by Brian DeChesare Comments (114)

From Analyst to Associate and Beyond: How to Get Promoted In Investment Banking

So, what happens if you’ve lost your mind and suddenly don’t want to move into PE, go to a hedge fund, or become a venture capitalist?

You continue on in banking, and move from Analyst to Associate – and beyond.

If you’re in the US, you might be wondering why you’d ever want to do this – but in other parts of the world exit opportunities are less hyped and many bankers actually remain bankers.

Plus, if you don’t get any buy-side offers you’ll have to stick around in banking anyway – so here’s how to get promoted and how to avoid turning into Patrick Bateman in the process.

Why Would You Want to Get Promoted?

The usual arguments for moving to the buy-side are strong:

  • Improved hours (maybe)
  • (Potential for) Better pay
  • More responsibilities
  • More interesting work

Of course, there are downsides to the buy-side as well and it’s not right for everyone.

If you’re a really social / “salesy” person who likes a fast-paced environment, staying in banking might be a better fit.

Plus, once you get to a certain level the “Show me the money!” arguments make less sense because any MD will make far more money than he has time to spend – even if he quits and moves to Buenos Aires.

How Common Is It?

The often-cited statistic is that 10% of investment banking analysts move on to become associates.

But that’s misleading because it doesn’t indicate a 10% “admission rate” – the majority of analysts don’t want to be promoted.

The top analysts usually leave for the top PE firms and hedge funds, and everyone else is too burned out after 2 years of 100-hour weeks to want to stay in banking.

But banks that desperately need to hire would much prefer a seasoned analyst to a freshly minted MBA – knowing how everything works saves months of time and piles of money.

So the option is there if you want it – but most analysts don’t, which is why you hear that it’s very difficult to advance.

What’s the Difference, Anyway?

The roles are not that much different since they’re both classified as junior bankers, but:

  • Associates manage analysts and communicate directly more often with senior bankers.
  • Associates get more client exposure and speak to management teams on more than just technical details of models, as analysts would.
  • Banks assume that associates want to stay in banking for the long-term, whereas they know that many analysts will be gone after 2-3 years.
  • When something goes wrong, the VP will blame the associate before the analyst since the associate was responsible for his work.

Hours may be slightly better for the associate, and base salaries and bonuses are both higher – good news if you have $150K or so of business school debt outstanding.

How Do You Do It?

First, you need to become a 3rd year analyst – that’s the standard in the US, UK, and pretty much all other countries.

The 3rd year offer comes via mutual consent – senior bankers approach you midway through your second year and sit down to discuss whether or not you want to stay on.

In 99% of cases they already know whether or not they want you to stay – that’s what happens when you spend 80-100 hours per week with the same group of people over 1-2 years.

So it’s more a question of what you want to do in relation to your performance.

In addition to all the usual qualities an analyst must have – attention to detail, not screwing up models, multi-tasking, and so on – you need a couple extra qualities to get a 3rd year offer:

  1. Leadership – Do you mentor 1st year analysts and summer interns? Can you manage those below you without causing an insurrection?
  2. Profit – Are you saving or earning more for the bank than you’re costing? Just like in PE, no one will keep you around if you have a negative ROI. This is finance, not non-profit land.
  3. Senior Banker Fans – Will senior bankers in your group go to bat for you when it’s time to make a decision? If not, you need those types of relationships to get a 3rd year offer.

There’s no quick-fix solution to achieving any of this, so you need to be thinking about these points from day 1 and actively working on them as you move from your 1st year into your 2nd.


To be more specific, here are a few examples of behavior that won’t get you promoted and behavior that will get you promoted:

  • Non-Promotion: You give a 1st year analyst a set of public comps to complete and check his numbers before giving it to the associate or VP.
  • Promotion: You give the analyst a set of public comps, but in addition to checking his work you think of another company that would be good to include because it boosts the valuation significantly. You run the idea past the associate or VP and point out that it may help with winning the deal.
  • Non-Promotion: You look through a 1st year analyst’s operating model for a client and find that all the numbers are correct before giving it to your associate.
  • Promotion: You look at the analyst’s operating model and find cost-saving opportunities for the client, which you can pitch to PE firms as an easy to boost their returns if they acquire the company. You also teach the younger analyst how to create scenarios in his model to support this.

Neither of these examples is a big deal by itself – it’s more about going above and beyond what you’re asked to do consistently, over 1-2 years, than discovering the magic bullet promotion solution.

…And Then From There

Once you’ve become a 3rd year analyst, you then need to get an associate offer.

You need to demonstrate the same criteria as what’s listed above, only more of it – rather than just informally helping out new analysts, you need to give analysts instructions and see pitch books and models through to completion.

At this level, more senior buy-in is required – your group head needs to like you, and the senior bankers need to say, “We like this guy/girl, he/she has run a bunch of deals and acted like an associate for us, and is ready for the role.”

