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

540 Comments | Investment Banking - "Plan B" Options, MBA & Master's Programs - Using the Degrees to Break Into Finance

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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?

Definitions

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.

International

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?

About the Author

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys learning obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, and traveling so much that he's forced to add additional pages to his passport on a regular basis.

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

Comments

  1. JP says

    Hi,

    I am currently doing a MSc in Financial Economics at a top 10 school in the UK. The programme is very theoretical, half pure economics and half financial economics (economic based). My programme is like a 1st year of Phd for Economics or Financial Economics so as you can imagine I am missing the applied part of finance.
    Now I am thinking in taking another Master (both are fully sponsored by my government) and I am between an applied Master in Finance or maybe a Master in Management (where I can take electives in applied finance). I can afford an MBA so these are my alternatives.
    The question is, would be seen too wired in my cv a Master in Finance after a Master in Financial Economics?, wouldn’t be better to round off myself with a more general master like a master in management or strategy and take some finance electives there?.

    Thanks in advance!!!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I don’t think doing another Masters degree would help you if you want to break into banking. I think you should start applying and networking now and see how it goes.

      • JP says

        Thanks Nicole for your direct answer,

        The problem is that I already applied to many graduate programmes and nothing happened. I was not able to apply for internships since I don’t have time given the structure of my programme.
        I think that one of my weaknesses is that I am above 30s and I only have 3 years of experience in Sales & Trading in my country (I am an int’l student), so maybe I am too old for analyst positions and without an MBA there would be no chances for an associate role. And as I explained before I have no opportunity to take an internship and show me to potential employers.
        Thanks for any advice you can give me.

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Yes you’re a bit too old for analyst positions. I’d network a lot within your community and try to work for a smaller/boutique bank. You can also focus on your valuation experience in your last 3 years in S&T in your interviews and focus on why you want to move into banking when you start talking to people.

  2. Aman Bobri says

    Hi,

    I go to a top undergraduate business school and am very interested in investment banking I’m currently a junior and have had no luck with summer internship recruiting-I’m guessing due to my low GPA (3.2) I’m currently at a loss of what do. I have had to fight for a few interviews and have not been able to convert. I want to work in this industry but I dont know how to best position my self. I worry that if I plan on applying to graduate school that most likely the prestige of the graduate school won’t be anything near the prestige of my current school. What do your recommend I do to break into this industry?

    Thanks.

  3. King Kong says

    Hi Nicole,

    Is staying another semester at my college better or going to do a masters better? One of the good things about staying at my college is that it is cheaper and that I might have more time to do recruiting since I will have more time? And I guess that that didn’t turn out well I can always to masters later.

    Is this the right way to think about this?

    Best,

  4. CH says

    Hi Nicole,
    I’m currently a junior majoring in economics and the only finance-related internship I have is my internship this upcoming summer with a bulge bracket’s equity research department in Asia. In addition to not being confident I have all the necessary skills to break into investment banking, do you think it’s a good idea to get a Master’s degree so I have more time to get more banking-related internships?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Congratulations on your internship offer! Equity research is a great way for you to hone your skills to break into IB. I’d try to network as much as you can and leverage this experience to land an IB offer after. I don’t think a Master’s degree is necessary at this point. Focus on excelling in your internship, get a return offer, network a lot, and try to land an IB role for a FT offer. If this doesn’t work out, then you can pursue your Master’s. I don’t think you’d have the energy to do excel in ER, land a FT offer in IB, and prepare for your Master’s at the same time, though I may be wrong.

  5. Sam says

    Hi, I am a rising senior at a semi-target and am considering whether or not to pursue a Master in Finance. I was wondering if you could help me out with my questions:

    1. If I were to do a Master in Finance program, would you recommend me to start it straight after undergrad or after a year of work experience? (The work experience will likely be something like commercial banking)
    2. If I do go straight from undergrad to Masters, would it be possible for me to get a BB SA position in the summer between undergrad and Masters?
    3. This summer, at best, I will have a regional boutique IBD internship. Considering that FT recruitment for BB IBD positions is almost impossible without an SA from a BB, (and if I can’t get an SA in between undergrad and masters), would getting a prestigious MSF/Mfin even matter much at this point?

    Thanks a lot!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      1. I think you can do it straight after undergrad
      2. You may have higher chances with boutique banks because I don’t think most banks take in summer interns who have already graduated. However, you may want to check in with HR of the banks because your case is slightly different and you may be able to apply
      3. If you go to a target school, it can increase your chances and broaden your network so it helps. If you don’t have a FT offer at an IB, it is 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.

      • Sam says

        Hi Nicole,

        Thanks for your prompt reply.

        Regarding your response to my 3rd question, I guess my takeaway is that, without a BB Summer Internship beforehand, it will be almost impossible to secure a FT BB IBD position after my Master’s even if it is at a highly prestigious program. Though the Master’s would certainly help for other finance positions in general… Is this right?

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Not necessarily… having an internship certainly helps, but you can still break into IB after your masters without the experience. Not impossible, though there may be challenges.

