by Brian DeChesare Comments (350)

Degrees and Certifications: Got CFA + JD + MBA + MD?

Despite my best efforts to bash certifications and give snarky responses to related questions, there’s still confusion on what banks care about, what you can do with different degrees, and the meaning of life.

While I can’t help with the meaning of life (42?), I can tell you which degrees and certifications mean something and help you break into finance – and which will not.

Why the Hate? You’re Already Biased!

I’ve seen lots of aspiring bankers use degrees and certifications as a distraction from more important goals, like getting solid internships, networking, and even getting leadership roles in groups.

You may also think that degrees and certifications are a magic bullet: sure, you have a 2.1 GPA from an unknown school and you’ve worked in telemarketing for 5 years, but if you get that Bloomberg certification, Goldman Sachs will give you an offer right away, right?

Maybe I should get into the business of selling certifications with logic like this…

Definitions: Investment Banking / Private Equity vs. Other Fields

The usefulness of degrees and certifications varies widely by the field of finance you’re interested in.

For example, if you want to be in risk management then the FRM exam is essential; if you’re doing portfolio management or equity research, the CFA is viewed as a requirement. And bankers, of course, don’t care about either of those.

I’m focusing on investment banking and private equity here because that’s what this site is about and what you’re interested in if you’re reading this right now.

For more on other fields and where certifications might be useful, check out these articles from Bionic Turtle:

5 Degrees Above Zero

Let’s start with degrees since they’re less painful to write about.

The only degrees that banks care about are Bachelor’s, Master’s, and MBA degrees, and only for very specific reasons.

But just for fun, let’s jump through the entire list and learn why – and what to do if you’ve taken the plunge into JD/PhD/MD land.

High School / Secondary School

Please, no more questions from 16-year olds who want to get an investment banking internship. Go outside and play in the sun, you’re probably Vitamin D-deficient anyway.

This one is just a check-the-box requirement at banks, and if you’ve only graduated high school you won’t be able to do anything real – you need at least an undergraduate degree (maybe you could work as an assistant but is that what you want to do?).

Your actual performance in secondary school matters more in countries like the UK where A-Levels are huge – in the US, listing high school grades or AP scores on your resume when applying to banking jobs is silly. And where you went to school only matters if it’s somewhere prestigious, like Exeter or Andover, where you might get some networking benefit.

University Degrees

This is the bare minimum you’ll need to actually work at an investment bank, and most other finance firms.

Every week I get comments asking, “I’m 38 and never graduated from college – do you think I can become an investment banking analyst?”

No, you can’t.

Why not?

  1. Supply and Demand – Banks have so many university graduates who’d give up a kidney to work for them that they can afford to reject 99% of applicants and still have more people than they know what to do with.
  2. Work Ethic – If you can’t finish a university degree then banks will assume that you cannot finish any project, which is a problem when you have a 100-page pitch book due in 3 hours.

Yes, I know there are good reasons you didn’t get a degree – you dropped out to start your own multi-billion dollar company, you couldn’t afford college, or you became a pop star and you’re still on leave.

That’s lovely, but life is not fair and if you don’t have a degree you’re not getting into investment banking or private equity.

Maybe you could trade for a small prop trading firm if you’re a baller trader without a degree, but even there it’s tough – they care less about pedigree than banks, but everyone else there will have the degree.

It’s approximately 100x more difficult to get into banking coming from a “non-target” school (one where banks don’t recruit) compared to a “target” school (the Ivy League, LSE, Oxbridge, and so on), so go to the best school possible.

What you major in doesn’t matter too much as long as you get decent grades and internships, but you can review your options right here.

Master’s Degrees

There are several good reasons to get a Master’s degree:

  1. You need the prestige because your undergraduate school was unknown.
  2. You had poor grades and need to press Ctrl + Z on your transcript.
  3. You didn’t get an offer and want to try again, with better access to recruiters.
  4. You’re in Europe and 5-year programs that include both the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree are common.

The most common question on Master’s degrees:

“So, if I go for a Master’s in Finance program I can start as an Associate, right?”

No, you can’t, because:

  1. You would need at least 3-5 years of previous work experience or 2 years as an IB analyst first.
  2. Master’s programs are less of a time and money commitment compared to MBA programs.