This is a lot of self-selection here – if you want to continue in banking, chances are you’ll step up and start contributing more.

And if you don’t, you’ll probably be going home early every day or waiting to bounce when your new job starts anyway.

Boutiques vs. Bulge Brackets

Some argue that it’s easier to get promoted at boutiques because they need the manpower and because there’s more competition at bulge brackets…

…which can be true, but it’s definitely not a rule.

The key difference between small and large banks holds true here as well: it’s more random at boutiques.

You might be at a boutique where the loss of 1 key associate means they need someone ASAP; or you might be at a bank where turnover is low and hardly anyone moves up.

At bulge brackets, by contrast, the process is more standardized and you’ll most likely catch neither a lucky break nor an unlucky break.

Other Groups

On the sales & trading side, there’s not quite as much confusion over analyst to associate promotions because that’s where most associates are coming from anyway – MBA hires with no S&T experience are rare.

Most traders move up the ranks because they’ve made a lot of money, not because they went to a top business school – so the profit part of the equation above is even more important if you want a promotion there.

Analysts and associates exist at other institutions like hedge funds, private equity firms, and so on, but sometimes there are limitations on how much you can advance.

For example, if you’re hired as a private equity analyst right out of undergraduate there might be no option to advance to the associate level – the firm might expect you to go to business school or move elsewhere after 2 years.

Is an MBA Required?

Nope, and the degree won’t necessarily help you.

Finance, unlike most other industries, is driven more by results than internal politics.

No one’s going to say, “This guy got an MBA from HBS – therefore he should be promoted to VP over this other guy who doesn’t have an MBA.”

Instead, they’ll say, “This guy has really good reviews and worked on a bunch of high-profile deals – clients love him, and he’s starting to develop relationships of his own. Let’s promote him.”

Some bankers argue that even if you don’t need an MBA, you should go back to school anyway to gain a broader perspective and network.

There is some merit to that argument, but most bankers who go back for the degree use it as a 2-year vacation.

You will learn a lot and meet a lot of people – and that may make you a better associate.

But it’s a stretch to say that an MBA is required to advance.

But Will They Pay For It?


When times are frothy some banks may cover the expense if you agree to return in 2 years, but that is rare.

There’s no actual difference in pay or responsibilities if you get an MBA vs. if you just advance naturally – there’s far more of a difference between the associates with no banking experience and former bankers.

In sales & trading, you may be at a disadvantage with an MBA – direct promotes are usually given a portion of the trading book, but you won’t have that if you’re graduating and moving to a new firm.

What About Exit Opportunities If You Make the Analyst to Associate Move?

Don’t hold your breath.

It’s easier if you’ve been an investment banking analyst, but there’s still a strong bias against hiring associates because they’re perceived as “career bankers.”

So don’t use an associate offer as your backup plan unless you’re 100% set on banking – otherwise you will be pigeonholed.

If you do realize you want to move to the buy-side, do it quickly – it’s much easier to move over as a newly promoted associate than as a 3-year veteran.

OK, But Do You At Least Get Some Nice Perks?

Usually you’ll get a signing bonus comparable to what new associates would get – around $40K – plus a few weeks to a month off and the option to attend “training.”

If you’ve been an analyst for 3 years, “training” has no value for you so it’s really just a long vacation.

Those are the main perks – plus, of course, you won’t be treated like a newbie who knows nothing about banking.

So, Should You Do It?

Choosing to become an associate is more of a career choice than moving to the buy-side or going to corporate development at a Fortune 500 company – in those roles you have more mobility and you can hop around to different positions.

But at the associate level, you’re expected to stay in banking for the long-haul – so if you’re not 100% committed, do not use it as a backup plan.

Staying in investment banking for the long-term can be a good career, but you will be more limited if you make the leap.

And After You Get Promoted…

You’ll get more responsibility, you’ll have to formally manage analysts, and you’ll need to start thinking more like a VP.

You won’t be expected to pull in clients yet, but you do need to start building relationships and making yourself known as more than just another nameless analyst.

The hours may be a little better, but you won’t see a big improvement until you’re more senior – and even at the MD level, ruined weekends and being on-call 24/7 are still expected.

And yes, pay improves as well, but you still won’t be making $1 million+ until you’re a more senior VP or MD – which is not easy to do.

If you do well and prove that you can execute deals with little supervision, you might just get promoted to VP.

The VP’s Dilemma

But lots of promising bankers stall out at the VP level because you have to balance 2 huge, often conflicting tasks:

  1. Executing deals and making sure all the presentations, books, and meetings go as planned.
  2. Bringing in clients and developing relationships.

If you devote too much time to #1, #2 suffers – and vice versa.

