by Brian DeChesare Comments (678)

If You’re Not Confident You Can Get Into Investment Banking, Should You Apply to Master’s Programs to Hedge Yourself?

Crossing out Plan A and writing Plan B on a blackboard.It’s always on your mind, but especially so when the economy is in shambles and shows no signs of recovery:

Plan B.

We’ve looked at a number of different options, from becoming a ski bum to becoming a cocaine addict and moving to Buenos Aires, but today I wanted to focus on one of my most frequently emailed questions:

Should I do a Master’s Program? If I don’t get into investment banking during full-time recruiting, should I go to graduate school instead? Will these programs help me get in?

Are they worth it?


By “graduate school” I’m not referring to MBA or Ph.D. programs – those are completely different ball games, and you’re probably not considering them if you’re still in school.

And if you are, think again – getting an MBA to get into finance is only helpful with several years of experience and a Ph.D. is only helpful if you want to be a quant.

In this article, we’re referring to programs that last a year or two and result in you getting a Master of [Something] title, where “Something” is usually related to finance.

Some Answers, Please

The short answer is that these programs by themselves don’t help you, but going to a better-known school and delaying recruiting by a year could definitely help you.

When I went to career fairs at schools, Master’s students would always come up to me and say, “So, once I finish my degree I can start working as an Associate, right? How do I get an interview?”

But that’s not how it works: you don’t come in at a higher level. You’d still be an Analyst or at least starting at whatever the bottom position is called wherever you end up.

Another common question: “So if I do this program, they’ll see that I’m really interested in finance, right? And then I’ll have no problem beating all those guys with PE internships this summer, right?”

The answer, again, is no. It does help incrementally – more so if you were not an economics/finance major – but no amount of classes, school, or training will ever make up for non-existent internships.

So if these programs themselves don’t actually help you, why should you bother instead of just moving to South America for a year?

They help you when you lack either prestige or preparation (or both).

Lack of Prestige

I hate the word “prestige,” but I use it here to mean, “You don’t go to a brand-name school that most banks recruit at” (otherwise known as a “target school”).

We all know that it’s very, very difficult unless you want to spend months cold-calling, going to other schools’ career fairs, and networking with alumni.

It does work, but it’s very time-consuming and you’re unlikely to get into the largest firms like this.

Long-Term Prestige?

But the lack of a brand-name school also hurts you with exit opportunities after banking and business school admissions.

There’s always debate over how much a top school helps you with getting into a top business school, but it never hurts.

And with exit opportunities – private equity especially – firms are distinctly biased toward picking people who have had a track record of well-known names on their resumes.

Yes, you can get in without having a brand-name background, but it’s not common. Even at smaller PE firms, the tendency is to interview based partially on how well-known your school is.

But What About Networking?

Yes, networking works but networking with a well-known school on your resume works even better.

So if you’re serious about finance, then applying to Master’s programs at top schools is a good idea – even if you think you have a good shot at getting full-time offers.

Of course, if you don’t have a shot at getting into top programs due to grades or other factors, then this “Plan B” is not as viable.

Lack of Preparation

Master’s programs could also help you when you’re not prepared for recruiting.

Maybe you just got interested in finance over the summer and you’re about to graduate in a few months; or maybe you’ve had some finance internships but just haven’t had time to properly craft your “story” and figure out what you’re going to tell recruiters.

In this case, it’s still worth going through recruiting because you never know what’s going to happen – and it’s good to get the practice anyway.

Some people underestimate how random the recruiting process is and don’t understand how even tiny details can tip the scales one way or the other. Remember, there’s a reason you didn’t get an interview from JPMorgan.

Time, Not Prestige?

If you’re in this position, you’re after extra time to prepare rather than prestige – you could be after both, but if you’re reading this right now and you’re not at a target school, you’ve probably already done a ton of preparation on your own.

If you just need extra time to get your act together and you already have a brand-name school on your resume, where you go for your Master’s program doesn’t matter as much. You could just stick to your current school and complete a program there, if they offer it.

Just make sure you actually use the extra year to prepare – i.e., don’t sit around playing Wii Tennis and catching up on Lost and 24. Set aside at least a few hours per week to network, work on your “story,” and learn finance if you’re weak technically.

If You’re Already Working…

If you’re already working, a Master’s program isn’t nearly as relevant as an MBA.

Yes, you can re-position yourself with a simple Master’s program but you’ll run into problems when you hit recruiting and have more work experience than everyone else: they won’t know what to do with you.

There’s always debate over how much experience is “too much” if you want to do this, but if you’ve had 1-2 years or less of full-time work, you can probably do a Master’s program if you want to get into finance without an MBA first.

Just be aware that standards will be higher the more experience you have. And if you’re trying to make this type of move, you better have a really good “reason why” you’re now pursuing investment banking when you chose not to right out of undergraduate.


And yes, before anyone brings it up I’m aware that outside the US and especially in Europe, it’s common to stay in school for more than 4 years and complete the equivalent of a Master’s program before you even apply to banks.

So if you’re in this situation, the recommendations above are not quite as applicable to you.

But you could always decide to stay in school even longer or complete other graduate programs – in which case, the same tradeoffs apply.