I must have heard this question 500 times at career fairs and the answer is always the same: “You’ll still be an Analyst.”


This is the only advanced degree that allows you to “level-up” when you start working.

IF you have had enough experience (usually 3-5 years in a normal industry, or 2 years as a former IB analyst), then you’ll start out one rung above the Analyst: you’ll be an Associate instead.

Which means you get paid a bit more, have more responsibility, and you get to sleep 6 hours per night instead of 4.

But do not assume that just because you get an MBA, banks will automatically interview you or think that you can be an Associate.

There are plenty of ways to screw it up, including going to a non-top-tier school, not having enough work experience, or not showing a clear progression toward being interested in banking.

So make sure you learn how to properly re-brand yourself and how to use MBA programs the right way in the first place.


While Damages the TV series is awesome, most law firms are not even close to that interesting in real life: the Partners at your firm might be sadistic, but they’re still far from Patty Hewes.

So many lawyers get the bright idea that they could go into finance instead and make bank while abusing their former co-workers.

Just one small problem: banks don’t give a crap about law school.

OK, that’s not 100% true and it’s viewed a little more favorably than the MD or PhD – but there’s no added bonus for going to law school and it’s a much more indirect path to banking.

You have to graduate from law school, work in corporate law for a few years without going insane, and then network your way into banking from there.

Having the law background may benefit you in areas like Restructuring and Distressed Investing where there’s legal overlap, but it’s a stretch to say that you should go to law school specifically to get into those fields.

If you’ve already taken the plunge, you can’t exactly abort midway through – so finish, do corporate or securities law, and then network into banking after working for a few years.

You may actually start as an Associate if you do law school and then corporate law before banking, so the JD can be another way to level-up.


If you thought bankers looked down on lawyers, you’ve never seen their reaction to PhDs – ouch.

Bankers and PE-ers don’t care about the degree because the math in both fields is trivial: arithmetic and a few circular references in Excel.

You might be the next Stephen Hawking, but that doesn’t matter because you don’t need to understand wormholes to be a banker – you just need to understand how to change the font size in pitch books.

Most bankers think that PhDs are too well-educated to go back to fixing printers and scouring through SEC filings, so there’s a significant bias against hiring them.

Sometimes you can still get into finance if you have the degree, but usually you have to:

  1. Target a boutique that fits your background exactly – like an industrials-focused firm if you have a PhD in materials engineering, or a healthcare-focused firm if you completed an advanced degree in biochemistry.
  2. Go for equity research instead. They actually care about the degree because they want people who understand an industry in-depth – again, you would focus on groups that match your background.
  3. Go the quant route (works best with physics/math/related degrees). Sure, trading will never be what it once was, but firms always need quants and smart math people to build their models.


You face a similar problem here: you’re over-educated and banks will assume that you have no interest in spreading comps if you’ve qualified to perform open heart surgery.

They may also assume that you’re unable to commit to anything and stick with it: how could you have made it through years of med school without realizing you wanted to do business earlier?

In this situation you’d have to follow the PhD advice above and go after boutique banks in the healthcare/biotech/pharmaceutical space and/or look into equity research. You don’t have the ideal background to be a quant, so that’s not the best idea here.

You’ll also need a really good story about why you’re making this move – not just “I realized business was so much cooler!”

You need a specific incident or person that made you interested, and a perfect explanation of how you realized that medicine was not for you after years of doing it, but how you’re simultaneously certain that finance is for you with 0 years of experience.

Combo Degrees – JD + MBA?

Combo degrees get another “thumbs down” from me.

We already learned that adding a Master’s degree on top of a normal bachelor’s degree, for example, won’t let you start as an Associate.

But what about that famed JD + MBA combination – surely that must open up more exit opportunities, right?

No, not really. Most jobs are geared toward law or finance, but not both.

It would be most useful in areas like Restructuring, Distressed Investing, or arguably Real Estate / Project Finance where there’s overlap with the law and legal codes.

But even there, it’s a stretch to say that the JD would add much: even the MBA might not be terribly helpful if you’ve had previous, relevant experience.

You may also face a branding problem if you have a law degree and a business degree: business people will think you’re a lawyer, and lawyers will think you’re in business.

There’s always a temptation to think that more = better when it comes to degrees or certifications, but that’s just not true.

You want the minimum investment required for maximal gain – anything more than that reduces your ROI.