Because of this dual responsibility, your hours may not even improve much – you’re busy with potential clients during the day and you’re occupied with deals at night.

And while MDs are also under a lot of pressure to bring in clients, that’s all they do: they don’t need to juggle sourcing with execution.

The VP to MD transition is the toughest one in banking, and that applies on the buy-side as well – going from due diligence, model-crunching mode to sourcing investments is a delicate balancing act.

If you’re a star, you might move from VP to MD or Senior VP in only 2-3 years; more often it’s around 4-5, and if it takes longer than that you’ll probably be making a trip to the conference room in the near future.

Is It Really This Hard?

Did you really expect to make millions of dollars per year without putting in a lot of effort?

Of course it’s tough – if you’re looking for something easier, though, I hear Best Buy is hiring.

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. When do 3rd year analysts find out about associate promotions? Understand it differs by bank but is there a general timeline?

    1. Probably midway through their 2nd years.

  2. Hi Brian,

    I’ve also heard of associates moving onto corporate development and other roles because they have good analytical and project management experience. Do you think this is true?


    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes this happens quite often I believe.

  3. Thanks for the sanity check Brian. You had me at “If you want to spend that much…”

  4. I apologize for asking this question here, but the comment section on wardrobe post seems to have been disabled.

    I know that it’s a taboo for first year IB analysts to spend say $2,000 on suits, but what about first year IB associates? Non-sale regular price of suits from Canali do cost $2,000-ish. Would they be subject of ridicule? I know this depends on bank/region etc, but let’s say BB in NYC.

    Thank you

    1. If you want to spend that much, sure. The main thing is you don’t want the suit to look ridiculous or make it so noticeable that other people start making comments. Generally you are trying to blend in and look professional, but not over the top.

  5. But in general, for those post-mba associates who did not do finance pre-mba, do the majority of them stay in banking or do they leave? And for those who do leave, do most of them move to the buy-side or do they leave finance altogether?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Again I don’t have the statistics on hand; there is not set formula. I’d say some may stay in banking , some may leave for various reasons be it joining the buy side or leave finance. You may want to approach the business schools and ask the career center for individual stats if that is what you’re looking for

  6. So where do most of the post-mba associates plan to exit to? And for those who do manage to leave, do most of them go to the buy-side or do they exit to the corporate world?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Both. It depends on their background and what they want to do.

  7. Am I right to assume that post-MBA associates who have been IB analysts in the past are perceived as “career bankers” and intend to stay in IB for the long haul?

    May I know how post-MBA associates who have no prior IB experience are perceived then? Are they expected by investment banks to stay in banking long-term or are they expected to move on after 2-3 years? More importantly, do most post-MBA associates with no previous banking experience expect to work in IB long-term or do they have the same mindset as the analysts- do this for 2-3 years and jump to the buy-side? Finally, do their exit opportunities differ from those post-MBA associates who have been analysts in the past?

    Sorry for the numerous questions.

    1. Yes, correct.

      Even if you have no prior IB experience, you’re still expected to stay longer-term than analysts would. A lot of associates claim they’re in it for life, but actually plan to exit after a few years anyway. Exit opportunities are worse for post-MBA associates and it’s definitely harder to move to the buy-side, but still possible.

  8. Hi Brian/Nicole, I’m currently a 4th year analyst. It’s very strange in that my bosses like me, but are unwilling to promote me to associate. My original plan was to stay on and progress within the firm, but given the circumstance I’m considering whether to explore PE/other banks. I’m clearly at a disadvantage. I’m wondering if you know of a good way to spin this situation in a more favourable light? Alternatively, if I chose to stay, what type of conversation should I have with my boss? Thanks in advance.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Good question. I’d spin this in other interviews by saying that you’re looking for new opportunities given XYZ reason (always focus on the positive and why you’re looking to move, not the “negative” – i.e. they aren’t willing to promote you). Yes I’d network now and start interviewing. This way you can leverage any offer you have and ask for a better deal at your firm. Of course, I’d also suggest you to have an open conversation with your boss asking him re. your performance and if he thinks there are ways you can improve. If he is happy with you, then I’d press on and ask re. opportunities for advancement (i.e. when will you be promoted – phrase it in a nice way). I’d love to go in details here but we can only go so far on the comments forum.

      1. Thank you very much Nicole for the fast response.

        1. M&I - Nicole

          You’re welcome!

  9. Hi,
    If i am an analyst and won’t to stay in banking, is there any point of getting an MBA?

    Will some one with an MBA move up the ladder faster than me?

    Can I move up all the way to MD without an MBA within the same time period as someone with one?

    1. i ment want to stay in banking

    2. M&I - Nicole

      To move out of the industry and potentially move into corporate, VC or PE. An MBA may come in handy if you want to progress to senior management roles

      Not necessarily – it depends on your work performance. I think it’s fair game.