The Bottom-Line

It’s almost certainly a good idea to apply to Master’s programs if you’re an undergraduate right now approaching full-time recruiting in the fall, if only to “hedge” yourself in uncertain times.

It’s like how you always apply to “safety schools” for colleges and business schools, even if you think you have a 95% chance at Harvard.

It does take time, so I would not kill yourself with polishing your applications unless you really have no shot at full-time recruiting.

Any questions?

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. Hey Brian,

    I’m a senior in a Super Non-Target school majoring in Economics. I found out about banking not too long ago and would like to re-brand myself to get into the industry.

    I got offers from these schools for September 2017; which one do you think would be better for prestige and breaking in.

    Msc Accounting, Organizations and Institutions, London School of Economics

    MA Economics and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

    Ps: both have similar cost.

    1. Adding up: I’m an American citizen that wants to work in the US, not Europe because visa issues.

  2. Hi Brian,

    I have just been accepted to Imperial College, MSC Investment and Wealth Management starting in September 2017. I have a previous off cycle internship at a boutique asset management firm. I am currently doing an off cycle internship at Standard Chartered in a sales role in S&T. I am looking for a career in Trading post grad. How should I better prepare myself prior the masters and during the masters?

    1. I’m not sure what your specific question is. Network, do S&T-related activities, prepare for the most common interview questions… please see this series:

  3. Could you throw more light on the target schools in Europe? How do IE Business School, Esade, Essec, stack up against LSE/Imperial/HEC?

    1. In general, the UK-based schools are the best for London-based roles. The top schools in other European countries tend to be better for roles in those countries (do a search for each country on this site to find the relevant article). The schools you mentioned are fine and you could win roles by going to any of them, but the top schools in the UK if you are looking to work in London specifically.

      1. Thanks. But is London a good choice to work at, at the moment?

        1. If you’re asking for a prediction of the impact of Brexit, the answer is “I don’t know, but the industry in London will likely shrink and more jobs will move to other European cities, but London will remain a major financial center. And it offers advantages that you can’t get in other places due to limited bonuses there, legal/regulatory issues, etc.”

      2. Hi, Brian, I also have the same question. I am meanwhile applying for MBA programs. My post MBA goal is to break into investment banking, preferably in Asia (HK). Would you recommend:

        (1) Tier 2 School in US, such as Wisconsin-Madison, Wash U, Indiana, USC..
        (2) Top European Program: HEC, Imperial, IESE
        (3) Top HK program

        I am more towards (1) or (2), and was thinking (2) might be the best choice, since there might be some opportunities in European Banks in Hong Kong. As for (1), I believe tier 2 grads would be hard to compete with ivy league grads. I was also thinking that HK banks don’t hire local grads and prefer applicants studying abroad.

        Please share your thoughts. Thank you so much!

        1. (2) is the best. HK banks prefer to hire candidates from the top U.S. and European schools. Top HK programs might also work, but more so if you are from mainland China.

  4. I am a liberal arts major from a semi-target university, and have been working in financial journalism since. What would be better for me, a master’s or an MBA, if I have to land an IB job post the degree? My GPA is 3.43, what target schools can I look at?

    1. It depends on how long you’ve been working. If it’s 1-2 years, a Master’s degree; if it’s longer than that, an MBA. A 3.43 GPA along with high test scores should be enough for most schools, but at the MBA level, other factors play more of a role.

  5. Hi Brian,

    I just graduated this past December from SUNY Stony Brook University with a 3.66/4.0 (school doesn’t offer A+’s), Cum Laude. I don’t have any hard IB/PE style internships, just 2 financial advising internships and a retail banking internships. I’ve found a job as a glorified insurance salesman that I will be starting soon but I want to work in the IB/PE/AM world.

    Would attending a MSF from a bigger school like NYU/Georgetown etc. be worth it in my case? Do I have a good chance of attending a MSF program at a target school? Thanks in advance!

    1. Forgot to say my degree was a dual major in Economics and Business (Finance Specialization)

  6. I recently graduated from a obscure non-target school in a foreign developing country. I did a double major in Economics and Statistics. I plan to do a masters degree at a target or semi target school in the USA to increase my chances of breaking into investment banking in the US

    I am looking at these programs,

    Georgetown Masters in Applied Economics
    Yale International and Development Economics
    NYU Masters in Economics
    Boston University Masters in Economics
    UVA McIntyre Masters in Commerce
    Duke Masters in Management Science
    Vanderbuilt Masters in Finance
    Boston College Masters in Finance

    I am currently working as a research analyst at a local investment bank. I basically do all the background work that go into the firm’s investment and advisory decisions. While the firm is prestigious locally it is unknown international.

    Would you advise against the economist programs? If so why? And what are your thoughts on the finance programs?

    1. The Finance programs are better because they are more relevant. Of the ones you listed, the UVA, Duke, and Vanderbilt ones are probably the best, though you should speak with students there to verify job placement stats first as well.