What about other combinations like JD + PhD + MBA, or JD + MD + MBA? Please, don’t even waste your time and money – it’s just silly.

Adding more advanced degrees like this will hurt you and make you look like more and more of an academic and less and less like someone who can actually make money in the real world.


This part will be shorter because certifications matter far less in banking and PE than degrees.

The main one that generates debate is the CFA and whether or not it’s helpful for breaking in – others are either completely useless or marginally helpful at best.

Series 7 / 63 / 65 / 66 / 79 / 84563X2

If you have a ton of free time, you’ve already networked extensively, and you already have great internships and/or a full-time job lined up, then sure, knock yourself out.

Just be aware that if your bank requires them, you’ll complete the exams during training anyway.

If you really want to set yourself apart before you start working, you’d be better off moving to another country for a few months and doing something interesting there.


I’m not going to rehash all the arguments for and against the CFA here – go consult this article if you want to go down that path again.

The short version is that it’s not the best use of your time for investment banking or private equity in developed countries, but it may be more useful in emerging markets or in fields like equity research, portfolio management, or some types of hedge funds.

And do not think that it will cover up an unknown school, low grades, or no work experience – it won’t.

Think of it as an added bonus and something to look into if you already have top schools, high grades, and great work experience.

CPA / FRM / Other Certifications with C and F in the Names

Look, if you want to be an accountant or a risk manager or perhaps other things outside of IB/PE, then sure, go ahead and pursue these.

There’s an alphabet soup of other certifications out there, and David from Bionic Turtle does a great job of summarizing them here.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these – it’s just that they will not help you much with IB/PE, because getting in is based almost entirely on practical experience.

In the future, who knows, there may be an exam to get “certified” in investment banking – but for now no one takes anything like that seriously (yes, I’m talking to you, “Certified M&A Advisor”).

There’s another critical reason why such certifications don’t apply to IB and PE: at the top levels these fields are based on sales, relationships, and negotiation skills – skills that can’t be tested on a written exam.

Bloomberg / FactSet / Other

Don’t even bother – you’ll learn everything you need to know (which is not much) when you start working, and you don’t even use the complex features in banking.

These may actually hurt you because you do not want to be known as “The Bloomberg Guy” or “The VBA Guy” or anything else that results in annoying requests to fix other peoples’ broken-beyond-repair spreadsheets.

Standardized Tests: SAT, GMAT, GRE, A-Levels…

These aren’t quite “certifications” but why not throw them in here anyway?

None of these is as important as grades in university, but in the US most banks will still ask for your SAT scores, and GMAT scores can be helpful if you have low SAT scores (under 2100 in the new system). No, don’t bother going back and re-taking them if they’re low: not worth the effort.

As with grades, these tests are more about whether or not you meet the minimum score they’re looking for rather than “standing out” – so please do not re-take the GMAT if you got a 720.

Got Degrees or Certifications?

I hope not – unless you mean a university, Master’s, or MBA degree.

Otherwise, save your time and money and if you’re already too far down a path to turn back now, cut your losses and change direction as soon as you can.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. I am 23, graduated two months ago, with a 3.0 dual degree in finance and economics, no where near a top 10 school but in a metropolitan area. I am currently working as a finance contractor for the past 6 months at $3 billion asset bank. I would like to move into IB, particularly mergers and acquisitions. Thoughts on how/if I can get there?

    1. Your best bet at this point is to do a Master’s in Finance degree to boost your GPA and get a better school name on your resume, do an internship beforehand, and use both of those to get into IB.

  2. Hello ,

    I am 33 . MBA in finance from a not very well known university . I am working in stock markets in India . I want to do investment banking . can you please tell me where I can find a good short degree course for this .short because I can’t study for 2 years and I believe it is more like you keep doing and keep learning sort of thing . My plan is too apply for a job for IB after that . And do you think it is a good plan ?

  3. hi,

    I came across this sight while looking for relevant banking courses. I have a bachelors degree in Business Administration and an MBA in Finance, however, not from top target schools but from schools in Nigeria. I am looking at making a transition to banking in the US and i am currently looking for relevant banking courses/certifications in the US as i have relevant years of experience with a UK bank based in Africa (particularly business banking/retail banking and risk management).