      Yes, if you perform.

  10. Hi, I work as an analyst in energy in M&A. What are your thoughts on energy sector as a whole and are there any exit opps to areas like asset management in general?

  11. Would you say it is reasonable for a first year VP to leave and do an MBA? I have pretty career prospects in my current role, but for personal reasons (newborn kid) I am thinking of taking a year or two out. However I am very hesitant for reasons that may be obvious- end of the day, I will be giving up two years of salary and a possible promotion in two or three years. Just trying to survey some independent opinions and would appreciate your view.

    All best,


    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes it is reasonable. I think you’ll have determine whether your time off is worth the costs (the salary and possible promotion you’re giving up). I think if you decide to take time off, then MBA is probably the best option if you want to get back into the industry after. And its hard to say because its hard to predict what the markets will be like in next 2-3 years.

  12. M&I —

    Greatly appreciate the website and insightful responses.

    Understood your point that an MBA is not a prerequisite for being promoted to associate.

    However, I am curious if you think that thesis holds true for a Sr.Analyst at a boutique (lower middle market) bank trying to move up, so to speak, to associate at a more prestigious bank (not bulge bracket, but perhaps upper middle market).

    It feels like the MBA may be more of a prerequisite in that case, since said Sr. Analyst wouldn’t have a bulge bracket name attached to his/her resume.

    Would love to hear thoughts, and my apologies if this has been covered elsewhere.

    Thanks again for the wonderful website.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I think it may help but in this economy I don’t think it is a guarantee. Your previous experience and your ability to generate revenue are probably more important. If you want to be in senior management/move up ladder in IB/PE I think an MBA (top tier) would help. If you are somewhat “bored” of what you are doing, have little opportunity cost, genuinely want to learn what b-school has to teach you, miss being in school and can afford the tuition, I’d suggest you to apply and see if you get in. But I wouldn’t suggest you to go into b-school expecting to get a great job after – I don’t believe there’s a guarantee these days

  13. FIG Pigeonholed

    Working at a large universal bank in the FIG advisory practice for a year, 100% convinced I don’t want to be in the FIG world for my career, should I jump out now or wait around till I have 2 years on my CV, making myself both more experienced but also more pigeonholed

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Network & interview. When you get an offer that you like, move. Otherwise, you can stay if you like your current job. If you hate what you’re doing now, I’d suggest you to get out ASAP – life’s too short for that and you’ve been there for a year already

  14. Hi Thanks for all the useful information you provide everyone on this awesome site.

    Can you shed some light on whether GMAT score is an important factor in getting an interview at (post MBA) at associate Level at BB and Boutique Banks? Do the banks ask for your GMAT score? I have heard top tier Management consulting firms put a lot of emphasis on your MBA grades and they want 700+ GMAT?

    The reason I am asking is that I have got a 650 GMAT (75% on quant side) but lower verbal. I only had less than 6 weeks to prepare and write it before application deadlines while I was working full time. Now that I have applied and been accepted to my target schools in Canada, I am considering if I should write the GMAT again for getting internship interviews or full time positions after. Do you think it is worth the effort or is it more worth while studying for CFA level 1 at this point. I have heard from a former MBA student at the school I am planning to go to that less than 20-30 students have CFA level 1 each year and having CFA level 1 puts you at a competitive advantage compared to your peers for getting those IBD interviews in Canada.

    My background is: 5 years of IT consulting with top consulting firms.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I don’t think banks care that much about GMAT scores. At this level they care about your work experience so what will set you apart is solid deal experience

      If you want to take the GMAT again go ahead though I doubt high GMAT scores will truly boost your chances of breaking in

  15. Hi I was just wondering how easy it is to move into FO/trading positions and apply for graduate jobs in these sectors after doing business analyst work experience/internships.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      It can be challenging unless you can demonstrate your acute knowledge of the markets and passion in finance.

  16. Hi

    I wanted to ask that if someone is a promoted associate at a BB (in NY, London), Can the person move to a top PE firm viz. KKR,Blackstone with a senior position as compared to a BB analyst who will enter the PE firm after 2 years of experience?

    Also, as the person is without an MBA, will he be able to climb the corporate ladder in the firm or is it requisite to go for MBA??

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes – it depends on the circumstances!

      Yes. MBA might be considered a “must” for some (esp in large bureaucratic organizations) but it is not a prerequisite.

  17. Very informative.

    However, is it a defo that you’ll be laid off if you can’t make it to MD after 5 years? This has me a tad worried given you said how tough it is.

    At the moment, I’m unsure if I may want to move to the buy-side, become a venture capitalist etc… Though at the moment I’m head strong that I do eventually want to make it at MD level. (Which is why the bit I asked about caught my attention.)

    Also another question: Analyst (1st to 3rd year) and newly recruited Associate are the only ways to take advantage of exit opportunities? Or can there be some exceptions to the rule?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      No, not necessarily.