  7. prospectivebanker


    I am currently a junior at a target undergraduate business school. I did not have the best recruiting cycle as I had a subpar gpa due to very low grades last semester which decreased my cumulative to a 3.3. However, I have been doing great this semester and am set to have a 3.5 if I continue my performance by the time I graduate (spring 2018). I am still waiting to hear back from a couple of BBs I have thankfully have had superdays with but it looks like I am on hold so the outlook is not the best. If these don’t end up panning out I will be doing returning to biz dev role at a major tech company for the summer but want to end up in IB eventually. What are your suggestions?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Aim for an off-cycle internship at a smaller bank; if that doesn’t work, go for Big 4 or independent valuation firm roles, and go for lateral positions at large banks (they’ll start to open up as people quit abruptly midway through the year).

  8. Good morning. I have a degree in Kinesiology from Cal State Long Beach. I became interested in Finance, stocks etc my senior year. I had too many units that the school would not allow me to pursue a minor. Here I sit with a degree in a field that I do not want to pursue. I am looking into a Masters in Finance. Any suggestions on how I can break into this filed at this time. I will do anything and start anywhere. Need a little guidance.

    Thank you.

    1. Did you read the Banker Blueprint on this site? Or all the other articles under the “Getting Started” section? If not, please start there and learn more about the process first.

  9. Johnny Lee

    Hi Brian,

    I graduated from UC-Irvine with 3.49 GPA in Economics and I am an international student. I did the IB internship in a boutique through New York School of Finance during my senior year summer. I came straight back to my hometown in Asia because I have to serve as a conscript for one year for my country.
    So I am currently doing my service and next year in the beginning of October I will finish my service and I am thinking about two options here:
    1.) find any finance-related off-cycle intern first and apply for graduate schemes/full-time roles starting the year after(on board summer 2018) and work all the way before MBA
    2.)Also find any finance-related intern then do MSF(or financial econ) the year after (program starting 2018 summer or fall)

    The reason I am thinking about Master’s is 1.) I went to non-target 2.) I learned very little in finance except one corp.fin class 3.) chance to get recruited again

    From a purely cost point of view, it seems like there is no need to do MSF since that eventually I will do an MBA.
    What would you recommend me to do? Any advice will be appreciated!

    1. I would say #2 is better because an MSF at a top school lets you recruit more effectively and is cheaper than an MBA degree. And if you complete it and win an offer, you won’t need an MBA anyway.

  10. I’m from Australia and I studied BEng – Electrical from a target school. I have worked for 8 months as an engineer and 1yr as a management consultant. Would it still be okay to do a masters or do I have too much experience and an MBA is the only option to get into IB for me?. If I do choose to do a masters, is it better to do M Commerce (Finance major) or M Finance ?


    1. Your first step should be leaving Australia because it’s almost impossible to get into the industry there, and they rarely hire MBAs/Master’s students. You don’t have “too much” experience for a Master’s degree, but you should consider the US or UK instead. A Master’s in Finance is better.

  11. i have recently graduated with a degree in BSc (Hons.) Mathematics with Computer Science with a GPA of 3.08. i have worked as an administrative clerk for about 2 months, teacher for about 20 months and right i am working as management support officer. so by the end of this year, i will be having about 6 months of experience. I really want to pursue further studies in finance, banking or actuarial science. I really don’t know quite well my strengths in those 3 mentioned areas. Also, i am hesitant about doing an MSc or MBA?? If MBA, what specializations do you suggest. Please help me.

    1. Well… what do you want to do, exactly? Finance, banking, and actuarial science are 3 completely different fields and don’t have that much in common. You should spend more time thinking about you goals and strengths/weaknesses first, and then read some of the tips here:

  12. I am a student at a university in South Africa.
    I know of some alumni that have placed into internship and subsequently full time contracts with top banks (Goldman, Citi etc) in London mostly and one more in NYC.

    I specifically hope to work in NYC and I am considering an Mfin at a target university.
    1. But I am struggling working out what would make for a more compelling case on my resume when applying for a full time analyst position in NYC: an internship with Goldman/JP Morgan etc (most probably in London, given their history with employing people from my university) versus a masters at a target school in the US?

    Just to note:
    I have completed an internship with Bain, did a short programme at Northwestern and a summer course at a non-target school in San Diego which I hope will help me get into an internship outside of South Africa.

    2. I am considering completing a masters in China or Europe first and then applying to an Mfin in the US. This is because we have three year undergraduate degree programmes in South Africa and I am speculating that the initial masters abroad could help in making me more competitive for the MIT/Princeton application (especially in the event that I do not make it into a top internship abroad).
    What are the chances that an initial masters would help rather than make me overqualified for grad-school?

    Thank you for the insightful article :)

    1. And just to add: in the event that I do not intern abroad I will take a summer internship with either Citi Bank or JP Morgan in South Africa

    2. 1) An internship at a top bank will help more, but realistically, you probably need a bit of both to win an offer at a top bank in NYC since South African universities are not as well-known in the U.S.

      2) I wouldn’t recommend that because they might wonder why you’re applying for a second Master’s degree. I’m also not sure it would actually improve your chances.

      1. Thank you for your help, I really appreciate it

  13. Hello Brian!
    I’m currently a Year 1 student in the University of Hong Kong, double majoring in Economics & Finance. Perhaps it’s a bit early to say I’ve made up my mind to try and break into investment banking, but I’m doing the best I can to gain advantage in the general area of finance. The thing is, it just so happens that I want to go to live in NYC after my education, where the financial field is the one of the most competitive across the world. What am I supposed to do to make myself qualified to survive that competition as of now, when I am still an undergraduate? I do have intentions of applying for a master’s degree (as is mentioned in this article). But from which school? Does it have to be HBS and the like? If so, what does it take for a Hong Kong undergraduate to get admitted? THX A LOT for your time!

