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Picking The Most Rewarding Path

Niall Murphy

If somebody was to ask you what were the requirements and responsibilities of a company secretary in today’s market, would you automatically consider the daily duties of a traditional secretary, managing diary entries and booking meeting rooms? If so, you would be entirely misled on what has become one of the most important positions within a company and a truly rewarding career path. I have spoken to dozens of graduates in the last 6 months who haven’t had any idea of what a company secretary was or that they even existed which was surprising based on how reliant companies are becoming on them in today's market. It begs the question on whether colleges should be implementing specific job titles like this along with the roles and responsibilities into their curriculum with the constant shift in regulations? Some of the top secretaries in the world have come from a range of different backgrounds and degrees but it has been closely associated to Law, Business and Finance students in recent times.

It is often the case that law students come out of their degree and feel they are destined to pursue a career as a solicitor and are restricted on information on how transferrable their degree is particularly in this sector. Although, this profession is not just limited to those who have recently graduated but also experienced professionals looking to use their skills gained over a number of years in a different area. I have spoken to a HR Manager, a qualified solicitor, and a tax trainee who have all made the decision to change their career and have all fallen into the world of company secretaries. Changing direction isn’t impossible but may require a little more sacrifice than going straight in.


What is a company secretary and what do they do?

Company secretaries are corporate governance professional who are responsible for the efficient administration of a company, particularly with regards to ensuring compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements and for ensuring that decisions of the board of directors are implemented. In an increasingly regulated world, the need for company secretaries has become greater than ever. Company secretaries essentially help the company to avoid risk by ensuring that crucial information is transferred securely to the right people, that board meetings are up to an efficient standard and that records are kept accordingly.

How do I go about following this career path?

Due to the nature of the position a degree or background in law, business or finance is highly advantageous. A company secretary has been previously favoured towards law students but over the past few years, graduates across a number of fields have focused their attention towards this path due to the variation in the job responsibilities across the different areas within a business and not just focusing specifically on the legal aspects.

You would start off by entering into a company secretarial trainee contract where you would get to train up alongside the more senior and established secretaries getting great exposure internally. The employer would often pay for you to complete a Masters in Management and Corporate Governance which would then qualify you under the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA). This qualification is globally recognised and highly thought of amongst employers in Ireland. A legal background could mean that you are exempt from taking the total number of required exams expected under the ISCA. The Masters can be completed on a part-time basis in Marino College, Dublin, so you would be earning while you are learning.


Rewards from this career

Whether it’s money, progression, or something else you are after, becoming a company secretary can offer a rewarding and stable career path. On a daily basis, my team are dealing with company secretaries on €24,000 to people who are on €150,000. It can offer you a positively challenging work experience with the workload being transferrable across a number of different industries which entitles you to work abroad. So many company secretaries are choosing to move abroad and reap the awards in the sun due to the globally recognised qualification. At the same time, all the rewards don’t come at an easy price. It is a testing profession which challenges you in a number of ways in order to achieve these rewards. Nothing comes easy!!


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