by Brian DeChesare Comments (818)

Age and Investment Banking: How Old Is Too Old to Break In?

Age and Investment Banking: How Old Is Too Old to Break In?

UPDATE: Please see the “Part 2” follow-up article to this one, on 6 ways to beat the odds and break into the industry as an older candidate. That article expands on what’s here and gives you tips and advice for what to do as an older candidate.

There’s no issue more sensitive than age.

Ok, maybe the CFA, GPA rounding, and Brazil come close.

But I’ve gotten many panicked “How old is too old to break in?” questions over the years.

Rather than skirting around this issue yet again, let’s jump in and see:

  • Why the problem is not your age at all
  • Why some experiences make you “older” than others
  • Why banks like less experienced and capable recruits
  • What to do if you are “too old”


The question “How old is too old to break into finance?” is a misguided one: in the US it’s not even legal to ask for your age when applying for jobs.

Internationally, this is not true and in some countries they will ask for your age, photos, and other information that would result in lawsuits in the US.

Still, most large banks are US-based and have standardized recruiting processes – so even if you apply in another region they’re not likely to ask explicitly how old you are.

Which means that most of the time, banks cannot measure your age precisely.

Or Can They?

Instead, they assess your “age” by looking at how much full-time work experience you’ve had after graduating from university.

Chances are that 10 years of full-time work experience makes you at least 30 – unless you were a child prodigy and graduated university at age 15, but then you wouldn’t be doing finance anyway.

And when banks see those 10 years of experience they mentally switch into “Too old / experienced to be an analyst” mode.

This has some interesting implications:

  • If you’ve done military service, worked full-time, or done something else full-time for a few years in between high school and college, this won’t necessarily “count against you.”

So even if you’re slightly older than a 22-year old college graduate, banks won’t say “You’re 3 years too old for this job! Go away!”

If you’re a recent graduate, you’ll be placed in the same category as everyone else – unless you have a really unusual situation (you started a business when you were 18, ran it for 10 years, then sold it and started college at age 28).

Yes, finance is the only industry where experience can actually count against you.

This applies to both Analysts and Associates – it’s tough to do something else for a few years after business school and then move into banking.

  • Full-time experience after university makes you “older” than full-time experience during or before university.

So if you’re tempted to take a year off and become a ski bum or do volunteer work or anything else “full-time,” then taking a leave of absence from school and returning once you’re done is a better idea.

This isn’t logical in the slightest, but nothing in finance is.


In the FAQ I gave 30 as the upper limit for Analyst-level hires and 40 as the limit for Associate-level hires.

Those were both under the assumption that you graduate around age 22-25.

And those guidelines are mostly correct, but it’s not because of your age itself – it’s because of how much experience you’ll have by then.

  • Analyst-Level: Banks rarely hire anyone at the Analyst level with more than 2-3 years of full-time experience.
  • Associate-Level: If you’ve done an MBA banks usually want 3-5 years of experience but not more than 10.

For Associates, it’s less about the years worked and more about the level you’ve attained.

Someone at the mid-level could potentially come in as an Associate, but a top executive will not take a pay cut and start correcting spelling mistakes in pitch books 100 hours a week.

Keep in mind that these are guidelines rather than absolute laws.

I’ve seen relatively senior people join banks as Associates, despite having more than 10 years of experience – if you find the right group and tell the right story it’s doable.

…But Realistically

On the other hand, no, you will not be hired as an investment banking analyst if you are 50 and have 25 years of work experience.

You won’t even get hired as an Associate with that kind of background.

Yes, you can break in coming from very random backgrounds, but there’s a limit when it comes to years of work experience rather than the experience itself.

Why Do They Do It This Way?

If you’re in this category you might now be asking, “Why? Shouldn’t they want people with more experience who are better leaders and problem solvers?”

And I agree with you – it’s silly to be this rigid.

But banks don’t see it that way – they have 2 main concerns with more experienced candidates:

  1. You can’t prioritize work above all else and be on-call 24/7.
  2. You won’t do whatever senior bankers ask you to without questioning orders.

Concern#1 applies mostly to Associates.

Banks assume that if you’re older you might have a family and actual responsibilities outside work, reducing your willingness to stay at the office until midnight all the time.

Concern #2 applies to everyone – banks know that only less experienced hires are likely to follow instructions all the time without pushing back.

This is why it’s difficult to break in if you’ve started a company or done something off the beaten path that required a lot of independent thought – you might not be able to follow orders.

No, not everyone in the industry thinks like this.

But it is a numbers game, and bankers want to maximize their chances of finding workhorse Analysts and Associates – so they target people in very specific categories.


IB Networking Toolkit

Break into investment banking – like a pro. Dominate your cold calls, informational interviews, and weekend trips.

learn more

So What Do You Do If You’re “Too Old”?