    1. In addition, I have read the article regarding “Be a Line, Not a Dot” and am very inspired. I am already reaching out to people who know about finance-related student clubs/competitions. However, I wonder if the whole process specified in that article is applicable to a Hong Kong undergraduate like me, considering I plan to go to the States for further studies (Master program), and hopefully settle down in New York.

      1. It doesn’t really matter, the only difference is that you’ll need internships in the U.S. to have the best chance of working there afterward, regardless of whether or not you do a Master’s program.

    2. Please see:

      Internships, internships, internships, and then develop an interesting fact or story about yourself such as an unusual hobby or interest. You don’t “need” a Master’s program to get in, but if you do get one, yes, you should go to a top school.

      1. Thank you very much for your reply.
        Here’s a followup query which I hope you could kindly spare some time to answer:

        Despite the fact that you don’t love talking about “prestige”, I have learned from your articles that this is an industry where brands & names matter A LOT. Fact I learned from M&I: HKU is a top school in Hong Kong, but top banks in HK recruit almost exclusively from US/UK target schools – local graduates are therefore disadvantaged.

        Could you please give some advice on
        a) what advantages there are for a student in a top local school in HK, and how to gain access to/make use of them;
        b) how to make up for that absence of “prestige”.
        (besides the all-important internships, how important would you say these experiences are: 1. summer programmes at top schools in US/UK; 2. exchange programmes at top schools in US/UK; 3. Master programme at a top school in US/UK; 4. finance case competitions?)

        Again, much, much obliged to you for your informative, inspiring articles and patience in answering readers’ questions! Your help means a lot to me.

        1. You are mostly at a disadvantage at a local school. The best way to overcome it is to do an exchange or summer program at a top school in the US or UK. A Master’s program will help more, but also take more time/money. So I would consider one of those first before you think about staying in school longer. Finance case competitions won’t help much with this specific problem.

          1. Thanks for the advice Brian!

  14. I want to ask about the “Long-Term Prestige?” part.

    “And with exit opportunities – private equity especially – firms are distinctly biased toward picking people who have had a track record of well-known names on their resumes.

    Yes, you can get in without having a brand-name background, but it’s not common. Even at smaller PE firms, the tendency is to interview based partially on how well-known your school is.”

    Would a masters at a brand-name grant you the long-term prestige if your undergraduate degree was from a non-target?

    You also mentioned that you should use the time with a masters to prepare, I’ve noticed recruiters talk about being “interesting” on your resume/cv helps your chances of being contacted. How do you improve your chances of looking “interesting”, seems like something worth working on with some of the spare time you would have while doing a masters programme.

    1. It would help, yes.

      On your second question, please do a search on the site since we’ve covered this topic many times…

  15. Hi Brian,

    I am a graduate from a non-target school in Canada with a GPA of 3.3/4.3. Just like you said in this article, my situation is that I got really interested into finance and aware of the exits during my last year of university. I now know for sure that I want to get into IB and am wondering if I could get into schools such as LBS /LSE/Imperial in Europe or NYU/Colombia/Fordham in the US. I have no work experience appart from internships, and like I said my current GPA is 3.3. However, I have passed level I and II of the CFA program this year and am currently studying for the GMAT and expect a score above 650.

    Thanks, I look forward to your reply,


    1. Potentially, yes, but you need to get internship experience ASAP to have any chance of using the Master’s program to get into IB or other fields of finance.

  16. Graduated from a “non target” Russell group uni with a 2:1 in Management. Starting Msc Economics & Policy of Energy and Environment at UCL, London and have experience in wealth management as an intern during exchange year in SH,China and Renewable Energy work experience as a trader in procurement/experience with allocating funders to major renewable projects around the world during final summer of UG.
    What areas/divisions do you suggests applying to in ibank? Ideally, want it to be related to renewable energy.

    1. Probably groups like Infrastructure, Project Finance, Power & Utilities, Energy, etc.

      1. Would you also suggest that I apply for summer internships or grad jobs?

        1. If you have already graduated, you have to go for graduate jobs at this point. Applying for internships at small buy-side firms is also an option.

  17. Manoj Rajgopal

    Hi Brian,
    I am a graduate from India and I have completed CFA level 3. I have purchased BIWS and its awesome. I want to get into IB and i am considering SUNY Buffalo because of their STEM provision which is beneficial for international students. I being a fresher is that a good step to take or would it be better for me to wait now and work in India and get a few years of experience and then do the mba?

    1. Thanks for signing up!

      If you want to do an MBA, you definitely need some full-time work experience first. You won’t have a good shot at winning post-MBA roles without it.

      But “Master’s programs” (i.e., 1-year programs separate from the traditional MBA ones) are fine because you apply for Analyst roles out of those.

