The Company Secretary: a look at the specialised, six-figure route to the boardroom





(Plus – details for a related competition with a £1000 first prize, below)

For the long-term planners among us – you may be already weighing and researching career paths with good developmental opportunities, in terms of both salary and role. And if you’re not – I’d recommend reading on anyway, to get a taste of end-game career goals you can start planning for now.

Enter the Company Secretary

First – this is not secretarial work. It’s high-level management that will require graduates with a steady hand, thriving in high-pressure/high-reward roles. A specialised mixture of law and accounting, the Company Secretary…

  • …is the one who guides the decisions of the boardroom, ensuring that any decisions that gets made adhere to legal guidelines and requirements. Meaning they would be expected to stay up-to-date on legislation and regulation.
  • …is the go-between for shareholders and boardroom. You’ll be the one communicating boardroom decisions to the shareholders, and maintaining good personal relationships between the two entities. This means someone exceptional at maintaining professional relationships and equally skilled at maintaining information and communication flows.
  • …oversees daily administration including arranging board meetings, AGM’s, preparing agendas, taking minute, and maintain statutory books (all of which will be familiar to those already on a Student Committee).
  • …is the one developing (and overseeing) internal regulations and systems which ensure company compliance to legal requirements.

Given its proximity to the boardroom, working this role effectively means that you’re essentially on fast-track to high-level roles. If you have ambitions at board level, directorate or department heads, this would be an effective step to take. Alternatively – the wealth of operations and management speciality means you could easily strike out on your own, consulting on business advice, acting as company secretary for small companies, or working as a company formation agent.

Note also the job prospects – while only Public Limited Companies are legally required to appoint a company secretary, all private company will need advice on taking responsibility for compliance, and liaising with regulatory bodies. You could potentially get relevant work in everything from: accountancy and solicitors’ firms; banks and building societies; and charities and hospitals, all the way to educational institutions; employers’ cooperatives; housing associations; and local and central government.

As far as salary prospects go – this one depends on sector, company size, and organisation type. At the highest levels in FTSE 100 companies, company secretaries can expect six- figure salaries  with five-figure bonuses.

Professional Requirements

This role requires considerable personal experience, plus further ICSA qualifications – and some graduates will target their work and careers with Company Secretary as long-term goal.

Degree type is irrelevant, and experience will be far more significant – that being said, accountancy and finance, business and management, and law are generally preferred, and may exempt you from some of the further qualification examinations you’ll need to take on the role. I’d recommend that you do your research carefully and look at job descriptions and requirements.

Want to learn more?

If you’re seriously interested in taking on the training and role, start your research now. This is not a role you’ll easily achieve without extensive preparation.

A fantastic way to start getting a glimpse into the challenges, dynamics, and operations of this role would be to participate in the Tom Morrison Essay Prize, which asks students, recent graduates, or early governance professionals to consider the implications of AI and tech advancements on the company secretary role.

Quite apart from the £1000 first prize (and £500 second prize), this would be an incredibly good analytical framework for research into the job-specifics of the role. Click here for a refresher on the University Library’s guide to effective essay writing (and Literature and Language Department students – remember, you have access to specialised essay advice).