  6. John Parker says

    What are your thoughts on Harvard Extension school for a master’s, you get access to a solid On campus recruiting program at harvard. Not all banks recruit there, but a good number do, and you still become a member of Harvard’s alumni.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I am not familiar with this program. If this program gives you access to the on campus online recruiting resources then you may want to give it a try. I’d suggest you to speak with their career services center to see if there’s any restrictions etc versus normal Harvard candidates.

  7. John says

    It seems to be that a master’s would make sense if you could go through SA recruiting again your senior year. If, however, that is not the case, then what exactly is the point of getting a master’s as a “hedge”. Nicole stated above that BB’s rarely take summer interns who will have graduated.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes BBs don’t usually take graduates as summer interns, though you may be able to intern during the summer prior to the start of your master’s degree. Yes undoubtedly it can still be hard to break in without the experience even with a master’s degree, though the degree can increase your chances by buying you more time, expanding your network, improving your credibility and giving you another chance to apply IB roles

  8. John says

    So my confusion lies in the fact that you said they don’t usually take graduates as summer interns but that they can during the summer prior to the start of the master’s. Wouldn’t the summer prior to the start of the master’s after you graduated (from undergrad)?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      That’s a great point! Yes they don’t usually take grads as interns because they view grads as “analysts”. However, if you are going to do an MBA/Masters in 3-months after grad, you have a summer in between so they view you differently. During that time frame, you are viewed as an “intern” because you’re short term.

      • John says

        Ok, I go to a prestigious school for my undergrad. Does that mean the master’s should also be from a target university or is it irrelevant for IB recruiting. Of course, that’s what I’ll aim for but if I don’t get in to a top, then what?

        • M&I - Nicole says

          I think its best if you can break into a top school for your masters. Otherwise, it may not necessarily increase your chances of breaking into IB since you’re already at a prestigious school for undergrad.

  9. Luke says

    Hi Brian,

    What would you say are the top target schools in the US and Canada in terms of Masters programs? Should one be looking at Masters in Finance? Masters in Economics?

    Thanks.

  10. Shannon says

    Hi,

    I have BBA from Strayer University with a concentration in Finance and minor in Accounting. I know, definitely not a target school. I’m 37 years old, and my whole career (16 years) has been in the mortgage industry (Secondary Marketing, Interest Rates, Origination and Internal Audit). My intention after graduating in 2009 was to get my MS in Finance. I’m contemplating perusing my dream of working in Investment Banking, but I’m not sure what path to take. Do I peruse a MS in Finance or a Graduate Certificate in Financial Markets and Institutions? Thanks for your help.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      A MS in Finance maybe more helpful though the most useful element for you now is to gain relevant work experience, even if it is an internship.

      • Shannon says

        Thanks, Nicole.

        I apologize for leaving out that I work for a top regional bank within the US that has a Investment Bank line of business. I’d be looking to transfer over to a position in Capital Markets. Does you same advice still appy?

        • M&I - Nicole says

          I’d say you may want to just transfer directly – there’s really no need to do another degree. And if you do do one, choose the masters because it is more credible.

  11. Jason Lee says

    Hi, I graduated with a finance degree from the University of Alberta, Canada, in April of 2013. My CGPA was a 3.35, GPA of 3.7 in finance courses. I would like to get into investment banking in Canada, UK or USA.

    I have no work experience applicable to finance at all. I am currently working in Project Controls for a small company. I passed the CFA level 1 exam June of this year. I will be attempting to follow most of the guides for networking to get into investment banking.

    My question is that if my networking attempts fail and I have worked at this current job for 3 years, would I be better off getting an MBA or a Masters? I understand I’ll have experience, but I won’t have finance experience at all so would I not be better off trying to break in as an analyst than an associate? From my understanding, at least in Calgary, it seems banks would rather keep their analysts for associates than hire a “career-changer” MBA. If I get an MBA I will be competing against MBA graduates who have finance experience.

    I feel an MBA or Masters may be necessary for me in the future to “re-brand” myself, most especially to raise my GPA to above a 3.5, which seems to be the sweet spot, and to make up for the lack of finance work experience. What in your opinion would be best?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes you would be better off getting an MBA at a target school to increase your chances of breaking in. An MBA gives you the chance to retool yourself. Yes you will be competing against other MBA graduates who have finance experience, though an MBA will help you in your case. Yes raising your GPA may help you, but having relevant experience in finance is key. Other than extensive networking, an MBA may give you the opportunity to gain such experience.

      • Jason Lee says

        Thank you for the reply. I realize experience is the key, but what kind of experience is the key? It seems like to me that any of the work experience that investment banks would actually care about are positions which if I was able to get experience in, I likely wouldn’t have trouble breaking into investment banking in the first place. The only job in banking that appears open to me at the moment would be small business advising in agriculture and then hopefully after a couple years get my own portfolio as a commercial banker for small businesses. I would not be coordinating any deals with investment bankers being in small business commercial banking though. My biggest issue with this route is that there are no guarantees and I would take a 50% pay cut (more if you include union benefits) compared to what I am doing now.