      You can always take advantage of exit opportunities just that it is tougher to move around as you progress in your career because you might be “pigeon-holed” but nothing is impossible

  18. I’ve got a question concerning the move from M/B/B consulting to IB BB.

    When I would start working for one of these consulting firms in Amsterdam, what are my chances after a couple of years working for these firms – including getting a MBA – for joining an IB BB as an associate? And how many years does it take to get to a VP or MD position after joining the BB?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Chances depends on how good you pitch yourself and how hard you network so I can’t say

      VP – MD: a few years but again depends on how good you are.

  19. So as an analyst, if I were want to be promoted, I should always come up with ideas, right? Is it a good idea to always speak out in a conference call?

    1. Depends on how long you’ve been there… on a conference call not a great idea to speak up at first. But over time as you learn more you can start doing that, but always try to run it by the senior bankers first.

  20. If you’re spending 100 hours a week in the office, how are you supposed to do enough networking to generate clients?

    1. You don’t work 100 hours per week in the office as a VP – hours are still long but you do have time to network since most of your work consists of calling people and reviewing documents rather than actually creating anything.

  21. Hello Brian, and thanks a lot for keeping this site!

    As one MD I have known told, “the skill set you need as an associate is different from one you need as an analyst, but a skill set you need as VP is the same as one you need as an associate”. Can you please elaborate on what a junior associate needs to succeed – what do seniors expect from one, how one can go home 9pm each day and stay in better relationships with the seniors that those who stay until 2am and get yelled at, and so on, and so on…? Merci bien!

    1. I don’t agree 100% with the 2nd part of that especially as you advance. But as a junior associate basically you need to leverage analysts as much as possible to avoid getting sunk in details yourself, and interface with the VPs and other senior bankers much more to make sure things are running smoothly. It’s pretty tough to go home at 9 PM every day but as long as you’re getting your work done and everyone likes you sometimes it’s possible… so much depends on your group dynamics though that it’s hard to generalize.

  22. Hey M&I

    Just wanted to confirm…

    So banks don’t sponsor MBAs? Not even bulge brackets? I was under the impression that it was one of the perks of the industry – but perhaps it’s just a management consulting thing?

    1. It’s very rare – maybe in boom times that happens but not when the economy is questionable or bad

  23. Hello,

    With 2 years of experience, its still tough. I worked in investment bank for 2 years and took 1 years break due to personal reasons. Now i am trying to find a Investment banking job in a different country. But it is getting tougher and tougher day by day. I feel as if my experience is not considered anywhere and nowhere people are entertaining me. Why is this happening?

    1. If you’ve been out of the market for awhile it’s tough to jump back in – best bet is to focus on boutiques and tiny firms and work up from there.

  24. Hello,

    In the middle of a huge dilemma here. Done with my undergrad a few months ago. Working at a bank. However working for the retail banking side rather than anything to do with IB/or investments for the matter of fact.
    Have plans to do my masters in a year or so.
    However, there is a dilemma as to whether to go in for an msc in finance or an mba. An msc in finance is cheaper and easier to get into with lesser work ex than an mba. However, the downside is that msc grads would get an analysts role rather than an associate role which an mba grad would get.
    Doing an mba would require a 4-5 years of work ex. Given that you said that mba is usually used as a break for a banker, would it be a good option to do an msc at lse and stay in banking for the long haul (analyst,associate, etc) or would it be better to work for a few more years and then go in for an mba?
    The pinch here is that I am working in a retail banking environment and networking doesn’t seem a great option in my country.

    1. An Msc in Finance at a top school is the better option since you haven’t been working full-time that long. Less expensive and time-consuming and you don’t really lose much by starting as an Analyst rather than an Associate if you’ll only have a year or so of work experience by then.

  25. you wrote that; “there’s still a strong bias against hiring associates because they’re perceived as “career bankers.” “.

    I was just wondering what exactly you meant by “career bankers.” and why that is percieved as a bad thing.


    1. PE firms and hedge funds want analysts who know something about finance but have not committed to spending their careers in banking. The older and more experienced you are, the fewer options you have – that’s just because finance is a screwed up industry.

      Firms are very, very structured – analyst –> PE/HF, associate –> stay in banking.

  26. Hey, about MBAs and S&T – is that option dead because of the Volcker rule? My career experience sets me up really well for Research, but if I want to be a trader (post-MBA associate, career switch), I’ll need some pre-MBA trading experience. I think I can get it (or in lieu of that, some hedge fund experience), but how much is enough? 3 months? 5 months? How much is enough to at least make the interview stage? Thanks.

