by Brian DeChesare Comments (808)

Master’s in Finance Programs: The Best Last-Minute Path into Investment Banking?

Investment Banking Masters Programs

If you don’t succeed the first time around, should you try and try again?

It depends on your reasons for not succeeding the first time around, but most people ignore that point and jump straight to the “try and try again” part.

And one of the most popular methods for getting a “do-over” is the Master’s in Finance (MSF) program offered at universities around the world.

These programs can be useful if you use them correctly.

But most students don’t understand when they’re helpful, which leads to wasted time and money and big disappointments:

Why a Master’s Degree?

Many students and professionals believe that a Master’s in Finance degree is a magical solution for getting into investment banking.

That explains how we get emails like the following:

“I’ve worked in marketing for two years, and I have a B.A. from a Top 50 university in the U.S. I decided to change my career a year ago, and now I am pursuing a Master’s Degree in Economics at a Top 20 university.

I have no experience in finance, but I am currently taking accounting and finance classes. Which area of investment banking should I apply to?”

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a Master’s degree is not a great idea in this case.

But first, let’s define a “Master’s in Finance” degree and explain how it differs from other options like an MBA.

What is a Master’s in Finance Degree?

A Master’s in Finance program is shorter, cheaper, and narrower than a traditional MBA:

  • Length: Usually one year rather than two.
  • Cost: Far less because of the shorter length, though tuition still adds up to tens of thousands of USD, GBP, or EUR.
  • Scope: Covers just accounting and finance; classes are more focused than those in MBA programs. You won’t learn about operations, management, or marketing unless it’s a Master’s degree in Management or another, broader area.

You might apply for this degree right after finishing undergraduate, or you might do it after working for 1-2 years.

Applying after 5-10 years of full-time work would not be useful – go for an MBA or skip the degree altogether.

There are also Master’s degrees in other areas, like Economics or Management, but you’re best off with Finance or the Finance track if you want the types of roles featured on this site (investment banking, private equity, corporate development, etc.).

There are exceptions to the rules above: For example, many top European MBAs last for one year (INSEAD, Bocconi, etc.), and some MSF programs last for two years.

Finally, there are some differences between the U.S. and other countries because 4- or 5-year combined Bachelor’s/Master’s programs are more common in the rest of the world.

What MSF Programs Can and Can’t Do for You

MSF degrees are most useful when you’ve decided on investment banking late in the process, but not too late.

So, you have some finance-related coursework, internships, or full-time work experience, but not enough to get into banking out of university.

Here’s a specific example:

  • Useful: You majored in accounting and became interested in banking in your last year of university. You have no IB-related internships, but you did win a Big 4 full-time offer. You’re planning to work there for 1-2 years and use that experience, plus a Master’s degree, to get into investment banking.
  • Not as Useful: You majored in biology, worked in a lab for 1-2 years, and you’re going to apply to MSF programs to make a career change into banking. You were not interested in banking until you started working full-time and got bored with your job.

In the second case, you’ll have no relevant work experience, which is a big problem since you need a sequence of finance-related internships or full-time roles to get in.

An MSF degree would make sense in the second case only if you could complete finance internships before or during the program.

Here’s another example:

  • Useful: You became interested in banking when you were attending university in China, but it was too late to win real IB internships. However, you did complete a corporate finance internship at a local firm. You’ll apply to Master’s programs in the U.S. or U.K., complete several internships, and move into IB from there (a similar story from a reader).
  • Not as Useful: You completed a technical degree in India and worked as an engineer for 1-2 years. You have no finance experience. Now, you want to make a complete career change and apply to Master’s programs in the U.S. or U.K. and get into investment banking from there.

It’s the same problem as in the first example: It’s a big leap to go from no finance experience to investment banking solely through a degree.

Even if you completed an MBA instead, you would still need a pre-MBA internship in finance or something more relevant to have a good shot.

A Master’s in Finance degree helps you with:

  • Re-Branding – If nothing in your background seems related to finance, the degree will move you closer if you also get work experience.
  • Boosting Your Prestige – If you went to a lesser-known university, you could make up for it by completing a Master’s degree at a top school.
  • Access to Recruiters – If you attend a program that offers on-campus recruiting, you’ll have a much easier time winning interviews.
  • Access to Internships – You’ll also have an easier time winning internships before and during the school year if you contact firms and say you’re an incoming or current MSF student at University X.

But there are also some limitations.

For example, you won’t win IB roles as an Associate from an MSF; banks recruit Analyst-level candidates from these programs.

The usefulness of MSF programs also varies greatly by region.

They’re the most helpful in the U.S. and U.K. because of the sheer number of IB roles and because many banks recruit students from these programs.

But they’re useless in a place like Australia because most banks recruit only top undergrad students with Law and Commerce degrees, and post-graduate recruiting is underdeveloped.

The physical location of the university is also important.

It’s easier to win investment banking roles if you’re close to London, New York, or another financial center than if you’re in a small town with only a few local firms nearby.

Finally, if you’re an international student, you have to look up whether or not the degree qualifies for STEM treatment.

If it does, then you can work in the U.S. for 36 months after graduation (the OPT program) without applying for an H-1B visa, which makes it far easier to win job offers.

You cannot necessarily go by the lists of the “top” programs – you have to make sure anything you pick qualifies as STEM.

For example, the Princeton and Vanderbilt programs both qualify, so they are much better options than programs that do not.

The Best MSF Programs

On that note: I am allergic to rankings, but I’ll link to a few lists here.

In Europe, places like LSE, Imperial, HEC, LBS, Esade, IE, and several others offer the best MSF options (the eFinancialCareers list here is a good starting point).

You can find a partial list of the “top” U.S. programs here.

Note, however, that many schools are not on the list because of terminology differences.

For example, the UVA program is well-regarded, but the school calls it an “M.S. in Commerce” and offers a Finance track within that degree, so, technically, it is not an “M.S. in Finance.”

You’ll see that many of the best schools for MSF programs are not Ivy League universities, but are good state schools (UT Austin, UVA, etc.) and Top 20-30 schools (Vanderbilt, WUSTL, Notre Dame, USC, etc.) instead.

Many of these schools have stronger placements into certain industries than others, so you should always look up or request placement stats from the school before applying.

There’s an example for Villanova here.

How to Apply and Get In

It is extremely competitive at the top schools, which is another reason why these programs do not offer a sure-fire path into IB.

For example, the admissions rate at MIT appears to be ~10%; at Princeton, it’s closer to 5%.

These programs aren’t as competitive as Ph.D. programs with ~1% admission rates, but they’re also far tougher than community colleges with ~80% acceptance rates.

So, your GMAT or GRE scores must be high, your personal essays must be great, and you must have glowing recommendations and interview performances.