    Being that my experience has been in Business portfolio management and risk management, can you advise if the FRM will be a valuable addition or if there are other courses that stand out.

    thank you

    1. Well, what do you want to do? Your question is so broad that it might as well be: “How can I get a job?” You have to narrow down what you want to do first. The FRM is useful for risk management roles, but not for investment banking or private equity (for example). If you want to transition to the US, you will probably need to transfer internally or complete a degree in the country first (though with an MBA already, I’m not sure what you would do at this point).

  4. Priyanshi Aggarwal

    Hi There, I have a bachelors in Finance and Accounts from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and an MSc in Investment Analysis from Aston University, UK. I am currently working in Retail Banking as a Business Development Manager i.e Client Acquisition for Priority Banking at the Australia & New Zealand Bank in Singapore. I have wanted to get into IB/Equity Research or M&A for a long time, but due to lack of opportunity I couldn’t, hence I thought this Banking experience in Singapore may help. Do you think it is possible to still move into Equity Research/M&A , and any piece of advice on strategy? Further, any advice on further studying such as doing the courses at the Investment Banking Institute etc? Thanks.

    1. It’s possible, yes; there are some tips on making a change into equity research from similar fields here:

      Courses can help, but you need to network aggressively to make this move.

  5. Hi M&I

    I am 23, just graduated 5 month ago with a bachelors from a top 30 school, B+ grades. Currently working at a public accounting firm.

    Would going to a top 10-20 school for a 1 year Maters in Finance/Management (UVA or Duke) help me in the long run? Is it a wasteful investment to go back for a year become an analyst then go get an MBA later on in life?

    P.S. no experience in finance, all in accounting (internships + fulltime)

    1. Well, what do you want to do? Get into IB or another finance role? If so, an MSF from a top school will help you do that.

  6. Dear M&I,

    Reading over this article brought up something I’ve been nervous about for a while now.

    At 22, I was at a a top 10 school in California and was also an intern with a PWM BB firm. I dropped out of school and also got let go from my PWM position due to the 08 crash and decided to pursue other endeavors. Now I’m 30, I decided to go back and finish my BS in Finance, I’ll finish in a few months but at a Cal State school now.

    I’m just wondering if I’m too late in the game. Reading over the topics on the site it sounds like IB/PE is out of the picture but can I spin my late graduation and experience in PWM years ago for a career in corporate finance or even prop trading straight out of school?

    Thanks in advance,

    1. Yes, it’s probably too late for IB/PE. Other careers are still possible, especially since in PWM they care more about performance than prestige.

  7. Dear M&I,

    What do you think about online degrees?


    1. Not a great idea in most cases. The main value of a degree is gaining access to on-campus recruiting, which most online degrees don’t provide.

  8. First off, I appreciate the humor in the writing. Now to my packaged soapbox with a question mark at the end—–

    I am 28, Bachelors in Finance, good GPA, Series 3/7/63. 2 years Department of Treasury, 3 years Derivatives/Fixed Income/Equities trading (Institutional), 2 of those years as a Relationship manager for an Institutional Firm. The obvious answer would be “go for the EMBA/MBA”, happy to approach target schools.

    I believe in the long-short strategy. How could I try and break into a boutique (before any grad school program)? As of now most programs I’m looking into are EMBA programs.


  9. Im a 39 years old with a bachelor in finance and a law degree, i have also a master in economics. Im planning to take the CFA in order to become an IB. I have experience in several fields, but not in finance
    Do you think i could do it?

  10. I am studying to become an Actuary in the UK, and hope to take the Investment papers when comes the time to specialise. Would this be seen favourably if wanting to work in Asset Management?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I believe so. There’s some overlap, and the degree demonstrates that you have the quantitative skills in AM. And it also depends on the role in AM too. The job descriptions would specify if the role prefers a candidate with actuary experience.

  11. If I got a business degree in Europe, and an MBA, would I still be able to get a job as an investment banker in the US? Or Canada? I’m a Canadian citizen. But would like to do my degree in Europe.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      If you want to work in the States I think its best to obtain your degree from a target school in the States. But if you really want to do your degree in Europe, you can always try to break into the banks at Europe and transfer to the States after some time there.