    1. S&T rarely, rarely hires anyone from business school unless you’ve had experience beforehand. 3 months is enough.

  27. tommytippee

    I’ve been following you a while now with great interest, and what always struck me was the focus on MBAs after a few years in banking or PE/HF. Bearing in mind that I’m in Europe and was overall planning on staying here in London for a career, how necessary is it to have/do an MBA to be able to move up in PE/HF?
    People in LDN (as well as you) say you really don’t need one if you stay in banking. For PE/HF it seems to be different though, in that you can’t move up at all or are very limited in those if you don’t do the MBA, is this true (especially for Europe)?
    What’s your advice on that?

    All the best

    1. It depends on the firm – some places want to see the degree and others don’t care. At the largest buy-side firms it helps.

      1. tommytippee

        so “it helps” means essentially you’ll reach a glass ceiling, or will you just at some point be asked to go elsewhere?

        1. Yes they will usually say, “Ok go back for your MBA” at some point

  28. So currently I am working as first year in BB Ops/Middle Office. I just got an offer to join PFM, the salary is low for the industry. They focus on public finance investment banking and debt issuance for municipalities. I want a future career in IBD, and money is not a factor. So should I take this offer? Will it provide exit opportunities in two years to a boutique or bulge bracket investment bank?

    1. It’s definitely better than ops / middle office, so I’d take it – much easier to move to a boutique or BB from there.

      1. just out of curiosity, are public finance analysts paid a lot less than IB analysts or is it similar?

        1. Base is similar bonus is less.

  29. 3r year analyst

    Hi there,

    I am a 3 year analyst at a BB. (I mean a real BB, leading team in its area). Although a lot of people have been leaving the bank recently no one in my team has left until now. Promotions are to be announced in December and we are quite a few 3rds lined up… I know the bosses have been looking to add on some more associates earlier this year but have not hired any. I can imagine they have not found good profiles + Q2 was not good for banks so may have put these plan on freeze.

    I am hugely staffed. Worked on number of transactions, I will certainly be backed by a number of seniors for promotion. Although I know that a couple of other seniors may not know me very well given they arrived recently and I have not had the opportunity to work with them a lot

    Given that promotions for next year are to be announced in a couple of months what can I do to push things?

    1. Maybe speak with a few senior bankers that you know well and bring up the topic directly – that’s about all you can do at this stage.

  30. Worth it to write that i got a fulltime offer for SA on resume for fulltime recruiting?

  31. Hey Brian,

    If banks have information sessions one day before the application deadline for Full time positions, do you think it’s still helpful to attend the information sessions and network?

    There will obviously be a bunch of people trying to get close to the MD and talk to them and such and he’ll unlikely remember… if so, what should the follow up email be about? You mentioned that it should be about specific requests, but the deadline is one day after, if this is so, how should I approach this? thanks

    1. It can be useful but less so when the deadline is so close – it’s still worth going but you really need to follow up immediately after the session before the deadline and say something about how it was nice to meet them, and see if they had any tips since you’re applying tomorrow and starting the recruiting process then.

  32. hey great site. thanks for the help.

    I am a sophomore at a semi/non target. I have a wealth management internship this semester. I am interested in pursuing trading for a career. What kind of internship should I aim for the summer?

    thanks again

    1. Try to do something related to trading at a bank, hedge funds, prop trading, and so on… shouldn’t be too hard with a PWM internship

  33. For resumes in terms of start date and end date, if i had a 16 week internship, do you think it’s best to put April 2010 – July 2010 instead of just putting 2010?

    I’ve heard from my career advisor to just put say the year, ie ‘2010’ because this makes the potential interviewer to ASK about how long you worked there, get THEM interested, rather than just seeing you as a person that has only worked there for say 3 months…. what do you think

    1. I think that’s bad advice, always list the month and year or it looks really strange.

  34. Brian,

    As a junior applying for IBD summer internships, should I expect a lot of technical questions? Previously I did a ML PWM internship but I do not have any actual investment banking experience. I do have your investment banking guide, will the guide cover most of the common technical questions?


    1. Yes, that will cover everything you need to know on the technical side. Just by having the ML name on your resume, you will get more technical questions than the average person.

  35. Johnnybegood


    I was wondering if you could elaborate over Lazard. I know you usually won’t discuss specifics of different firms and rank them but since this one is somehow different from most I was hoping you do an exception.
    How they compare to other first tier firms (i.e. Goldman, Morgan Stanley)? Is the day to day job different to bulge brackets? Is it still a top firm like in its glory days or is it lagging rivals? Do their analysts get the same exit opportunities?
    Would you take an offer from Lazard instead of other firms?

    Many thanks for your site, it is clearly the best resource we’ve got to get a job in M&A!


    1. Lazard is usually thought of as equally prestigious as the top bulge bracket banks. It’s really not much different than large banks, maybe deal sizes are smaller on average but even that is not really true if you look at their deal list. Exit opportunities are good, I don’t think there’s any reason to pick Lazard over other banks or vice versa just based on the reputation of those banks.