It goes back to the point I made in the beginning: Master’s programs are appropriate if you became interested in IB too late to get the required internships, but they aren’t a panacea.

We don’t do admissions consulting here, but a few application tips include:

  • Show That You Can Win Job Offers – These programs, especially the ones with smaller class sizes, care a lot about placement stats, so they’re more likely to admit someone who has front-office (or even middle-office) finance experience than someone who is coming in as a total career changer.

If you haven’t had full-time work experience, play up your internships and finance-related coursework. You need to give the impression that you could have won a front-office finance job if you had applied for one.

  • Show That You’re a Real Human Being – Have at least one solid interest outside of work and academics. It’s the same as telling your story in interviews, and your interests, or lack thereof, will come across in admissions interviews.
  • Show That You Can Bring Something Unique to the School – For example, some programs are more research-oriented, so if you have published research, emphasize it (even if you have no intention of pursuing a D.).

What to Do When You’re There

Much of the advice in our MBA-level IB recruiting articles applies here as well:

  • Get Internship Experience ASAP – Many of these MSF programs are full-time, so you’ll have to go for part-time, school-year internships. You should try to take time off before the program to complete a “pre-MSF internship” as well, especially if you’re making a big change.
  • And Maintain Reasonably Good Grades – Now you have two sets of grades, and they both have to be reasonably good.

As with MBA programs, the notion that you can “reinvent yourself” in MSF programs is completely false: You have to prepare for recruiting long before you set foot on campus.


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Master’s Programs: The Ultimate Second Chance?

If you use a Master’s in Finance program correctly, you won’t have to try and try again because you’ll win the offer you want the first time around.

But that only works if you’re the right candidate for MSF programs and you approach the entire process correctly.

Get any of that wrong, and you’ll be back in the “try and try again” camp for a long time to come.

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. jake smith


    Thanks for the article. Very useful as I decide whether this degree makes sense. I’d love your thoughts on whether this degree makes sense for me. I gradated with finance degree, 3.1 gpa, from a top 40 semi-target (many of those with 3.5+ and networking are now working at top investment banks). I had a boutique IB internship as a junior, however, I didn’t network in school and ended up nowhere in the recruiting period. I am now almost 2 years out of school working as an analyst at a commercial bank and feel like I am not gaining any skills that I could sell in an interview as to why I’m a good fit for an IB analyst. I am wondering if you think the MSF program could benefit me, assuming a finish with a 3.5+ GPA and network throughout my time? My thinking is that it could give me a chance to somewhat reset on grades and gain the modeling/excel skills that I can sell for an analyst position. I also was wondering if you knew anything about the reputation of the program at the University of Maryland?

    1. Yes, an MSF program could help you, but you need to move quickly because once you go beyond 2-3 years of experience, it’s difficult to win Analyst-level offers. I don’t know much about the program at Maryland, but you should check sites that do rankings and reviews.

  2. Aaron Isakov

    Hi Brian,

    I’m a long time lurker here and your site has definitely helped me out, but I’d like your advice for my situation. I’m currently a graduating senior at a semi target undergrad school, economics major, with only one current internship as a private equity intern at a small search fund. I got into the investment banking game super late because I was shooting for law since I was 15 and realized this December in the middle of my LSAT that I didn’t want to do law, i just wanted to do M&A. Realizing this I was super late to the game and wasted all 4 years working not networking or really applying to IB internships or roles. My background in terms of work experience is that I have a Research position from a FX firm, and a PE internship rn. No job opportunities lined up after graduation this may. I’m looking at MIT, NYU, Columbia, and my current school Baruch for MSF programs but don’t what my next step should be. Any insight into my journey would be much appreciated!

    1. You should apply to those programs, get in, and then complete another internship before it begins or during the program. And then start networking with alumni at banks to win internships. I’m not sure about the timing for 1-year programs because summer internship recruiting for undergrads now takes place over a year in advance… but I assume they can’t possibly do that for 1-year programs.

  3. Hey Brian,
    great article! I am having a really tough time trying to figure out the right course of action in my case and I would love it if you could give me some input if you find the time:

    I am originally from Germany, but completed my undergraduate degree in the US as an international student. I didn’t focus as much as I should have during undergrad and my GPA is less than stellar. (first, community college, then UCSD – Cumulative GPA from both schools: 3.03)
    After college, I did a marketing internship at a big media corporation and worked full-time in PR for one year. After that, because my family needed my help, I returned to Germany and worked in my family’s business as a sales consultant for 1.5 years.

    Now, my dream is to get an offer as an Associate at an IB firm after my (US!) MBA which I will start in Fall 2020. I have already taken the GMAT (780 – Q50), am about to finish UCLA Extension’s Finance Certificate with a 4.0 GPA and was wondering what to do, not only to best position myself for MBA applications but also for the recruiting period afterwards.
    Do you think in my case it would be wise to add another academic credential, such as a Master’s in Finance or Economics given my low undergrad GPA? Aside from a Master’s – What type of positions should I apply for? Should I just stay at the family business and try to get a PE or IB internship somewhere? Or should I try to get some full-time experience under my belt, even if it will only be for around 1.5 years?

    I am trying to figure out how to best approach this situation now that I still have some time before I start my MBA. I would love it if you could give me some input.
    Thanks in advance!

    1. If you’re already going to complete an MBA at a top school, a Master’s degree in something else won’t matter. The #1 thing you need to do is win a pre-MBA internship that’s related to finance, or get some other work experience that’s related. It will be very tough to win a full-time role, but firms are often open to short internships before your MBA program begins. I’m not sure how common it is in Germany, so you may have to be in the US to complete that part. There are some tips on pre-MBA internships here:

  4. Hello,
    I am in my final semester of undergrad(Bachelors of Science in Eco, Maths and Stats) in India.
    I have completed my CFA L1 and I am now joining AIG as an Actuarial Analyst.
    I want to eventually get into investment banking and hence want to do my masters in finance, preferably in Europe.
    What are my chances of getting a job in that field in Europe? And also would MBA be a better option?
    (I dont want to study Management though)

    1. Impossible to say without knowing all your stats, but if you attend a top MSF program, you should have a decent shot. An MBA is not necessary unless you spend more than a few years working full-time.

  5. Hey Brain,

    I have come across this site recently and find it really helpful and inspiring for career changer! Thank you for the fabulous work you and your team have down!

    I’m a recent law graduate from Taiwan with Corporate Finance internship experience at ICBC and Economy Research internship experience at our local government during my undergraduate. Currently I’m serving the army and scheduled to study in MiM (master in management) program at a target school in the Netherlands this summer. Besides, I have secured an internship at a local VC, in which I’ll join the team for half year soon after my service ends. Due to my background, I couldn’t and didn’t apply for MSF (I have very very limited business related credits so I’m not even qualify for most of the application requirements).