      1. Hi Brian,
        My Case is partially similar and partially different. I am also a Engineering Graduate from India but not yet completed any CFA level. However, I have almost 5 years of work experience in a US based MNC – Cognizant. I have worked on banking and finance domain i.e. BFS clients during my professional journey. Due to this, I have started studying about finance or mostly Investment banking(cash equities) on my own. Further, I am planning to settle up in Canada on PR basis and hoping to land up an IB based job there. So I have few queries:
        1. Would CFA be of any help for landing an IB job in canada? or need some other certification instead of CFA.
        2. Do I need to do 1-year education program on arriving in canada to get an IB job? if so, then which one?
        3. I am in the dilemma of pursuing MBA after scoring in GMAT or should i go for CFA/finance certification. Just don’t want to waste bucks if the value or salary package is going to be same in canada for each of these.

        FYI, I worked as a software tester in Cognizant for BFS & IB clients.

        Hope my queries are sensible.

        1. You might want to read this article:

          It is very tough to win IB roles in Canada because the market is so small. You need to attend a top 5 school there to have a good shot. They also don’t hire many MBAs. The CFA might be helpful, but it won’t overcome the small market and lack of hiring outside the top few schools.

  18. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for your wonderful articles. Despite what you have been saying about the master program, it seems that US banks investment banking division do not recruit master programs. They prefer undergraduates. Are we master students eligible to apply for the summer programs? Should networking help significantly?

    Thanks and look forward to your reply.


    1. Master’s students can apply to banks, but it depends on the school and the program. If it’s a 1-year program, you might not be able to apply for summer internships, but you could go for off-cycle internships or “trial” internships at smaller firms.

  19. Hello,

    I am about to begin a masters program at UCL. The program is in Organic Chemistry, not finance. I am almost certain I want to pursue a career in investment banking however.

    While working as a lab technician these last six months, I realized that research work is not exactly my cup of tea (I had accepted the masters offer at the beginning of my lab tech stint, before I realized this). My shift toward an interest in finance and banking evolved as a I became more aware of these industries through my own research and investment into the pharmaceutical and biotech stocks of the companies that I had planned to work for as a research scientist. I’m now certain I’d rather work on merging them together, rather than inquiring into drug development (pun intended).

    Given UCL’s good position as a target school for IB in London, should I pursue this chemistry program while at the same time preparing myself for a career in finance? I plan to join school clubs for finance, network, apply for internships – do pretty much everything suggested on this site – while doing my masters.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Can you minor in Finance at UCL? This may give you more credibility. If you’re going to be doing what this site suggested and can apply through campus recruitment then being in UCL can help. I’m not sure if they care about what you mastered in at UCL. I may actually call up UCL’s career centre to check. should also give you more insights.

  20. Hello,

    I’m going in my 3rd year at a top uni in UK (Mathematics at UCL) and I’ve got no relevant experience (no internships). Should I apply for graduate positions or should I extend my course for another year/apply for a MSc at other unis and apply for internships now? I might get into Oxbridge or LSE for a masters degree, but as far as I know UCL is good enough for IB in London, so I’m not really sure what to do.


    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes UCL is good enough for IB in London so work experience will probably be key. I’d try to get some sort of finance experience this summer by applying for internships, and pursue the masters as a backup if you don’t get into finance/industry of your choice.

  21. maurizio


    I am currently going o finish my mechanical engineering degree next year. I am studying at a top 3 university in Canada. My main problem is that I could not do a summer internship because I had some health issues and had to get surgeries the past 2 summers.

    So I am thinking of going straight to school to get an MS to get 2 more summers so I can do summer internships. So my question is which MS is going to be helpful?

    First I thought an Mfin but after further researching this master (MIT for example) I noticed most people are internationals who are interested in quant positions.

    My main focus is IB to later stay or move into PE. My preferred option at the moment is simply do an MS in mechanical engineering at a top university (MIT). Is this going to be helpful? I just want the maters to be able to do 2 summer internships.
    ther options are the MS&E (master in management science and engineering) at Stanord or Columbia.

    Thank you for all your help,


    1. M&I - Nicole

      I think the advanced degrees at the schools you mentioned can potentially help you, especially given the alumni network and credibility. I don’t think the degree itself matters as much as the school’s network and proximity to where you can intern.

  22. Real_talk

    Im a UK engineering MEng mech engineering graduate from a top tier uni with no prior banking experience. I got an offer for BB trading ops and am thinking of doing a part-time MSc in finance at LSE (2 year version of MSc in finance for people who are working), whilst working.
    How can I use this profile to maximise my chances of getting into trading.

    1. Network with people in the front office, take relevant classes at LSE, and use the LSE name to recruit for different roles at the bank and network internally more effectively. Please see:

      1. Real_talk

        Thanks Brian. Just had a small follow up question. Is it a good idea to try and get into sales and trading outside my current bank or is it just best to network internally?

        1. M&I - Nicole

          I’d network internally as moving laterally is an easier transition. I’d also connect with people outside of your bank to see if they have availability/interested in your profile.

          1. real_talk

            Thanks Nicole!
            Just wondering if I could be considered for graduate internship after finishing my part-time masters or will I have two much experience (2 years) to be considered for graduate internship programmes.

          2. M&I - Nicole

            I think you maybe considered more experienced than most graduates given your masters degree and work experience. If the bank is looking for recent graduates you may not be eligible for the graduate internship. However, you can try off cycle internships or roles for “professionals.”