        What are some other possible positions which investment banks would consider to be good experience that are easier to break into than investment banking? The only thing I can think of is a financial analyst position within industry that I can perhaps try to get into after working at this job for 1 year. I will be starting the CPA and have hopefully passed level 2 of the CFA to better position myself for that type of job.

        If I am getting finance experience such as in commercial banking or as a financial analyst or TAS at the big four, etc… would it even make sense to go back for an MBA?

        I guess my biggest concern is whether or not I take a dramatic pay-cut to get finance experience that investment banks may or may not care about, in which I may still end up needing to get an MBA, or do I work here, make as much money as I can and then go back for an MBA where hopefully any career I can obtain in finance will be worth my time?

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Some people from commercial banking or big 4 still go back to get their MBA to retool themselves, gain the network, progress in their career or move to IBs. So in your case, yes you may still want to go back for an MBA at a top school if you want to break in. You can do so without the MBA but you’ll have to network a lot and demonstrate your finance experience that banks care about (i.e IB experience). Yes, even if you do get your finance experience (not in IB) you may still end up getting your MBA. And many from IB still go back to get their MBA to either do something else or progress in their career. Honestly, breaking into (and being successful in) banking can be challenging especially since seats are limited these days. You’ll have to be prepared for that and rejections/obstacles along the way.

  12. Michael says

    Hi Brian, thanks for the precise article.

    I’m from Europe and going to start my econ undergrad at a Target Uni in the UK, which offers me to study abroad for a year (at target unis in US, for instance). I intend to make use of that option, however, I also want to complete a masters degree in the UK.

    The problem is that all in all this would be 5 years (3+1+1) instead of 3. I will definetly do the year abroad(therefore 4 years for sure) as it is essential for my careers (thing MBA). The master, on the other hand isn’t. In any case, the masters degree would only be at Oxbridge, not LSE etc. I know competition is intense but lets just assume I will make it.

    (As a note, I do believe my undergrad grades will be sufficient to meet IB requirements.)

    My question: Should I still aim for the masters degree or would I then be overqualified ?

    I will appreciate any input.

    Kind regards,
    Michael

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d try to get experience at an IB before your Masters first to be honest However, a master program is a great back-up plan if you don’t have any offers then. I don’t think you’ll be overqualified. However, since you may not have any work experience by the time you graduate, you may have to apply for an Analyst role vs. an Associate role.

      • Michael says

        Thanks for your quick reply Nicole.

        I do intend to gain workexperience during my undergrad studies as I will look the same as anyone else on a 3 year yourse on paper (year abroad is subject to approval and I am not currently at Oxbridge, so I’d need to change my uni). I am just curious to advance my knowledge on a masters.

        Assuming I will receive a full time offer after the summer internship, do you think I could delay that offer for a year to complete the masters degree?

        Kind regards,
        Michael

        • M&I - Nicole says

          It depends on the firm. You’ll have to speak with the firm and arrange with them. People have done that before so it shouldn’t be a problem. But be prepared for a no too just in case. But at least you’ve asked and no it wouldn’t ruin your chances with the firm.

  13. Pikachu says

    Hi Nicole,

    I am a senior at a target school, and I’m currently debating between taking this fall semester off or graduating on time and getting a MSF. I have decent GPA (3.6+), but I had done no finance internship or extracurriculars before junior recruiting this past spring, so my on-campus recruiting went horribly (I only got very few interviews). I ended up doing two internships this summer, one asset management in China and one PE advisory internship in NYC (they are basically a placement agent). During my time in NYC this summer, I didn’t put my shit together and ended up doing very little networking, so I am now jobless, far from my goal of getting a BB IBD FT offer in NYC. Fall FT recruiting is about to start, but I feel like with my non-brand name internships on my resume, this round of recruiting won’t go much better than spring recruiting.

    I have two options so far:

    1. Take this fall semester off, which essentially gives me another summer. I can still apply to BB IBD SA positions in HK in the fall as a junior, which can increase my chances for NYC positions during fall recruiting next year. Also, when I come back next spring, I can still apply to SA positions in NYC as a junior. With two more internships on my resume, this round of spring recruiting should go better (also I will work harder on networking on the side). In the latter scenario, if I get a BB summer gig in NYC, everything works out (provided I get the return offer, of course). With the extra time I have this fall, I can also self study more modeling; I can even help my dad with his recently opened clinic on marketing and branding – that’ll be great experience as well.

    2. Option 2 is to go through this year and graduate on time. I will work hard to network and interview for other jobs – they might not be IBD or even in finance, but honestly I’m open to other possibilities. Meanwhile I will apply for MSF as a backup plan. The hard thing though is that given that I’m an international student, it will be hard to find jobs that actually offer sponsorship. On top of that, application for MSF does take time, and getting this degree isn’t cheap.