    However, I came up with some MSF programs which don’t required any previous academic experience several days ago. The programs are MSF at Nova SBE from Portugal and Frankfurt School of Finance and Management from Germany (this one is required to attend the bridge course though).
    Now I’m quite confused. Whether I should stick to my offer and go for MiM or start applying both MSF programs, I have no idea.

    My first thought is: I have to undertake huge risks since both Portugal and Germany need local languages to even earn internships while the Netherlands has better shot without knowing much about dutch.
    What would you suggest? Would appreciate hearing your opinions!

    1. You should attend the best school you can get into. In theory, the local language is not required in the Netherlands, but in practice, banks there still heavily favor local interns for roles. It’s better if you use the Netherlands MiM program to apply to roles in London.

      1. (Sorry for the typos in my first post, I should double check before I post…)
        Really thank you for the prompt reply! Then I will go for RSM and forget about the MSF stuff. I read your article “Stuff Investment Bankers Don’t Like: 2016 Edition” and knew your opinion of learning a new language, but due to some personal reasons, I would like to live in the Netherlands for 5 ~ 10+ years so learning Dutch should be my option. Thank you once again, Brian! Hopefully, I can land a decent job there and come back to share my story with you and others:)

  6. Hi Brian,

    I am in 3rd year out of a 4 year business degree in a semi-target university. I have 2 BO internships up until now, the most recent in a top BB. Networked my way into getting a final round interview in IBD for a summer internship in the BB but just missed out. Would a Msc Finance be a good route to take in a top-uni when I finish undergrad, and therefore I would be able to apply for summer internships next year 2019 after graduating pre MSC.

    1. Yes, assuming you’d rather do that than start working in a different company/group and then try to lateral over to IB.

  7. Hi Brian,

    I majored in Psychology but took Financial Accounting, MIS, Microecon, and Calc 1 and also did a project coordinator internship at a nonprofit my freshman year. I have no finance experience but worked in Retail Sales and worked as a Pharmacy Technician at a top Pharmacy. I graduated in May 2017 and haven’t gotten a finance job yet. Should I do an MSF if I want to break into IB?

    1. You need better internship experience. Even with an MSF, Retail Sales isn’t enough to get you in. If you can somehow get front-office finance experience and get into a top MSF program, yes, that is the best way for you to break into IB at the moment.

      1. Thanks for the reply Brian. I think I can get into a top MSF, but given my background, how do I go about getting front-office finance experience before the MSF?

        1. Network, cold call, pound the pavement, see all the case studies here on students who used cold calling/emailing/alumni networking to win internships… search for pre-MBA internship to get ideas…

  8. Eric C. Toyloy

    Hi, just looking for some advice.

    I currently have 4 years as an Investment Banker in a local bank in my country, I live in Panama. I have a local BA degree and a MBA from a well known Latinamerican school, for Latin America we could say “Im well school branded”. However Im looking to jump into a big bank or firm. These are my two options as of now: 1. Im thinking on going into a MSF program such as LBS or John Hopkins so I can get an international brand behind me or 2. simply apply trusting my current IB experience and my current degrees.

    What do you recommend from the latter?


    1. I would do #2 first, and if that doesn’t work or you cannot get responses after ~6 months, go for #1.

  9. Pipe Kasperson

    Hi Brian, I am an international student majoring in Industrial Engineering from a University in Florida (Non-Target here in states) and from a good University in Colombia (It is a Dual Degree Program GPA: 3.5). I am also studying for the CFA level 1 and preparing for an internship that I will have at an IB Op next year. My goal for the future is to be at an Investment Bank again but working on a finance-related position but the issue is that right now much of my background is from industrial engineering and this is the first internship I will be doing here in USA. My options right now are 1) striving to get the full offer after the internship in Op and trying to move inside to another division or 2) applying to a Master in Finance Program and then reaching a summer internship again but this time in a finance-related position hoping for the full-time. What would you do in my case if you have the industrial engineering background, already interned at the company but want to move inside to a finance related position? Thank you !!

    1. I would say #2 is better because it is pretty difficult to move from a full-time role in operations into a front-office job. It would be easier if you were just doing an internship and you wanted to switch to an internship elsewhere.

  10. Hi Brian,

    If you’re reading this, I would really appreciate some input on my situation. I’m a senior CS/Finance double major at a well known but non-target US undergrad with a pretty decent GPA (about 3.7). I originally wanted to work in a startup, but after taking a futures & options course with a former investment banker I became really interested in pursuing IBD and eventually working my way into PE and VCs- maybe someday becoming the CFO of another startup.

    Problem is that I have basically 0 Finance experience- worked on a tech startup for 2 years and then some technical internships. I tried to get an internship at BBs and regional boutiques and such last year but as far as I could tell I wasn’t even considered. I’m basically the nightmare version of the #2 situation in your Engineering to Investment Banking article.

    I’ve landed here because my plan has been to rebrand myself by applying to some top Msc Finance programs like Said, LSE, MIT, etc. I’m really worried because I don’t have the IBD internship experience that all the people on the class profiles seem to have. Additionally, I’m from a non-target with a GPA that’s not exactly close to a 4.0. I’ve been studying for the GMAT and practice results look pretty solid (always been good at standardized tests), but is there even a score that exists that can make up for my shortcomings, like say 750+ (or would I need a 770+?)? What’s the best thing I should be doing right now, with deadlines looming around the corner? Do you have any advice on crafting a good story for the admissions officers for someone like me?

    Thanks for your time and excellent article!

    1. I would act like it was your plan all along to combine finance with engineering, and say that you did the startup internships to hone in on the specific area in which you want to combine finance and tech innovations. Say that you want to learn more about Topic X in the MSF program so you can use technology to innovate in that area, and don’t even act like you want to do IB. Then, try to get some type of school-year internship at a small bank, PE fund, search fund, or real estate fund, and leverage that experience and the MSF program to recruit for IB roles.

      1. Thanks for the reply!

        You said “don’t even act like you want to do IB,” which worries me because most people doing Msc Finance programs want to break into IB and these Msc Finance programs seem almost designed to feed into IB. I just don’t want the admissions person to be scratching their head wondering why I’m applying to their program.

        1. That is just so your application sounds more believable. What you tell the admissions committee doesn’t have to match up to how you’re planning to use the program. And you can always say you want to work in some other area of finance with more overlap with technology (maybe check the placement stats and see what people typically do afterward).

  11. Hi Brian,

    Brilliant article! My case is a little different: I have just secured a FT IBD offer at a US bank (think GS, JPM, MS) and would be very interested in moving to the buy-side in a couple of years.