  23. Financial_Doge

    Hi everyone!

    I’ve got Bsc in Economics (GPA = 3.0 in US system) and MSc in Finance (GPA = 3.7 in US system) from two of top-3 Russian universities. Pursing my goal to work for BBs I had two internships during my bachelor studies: first in m&a division of boutique – type bank (“Otkritie Capital”), then in trade finance division of russian top investment bank (“Sberbank CIB”).

    Then the financial crisis began and everything went not so smoothly – I was unable not only to get into russian branch of BB banks (GS and UBS hired 1 intern and 1 analyst each, for example), but to find any finance-related job during my first year of masters studies. So i’ve become a CFO of my friend’s startup for about a year (financial modelling with real options, pitching and other fun stuff).

    Then, during my second year, I won a student contest in quantitative finance and got a part-time remote job at US-based quantitative hedge fund as a quntitative researcher. Plus I got a full-time job as a researcher at one of the best Russian research institutes (building macroeconomic models, sectoral models, developing methodologies for valuation of projects, companies, sectors etc.). Basically we are doing complex consulting projects for central bank of Russia, government and sometimes big state-owned companies.

    Now my family moves to Canada, so I want to continue my education in the US and try to find a job in US or Canada.

    My questions are:

    1) Will my ib internships in another country matter to get into ib in US or Canada?
    2) Will my scientific work and published articles (mostly in quantitative analysis, in american / european journals) help me to get into ib in this countries?
    3) Will my work experience as a researcher matter to get into ib in this countries?
    3) Will my experienxe as a CFO of a startup help me to get into ib in this countries?
    4) As I’ve already got an MSc in Finance back in Russia I won’t be able to get another one from US university – will MSc in statistics / applied math or related field do the job?
    5) What is better for me: to pursue a PhD degree and try my best to get a full time offer during the studies or to pursue a masters degree?
    6) Will CFA strengthen my CV? (I know all the hate about CFA, but I’m not from US – maybe it will help to “evaluate” my education?)
    7) Considering my experience, which companies in US/Canada should I aim first when I’ll be a student of US University?
    8) Are there any additional steps I can take?

    Sorry for this long post and thank you for your answer in advance!
    I’m really desperate to find any answers for any of this questions as they bother me a lot.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      On your questions:
      1) Yes they can potentially help.
      2) They are not terribly relevant
      3) No, and CFO as startup can potentially help
      4) Yes
      5) Only if you get into a target school in US/UK. Perhaps a PhD if you want a quant role but I don’t think its necessary
      6) Slightly but insignificant
      7) This is beyond the scope of what we offer in this forum
      8) Take a trip to the country you want to work in and network –

  24. Anmol Modi

    I am a mechanical engineering student and looking forward for a career in investment banking or in finance sector. So, what should be my area of study after undergraduation? Should it be MSF or MBA?

    1. Depends on what you want to do… if you want to get into IB directly, and MSF, but if you want to work for a few years first, an MBA.

  25. Hi, I got an offer from Cranfield School of Management in Finance and Management program. Does Cranfield MSc Finance and Management count as a “target”? How’s the brand of Cranfield itself? Their program consistently among the top MSc Finance program in the UK and Europe in many FT, Forbes, The Economist ranks. How’s the chance to break IBD in the UK or Europe (either BB, Elite Boutique, MM Boutique, or even Big 4 TAS) from Cranfield? My background is now as an IB analyst in tiny boutique (6 months) in my country and hold undergrad in accounting from a top 10 university in Indonesia without high GPA.

    Ps: I got my IB job by networking.

    1. You’re right that it’s in many of those lists, but I don’t think it counts as a target school as I haven’t seen many candidates go into banking from there. Maybe take a look on LinkedIn and see if you can find people who attended Cranfield and then went into IB. My impression is that schools like LSE and Imperial and LBS are the real target schools in the UK.

  26. I went to a middle-tier state school and graduated with a degree in Finance. I did exceptionally well (3.96 GPA), but IB’s don’t recruit heavily at my school. I went and joined a Fortune 50 Oil & Gas company in their Accounting/Finance department, which I’ve been doing for about 10 months, but find myself doing accounting much more than finance. I’m trying to transition into banking, and am wondering if an MsF would be a good route to go?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes it can potentially help to rebrand yourself, but I think having relevant deal experience matters most. Perhaps moving internally to TAS etc may help:

  27. Hello,

    Thanks for sharing this amazing article!

    I am currently graduated from a well-known state university with a liberal arts major and would like to add a “target” school name on my resume. So I applied for some graduate programs and got several options for the masters. Two of them are offered by Columbia. One is Operational Research and the other one is Statistics. The third one is offered by Cornell, Statistics program as well.

    So which one do you recommended if I would like to land a job of IBD? As none of them are relevant of finance, does any of them still helpful to break into the industry?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d say Columbia given its location and network in NYC. Either one works, but I personally would pick Columbia ;)

  28. Hi Brian.

    I would like to get a Front Office job – eiter in s&t or IBD in London or NY.

    I have 3 options for my masters.

    1) Finacial Engineering at Cornell

    2) Operations Research at Columbia

    3) Masters in Finance at Imperial College.

    which one do you recommend?