  36. Companies call bankers they know and whom they’ve spoken with over the years. So yes, if they want Goldman Sachs they will call Goldman Sachs… but they’re not going to just dial the main line and say, “Hey, secretary, can you refer me to an MD?”

    They’re going to call the guy or girl they know… which is where senior bankers like VPs and MDs come in. They spend all their time developing relationships with companies, showing them new ideas, and following up so that when it’s time to select a banker, they’re at the top of the list.

  37. Hey Brian,

    Great stuff, as usual. I’m curious about exit opps. I did an equity research internship this summer, but I’m thinking about moving into investment banking. The only reason I’m interested in making this transition, however, is because of the exit opps. I would imagine breaking into PE with a research background would be difficult, but what about VC and corporate development? Would a research associate need to “re-brand” via business school to move into those fields? And on that front, is it any easier/more difficult to gain admission into a top school out of research than it is out of investment banking (all else equal)?

    Thanks in advance. (Apologies if you’ve discussed this elsewhere)

    1. I don’t think you have to go to business school, but it is quite tough to get into VC / corp dev from ER… the best approach would be to work in tech or biotech ER for VC or to approach a company you cover and ask about joining them in some type of finance position. I don’t think ER vs. IBD makes a huge difference for business school.

  38. What percent of associates move up to MD eventually? What percent of VPs move up to MD? I understand that a significant number of people at each stage decide to leave IB for personal reasons, but I wanted to get a sense for the overall chances of becoming a MD.

    1. Hard to say, but maybe around 5% of Associates move up to MD and 10% of VPs move up to MD one day. This is based on relative headcounts at banks, e.g. usually there are a lot more Associates and VPs than MDs.

  39. Hi M&I,

    I got a contact (family friend) who is a client of a few BBs, his company does repetitive business with the banks(IPO, follow-on), and maybe this Dec. his another company would file an IPO as well.
    This guy once got me into the first round of few banks for SA, then superday as well ( I think i did a good job too in the first few rounds, so not sure it was due to his power or not.), but I failed the superday, as a result did not get the SA offer.

    now the FT recruiting is coming, already told this guy to forward my resume to the banks, just wondering what else could I ask for help?? do I need to let him introduce his contacts(probly MD) in the banks to me?

    Thanks man.

    1. You could ask for that, yes. Just say you’re recruiting again, appreciated his help last time, and wanted to reach out to see if he could put you in touch with anyone who might be helpful for getting interviews.

  40. Mark Edwards

    As someone else asked, it would be great if you could do an article on getting into corporate development from IB.

    Specifically how do you re write your IB resume to apply to a corporate development job.

    I know you have a great resume service for IB resumes. We have used it. Do you do the same for writing a resume for a corporate development position?

    1. Please go to Management Consulted ( for all resume inquiries – they have taken over the service. A corporate development interview is in the works.

  41. Hi M&I,

    I currently attend a target and switched to Economics from an unrelated double major my first three semesters of college (freshman and fall sem of my sophomore year). The double major was pretty difficult and as a result my grades suffered. After I made the switch to Econ my GPA that semester was a 3.85+. Now on my resume my cumGPA will be a 3.2(rounded from a 3.17) which is not indicative of my abilities as a Finance / Econ person, so could I put right under my GPA on my resume that I switched from an unrelated double major after 1.5 years, and would recruiters care? Would you care if you were looking at my resume?

    Thanks M&I your blog is amazingly helpful.

    1. Honestly I would not write that; maybe write your GPA over the past semester or year.

  42. Can you do an article about corporate development as an exit opportunity?

    1. I second this request. I think it’d be a great topic.

    2. It’s on the list – actually have someone lined up to interview but currently tied up elsewhere. Maybe next month or two.

  43. What a vicious cycle, feel there is no point in being an investment banker anymore-esp since the bonuses are a fraction of what they used to be. and the killing hours, the job losses and half of america crying for “Banker blood”.

    1. It’s a cyclical industry. You still get paid far more than in any normal job. Remember that the average *household* income in the US is only around $50K… you make more in base salary as an analyst. And to advance anywhere, it’s difficult… if you want to make serious money, you don’t get it without putting in some serious effort over years of time.

  44. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the article. This site has been tremendously helpful as a finance major entering my junior year.

    After finishing a BB PWM internship this summer I landed a fall internship at a boutique investment bank (roughly 30 employees, mostly sell-side). Never having taken a financial modeling course, my question is what’s the best way to strengthen my understanding of DCF models, valuation methods with little to no cost. Obviously, once I start I’ll have a great deal of exposure to them but I’d like to be able to do some work on my own time.