    With option 1, I’m fairly confident that if I put in enough work, it could work out somehow. Option 2 allows me to get a master’s, graduate with my class and go through all the senior year fun, but I’m skeptical as to the success rate of applying to SA with MSF.

    What do you think? Would really appreciate your thoughts on this.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Even though you got “only a few interviews”, you still got some interviews so no it didn’t go that badly, especially since you already have two internships under your belt.

      Option 1 may give you more opportunities and increase your chances of breaking in, especially if you can intern at a reputable firm over fall and the summer. And if you end up getting a FT offer, you may not have to go through the recruiting process for FT roles. I think the extra time maybe useful for you. I’d choose Option 1. However, if you really want to get your Masters degree, I’d go for Option 2 because you may want to do it sooner rather than later. Do bear in mind that a Masters may increase your chances but it isn’t a guarantee though it may open doors to other career options. I think you’re leaning toward Option 1 so I’d choose that.

  14. Ricky says

    Is obtaining an MS in Finance a good way to “re-brand” yourself? I did a BBA in marketing but I want to get into IB, I also didn’t have the most stellar GPA, and I have no finance experience…

    If I come out of an MS program with a high GPA, will that negate by undergrad GPA and make me competitive for an IB analyst position?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes in your case an advanced degree would help you. Yes especially if you get into a target school. You may also want to consider an MBA at a target.

  15. Jordan says

    Is there any opinion of a good MSF program in HK or SG that can lead a way in Asia for foreigners?

    I am not sure if this is possible but really hope that Nicole can help answer my question, as I am in a unique situation – from a hoya saxa senior who’s been a long fan of this website and guides.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Thank you for your support of this site. I am not sure of MSF programs in HK/SG. I know HKUST has a decent MBA program. But you may want to consider doing your MSF at schools like Berkeley or MIT and apply for roles here. It will be easier if you speak the language though. Are you in GUSIF?

      • Jordan says

        I used to be in GUSIF, but not anymore. I do speak the language but not to the business level. I was thinking of going to MSF in Asia and improve on the language part as well (if I don’t do well with Asia FT recruiting this term, of which I think is highly likely given this environment)

        Is there any recommendation of US schools with good recognition in Asia? Also, my GPA is above 3.5 but not supreme. I am concerned if that would affect me a lot for MSF admission. Thanks a lot for the reply!

        • M&I - Nicole says

          Yes Ivy League schools or/and basically the top 10 schools are prominent in Asia. Your GPA of 3.5 should be sufficient.

  16. Thomas says

    Hi Nicole,
    I’m an engineer in Brazil and I’m planning on moving to IB/PE, but I have a couple of problems.

    Despite having 2y of experience in banking (Strategic Planning and Asset Structuring) I lack any finance background and this seemed to have restricted many opportunities when I first tried to get into IB/PE.

    My plan to overcome my situation is basically taking a Master of Finance degree with much higher reputation (Top 5 Universities in Australia) than the master programs in my Country, improve my English proficiency and obtain Finance knowledge and then go back to Brazil more prepared.

    Do you agree this may be a good plan? If so, is Master of Commerce (specialized in Finance) also a good alternative or should I stick to Master of Finance?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d stick to Master of Finance though I’d make sure you go to a good (target) school. Otherwise an MBA at a target will help you.

  17. Michael says

    Hi Nicole,

    My name is Michael and I am currently working in Management Consulting at McKinsey in Russia, Moscow. I have had this position for less than a year and I was wondering whether Masters in Finance at Imperial College of London (one of the top MSc Finance programs in London) would help me get into IB in London?

    How hard do you think would it be to land an analyst position in BB Investment Bank or a reputable PE firm in London coming from a consulting background from a different country?

    • Michael says

      In case you did not understand:

      My second question referred to getting analyst position after completing MSc Finance at Imperial College of London (i.e. I am not looking to transfer to a new field right away)

      • Michael says

        Also, forgot to mention that I have a BA at a Top 4 Liberal Arts University in the US, with double major in Econ and Math and I am currently 21 years old. Not sure if this is of any relevance here.

        Thank you!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes this can potentially help you.

      I’d try to land a role in a BB in London first, and then transition into PE.

  18. Joseph says

    I am current doing a Msc in Finance, so would like some advice about the master thesis topic. Conseidering that I want to work in a HF or Prop. Trading firm, what would you suggest?
    Tks in advance

  19. Abhishek says

    Hi Nicole,

    I am interested in working in a macroscopic investment role in the UK and wanted to ask about my options. I graduated with a Master’s in Aerospace Engineering (heavy quantitative focus, GPA 4.0/4.0) from the University of Toronto about a year and a half ago and have been working in an engineering firm in Canada since then. I have been an avid reader of finance and economics topics for years and find it much more stimulating than what I currently do as an engineer. So I would like to pursue my interests and get a second degree if it will help my goals.

    I am 27 years old currently and I am looking at the MPhil in economics and MFE program at Oxford (and others like it). Am I on the right track? Should I be considering other options? Thanks in advance.