  12. Hey, I’m in my last year of highschool and I was looking through courses and careers to choose from and I have to say…investment banking really caught my interest. Well I was aiming for a degree in either economics and finance (joint degree), quantitative maths and financial studies, or human resource management. I was thinking which course should I choose if I want to crack into IB. Also note that I’m currently staying in Ireland and I’ve heard degrees in both UCD and UL(only colleges with good business degrees) are looked down upon in places like UK and America… How can I improve my worth after college. Or am I only limited to getting an internship and crossing my fingers I don’t know.
    Thanks for your time, I was also wondering if you could hand me a list of other courses that are known for getting into HF and IB also. That’d be great

  13. Hello, I graduated from a Big Ten school but their satellite campus so a non target business school. Got my Accounting degree. Did 4 Internships: 1 in corporate tax dept. 1 in engineering when i was majoring in it. Also did two in public accounting, I hated it. I am currently working at a mid size commercial bank as a credit analyst. Need to know what to do in order to break into IB. MBA? MSF? After reading some articles CFA is not the route to cover up a subpar 2.8 gpa undergrad not the best but motivated obviously by my ability to network and land big 4 internships and other FT offers. Need some insight. Thank you.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes I’d say an MBA or MSF at a target can help you. I don’t think a CFA is particularly useful in this case. These links should help you:

      1. But if i can’t get into a target MBA school, top 15 with my 2.8 GPA then there really is no point in going to a non-target b-school? Even with a strong GMAT score that would be my only leverage I could use along with strong letters of recommendation. Not sure what other options i have…

  14. Hi, I am 38 years never worked in financial industry before, I’m pursuing my ACCA, got an Associate degree, and A Master’s certificate in Finance and Investments which includes 5 certificates (Financial Analyst, Certified investment banking Associate, Certified Financial Modelling, certified Private Equity and Qualified Family Office) Can I still break into IB or financial industry? Can you advise me please. Regards

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Your certifications can help. Yes, I’d suggest that you narrow down areas in finance you maybe interested in first. Perhaps you can look at asset management, brokerage houses. In terms of IB/PE, it can be more challenging to break in at your stage unless you’ve had some experience in the industry.

  15. Please assist other than FRM and CFA.


    1. What is your actual question? Are you asking if certificates outside the FRM and CFA are useful? If so, the answer is what is stated in the article: generally no, but it depends a bit on the area of finance you want to move into.

  16. Hello every one,

    I am an MBA graduate from MBA, having overall experience of 5.5 years(Equities and Derivatives Product) and currently working for premier investment bank in Singapore. I am looking out to take up certifications with related domain, please check and advise ASAP.

    Deepak K

    1. What is your question? Are you asking if certificates will help you? The answer to that depends on which area of finance you want to move into.

  17. Hi there
    I am about to graduate from a undergraduate degree in commerce.with average grades. I have a keen interest in IB. How do I break in , any recommendations to the masters I should take. Any advice is much appreciated

  18. Hi,
    I have done PG in Marketing and 1 year PG in Banking from not very known university of India. I am working in retail ops from last 4 years in a leading private bank in India. I have developed liking towards Audit and Compliance job. Could a 6-9 months advance certification in Audit or compliance from any US university will help me to get a job in US bank or financial company.
    Regards, Omer

    1. Nicole Lee

      Yes this may help, but perhaps getting a degree in US may be most useful.

      1. Thanks. Considering the cost involved degree would not be affordable for me. Does HR consider an advance certification while hiring?

        1. Nicole Lee

          Yes, but not ideal I’d say.

  19. hello, I graduated from business administration major marketing 3 years ago.
    Also i have a work experience of 2 years in retail banking in Dubai, was thinking of starting to study for CFA or CISI. But after i read your article i’m not sure which will be more helpful to get into IB or if both will not be at all. Thanks in advance for your advice.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I think relevant work experience is most useful. The rest is not as important. I can’t say CFA/CISI is completely irrelevant but I don’t think they add significant value to you getting into IB.

  20. I have a specific question for CFA.

    I am a Chinese student and doing a JD program at a top 10 law school in the U.S., with a mediocre GPA.

    I summered at a big U.S. Law Firm’s Shanghai Office for 3 months. It turned out I did not like the law that much.

    I am currently thinking about breaking into the finance sector in the area of China (HK/Shanghai/Beijing) right after graduation or practicing law a few years.

    Should I take CFA right now?