    I have a spot for a MSc in Finance at one of the top European schools you mentioned but given the high tuition and one of your previous articles ( on what do to after getting the offer, I am not sure whether the Masters would help me in any way with buy-side recruiting.

    For background, I have a bachelors degree from a slightly lesser known university with a finance specialisation and a very high GPA.

    Do you think the MSc in Finance would give me an edge during buy-side recruiting season?

    Thanks a lot for your help!

    1. No. It’s not worth it if you already have an IBD offer at a top bank.

  12. Hi Bryan,
    Thanks for your advice! I’m really interested in investment banking. I started college as a Computational Physics major and then switched to Finance in my last year (discovered my flair for the capital markets a little late). I graduated with a BSc. Computational Physics and BSc. Finance (both in 3rd tier US colleges US News rank: 100+). I spent very little time in B-school (1.5 years) because I’d already taken all my gen eds. I think this worked against me in college recruiting because I had 3 summers work of experimental physics lab experience and corporate science research, while my mates already had internships in Goldman Sachs / Morgan Stanley PWM. I only managed to secure aN internship in KPMG advisory Kenya. After graduation (summer 2016), I gained experience in wealth management at 2 itsy bitsy unknown boutiques in NY and Kenya (where I’m from). I spent 6 months in each boutique (red flag? :( ) before accepting a role in PWC strategy consulting in Kenya, which I started a week ago. I was taken on as a generalist and have indicated my interest in Financial Services. My issue is that I don’t know how my profile will work for an MSF. I’m targeting Sloan, Vandy, and WashU or I’ll forget about the MSF altogether. (I need the STEM designation). Will my switch to consulting throw the adcoms off? Will they doubt my seriousness about Finance? Can I circle back into IBD after consulting? I sought out the PWC consulting role because BB IB barely exists in Kenya and I didn’t want to get stuck in no-name wealth management. It’s also really important to me to get international IB exposure and to
    work on big deals that I won’t be exposed to working in Kenya. Also, all the major PE/VCs were basically only hiring ex-IBankers. PE/VC is my post-IB goal.

    PS- Finance GPA:3.78 Computationa Physics GPA: 3.1
    Decent leadership and extracurricular experience
    GRE: 65th % quant, 85th% verbal, 5 written

    Please advise me on whether or not you think an MSF will help get me into Goldman IBD given my profile. Thanks! :)

    1. An MSF will help, but it’s still a bit of a stretch to aim for Goldman IBD with your profile. Other candidates simply have more internship experience. The consulting experience is less of an issue than the fact that you became interested in the field very late. You should probably not focus on the biggest banks because it’s always tough to get in, and even more so if you need visa sponsorship and you don’t have much work experience. It would be more plausible to get into a mid-sized bank.

      1. Hi Brian,

        Thanks for your response. Really appreciate your advice. Could you share a list of these mid-size banks, please? Do you mean the middle market banks like Jefferies, William Blair, Piper Jaffray etc? Do you know which are the most h1b friendly of the lot?

        Also, could you please advise me on what to do at this stage to get into Goldman? Or do
        my visa issues make my chances next to nil? I plan to retake the GRE to make me more competitive.



          You can answer your other questions with a simple site search (search for international, visa, etc.) or by going to the “Get Started” page.

  13. TheBigPicture

    Hi Brian,
    Sort of a tangential question, but. I’m currently a fixed income analyst covering the energy sector at a small shop (under 20 front office people). I want to be in credit long term, but at a bigger shop so that I can build a network to (possibly) eventually start a credit or distressed hedge fund. Would you recommend trying to get into IB? (DCM or Rx) Or can I make the jump from my current position? And also, how much experience should I have before I make a move?

    1. I don’t think IB would be helpful if your goal is to start your own credit investment fund eventually. It would be easier to move to a larger fund and then go from there. I don’t know the requirements for starting your own firm, but usually to start a hedge fund you need at least several years of audited results, and even then, raising money is exceptionally difficult. You have a better chance if you do it with team members from an existing firm.

  14. Hi Brian,

    Is it still possible for me to break into investment banking? I’m 25 y/o right now, majoring in Sociology. Just finished community college with a 2.9 GPA. I know that’s very bad. When I transfer to a cal state university I plan to keep a gpa of 3.8+ so the two gpas together will average out to about 3.4. I’ll be about 28 y/o when I finish my bachelor’s degree. I plan to apply to top business schools afterward to get a MBA. Would it be better if I change my major from sociology to business? I’ll have to stay at community college for another year to finish the business major required class in order to transfer. Thank you.

    1. To have any chance at all, you need a much higher GPA and something much better than a community college, which in California basically means Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, or USC. So if you can get into one of those and get a much higher GPA, yes, and yes, you need to change your major to something more relevant.

  15. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for a great article and the your great career support!

    I have completed my undergraduate in a top uk uni (graduated first class), 2 summer internships in bulge bracket banks in London (not IB division but AM), Internships from EM and numerous leadership positions and founder of programmes related to finance etc. at university.

    I am now really torn between the LSE finance and PE programme (this seems to be the most competitive one), the oxford MFE and MIT Finance. Given I’m European and the us option is so expensive it’s probably better to go with the former two? I’m keen on joining a top consulting firm like Bain &Co after graduation and then venture into VC. My long term goal is to start my own company. If appropriate I would like to do a top US MBA after two years of working. If consulting doesn’t work out I would go into IBD for the the first two years.

    It’s also crucial that I pick the option with most prestige as my undergrad (although one of world best in niche area) is not at all known in the finance/corporate sector. I need a course that will provide the best recruiting opportunities and alumna and prestige that open doors in the long run. The oxford option has the name but LSE is the go-to in financial industry? Bear in mind that I do not want to stay in financial industry long run – more entrepreneur and VC.

    I would be very grateful if you could provide some insights on this decision.

    1. If you want to work in Europe, pick one of the European programs. But you seem to be all over the place career-wise (Finance? Consulting? VC? Your own company?), so you should probably narrow that down first as those are all completely different industries. LSE is better for finance recruiting, which matters more than plans years or decades away (as you’ll probably change your mind again ~27 times between now and then).

  16. Hi Brian,
    I have recently been accepted into the LSE MSc in Accounting and Finance program and have enrolled to attend classes in September this year.
    I am 24 years old and have graduated from a top 10 commerce college from India and have also successfully completed the Chartered Accountancy course (equivalent to the US CPA or ACCA). As a part of this course, students are mandatorily required to work full time for 3 years which I did in PwC in their audit department.
    After this, I decided to switch to Investment Banking and therefore did a 6 month internship at a top boutique investment bank in India. To gain some experience on the buy-side, I did another internship at a PE firm for 3 months as well.