  20. Hiten says

    Hi,
    I am currently working (since 2012) as a Analyst in a UK based Real estate consulting firm in India in their research team. Post my MBA (2 year full time course, specializing in Finance) from Mumbai University, I worked as an equity research analyst in a sell side firm in Mumbai, India.

    After an MBA + 7 years of work experience, I am now interested in pursuing an international finance or real estate course to boost my resume and also to explore international job opportunities.

    I have considered either Master in Real Estate from good university in US or MFE from University of Toronto. Also exploring Master in Finance.

    I am 32 years old. Am I on the right track? Should I be considering other options? Suggest an option which will help me to reach my goal. Thanks in advance.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I am not sure if a Masters can add substantial value at your level, unless the program is a credible one and is relatively short. However, if you want to explore roles internationally, the Masters program abroad can help you given its network & your short term visa (programs give students visa for internship/short term work experience purposes). So yes you are on the right track. I’d also try networking within the real state space and explore opportunities there.

  21. Laurie says

    Hi,
    I am a recent graduate from UPenn with a 3.9/4.0 GPA with a humanities major and ZERO finance internships. Originally, I was extremely determined to go to law school but bc of the economy and personal financial reasons, I decided to look into consulting. I got interviews at MBB but failed the interviews … now I’m looking into investment banking.

    I applied already to some UK Masters programs (management and finance) and am waiting to hear back, but don’t know if it would help me break into finance especially since I have no internships and my major was so unrelated (I barely took any quant classes out of laziness) … I’m currently unemployed and don’t know how to look for internships considering I already graduated. Any advice would greatly be appreciated!

    • says

      I would say continue with the Master’s program applications for now, and in the meantime look for finance-related part-time or trial internships at local firms (via alumni networking or cold-calling/emailing) – even if you’ve already graduated, sometimes they’ll be willing to take you on if you pitch it as a “trial internship” and point out skills you have that could benefit them by saving them time/money. But you will need to have at least some knowledge of the work going into it.

  22. B. says

    Hi,

    First of all thank you so much for all the information on the website.

    I’m a 21 year old recent graduate in humanities (International Relations) from a non-target in Portugal, having finished with a 3.7 GPA. I have become interested in finance, especially IB, during the final months of finishing my BA and decided to take the GMAT in order to pursue a Masters Degree. My goal is to eventually work in IB, in City, and for that I have decided to apply mostly to London based target programmes (LBS, LSE, Imperial etc).

    The problem is
    1- I scored poorly on my first GMAT and will only be able to retake it past the application deadlines of the target B schools I wanted to apply to. This leaves me with the only choice of applying to non-targets in Portugal, which defeats the purpose of rebranding my CV.

    2- Statistically speaking, Finance Masters rarely take in students from humanities.

    So what do you advise me to do? Should I apply only for target schools’ 2015 intake and take a year gap to improve my GMAT socre while trying to get a finance related intership (eventhough you often advise not to have too much work experience)? Or should I settle for prestigious universities at a national level, despite them not being, internationally speaking, target schools?

    Would a target B School Masters in Management with a finance concentration give me any leverage in IB recruiting?

  23. Food4Thoughts says

    Hi,
    I am a freshmen at a non-target school, the University of Florida. I came here for financial reasons and came with over 50 college credits. They offer a MSF program here that undergraduate sophomores can apply for. This course work is done in addition to your normal major work, for me that is a double major in economics/mathematics. The only problem is that to get into this program I would have to spend my freshmen summer at school. I know I have the opportunity to get an internship this summer, so I was wondering where you would fall on the trade-off between an okay internship vs. graduating in the MSF program? I do know if it seems crazy to be worried about this stuff as a freshmen, but I know I am going to have to stand out a lot from the crowd to be competitive. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, thank you.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      If it is a mediocre internship, I’d probably go for the MSF which could open you more doors if this is what you want to do. Better to finish the degree sooner rather than later if you have this opportunity

  24. Adaeze says

    Hi,
    I’m currently a freshman at the university of houston which is obviously a non-target university. I’m currently trying to make a plan on how to break into IB. my G.P.A is currently at a 3.0 but I’m certain that I’ll graduate college with a 3.6 or above. I was wondering what you think would be the best path to take – start thinking towards getting an ms in finance and still look for internships?
    Or just concentrate fully on getting Internships though I have a disadvantage as I’m an international student. Also, where would be the target schools for a finance masters?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      A masters may increase your chances since you can compensate for your lackluster GPA. Target schools for masters include LBS, MIT Sloan and Princeton.

      In terms of internships, yes you can still apply if you have the time though I’d go for the MS if you have the resources and were accepted into a target program

  25. Greg says

    Hello,

    I am a current junior at a non target in Chicago. I am still hopeful I can land a summer internship at a boutique but of I am unsuccessful, what would you reccomend I do? I have a 3.8 GPA and not much relevant expe

    • Greg says

      Sorry, my response got cut off for some reason. I wanted to know what you would reccomend, delaying graduation or a masters program? And would you be able to provide around 5 programs you would reccomend?

