up or Shariah Advisory/Islamic Finance Advisory Firm, using the knowledge that you gained. You don’t need to work for an Islamic financial institution to contribute towards the Muslim community. You may also find work with one of the numerous exciting Start-Ups operating within the Islamic economy, charities, NGOs etc.
If after taking the Islamic finance qualification, you do manage to find a job in a financial institution then that would be a plus point if that’s what you really want. However, having a clear picture and realistic expectations from the onset is better as you will not be left disappointed at the end of your journey.