    I will be going for the LSE course as mentioned above and have decided to enter the recruitment process for IBD in London and want to work there itself. Other than the known visa issues, can you please guide me on whether I am a suitable candidate for an Analyst position in IBD at a top bank or a boutique London bank. And also what can I do to further improve my chances and focus on those areas where I lack ? I have mostly an accounting qualification with audit work experience and am going for an accounting and finance programme rather than a finance only programme.

    Also, I plan to choose only finance electives during my course and therefore will get an MSc in Accounting and Finance in Finance specialization degree.

    1. Yes, you have a good chance at IB roles in London assuming your grades and standardized test scores are also good. At this point, it will come down to networking since you already have experience and the LSE name. Getting an internship in London might also help because some bankers “discount” experience in India and other developing countries.

  17. Tochukwu

    Thank you Brian. I’m 39 years old with 11years work experience gained from a small accounting firm and commercial banking in Nigeria. I’m planning to get Msc in finance and management from cranfield school of management.

    I want to change career from commercial banking. Considering my age and years of experience, which career do you think I should change to? Thank you once again.

    1. I would review some of the options for older/more experienced candidates here:

  18. Hi Brian, thanks for the article.

    I’m 26, French undergrad BA in top 10 French business school, minor in finance. Masters in international business in top Latam Business School, with 3 years working experience in corporate finance at fortune 500 companies (some M&A exposure for a year as an investment valuation analyst, then controlling and treasury management jobs).
    I’m currently living in Mexico, and now want to break into IB, so I’m a “career changer” as you label it (I’ve read your article (interview) about IB in Mexico.)

    I’m thinking 3 options: 1) Getting an MBA in Europe (INSEAD, HEC, LBS) before I try to get into IB (whether in Europe or in Latin America);
    2) Getting a MSFinance in Europe as well (LBS, EDHEC, HEC); or
    3) Try in Mexico and do the MBA in 3 to 4 years.

    My questions: a/ Which option do you think is best? b/ I suppose options 2 and 3 would land me an intern/analyst job, am I correct? Or am I already too old?

    Thanks for your time.
    Best regards,

    1. It depends on 1) What level you want to enter at and 2) Where you want to work. The issue with an MBA is that there isn’t much MBA-level recruiting in Latin America. The U.S. has, by far, the most MBA-level recruiting for IB roles, followed by Europe. So an MBA might not help much in LatAm.

      If you want to work in Europe, #1 or #2 are probably your best options. Three years of work experience might be too much to be an Analyst, so a 1-year MBA such as the one at INSEAD might be a better option at this point.

  19. HighPassion

    Hi Brian. I have 3 questions:

    1. Between MFin and MBA, which is better if i plan to land an analyst role in HF? (buy side role)

    2. I realised that most of the ivy league and top US uni offers MBA but not MFin(besides Princeton and M.I.T). If I can’t secure a place in Princeton and M.I.T. Is it a better option for me to go for a MFin in lessor known school or MBA in top school?

    3. Does joining a MFin programme in UK university put me at a disadvantage compare to the MBA graduates from top US school if my plan is to work in a US HF?

    Thanks a lot in advance

    1. 1) MFin because MBA-level hiring is not as well-developed at hedge funds

      2) MBA at a top school

      3) Yes, you’re better off doing a program in the US if you want to work there afterward

      1. HighPassion

        Thank you so much!

  20. Hello Brian, it was a great article and I think it is really helpful. I’m a south american student, with a BA in Economy, and I’ve some work experience in finance related companies (more specifically in the real estate business, 3 years). I want to work in venture capital/private equity and I’m willing to apply to a MSF next year. Do you think it would be a good idea to apply to a top school for a MSF, or wait a little and pursue a top local MBA program in order to get into this world?

    1. With 3 years of work experience, it’s tougher to say, but I would go for an MSF first and then downplay what you did so you can still apply for Analyst-level roles. It might work if you focus on real estate private equity firms or something else real estate-related.

  21. Hi Brian,

    Thank you for the article. I’m an international student, currently studying in one of the top business schools in Singapore. I want to be a trader and was wondering if the MFin is the best programme to apply for if I can’t break into the industry upon graduation.

    Background: 2 internships, one in the dealing room and the other in corporate banking. Major in Finance, with CFA level I attained.


  22. Caroline

    Hi Brian,
    I went to a top 15 US university for undergrad and had an internship with wealth management, but decided to pursue IB in my senior year. I was accepted into HEC’s MSc in International Finance program, and LBS’s Masters in Financial Analysis program and would appreciate any advice regarding which program would be better for positioning myself for an IB role in either New York or London.
    I’m struggling because LBS has the better international reputation outside of the US, but the MFA program is 3 years old and has no placement statistics. HEC’s program is highly ranked and has a good track record, but does not have the same international reputation as LBS.
    As a side note, I’m also not a US or an EU/UK citizen, but I speak French.

    Thank you in advance

    1. Both of those will be far more useful in London than in New York. If you’re using the program primarily to get into investment banking, and you know a European language and want to work in London, I would say HEC is a slightly better bet for the reasons you mentioned (placement stats, rankings, shorter program length).

  23. Hi Brian,

    What are your thoughts on the Masters in Finance at London Business School (LBS).

    I should mention – it is a POST employment qualification for those with 2-3 years of experience under their belt? My understanding is that LSE’s may be PRE employment.


  24. Hello Brian, you write :
    “Access to Internships – You’ll also have an easier time winning internships before and during the school year if you contact firms and say you’re an incoming or current MSF student at University X.”

    I finished my bachelor with top grades from a non target albeit top public UNI in Italy in Economics, the problem is that i have just a summer Internship, finance related but albeit a relatively unknown company

    I have been admitted to LSE and HEC Msc in Finance so my question is.

    Can i apply for an internship position in an upcoming summer spinning the fact that i am a future student at a Target or it doesn’t count until i am enrolled since i don’t have much previous experience and my UG is not a Target for IB.

    1. Yes, you can say that you’ll be an incoming student at LSE or HEC and apply to internships like that.

      1. Khaled Sheikh Amin

        Hi Brian,

        Thanks a lot for sharing this. I currently have offers to attend Oxford University (MSc Financial Economics) and LSE(MSc Finance and Private Equity). My goal is to land an offer at a bulge bracket in London and move on the buy side at some point.

        I am struggling to make a decision since although LSE seems to have a better program and placement for finance, the Oxford brand name is unbeatable.

        Would really appreciate any advice or information that might help me make my decision.


        1. I think LSE is slightly better specifically for IB recruiting, but both are about the same.

  25. Charlie

    Hello, I would like to ask:

    1) In the UK, are these considered ‘target’ school: City University Cass, Cranfield School of Management, and Alliance Manchester Business School? I am thinking of applying for MSc Finance here.