      • M&I - Nicole says

        I may go for a masters at a target to increase your chances.

        Masters – LBS, MIT, Princeton
        MBA – HBS, Penn (but you’ll have to have a few years of work experience first)

  26. Patric says

    Hello,

    I graduate with my MBA in May. It’s a non-target school, but still AACSB accredited. I have a 3.8 GPA. In conjunction, I have 3-4 years of professional work experience in a financial institution, the IRS. I’ve been an account manager in Wage and Investment for about half of that time, and I’ve been an examiner for small business and self-employed for the remaining half. I also have a very extensive consulting project with a large, local business. All things considered, my work experience fits very snugly into your resume templates. I’m not dead set on a Goldman Sachs Associate position. It would be nice, but I’m a realist, and do understand that my chances are much, much slimmer without having a target school MBA. Also, the work/life balance is much more important to me than what firms such as this can offer. HOWEVER, this does not mean that I am not afraid to work and do my time. I get that. But I’d rather not waste my time and add more stress trying to achieve a goal that is just out of reach when I can cover more ground just dialing back a notch or two. So, what I need to know is, based on what I’ve just laid out for you, what path (at this pivotal moment) would get me into IB, VC, PE, HF, etc? Should I focus my efforts toward mid-size and boutiques, do a few years, and try switching to buy-side? Should I look more into asset management? Just looking for some direction. Not looking for 8 figures a year and the ability to buy islands. Maybe 6-7 and still be able to get to keep a decent work/life balance is all. Thanks for your time.

    PS- Do banks look negatively at IRS/Government applicants?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      If you really want to break into the roles you mentioned a target MBA can potentially increase your chances quite a lot. Otherwise, I’d suggest you to network intensively via LinkedIn and see if you can build connections in the industry. In your case, you may want to look at due diligence companies that do work for FIs. Examples are companies like – http://www.blackpeakgroup.com/en/ http://www.poseidonresearch.com/

      You may want to look at Accounting firms’ TAS http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/big-4-transaction-services/

      • Patric says

        Ok, I did quite a bit of research on this and have a few questions. It appears that I may like it a bit better than IB, but what does the “big 4″ formally stand for? Also, I’m assuming there isn’t “as” much of a focus on being from a top tier b school in this field, or were you implying that my auditing background may encourage them to overlook that fact? And I gather that you’re telling me to gain experience with companies that advise in mergers and private equity, then use that experience to go sit on the other side of the table, so to speak?

        Thanks again. Can’t tell you how valuable this is.

  27. Michelle says

    Hi

    First of all thank you so much for all the information on the website. It’s very helpful!

    I am a junior at a top university in Singapore majoring in Maths & Econs and have a GPA 4.98/5, and I already did an internship with big 4 corporate finance and a sales & trading internship with a big bank in China. And now about to do another IBD internship with a top European bank this summer in Singapore.

    And I am looking forward to a career in finance, my question is whether my bachelor degree in a local university in Singapore considered not prestige enough? If I really want to get into management level, will a master degree in a top 10 university in US be more helpful?

    And besides I am still not very sure about which department in the bank I want to work for in the future, and I really hope that I can have 1-2 years time spend in US and experience a totally different culture.

    Could I hear some suggestions from you? I need to make up my mind soon as the application season is approaching :)

    Thank you so much again for your time and help in advance.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Congratulations on your internship. You must be a pretty smart candidate to get the offer at the top bank given your background! Yes I think a Masters at the States (target university) will help if you want to progress within the bank to management level and gain exposure, especially since your undergrad is in Singapore. I’d also take the opportunity to network with people from other divisions this summer so you can better understand which department fit you most. I’d apply and see which school accepts you. And you can have better data points to make an intelligent decision then. Good luck!

  28. Nate says

    Hello Brian/Nicole,

    I have a BA in Econ. from a non-target state school, and a borderline 3.0. I have 4.5 years of work experience in a non-finance field. And am interested in a full time IBD/ER role. Would a MSF make sense to find a full time position in IBD/ER. I have been admitted to a MSF program, although it is NOT a target but well respected. A Top10 Mba seems out of reach at the moment. What would be the best plan to achieve this career goal. Thank you for all your help and this insightful article!

    Regards.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes the program can potentially help you, even though it isn’t a target. In your situation, if you can afford the program, this maybe the best option for you.

  29. Brian says

    Hi Nicole,

    I don’t think I’d get into a good MS program right now, and it’s kind of late at this point in the year anyway, so my general plan is to pursue some sort of finance certification from a name extension school and then apply next year, most likely online. This will allow me to bump up my GPA (as my undergrad one is weak), get a killer GMAT score, and put the certification at the top of my resume right away. I’ve been out of school since 2007 and working in a non-finance related field since then. I figure this is the best way to break into the field, even if I start off as the old guy in the group.

    Acquaintances through linkedin and other places have said this is a good plan. Any thoughts?

