Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Nicola O'Higgins from Bord Iascaigh Mhara to give some advice for people considering this job:

Nicola O'Higgins


Bord Iascaigh Mhara

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Nicola O'Higgins
You need to work with people in the industry as knowledge is everything  - where to buy, who from, when etc. Health and safety courses and a pleasant manner and drive are also important.

The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with clever technology. They will often follow the latest developments in their chosen field, and prefer mentally stimulating environments.
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IFS Advanced Specialist
In Summary header image

IFS Advanced Specialist

This new apprenticeship programme has reached development stage as of May 2017.

Proposer /Provider: Financial Services Ireland (FSI) with coordinating provider National College of Ireland (NCI)

This apprenticeship programme is not yet fully approved. Additional information is constantly being added here, as it becomes available. Outline information correct - May 2017.

The IFS Apprenticeship programme is designed for candidates who are eager to launch their career within the financial services industry.

The IFS Advanced specialist is open to those with prior experience and either technical qualification or technical disposition.

This is a 2-year NFQ Level 9 apprenticeship with 80 places to potentially be available annually.

Video: International Financial Services Apprenticeships at NCI

Training header image


All IFS apprenticeships are 2-years in duration. The apprentices spend 60% of their time working in IFS companies and the remainder gaining specific IFS qualifications.

IFS Advanced Specialist Apprentices will work four days per week in their company and study for the remaining one day per week in NCI over a two year period.


IFS Advanced Specialist Apprentices will study an MSc in Data Analytics or Fintech. On successful completion, will achieve a Level 9 qualification on the National Framework of Qualifications.

Graduates from the IFS Advanced Masters programme are prepared for a wide range positions and roles across the Financial Services Sector.

On successful completion of the apprenticeship, the IFS Advanced Specialist will have:


Knowledge and understanding of:

Interpreting data, analyse results using statistical techniques and provide ongoing reports
  • Developing and implementing data collection systems and other strategies that optimise statistical efficiency and data quality • Acquisition of data from primary or secondary data sources and maintain databases/data systems
  • Identification, analysis and interpretation of trends or patterns in complex data sets
  • Filtering and “cleaning” data, and reviewing computer reports, printouts, and performance indicators to locate and correct code problems
  • Working closely with management to prioritise business and information needs
  • Locating and defining new process improvement opportunities
  • Knowledge of and experience with reporting packages (Cognos etc.), databases (SQL etc.), programming (XML, Javascript, or ETL frameworks)
  • Knowledge of statistics and experience using statistical packages for analysing large datasets (Excel, SPSS, SAS etc.)
  • Knowledge of database concepts, experience with data loading, Oracle/MS MSQL/PL/SQL or similar coding experience
  • Strong analytical skills with the ability to collect, organise, analyse, and disseminate significant amounts of information with attention to detail and accuracy
  • Technical expertise regarding data models, database design development, data mining and segmentation techniques
  • Solid grasp of current technology developments and trends and desire to continue broadening that knowledge
  • Capacity to deal logically with difficult problems and anticipate new situations
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills, including experience communicating technical information to non-technical staff
  • Ability to work in pressure situations to meet required deadlines • Ability to develop and/or modify specifications, configurations, and programs to meet specified requirements.
  • Ability to manage, prioritise, and schedule multiple projects on ongoing basis 

Personal Qualities header image

IFS Advanced Specialist Apprenticeship is open to candidates:

  • Who are career changers
  • With prior career experience AND either technical qualification OR technical disposition
  • Who are motivated to get on board with an IFS career
Personal qualities for the role include:
  • Statistical fluency, investigative creativity, and analytical rigour
  • Digs deep into datasets to uncover trends and patterns
  • Commitment to continuous improvement in organising and technical systems
  • Communicates effectively to non-technical teams and thrives in a dynamic environment
  • Strong leadership, interpersonal and motivational skills
  • Credibility at all levels, on business and technical subjects
  • Highly organised
  • Quality and service focused
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Self-Motivation
  • Drive and determination to deliver
  • Ability to work to tight deadlines and to function successfully under pressure
  • Organised with good attention to detail and an ability to prioritise workload and objectives for yourself and others
  • Team player with a confident outgoing personality
  • Strong written and verbal presentation and communication skills
  • Structured and methodical in problem-solving
  • Technical awareness of future products, concepts and standards
  • Proactively seek and implement solutions for improvement
  • Demonstrate a sense of joint ownership of issues that affect the company 