    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d say 1 given the brand name, location, and relevance of the degree.

  29. Hi,
    I have graduated from a non-target school in Canada for about 3 years now, and have been working in multiple back office roles since then. Currently I am working in a back office role for a pension fund company. Given my background and current experience, I know it would be near impossible to breaking into finance. I was wondering would you recommend in pursuing a masters in finance or MBA at a target school? Thanks

  30. SouthernBanker

    Sorry, forgot to include my GPA. It’s pretty strong at a 3.90. Thanks

  31. SouthernBanker

    Hello, I am trying to get into a BB IB firm, preferably in NY. I go to Southern Methodist University and I’m in the Cox School of Business. I’m a finance and economics double major. Is SMU Cox considered a target school? Would you recommend getting my masters from a school from the north east if I don’t get the job straight out of SMU Cox? Thanks.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      No, I don’t think that is a target school. Yes, I’d look at target schools such as Columbia, Stern, Wharton for your MBA/Masters.

  32. Hey,
    I have read on a different blog that doing a MFE at Austin Texas University is not a guarantee to land a IB job? Is it the case? Is a MFE at University of Texas Austin worth it? Thanks.

    1. Well… nothing “guarantees” you an IB job, so I’m not sure that is a valid criticism. UT Austin seems to rank well for MSF programs, so I would assume it’s worth it. But always speak with students and faculty there first.

      1. Thanks Brian.
        Ok. I will make sure I get in touch with some friends. The other dilema that I have is to chose betweena MSF or MSFE? Im from a non target so im definetly going for a masters because of the “prestige” and because i dont feel ready as well. I have a minor in math plus a major in Econ, but no comp. science background. I was thinking of getting an AA in comp science to fill in this gap and be competitive for the MSFE but I feel like its going to be a waste of time. So my main question is would recommend me a MSF or MSFE, looking at my background?
        Sorry if my english isnt the best, I might have made some mistakes and i apologize. Im not a native speaker.

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Probably MSF. Yes the prestige factor does matter given networking purposes. I’d see which school you get into first and then decide.

  33. Hello, I currently a Junior at a non target school (FIU) and it being january with only a failed super day at JPM and a failed first round at GS I feel like applying for full time recruiting isnt in my best interest. I currently work in a wealth management firm (sophmore year and throughout the year part time). My two options are to extend graduation, work this summer at Fairholme capital management (portfolio manager of the decade etc etc) which will allow me to better prepare and network and another shot at an SA position. and the second option would to apply into a masters program for a better brand name and more prep time. Being new to the idea, I know very little about it and if it would be worth it. I currently have a 3.5 and am willing to take a loan to pay for the masters program (at this point willing to do anything to get into IB lol). What would you think is the best route? PS thanks in advance and thanks for the website!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes working at this capital management firm can help you with landing a role down the line, so yes I’d focus on that. If you have the time, I may also apply to the program as a backup.

  34. Hello there,
    I am a master in Econ student at NYU, and I am pursing a career in ib. I saw many of your blogs saying there are plenty of chances for masters student to break into ib to be analysts. But I saw there was only one MM bank doing OCR for masters in my school. So I was wondering where do you see the IB opportunities for master students besides few MM banks doing OCR interview and online applications?

    Thanks! Your blogs have been awesome!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d speak with your career centre – I am pretty sure there should be more banks recruiting at NYU. I presume that the recruiting season for on-campus recruiting maybe over so I’d suggest that you reach out to alumni. In terms of where I see the opportunities for masters student in general, I’m not 100% sure how the opportunities would be different for masters student vs. undergrad/MBA students. However, openings do depend on the time of the year as well as the school you’re applying from/studying in.

  35. I dunno if this is a London thing or not, but I swear banks and other institutions are increasingly asking for more IT skills like vba and sql and they seem to place heavy emphasis on quant skills (I’m looking at trading to add perspective).

    I went to a non target and was told that I can get into FX trading in a bank via networking. But with my current job (in a big bank but not FO) I don’t have the funds to keep paying to attend constantly and with online applications state math and/or programming skills are vital.

    The same guy said to try to get into a full time masters in a target in a non competitive course (my undergraduate was banking-finance) and try to network from there.

    My only scepticism is that I’ll still be short of the programming skills and/or quant skills they want.

    So is it worth delegating time to obtain the Quant/programming skills [will involve part time study] while delegating time to network?
    Also should I aim for a MSc in finance at a target or a non competitive course at a target?

    I’m 23 right now so the notion is my age by my late 20s onwards will be a factor.

    I trust the views of this site quite a lot, so your input will be much appreciated!

  36. Blademaster


    Great article! I am currently working as an interest rate derivatives and FX sales analyst at a large bank.. and been here almost a year. In order for me to break into IBD would it be better for me to enrol into masters of applied finance part time whilst working or go do a proper full time master of finance focused on banking?

    Thank you in advance.

  37. Hello! I’m curious about a future in Investment Banking. I am currently going to Business School in the Dominican Republic (college is called PUCMM).

    After that I plan on moving to Miami and getting a Master’s of science in Finance at University of Miami.

    I’m wondering if this helps me achieve Associate or does it even get me in the door of iB?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Having the relevant work experience and network from a target school will most definitely help. In your case I’d focus on gaining relevant work experience in finance.