    1. Comment for Steve:

      I’m in the same boat as you, however I took this summer off as I already did my spring internship at a boutique investment bank specializing in M&A advisory for entertainment/media. That was the best experience I was given and my best advice for you is to make as much of it as possible. Best preparation for that internship when I got into some of my light modeling work came from my academic Finance classes in my major. Also I made friends with the associates early by helping do extra work outside of my hours, one of them came around and took time to teach me how to build an LBO from scratch.

      As someone who has done about half of Brian’s financial modeling courses here on Breaking into Wall Street, I will say that they are also extremely valuable. Would definitely recommend it.

      If you read any of that, I hope it helps. Good luck.

      1. Thanks for the comments. Did not want to promote my own courses because he said “little to no cost” but they are an option as well.

    2. Get a book on valuation or borrow one from the library… best ones are:

      Investment Banking Valuation, Leveraged Buyouts, and Mergers & Acquisitions

      The Practitioner’s Guide to Investment Banking Mergers & Acquisitions Corporate Finance

  45. M&I,

    Just wondering, when’s the earliest/latest time you should contact a banker for a follow-up in-person meeting? As in after you already talked with them on the phone for the initial “mini-ask” stuff, when should you move for a face to face thing? Thanks

    1. Answered in the other thread… target 3-4 weeks before recruiting

  46. Can you briefly describe the “buy side” and “sell side” again? And what investment banking applies to? I was a little confused reading the article without knowing what they mean. thanks

    1. IB is sell side because they sell securities or offer their service (IPO, Issuing etc.)

      PE/HF is buy side because they buy companies or securities

    2. Buy-side = you invest in companies and make money from investments. Sell-side = you pitch companies to companies that want to buy them and make a fee from advising on the deal

      1. what would you call warren buffett?

      2. bid ask spread

  47. Hmmm… Very informative, thanks Brian! I’m a lawyer, have about 3.5 years experience, now going to do my MBA. Was planning on trying to get an associate position in banking post-MBA with a view to moving buy-side in 2-3 years. Are you saying that someone like me, without analyst experience, would likely be pigeon-holed as a career banker? If so, I think I have a dilemma, as isn’t it unlikely I’d be hired straight into PE without any finance experience?

    1. Comment for Dave – generally its very hard to break into PE post MBA without pre-MBA IB or PE experience. It does happen, but as one recruiter friend put it, PE is a small, small world, and there are more than enough top-shelf MBA grads who already have PE experience to fill existing slots. There are always exceptions of course, but this is what I’ve heard.

      Question for Brian – have you heard anything about what to do to be promoted in PE? Obviously contributing above and beyond, but anything else you’ve heard? I’m also guessing that the smaller firm size and slower movement at a PE shop means that serendipity plays a somewhat more significant role than in promotion at a bank.

      1. Luck does play more of a role. To be promoted high up within PE you need to pull in investments that do really well for the firm – finding the next Google, Facebook, or Zynga (at a VC) would be a good move. You’re not going to advance just by executing well, you have to contribute in terms of forming investment theses and then going out to find good targets.

    2. It is very difficult to get into PE without having been a banking analyst first. I’m sure it has happened before, but your chances are quite low unless the market is good / you catch a lucky break.

      1. Thanks. I wonder if you could expand a little on why that is the case? Is it because analysts are trained “from the ground up” on modelling, etc, whereas associates are only trained enough to understand and modify them in order to be able to interact with VPs & clients? Or is it, as Sean suggests, that there will be younger people with the same experience who are likely to work harder and/or for less money?

        1. They want people who know how transactions work and can also get in the trenches to modify models, crunch numbers, and so on… usually associates don’t want to work with nitty-gritty details. Plus, usually pre-MBA positions at a PE firm are not Partner-track and post-MBA positions are.

          Also, PE firms get flooded with thousands of resumes – by setting strict criteria, they reduce the number of applicants to a manageable number… kind of like pre-mad classes and becoming a doctor.

          1. Thanks, that’s helpful. Really useful website.

  48. Shawn

    Surfing in Brazil.

  49. So once you’re a vp and stay there for a few years and don’t get promoted, are you let go? And if so, what exit opps do you have then?

    1. If you cannot start pulling in clients, then yes, you would be let go. Exit opps would be going to management positions at normal companies.

  50. This was very informative for someone like me who, even though I’m a lowly summer analyst, for some reason has his mind set on pulling through till VP/MD…
    What worries me is your “if you’re a really social/salesy person”. I’ve never really counted myself as someone who parties hard and knows tons of people, but I have a very wide friend circle, which I know very well.
    Are the necessary skills learnable and to what extent is it experience based rather than purely personality (that’s unlearnable) based that you can advance?

    1. You can get better over time, but ultimately investment banking is a sales job where you need to build solid relationships over many years to succeed, so it does come down to your personality. If you’re more analytical, something like hedge funds or PE are better bets.

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