    The reason I ask this is because this is my last year at law school, the class is light; I did not have any financial background at all, and I am going to work at an emerging market.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I am not 100% sure if a CFA will help you, but I think you can try to move to finance from law:

      1. Hi, thanks for your reply.

        But my case is kind of unique.

        I did not have any past internship in IB and my academic background is all in Law.

        How can I prove I have any idea of what finance looks like?

        I don’t think CFA helps and it costs lost of money, but I do think it can at least prove I have some basic idea of finance.

        1. We have some tips here if you’re from a law background:

          The CFA can be helpful in your situation but please read that article for the full story.

          1. Hi Brian,

            Thanks for your reply.

            Do you happen to know the hiring in Asia Pacific?

            I am wondering how to build network with people in that region right now, considering I am right now stuck in the U.S.


          2. It is tough to do that remotely, but you can probably start reaching out and asking for informational interviews at least. But in those regions you usually have to go there in-person because they may not take you seriously unless they see you there.

  21. I am entering my junior year at a nontarget school. I was considering getting a “Certified Investment Banking Analyst” certification as a way to get noticed in the applicant pool for IB internships. I realize that this certification probably means nothing for Full Time Analyst / Associate positions, but do you think that having that certification would help me land an internship?

    Thanks in advance

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Not really, work experience matters most.

  22. Ravi Shingala

    Hi, i am doing my MBA, about to complete it from a not a very known university in New York. Ive tried looking for jobs and internships but since my uni is not very reputable, i think I’m not getting any thing. I also just have one year of work experience as I am from India. I want to get into the Finance Industry. Could you help?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d suggest that you start networking with people on LinkedIn to improve your chances.

  23. The article is so disappointing, considering the mass content about using certifications, or attending online prep courses, or even coursera like courses to get a job.
    My observation is that most entry level job descriptions (in linkedin/glassdoor/monster etc) require work experience in addition to the specialized degree.

    What do you suggest then for a career change from IT/engineering to banking sector ?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I am sorry to hear re. your thoughts on the article. From engineering to banking, please refer to:

  24. Do you think the IBI( investment baning institute) program will help me get into IB? and is equivalent possible better then experience and or certification? or at least get me into some entry level position.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I think having relevant experience is always best!

  25. I’m still a bit confused. Are you saying that it would be better to skip your masters and go to an MBA if you’re doing well, or to get both an Masters and MBA if I want to start out as an associate?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      No, its better to do a Masters versus an MBA (both at targets) since Masters usually takes one-year (shorter) vs. two years

  26. I was wondering if a 2nd bachelor’s degree appropriate for investment banking/PE/WM? If so, which majors are recommended and if not, what other options are out there?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I think finance and accounting are the best if you can. Otherwise, economics works too.

      1. But would investment banks question a person who had a 2nd bachelor’s degree during interviews as to why they went for it instead of a master’s degree?

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Yes, they are likely to do so, so you’ll have to explain why that is.

  27. Would you say Boston College is a target school? or Boston University?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d say they are semi-target

  28. Hello,

    Is either The George Washington University or The Ohio State University a target school? Does a Master in Accounting help to get into investment banking?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I wouldn’t say they are. GW maybe a semi-target. It can potentially help:

  29. I am confused between CA and CFA . which one is better ??
    please tell me

  30. currently I am doing CA . but after that i want to do CFA will it be benefecial for me ??

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes, a CFA can potentially improve your chances in the buy side, but not necessarily for sell side roles, unless you’re talking about equity research.

  31. Hi there, my inquiry is about career advice if you dont mind. Im currently an undergraduate student in finance at an average University ( Canada ), my gpa is ok (3.7) but i do have some good work experience, i work at a big canadian bank as a financial advisor in investments. Ideally id like to go in investment banking or even better in m&a, i thought about doing a cfa but after reading this article im not so sure anymore. What do you suggest my next step should be after i graduate?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d suggest that you connect with bankers in Canada and establish relationships with them. I may even consider pursing a masters at a target to increase your chances.