      1. Thanks for your reply! Another thing I forgot to mention was that I plan on joining the Navy Reserves as an Officer when I move out to Miami, do you think that has a positive boost on chances of landing in iB?

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Not really, unless you network with veterans. Relevant work experience matters most in IB.

  38. Hi,

    1. I was wondering what would be best for getting a SA internship at a BB IB, a BBA at the Ross School of Business or a Masters in Management at Ross. I ask this because right now I could get and economics undergraduate degree and Masters in Management from the University of Michigan in 4 years, or I could spend 4 years getting both a Ross BBA and BA in Economics.
    2. Also is the University of Michigan considered a “target school”? If so does this include their economics program or only the Ross School of Business.

    Thank you.

    1. 1. I don’t think there’s a huge difference, but earlier is better with internships. Ross is significantly better than UMich as a whole for finance recruiting.

      2. Technically, yes, but in reality Ross has much better access to recruiting than the school as a whole. So you are much better off if you complete a degree or program from Ross.

  39. Hi,

    I have just over 2 years of work experience (I work with the Central Bank of my country), just passed CFA level 2 exam and got an admission into IE Business School in Spain for the Master in Advanced Finance (MIAF) which starts in January. I do not have any investment related experience but have a lot of grasp of the concepts and intend to use the MIAF program to break into IB. How would you rate my chances plus will IE help me achieve this (the rankings are good but I want more inside information).
    Thank you.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes IE can potentially help you; I think you’d have a better chance on the buy-side given your CFA experience.

  40. shubhang misra


    I ws confused between the msc in finance and msc in management courses… would both the programs be good enough for getting into ib?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      It depends on the school, though I think a MSc in Finance is probably better.

  41. ProspectiveMonkey


    I’ve looked up some master’s programs but I can’t seem to find any requirements for entry. I don’t know much about master’s programs but I noticed you said Princeton was one of the best. On Princeton’s website I couldn’t find any admission requirements or acceptance rates. Do you just enroll then automatically get accepted? I’d just like a little clarification as to how it works.

    Thanks for your help here,

    1. It’s really outside our area of expertise, maybe check out sites like or Master’s-focused sites. Not familiar with the admission requirements. You definitely DON’T just get accepted automatically (when does that ever happen?).

  42. I’m not from the US/UK so I’m not sure what to search for, but is there a list of prestigious/target schools that offer the 1-year MSc in Finance type of masters? I’m planning for my timeline in terms of GMAT prep, exam dates and application deadlines. The only schools that I’ve heard of are the “Ivy Leagues” but those only seem to offer MBAs and not MSc in Finance degrees. What schools should I look at that can effectively rebrand myself, assuming that difficulty of admission is not a factor?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      LBS has a strong Masters in Management program I believe. You may also want to check out INSEAD, Warwick, etc.

  43. Charlton

    I literally completed my undergrad last week and you could classify me as one of those who realised they liked finance a little too late. I’m considering a Master’s because I haven’t gone to a target school, neither do I have an acceptable GPA (the bad grades in management offset the good grades in finance).

    Personally, I believe that a Master’s will help me re-brand myself and give me a shot at networking with BB bankers whilst inflating my GPA.

    I’d like to know whether I’m correct or just swinging in the dark. Any help would be deeply appreciated.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes a Master’s program at a target school can help you rebrand yourself and increase your chances of breaking into IB.

      1. I’m in a similar situation and I’m not sure what to do.

        I graduated Cornell with a degree in labor relations. The only jobs I can get at this point are in HR or something labor/legal related. I’m one of those “realized too late” people.

        My issue is that I underperformed during my undergrad and got a 3.0 which is far below the median GPA for most masters programs. I also can’t really afford to go anywhere else except for New York State public colleges like Baruch, SUNY Buffalo, etc. (If I can even get into these programs).

        If I did get into one of these programs, the “prestige” factor that you mentioned wouldn’t be in my favor since Cornell significantly outranks any of my potential masters programs. Cornell has one of the best undergraduate business programs (Dyson) and a very reputable graduate program (Johnson) – so I’m afraid going to a “less prestigious” school after already graduating Cornell would raise some questions.

        I could easily self-teach myself most of the finance stuff I need to learn. (I already have started teaching myself, which is why I know I would want to pursue a career in it). But that poses a problem I wouldn’t have a good way of proving my knowledge to recruiters.

        Any advice?

        1. M&I - Nicole

          In this case, I wouldn’t go for another masters program. Focus on networking with alumni and see where that takes you.

  44. Hi ,
    I am an Engg grad with 1 year Consulting experience . What are mychances to get into an internship program at Barclays , Morgan Stanley ? Should I apply ?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes you can, but not having prior experience at finance may put you at less than 50% chance.

  45. Similar question. Please suggest if SUNY Buffalo for MS in finance is a good degree and placements opportunities further :)

    1. Not personally familiar with it so I can’t comment, but the tuition is quite low and placement seems decent, so it may be a good bet… though older reviews seem mixed…

  46. I have a question if any one can help me. Between LSE and LBS, What university for a masters in finance would be more prestigeous worldwide and is more reputable ?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d say both are, though perhaps you may want to look at LBS for their Masters

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