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16 August 2018

So how many students think about a career as a company secretary or as a governance professional? Probably not many because our profession is one of those hidden gems (or we think so anyway!) that far more people would take up if only they know about it. That’s part of the reason ICSA is so keen on raising the profile of the profession, as we can see that there’s already a shortage of good, qualified, company secretaries…and we can currently see how that shortage is getting greater. So what better time to get into a great profession – with great career opportunities and scope for reward!

If you’re reading this you are more likely to already be a company secretary. If you are, have you ever spoken to young people about the job you do and have you ever encouraged them to follow the governance path? If not, why not?

Here are some notes that you can use to answer their most basic questions. For more detailed information you should obviously send them to our website.

  • What do you do? We are governance professionals who support and advise the boards of organisations in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. We help directors and trustees to keep organisations true to their strategic purpose and ensure they operate successfully within the law.
  • We combine elements of the legal, financial and management roles within an organisation and our work is essential to the smooth running and performance of organisations.
  • The company secretary is sometimes called ‘the keeper of secrets’. This is why becoming a company secretary is seen as being a fast track to get into an organisation’s boardroom, the heart of any organisation. Company secretaries are trusted with privileged information and access to the board early in their careers.
  • A good company secretary has to be skilled in managing relationships and boardroom dynamics
  • Some of the core tasks that company secretaries are responsible for, such as AGMs and the production of annual reports, only take place once a year. Others, such as share issues or corporate takeovers, less frequently. These can involve pretty high stakes so an awful lot rides on the company secretary’s work.

So how can one qualify?

  • There are many ways of becoming a company secretary. You can take the path to becoming a company secretary through professional qualifications, such as the ICSA Qualifying Programme.  The standard route for those students is to complete all seven subject modules. Students without a qualifiying degree will have to sit an additional Foundation paper. If you have a degree in law or finance you can apply for further exemptions.
  • The other route is to enrol on an ICSA accredited masters qualification such as the 2 year part time progamme run in Dublin by the University of Ulster.
  • Additionally, if you’re a qualified lawyer or accountant and have more than five years’ post- qualifying experience, why not consider applying for the fast track professional route? If you meet the scheme’s entry requirements, you could find yourself exempt from all but two of the modules on the ICSA Qualifying Programme.

For more information on your route to the boardroom, follow this link.

John Burns is Business Development Manager in Ireland for the ICSA:The Governance Institute and can be contacted at jburns@icsa.org.uk