    2) How reliable are the ranking tables, such as the Financial Times and eFinancialCareers ones?

    Thank you.

    1. 1) I believe Cass is, the others less so.

      2) They’re directionally correct, but you should always speak with students at the school AKA real people you speak with in-person and not random idiots on the Internet like me or the people who create those lists, before you make a decision.

      1. Charlie

        Thank you!

  26. Hey Brain I was wondering how does Master students actually break into IBD. Do they apply for SA or FT recruiting. Are they even allowed to apply for SA roles? If so, given that banks recruit so early by the time they recruit masters student just started the program does not have a GPA. Is this a problem? I’m study in a 1.5 years masters in quant and management related area at a target school.

    Thank you for your time!

    1. It depends on the timing and graduation date of the program. If it lasts over the summer (e.g., start date in January and graduation in December), then yes, students can apply for summer roles. If it’s a 2-year program, they can also do the same. The lack of a GPA in the Master’s program doesn’t matter because you can refer them to your undergrad GPA.

  27. Hi Brian,

    I’m a 24 year old Spanish guy. 2015 UAM university Business undergrad. During my last undergrad year I did a 6 month internship in Trade Finance at JPM in Madrid. Right after finishing my undergrad, I still worked there for a year and a half as a full time role and I decided to quit last March. Last Dec, I passed CFA Lvl 1, and aiming Lvl 2 this June. In March, I quitted for two reasons:

    – I considered more experience on that role was not helping me at all on learning and actually harming as I realized I was getting “type-casted” in Trade finance.

    – two more months of experience won’t make a difference on my CV but they are making a difference it to study better for the exam.

    I’m currently applicating for full time IB/CF related job offers as well as for MiF(IE, Esade, LSE). In the scenario I’m accepted to these job offers, should I accept them and pospone the MiF to next year so I have a “close to one year” full time experience on an IB/CF role? Would this help to get into an analyst position after finishing the masters, Or would it be considered too much work experience (3 years -2 years in Trade Finance and 1 year in CF- ) for analyst entry applications after finishing the masters? I would be 26 by then. (London and Madrid would be my preferred options)

    Or should I wait for an MBA if I gain any of these roles and get more than 1 year experience in CF?

    Thank you for the advice.

    1. If you win any of those roles, it’s best just to drop the Master’s degree, work in one of those roles for a 1-2 years, and do an MBA. 3 years of full-time work experience is pushing it for Master’s programs because that’s too much to be hired as an Analyst in a lot of cases.

  28. Hey Brian,

    I was recently accepted into LSE’s MSc in Finance program, and am set to start this coming September. My short-term career goal after graduation is to join a BB/EB investment bank in London or Singapore.

    Upon speaking with current LSE students, however, I am beginning to question whether a MSc in Finance from LSE is right for me. I have been told numerous times that recruiting in London is especially difficult for non-UK/EU students. As a non-EU international from Canada, I have to say that hearing such feedback from multiple LSE students concerns me to say the least.

    Given my background (shared below), do you think it’s a good idea for me to commit the time and money to pursue a MSc in Finance at LSE? If so, how do you think I should best prepare myself before I start the program in September.

    Also, if I do decide to pursue my masters at LSE, do you think I should apply for FT positions or SA positions?

    – B.A in International Studies/ minor in Economics from a Top 10 US University (Graduated Dec 2016)
    – GPA 3.73/4.00; GMAT 730
    – Have been interning at a MM PE firm for the past five months (Private Equity Intern)
    – Completed Junior year internship at Macquarie Capital (Investment Banking Intern)
    – Completed Sophomore year internship at L.E.K Consulting (Research Analyst)

    Thank you for sharing your insights.

    1. The issue with LSE is that it’s not that useful if you want to work in the U.S./Canada/other regions as most recruiting is London-focused. So the answer to your question is: “Are you 100% set on working in London? If so, then LSE is a good bet.” If not, consider other options.

      You’ll probably have to apply for internships and then eventually a full-time role.

    2. Khaled Sheikh Amin

      I am in a similar situation. As Commonwealth citizens, Canadians are eligible to sponsor themselves under the Youth Mobility visa. Hence, you can state that you are eligible to work in UK when applying to internships.

  29. Hi Brian,

    I have been working in a middle office role at a bulge bracket for almost 3 years now and graduated from a non-target university with a major in market. While working full time, I have passed level 1 of the CFA and will be attempting level 2 this June. I have tried to make the transition into IBD through the internal mobility route twice now, but ended up getting screened out after two or three rounds both times.

    I was accepted into the University of Utah’s MSF program and am in discussions with two smaller local IBD firms about internships during the school year. I’m debating if it would be better to spend another year in my current role and then go for an MBA from a school with a better reputation or to pull the trigger on the MSF & IBD internships. What would you recommend?

    1. I would do the MSF and complete the IBD internships because it’s cheaper/faster than going for an MBA at a top school.

      Although I’m not sure if there’s any recruiting at the University of Utah – check on that first. If there’s no recruiting there or most banks don’t have a presence on campus, there’s no point.

      1. Very helpful. Thanks!

  30. Gordon

    Hey Brian,

    I am currently working in back office for a pension fund company, and completed my under grad from a non target University as well. I have been working for about 4 years now, would you recommend I rebrand myself and hopefully break into the industry by doing the master of finance or a MBA at a top business school in Canada

    1. If you have 4 years of work experience, you will probably need an MBA at this stage. MSF programs lead to Analyst positions, and you probably have too much experience to be an Analyst.

      1. Gordon

        Thanks Brian

  31. Quentin

    Hey Brian, love the website and had a quick question. I come from a non-target school and am currently in my junior year. Just for background, I have an IB internship for the summer set up already. I am trying to decide whether to attend the LSE summer program, and how banks view the summer school. Obviously it isn’t nearly as prestigious, but is it worth the time and money to attend? I’m having a hard time finding quality info on the summer school specifically.

    1. I don’t know about it, but it could be worth it just so you can write a well-known school on your resume. It’s not worth a huge amount to do that (e.g., don’t pay $50K for it), but if it’s a few thousand, it might be worthwhile assuming you can afford it.

      1. Quentin


    2. Quentin

      Also there isn’t a decision between the internship or the summer school program, the two dont conflict.

  32. Hey Brian,

    I’m applying to an MSc in Finance program at LSE and very much fall into the “Not as Useful Category” — I graduated last year from a Top 25 US University w/a BA in political science and a series of internships in politics/media. After graduating I worked in paid media analytics/budgetary resource allocation for presidential campaign and now want to career change into investment banking having taken a few econ/finance classes in undergrad.

    Should I get accepted would it be realistic to think I could network my way into a relevant internship in London for the summer before term starts or would I have to wait until fall rolls around?