  30. Justin says

    Hey Nicole,

    What about a M.Sc in applied Mathematics with a Finance focus? How does this compare to a Masters in Finance or a Masters in Economics??

  31. Goku says

    Hi,

    I have a B.Tech in Ocean Engineering and Naval Architecture from IIT Kharagpur with 2.5 years of non-finance engineering work exp. I want to transition to IB/PE ultimately. MBA at a target school difficult as compared to MFE (financial engineering) because of my strong quant background. Hence I am considering MFE instead of MBA to get into the investment industry and then after a couple of years do an MBA and transition to front end. Does it make sense or should I go for MBA only instead of spending considerable resources for an MFE? Please advise!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      If you’re stronger in quant, MFE maybe a better choice because the program is more quant focused and gives you more exit options in the quant space.

  32. says

    I have done MBA with specialization in Marketing from Pune, Maharashtra, INDIA. Having work experience in the filed of sales of more than 6 yrs. Now I’m 34 yrs old and planning to do MBA with specialization in Finance from Australia will it help me ahead in my life? Please guide me. Thanking you.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes it can potentially help you if you want to work in Australia or move within a corporate

  33. Funsho says

    Hi,
    I recently graduated from Columbia with a below 3.0 GPA, sufficed to say that I could not get either an internship or a full time position. I am also a non-traditional student in my early thirties. I contemplated going directly to a 1 year MSF degree at University of Texas at Austin, but I still have my student debt to pay and am hoping to get some semblance of relevant experience. Any ideas on how to proceed in order to have a shot at IB would be appreciated. I am specifically interested in energy finance,hence the interest in the MSF at the University of Texas at Austin.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes an MSF can potentially help. However, since you still have student debt, I may not go for a masters just yet. I’d network with people on LinkedIn, be extremely persistent, and schedule a few informational meetings at Texas. If you can just read up on Oil & Gas and demonstrate your understanding of the industry you maybe able to convince people to hire you on the spot! http://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/oil-gas-modeling-101/

  34. Feli says

    Hi Nicole,

    Currently I am a rising senior at UC Berkeley with gpa 3.9/4.0. However, I pursue different path before and I think I have no shot for full time offer this year. What do you think if I take Master in Accounting at USC or UT Austin? Because they are the best in accounting since I think I want to have some skills in accounting that is why I plan to join ms in accounting instead of finance. Then when they ask about my story, what should I tell since I am going to apply for summer internship next year? Am I a senior or junior?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      USC and UT are comparable I’d say though I may be wrong. If you want to be in California go for USC

      You’re a senior. I’d tell them what you’ve been doing in the past and make a really strong case on why you want to move into finance

  35. Joseph says

    Hi I’m currently wait listed at Georgetown for Econ and have a spot at Emory Goizueta. Would it make much of a difference if I go to g-town even though I have a 3.85, was president of two clubs and have 2 summer’s worth of PE internships under my belt. Bear in mind, I don’t like econ but should I suck it up? Goal is to end up doing IB M&A at a BB. Please advise.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I think Georgetown has a stronger alumni presence on Wall Street though Emory is also a great school. If you can wait, I’d wait till Georgetown gets back to you. If you don’t get in, I’d go for Emory.

  36. Walther says

    Hi,
    I have a Bsc in Business Economics from a swedish non-target school with a 3.28 GPA and no experience in finance. I have applied for an internship in Singapore for one of the top European investment banks and I am awaiting the interview rounds in end of July. If I get an offer, it is required that I start study in July.

    However, I have one conditional offer from Melbourne Business School for their Master of Management Finance and an unconditional offer from Monash University for their Master of Banking and Finance (both are top 5 target schools in OZ, though MBS is more globally well-known/ranked), both commencing in end of July. As I did not reach the target GMAT score for MBS (but I can deffer my offer until February 2015) I have the following questions to this problem:

    1). If I get an internship offer, it is required that I start study in July. Would I be better offer to settle for Monash, which is ranked nr 5 in Australia, and commence my studies or, for the benefit of the school reputation, take a half gap year and sit the GMAT again to get into MBS?

    2). If I don’t get an internship offer, would it be better if I take a half gap year and sit the GMAT again to get into MBS and then apply for later rounds in 2015?

    It’s very difficult (impossible) to get internships as an international student in Australia due to immigration laws. Thus, if I prepare for the GMAT I won’t be able to combine it with finance related work/internships.

    Thank you for advice

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’m not 100% sure of Australian work laws, but from the sounds of what you’ve told me, you may want to combine your studies w/ finance related work/internships so perhaps going for Monash maybe the best choice

  37. Sarah says

    Hi,

    I really need your advise.

    I graduated 3 years ago from a non-target uni with first class honours in Econ and Econometrics. I have been working in back office of a large bank in the UK. I have been applying for various jobs outside of operations but none have been successful; I have been made an offer from a top target uni for their MSc course in finance, but the tuition fees are quite steep and although I can afford it I’m just thinking is the MSc really worth the price tag?