  32. Hello – I work for an Exploration & Production (E&P) operator in the Permian Basin. I’m part of the Western Hemisphere Operations Strategic Sourcing group. My role consists of contract negotiations, request for proposals, spend analytics, general management presentations, and category management. I’m interested in the M&A world for the Oil & Gas or Energy/Utilities sector. However, I have zero, zip, no experience in finance. What’s my best route to break into M&A Investment Banking? Other than a family friend! ;)

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Can you start taking some modelling courses in finance? Perhaps you can also start engaging in discussions with O&G bankers/financiers through LinkedIn. These are also useful articles to read on this front:

  33. please will becoming a certified investment banking associate(a certification program) help me start switch to investment banking

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I don’t think it can help that much to be honest. Work experience matters most.

  34. Hi,
    i have a degree in engineering and a masters degree in information technology both gotten from schools in Nigeria. i also have 6 years experience in commercial banking. i want to venture into IB. please what is your advice

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d say network with local IB firms in Africa and see what comes up. It can be challenging to move from commercial banking to IB, so the networking may take some time!

  35. I am confused between CFA & FRM.
    Which 1 is better???????

    1. M&I - Nicole

      It depends on your objective. If you’re looking for buy-side roles a CFA maybe more relevant.

  36. i have a bsc in estate management from a Nigerian university,have a ten years commercial banking experience in Nigeria. right now i am in the US and wish to find a career in ibanking.what can I do.

  37. Hi,
    I have a BA in Politics from Newcastle Uni and a masters in Global Business from Queen Mary. I am from Russia and I had to go back to my country because of the visa difficulties. I want an IB job in London. Do you thing getting a certification will help me?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Not necessarily, it can potentially help slightly, if at all

  38. I have a engineering degree from a non-target school in Canada, I wanted to do a masters degree in Engineering from Rotman(target school) is this a good idea.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes it can potentially open you more doors, though I’m not sure why you want another degree in engineering when you already have an engineering degree, unless you want to stay in engineering

  39. Thank you for the wonderful and very informative article. I will take advantage of it and use it to pursue my goals.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      You’re welcome.

  40. Kalyani

    hi, i have a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance (3 Yrs) (usually bachelors degree in India are of 3 Yrs) from India and have worked for Ernst and Young in India for 5 years in FII’s Foreign Institutional Investors Dept. Now am in USA and I plan to study..Can i go for some cetification couse in bank management and get a job or will have to do MS or MBA?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d say an MS or an MBA would be more useful.

  41. Christian

    Hi there,

    Do you think it would be possible to get into IB with a Bachelor degree in English from UCL or should I try to pursue a Master degree in something related to this sector?

    Many thanks

    1. M&I - Nicole

      UCL is a target so you can use the network to break in though I believe it maybe to your advantage to pursue a major relevant to this sector (i.e. Finance/Economics). A masters degree can potentially help assuming you get into a target school, but in your case, I’d apply right now and see what comes up first

  42. Can FRM certification combined with ACCA help to get into investment banking.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes, but they aren’t too useful.

  43. Hi there,

    I will intern at an investment bank on the market side in the coming summer. If nothing bad happens, I will get the return offer. However, I am thinking about going to IB for a full time role, but it is difficult to be IB full time without doing IB internship. So I wonder if studying master for 1 year and get another internship in IB will be a good idea (since if so, I need to prepare for some entry exams and start finding references now). I am still in a non-target school and grades are pretty bad compared to benchmark 3.5 so it is relatively difficult to get into master of target school. So what should I do?


    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d stick with the internship this summer and see how that goes first. In your case, focus on getting a return offer. During the summer I would also focus on networking with bankers to make sure that IB is what you want to do first.

      Once you do so, you can also start interviewing with other IBs in BB, or even try to transition internally. You can go back and do your masters though like what you’ve said, it can be tough to get into a target without a high GPA so I’d make the most out of what you have right now (i.e. ace your summer internship) first.

      1. Thanks Nicole!

        My bachelor degree is in finance. Is it not useful to study another master of finance degree/master of financial engineering? I want to study more economics, but sadly many target school master of econ requires a bachelor in econ. And do you think masters in European business school, like IE business school/HEC Paris, are useful for landing offers in UK?

        And in my case, do you think internal transition is feasible? How can I network with IB people without making my markets manager think I am not focused?

        The major reason for me to do a target school master is to rebrand myself so that I can land a IB role in the top bulge bracket in US. Currently my work is in Asia. Do you think it is more sensible to work for a couple of years in Asia in the markets and then go for MBA in US afterwards?