    1. Potentially, yes, but I think it would be tough to win an internship even at a small firm. Maybe use this type of strategy:

  33. Hi Brian,

    Already wrote here some time around March asking if a big4 internship will be of help in these circumstances:
    -Non-target uni, no finance background, non-EU citizen
    -Got into a semi-target MSc Finance in the UK (supposed to start September 2017)
    -Want to work in M&A in London

    Well, I managed to secure the Transaction Advisory Big4 internship (and I am quite happy with how it’s going). Before September, I would also like to score a 2-3 month M&A internship in one of the regional (but well known) investment banks.

    Will these 2 internships (about 6 months exp) improve my CV enough to put me in contention for a BB internship in London?

    Also, I could not really deduce what kind of impact Brexit will have specifically on M&A jobs. Should I fear hiring freezes, and job cuts?

    Thanks a lot for your answers, they are very insightful!

    1. Yes, I think so.

      You can’t do anything about geopolitical events, so they’re not worth worrying about. The most likely scenario is that some banking jobs move to Dublin, Frankfurt, Paris, etc. instead of all being centralized in London. But the majority will still be in London.

  34. Hi,

    I did my Bachelors in Economics from India, and completed a Masters in Economics from France. And have 2 summer internships in commercial banking and asset management, and a 6 month off cycle internship in Development Finance. Do you think it is a good idea for me to do a second Masters in Finance from a school in Europe to make the switch to Investment Banking in Europe?

    1. I’m not sure how that would help you.if you’ve already had multiple internships and completed a Master’s degree in Europe

  35. Hi Brian, I really need your help in deciding between these 2 programmes:

    LSE – MSc Finance
    LBS – Master in Financial Analysis

    I would really like to break into investment banking, but would also like a school that has a better reputation globally. Your thoughts on this will be very much appreciated. I have a deposit payment due by the weekend. Thanks.

    1. LSE hands down

  36. Hi Brian,

    When considering MSF programs how much should location play a factor at the expense of rankings? Schools like Baruch and Fordham are either right in Manhattan or a 25 minute train ride away but are ranked in the 50’s in the TFE Times rankings.

    Even though they mention IB/AM in the placement section and even though they are very close to New York City does their low ranking relative to say Georgia State or Rochester Institute of Technology negate those positives?

    1. Location definitely plays a role, but I’m not sure if a good location makes a #50 school into a #5 school. It bumps it up in the rankings, but not necessarily by a dramatic amount. If it comes down to one of those schools vs. the very top programs that might be outside of NYC, the top programs are still better. But those programs might beat mid-ranked programs because of their location.

  37. Hello Brian, I loved your article, i have one question though.I am planning to go to Rotman Management School in Toronto.Will it be worth it. I want to get a job offer from GS or JPM. Should i achieve an MSF or MBA

    1. We responded to your question in the other spots where you asked it…

  38. Thanks for your insight.

    I am a Petroleum Engineer from The University of Texas at Austin and have a recent work experience in accounting (1 year) from a smaller company. Overall, my experience is in OFS. I’m accepted in the MSF program for a pretty good private school, and I’m currently studying for the CFA Level I and FRM Level I exams. How can I leverage my energy experience (6 years) with my educational background in finance to land an opportunity as an energy equity research analyst or portfolio manager? Please help. Thank you for your assistance in advance.

    1. You need work experience in finance first. Try to find a local asset management firm, hedge fund, etc. and do research there for a month or two before you start the MSF program. The FRM won’t help much for equity research or portfolio management. The CFA is more useful, but even the CFA won’t help much unless you have more relevant-looking experience before you start the program.

  39. Brian,

    Since graduating from Florida State in Applied Economics, I’ve done primary and secondary market research for a private equity consulting firm, and now I’m working in the derivatives operations department at a large custodian bank. By the time I plan on entering grad school, I’ll have been out of undergrad for 4 years with the CFA level I passed and solid Bloomberg experience.

    Should I be shooting for an MBA or MSF? Any tips?

    1. Probably an MBA, as 4 years of experience is likely “too much” to be an Analyst. Try to leave before the program starts and do an actual IB/PE/VC pre-MBA internship.

      1. Thank you Brian. With my background, I could likely get into the UMass Amherst MBA program paying only $10,000. But if I could get into the BC MBA program, would it be worth it to pay $100,000? (Assuming I land a solid pre MBA internship and pass the next 2 CFA levels by graduation regardless of the school I attend) Are the networking / recruiting / education opportunities really worth the money if I can get the experience anyway?

        1. I don’t think there’s much IB recruiting at Boston College, so I don’t think it’s worth that much if your main goal is IB. If you want to use an MBA to get into investment banking, it really has to be a top 10-15 program. If you don’t think you can get into one, you could go to a lower-ranked school but you’ll have to aim for non-IB roles or network like crazy and aim for smaller banks.

  40. Konstantin

    Hi Brian!
    What do you think of Master in Finance program at the London Business School?

    1. Please see the comments below, someone already asked about this.

  41. Dear Brian,

    Thanks for your comprehensive article!! I totally agree with most of your opinions and this is also a path that I am planning to walk. I had 1.5 years experience in one of the Big 4 as an auditor already and I am really decisive to enter into an IB. However, I just get a MSc Finance and Accounting from Imperial, which is not a pure finance degree. My worry is that: will such a master help me achieve my target? Btw, my undergraduate is a non-target but not bad school in accounting and finance. I know a master may soly be a ticket for IB’s interview but surely not a guaranteed offer. I am doubting that if such a master can work as MSF.

    Appreciate so much if you can come up with some advice.

    1. Yes, it will help. The fact that it’s Accounting + Finance doesn’t really matter as long as there is a Finance component and you gain access to recruiting.

  42. Hi Brian,

    It’s Sumit from India, currently I am doing Chartered accountancy course and I want to break in IB can you please tell me that MSF add any value after Chartered..??

    1. It’s hard to say because I don’t know your previous work/academic experience. But in India, as in other smaller markets, MSF degrees don’t help much because most recruiting takes place out of the top schools (Mostly the top IIMs with a bit from the top IITs) and, to a lesser extent, out of CA courses. I don’t think banks in India recruit much out of Master’s programs. An MSF would be more useful if you planned to work in another country.

  43. Thanks Brian,

    I have been researching MSF’s for several months and looking particularly at UT and Vandy for their 2018 matriculation. I’m currently 3.8 gpa in accounting at west coast non-target and will graduate Fall 17 with 2 boutique IB internships.

    I don’t think getting a regional or smaller IB gig would be out of the question next fall, but realistically, there’s a decent chance Big4 could be best offer upon graduation (practically no one recruits at my school).