    I essentially want to just rebrand myself so that I can apply for front office roles as well as learn more on finance (as I have a very theoretical background) can you please advise if I should do this MSc?

    Thanks,

    • says

      It’s questionable – have you already tried networking extensively? If not, I would do that first before committing to an expensive MSc program. Just applying online to new positions won’t help much, so I would at least try networking for a few months and see if you gain traction like that.

      • Sarah says

        Thanks Brian for getting back to me. Yep, I’ve been networking very hard for the past two years and although I’ve made good networks, I’m yet to secure a role outside of operations. I feel the longer I stay in my current role the harder it will be for me to move out of operations. This is why I started looking at masters degree.

  38. Kyle says

    Hi,

    I could use advice regarding which education path to take. I am sophomore Economics major at USC right now and a cadet with the ROTC detachment on campus. I am leaning towards completing my service commitment through the reserves/national guard due to my interest in investment banking and private equity. With that in mind here are my questions:

    Due to AP credits I could graduate in 3 yrs from USC, but my scholarship is for 4 yrs. I am looking at taking that extra year and completing either a Masters in Economics (or possibly Finance if the school will work with me) or pursuing minors in Business Finance and Accounting. Which of these paths would you recommend taking in order to increase my chances of landing an offer from an investment bank or private equity firm?

    Also, due to ROTC I am in a unique situation since I cannot complete a junior-senior year summer internship in a traditional investment bank. During this summer we are required complete a month-long assessment course that serves as our final evaluation. Does anyone have any recommendations on how to position myself for an investment banking internship next summer? I just completed a back office internship at a regional investment bank in LA.

    Lastly, does anyone have any experience in being in the reserves/national guard and in investment banking/buy-side firm?

    Thank you in advance!

  39. Dj says

    Hi,
    I am currently serving my military duty in ROK Air force as an interpretation unit. I already received my BA in Econ. However, I graduated with GPA that is not so competitive compare to the average applicants. I spent most of my time in college to look for my interests that would lead me to my career after the college. Unfortunately, since I was taking too various courses, it actually ended up hurting my GPA. As college approaches to the end, I found that so many friends got their job in IB, and I started to learn about the field, then I finally found my interest but with low GPA. In this case, what do you think I should do? Do you think that I still have a shot? or is it better to apply for Finance master?

  40. JP says

    Hello,

    I am seeking some advice from anybody and this article was very helpful. I am a recent grad and have been working for less than 2 years at a non profit. I graduated with a BA in Political Science and Public Policy with a 3.7 and want to make a career change into doing equity analysis.

    I have been doing investments on my own and most of the material that I know (accounting, valuation methods etc.) I taught myself. I am currently taking some courses in Applied Calc and Stats to prove that I can do quantitative work.

    I am not interested in doing the CFA program because of time constraints with work, but am contemplating going for a Masters in Finance. I am only considering the top programs in the UK (Oxford, LSE) but I am open to looking for some in the US.

    I fully understand that even with a Masters one would have to start at the bottom of the totem pole and I am fine with that. I just do not want to shell out 70K for a masters and then not get a job….then again I’ve applied to many equity analyst entry level positions and seldom make it past the first round.

    Any tips, pointers and thoughts appreciated!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      A Masters maybe useful for you at this stage. Yes it is expensive but it can open you more doors and options, but bear in mind it won’t guarantee you a job.

  41. Alan says

    Hi Nicole and Brian.

    As a final year undergrad student of a BSc at a target in London with no IB internships, I really want to know your thoughts on wheter I should apply to the analyst graduate positions or extend to a Masters (my BSc can extend onto a 4 year Masters) to apply for a summer internship inbetween the 3rd and 4th years.

    Specifically, who applies for the analyst, graduate roles? I assume it is normally people who haven’t converted their summer internship but I also heard BBs dismiss such people as they already went through the process .

    So would I have a good chance applying to the analyst positions? My profile is such that I don’t have finance related work experence but have a pretty rich cv in extracurriculars. My interest in finance is shown through my particpation in investment club groups. investment banking competitions and positions of head of finance for socieites.

    As I thought I can spin my lack of internships as being a completly fresh hire/mind who hasn’t “interned around” but is really passionate about IB from my profile.

    So basicallly, under what circumstances should anyone apply to an analyst, graduate role? Is it ever a good idea to apply without a summer internship?

    Many, many thanks Nicole.

  42. Guillaume says

    Hello,
    I hold a dual French/American BBA, CAIA certification, started my career in back office (Goldman Sachs) and most recently the wealth management industry as a private banker (Deutsche Bank). I am 30 years old and live in Europe. I would like to break into IB (capital markets, M&A, project finance) but I lack technical knowledge and experience.
    Would MBA or MIF help me get through? I believe the MIF is better from a technical point of view but the MBA has higher recognition. For the record, I got accepted into both programs at a target school in Europe…

    Many thanks.
    Guillaume

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Both of them helps. If you want something broader (i.e. management etc) an MBA maybe better. MIF maybe a bit more quantitative.

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