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Yes, a Masters at a top business school will help. And yes a masters of finance can also help.

          Yes it is feasible. It is hard to keep things quiet if you’re networking within your firm to be honest.

          Yes, it is sensible to do so.

          1. this is completely off topic, but i have a question..i have an internship in the ibd of a bulge bracket..every guy i know in investment banking it necessary to do the same? like shave all facial hair completely?

          2. M&I - Nicole

            It isn’t necessary, but yes most bankers look “clean” and “smart” so it maybe a good idea to shave, though if you are really opposed to the idea, you don’t have to, as long as you’re clean and hygenic

  44. Hi, first of all thanks for your articles. My question is quite unique. I did my bachelors in a non target school, decent gpa not great. Because of my interest in ib, I decided to go to a target school for my masters and I got an internship. With my masters though, we have comprehensive exams which I failed after the first take and it’s really discouraging. I got a full time offer but I’m now studying for the comps again. If I don’t pass the comps the second time, I get kicked out of the program. Do you think the bank wouldn’t hire me because I didn’t finish my masters keeping in mind I already have a bachelors? Ps, it’s a bulge bracket in ibd in New York.


    1. M&I - Nicole

      I think your group may not care as much as HR. I think there’s a policy that you may have to finish your masters for banks to hire you if you’ve been hired as a masters student. I’d try your best to stay in the program. I may be wrong though, you may want to look into the policy.

  45. Hi
    I am from India.I have done my engineering from not-so-known college and got an experience of approx 3 years in the IT sector.I tried my level best to get into an MBA but I could not make it to the top MBA schools here and so dropped the plan of going for MBA but to change my industry I made a switch into a public sector banking(Commercial Bank).
    I was thinking of going for CFA but reading your post I am confused if it’s worthy to do so.
    Could you please suggest me what should I do in order to fastrack my career in the banking industry in India?Can I make it to Investment banking?

      1. Similar dilemma. How may I facilitate a career switch into IB in USA? Thank you.

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Getting an MBA at a target university may help.

          1. Hi Nicole,

            Thank you for all the support and great advices you’ve given to everyone! I love this site! I’ve learned so much in the past 2 days.

            I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with B.S. Electrical Engineering (3.05/4.00) and B.A. Economics (3.85/4.00). I worked in auto finance IT for 2 years and 1 year in product management. After learning so much from you guys, I have decided to get into Corporate Finance (FP&A or Treasury), get a top-tier MBA and move into Investment Banking. What do you think?

            Also, would you please give me some points as how I could get a Corporate Finance position with no finance experience?

            ps. Does UT-Austin counts as a target school?

            Thank you so much!


          2. M&I - Nicole

            Yes, I think that’s a good path.

   should help.

            I’d call it a semi target.

  46. Hello, I have an industrial engineer degree and an MBA in a B-School which is roughly #4 in Spain. I’m 29 (30 un July), 4 years of experience in commercial departments (sales) and I want to redirect into IB; I was planning to do the CFA until I read this article… Pls, could you give me your most honest advise? Thank you very much.

    1. CFA would still not be that helpful for IB unless you’re in a market where it’s highly valued (see some of the regional interviews on the site)… normally business school is a better option, but if you’ve already done it you can’t really use that option. So maybe try networking and study for the CFA on the side as a talking point if you need it and don’t have anything else related to finance.

  47. Is MBA from Vanderbilt University good enough to start as an associate? Of course, I will do my best to get to HBS, Wharton, Booth, or Stanford. But, let’s assume I will be able to get into top not 10 but top 10-20 MBAs. Will this be OK ? Or should I try to apply to top 10 MBAs next year ? Or is it even top 5 MBAs ?
    Also, what certificate will be helpful in the future; I want to do I-banking for a few years then hopefully move to PE or HF, or even launch one. So my question is what certificate will prepare me the best for this path?
    Kind regards,

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes it is a reputable school, though as you’ve said top 10 schools may offer you higher chance of breaking in.
      I’d aim for a top 5 if you want to break into PE or HF. I don’t think a certificate is necessary; work experience is though

      1. Thanks !

  48. do you think it would be possible to get into IB with a bachelor degree in International business Administration for Rotterdam School of Management or should I try to pursue a Master degree in Investments and Finance?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Only if the masters is from a target school. Otherwise, the degree may not add much value.

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