Work Activities header image

This apprenticeship scheme delivers on skills identified in the Skills Needs Analysis of the International Financial Services Sector in Ireland, 2015 report by Summit Finuas Network, Partnered by Accenture and also delivers on elements of the IFS2020 Strategy.

Typical Tasks and Responsibilities

  • Provide support and maintenance to existing management information systems (MIS)
  • Generate and distribute management reports in accurate and timely manner
  • Develops MIS documentation to allow for smooth operations and easy system maintenance
  • Provide recommendations to update current MIS to improve reporting efficiency and consistency
  • Perform data analysis for generating reports on periodic basis
  • Develop MIS system for customer management and internal communication
  • Provide strong reporting and analytical information support to management team
  • Generate both periodic and ad hoc reports as needed
  • Understand customer problems and provide appropriate technical solutions
  • Analyse business information to identify process improvements for increasing business efficiency and effectiveness
  • Participate in cross-functional meetings to resolve recurring customer issues
  • Provide customer support and assistance in issue troubleshooting and resolution

Pay & Fees header image

A salary of €50,000 applies to the role of IFS Advanced Specialist.

Entry Requirements header image

The IFS Advanced Specialist is open to those with prior experience and either technical qualification or technical disposition.

Minimum Academic Requirements

Applicants are normally required to hold a minimum of a level 8 honours qualification (2.2 or higher) or equivalent on the National Qualifications Framework.

Applicants may be from a cognate or non-cognate disciplinary background.

All applications will be assessed for entry based on their commitment towards the academic requirements for the programme. This may be assessed using a written application from the learner and/or by interview.

Applications may also be considered under the College’s Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Policy and this is likely to be particularly germane to the part-time provision of the course. RPL will be assessed on the basis of a minimum of three years work experience and by portfolio or other appropriate method to establish their eligibility as measured against level 8 award standards.

Where there is insufficient evidence of numeracy skills, mature students may be required to complete an assessment to determine their suitability to the programme.

Non English speaking applicants must demonstrate fluency in the English language as demonstrated by IELTS academic score of at least 6.5 or equivalent.

Getting an Apprenticeship header image

How to apply

  • Complete and submit the relevant application details before the closing date
  • Applications will be reviewed based on relevant academic qualifications.
  • Successful applicants will be invited to a pre-selection event to be interviewed by a selection panel. Step
  • Successful applicants from the pre-selection event will meet with recruiting companies What then?
  • When successful candidates are recruited by financial services organisations, the relevant recruitment process will commence in the organisation.

Note [August 2016]: The application process for the first intake of IFS Advanced Specialist Apprenticeships closed on 8th June 2016 and is now oversubscribed. No further applications can be accepted at this time. This initiative will be advertised when further places become available. 

For further details click here.

See also 

Participating companies include:

Career Opportunities header image

Industry/industries served by this apprenticeship include International Financial Services and associated Professional Services companies. Graduates from the Masters are prepared for positions and roles such as:

  • Data Scientist
  • Business Intelligence Analyst  
  • Knowledge and Informatics Engineer
  • Data Analyst
  • Data Mining Engineer
  • Business Analyst
  • Financial Analyst
  • Financial Engineer
  • Quantitative First and Second Tier Support Engineer
  • Information Officer
  • Back, and Mid Office Analytics
  • Capital Markets Analyst
  • Portfolio Management
  • (Hedge) Funds Analyst
  • Trader
  • Digital Trader
  • Bitcoin Analyst
  • Risk Management
  • Technical Consultant
  • Financial Consultant and
  • A wide range of technology support and financial services roles

Occupation Profile header image

Progression Routes header image

Occupation Data

Data Scientist

Industry Expert(s)