    My current thought process is that I ought to pursue MSF right now rather than working and then maybe MBA down the road. My reasoning is that I have a VERY GOOD resume qualifications that I am confident could get me into top MSF, but would not hold the same weight for MBA admissions. (current Student-athlete, Honors College, oversee student-led VC fund, multiple other leadership positions within school and business school)

    In my mind, once I start working, no one will care that I was student-athlete, honors, etc. However, MSF would! I’m curious to hear your thoughts as to whether you agree I should utilize the strong leverage I currently have with MSF admissions rather than working Big4 for a couple of years than maybe trying to do MBA.

    1. If you already have multiple IB internships, then yes, an MSF now is better than working at a Big 4 firm for a few years and then doing an MBA.

  44. My question is a slightly unrelated, but I recently graduated and had two IB internships, but was not able to hit on my super days. I still got a FO role in NYC that I have been in working in for a couple months. I was wondering if you think that it will look bad that I had two internships in the field but was not able to break in when I try to lateral into IB in the near future? Appreciate the help.

    1. Yes, it could potentially hurt you. The best way to explain it depends on why you didn’t convert the internships into full-time roles and why you didn’t succeed in the Superdays, and you probably need something better than just getting unlucky since it wasn’t just one opportunity.

  45. Syrone David

    How about internships in BO roles in a BB? Are they relevant? Soecifically client onboarding

    1. Yes, they can help. It’s not as ideal as front office experience, but it’s better than nothing and better than non-finance experience.

  46. That is a very interesting article. I like the fact that you revisit topics already covered to provide alternative perspective of opportunities.
    Hypothetically, suppose if a person did undergrad in Bachelors of Business Admin with major in Finance from a non-target school with okay GPA (3.45) and after graduating he worked in a company’s finance dept for a year.
    Would you recommend pursuing MSF or MBA if he wants to pursue a career in IB, PE or similar area?

    1. Probably an MSF in that case because you have a relevant major and experience and a decent GPA. An MBA is more expensive and time-consuming and wouldn’t necessarily get you better results.

      1. Thanks for the prompt reply.
        On a side note, I am currently studying for CFA Level II. In your opinion, do you think MSF would just be an extension of that. I mean it would definitely make me more specialized but not quite versatile.
        Also, although not exactly relevant, but what is your opinion on pursuing Masters in Financial Engineering? Do you think that facilitate a transition for the quant side of the business?

        1. An MFE is better if you want to do trading or quant trading or other roles that are more quantitative (rather than working on deals).

          An MSF would add value over the CFA mainly because it would give you better access to recruiting. So it depends on how comfortable you feel networking on your own vs. how much you want to rely on structured recruiting.

          1. Thanks for your insight

  47. Apologies for the second comment box, but I wanted to ask what you meant by:

    “Get Internship Experience ASAP – Many of these MSF programs are full-time, so you’ll have to go for part-time, school-year internships. You should try to take time off before the program to complete a “pre-MSF internship” as well, especially if you’re making a big change.”

    What do you mean a pre-masters internship? Like apply for internships who hire university students in their penultimate year?

    1. Yes, go for internships where they don’t care that you’re in between schools or degrees. You can always spin it by saying that you’re still “in school” and just moving to a Master’s degree soon. I don’t know if pre-MSF internships really exist like pre-MBA ones do, but many smaller firms should be open to the idea.

  48. Hello Brian,

    I’m currently an Engineering Student in the last year, from a top School in Brazil. I have done so far 2 internships (both of them for a long time), but none of them was finance related. I’m planning to enter in a top 2 year MSF in Europe, so I can get a propper internship experience to land IB jobs.
    Considering that i would be at a Target European School, do you think i would be able to get into a summer internship at a BB in London at my master’s School year?

    1. Yes, you should be able to, but you’ll probably need to get some time of part-time internship first to have the best chance. Otherwise, it’s hard to move directly to a large bank with no previous finance experience.

  49. Hey Brian.

    I am an international. I have admits to Simon Business Schools STEM designated MSF and WashUs non STEM MSF. WashU ranks 4th and Simon 7th. As an international, which of these schools are a safer bet for me? From my interactions, both schools offer great education but recruiting is better at WashU.

    Background, CFA Level 2 candidate. Have an ER internship with a brokerage in India, worked in the PMO for regional bank in the UAE, had detailed exposure in FPandA and project planning for banking projects.
    PS, mechanical engineer.

    1. I think Simon is better if it’s STEM-designated. “Better recruiting” doesn’t mean much if companies are reluctant to hire you because they have to sponsor a visa.

  50. Awesome article.

    It really has given me the confidence to stick to my plan. Of course, I won’t underestimate the admissions processes for the reasons you stated, but it still helps. Thanks.

    Especially the bit that says to “Show That You Can Win Job Offers” with the fact that I do have front office experience (and may have middle/front depending on how my next job change goes) and a relevant undergrad degree with the highest grade classification.

    Honestly, for London especially, branding matters. My undergrad is a non-target and I’m confident that there’s an open secret that I don’t land other FO roles because I lack the prestige.
    Yes, I found that can overshadow experience. Also, as harsh as it is, there are recruiters who will not take you as seriously if you lack the prestige if their client wants that.

    I agree completely that prestige isn’t enough (believe it or not readers, there are still a large number of being who have prestige that don’t get the job easy). So you may be better off going to City than Oxford, for instance… though efinancialcareers tend to have a good list.

    I was told in a networking event by a number of bankers and traders that you’ll also want to select a top tier school whose lecturers/staff are connected to the industry and not just academics.

    Even MFin programmes which also have decent placement states such as Cambridge and London Business School’s MFin programme which are basically masters programmes that do not accept you unless you have about 2 years of relevant experience. (The fact they say “relevant” illustrates your point).

    Good thing is you qualify for “graduate roles” again. As some of you would’ve noticed, after some time graduate targeted roles don’t seem to like you much if you’ve got experience (or more than they want to deal with). And you won’t be flogged off for not going to a top 20, or top 5. Though, bear in mind: if your undergrad wasn’t top 5-20, there are still some places you can’t apply to.

    Though, I don’t think this is a full checklist… personally I reckon if you meet most of what you stated, you’ll be fine e.g. the head trader in my firm started his career in an operational role (in finance) and did use a masters at a top school in the UK (Reading) with their best placement programme to land a FO role at a BB bank.

    But this was in ’02-’03, so I reckon things might’ve changed, would like your take on it.

    Overall, great stuff! It is like this email came to me in the perfect time, I was actually debating whether I stood a chance of getting into some of the top programmes and if I was saving for nothing. Well, now I know I can! (Well, to sound less cocky, I know I have a feasible chance!)

    1. Yes, I think those points are generally correct.

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