It might be difficult to break into investment banking if you have too much experience, but there are other options:

And if you’re frustrated with the rigidity, find a less structured industry.

As bankers might say, “It is what it is.”

UPDATE: Please see the “Part 2” follow-up article to this one, on 6 ways to beat the odds and break into the industry as an older candidate. That article expands on what’s here and gives you tips and advice for what to do as an older candidate.

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.

Break Into Investment Banking

Free Exclusive Report: 57-page guide with the action plan you need to break into investment banking - how to tell your story, network, craft a winning resume, and dominate your interviews

We respect your privacy. Please refer to our full privacy policy.


Read below or Add a comment

  1. Avatar

    Hi Brian!

    Many thanks for this article and for taking the time to answer everybody! Respect!

    I have a question regarding my situation:

    I am 25 Years old and in my 2nd year of my Bachelors in Business Administration
    and planning on doing a MSC at a european target school in Finance and Invesments. All in all, when having rounded off all academics I will be 28/29 years of age. In the time between my 25 and 29 I will have acquired relevant IB intern experience. Is 29 too old to enter an analyst role?

    What else can you suggest? Are there any alternative routes you can think of?

    I would like to thank you in advance!

    Kind Regards,

    1. It’s not too old, but again, it comes down to your full-time experience so far. If you’re going to say that you had no full-time work experience before all of this, then it’s fine.

  2. Avatar

    Hi Brian

    I was always an interested reader of your site. So I graduated with a bachelor in business administration in 2018 and did an internship in S&T 6 month and then got a trainee in the same bank in a FoF of private equity. As I did a great job they offered me a full time position which I accepted just recently. I have to say that the longer I am there the more I get interested to do direct investments. So my thought was to break first in M&A and then after 2-3 years join a middle market fund.

    In the mean time I am doing the CFA as I am supposed to in my actual role. After I have passed level 2 which is like a waiver for the part-time MBA (2 years, top business school in my country) I would like to work in M&A or even consulting to then make the jump to a PE fund.

    Can you give me your opinion on it? I am not sure if it will work as I will be 30 when I finish the MBA.

    Thank you in advance for any advice from you!

    1. That seems like a really indirect path. Why not just push to work on more co-investments at the FoF or use the experience to move to a FoF that does more co-innvestments, and then move into traditional PE from there? You don’t necessarily need M&A if you have other transaction experience and you’re willing to move to a smaller fund.

  3. Hey Brian,
    As always, thanks for the informative post. Currently, I work for a BB in Manhattan but in a commercial banking role. Although I attended a semi-target, my undergraduate career was lackluster due to extenuating personal circumstances. I am considering obtaining a MSF while working to mitigate my poor undergrad GPA. If I started the MSF this August I would be 26 upon completion (which seems to fall in the acceptable parameters you outlined). The issue is that I may have to wait until the following August to start which would make me 27 by graduation. Would 27 be too old to enter IB in an analyst capacity?

    1. It really depends on the years of full-time work experience you’ve had by then. If it’s past 2-3 years, then yes, you might be too old to win Analyst role, in which case an MBA is more appropriate. But an MSF could still be useful for other types of roles outside IB if you’re interested in those.

      You might also want to think about moving to corporate banking and then going from there to a related group in IB, such as DCM.

      1. Thanks for your response. If I start the MSF this year, I would be able to stay within the acceptable full-time work experience range. I will keep the corporate banking transfer in mind. That is not an option I had considered.

  4. Hi Brian,

    What does this situation feel like to you? I’m 34 y/o, no kids, no wife/partner, business mgmt degree, worked for a small VC firm for about 3 years, then went into firefighting for the last 10 years…. wanting to leave career firefighting to become a trader. I’ve traded exclusively as a retail trader with my own capital. Looking to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding by being involved on the institutional side.

    Any hope?

    1. I think it will be very difficult to get into a large bank with that background, but you might have a shot at prop trading firms if you can get results (i.e., make money) quickly.

  5. Hi Brian, my name is Tim. I am a 27 yr old Math/Finance student at German university. Previously I’ve been working in a small business(VP) in the consumer services industry. At the time of graduation, I’ll be 29/30 y/o and I would like to go into London or Frankfurt IB.
    I want to apply for 3-4 internships in FFM and London. After graduating I am planning to apply for a Master in Finance or math. Do you think it’s possible to break into IB in London or Germany? Am I too old? What do you think about PE vs. HF? Any thoughts on both of those as career options for me? What would be the best way to break into the field?

    1. The main obstacle to winning an IB offer is having too much full-time work experience. If you have been working full-time for more than 3-4 years in actual companies (not the military), then it’s not going to happen unless you go to a top MBA program. SO if you’re still in university and then do a Master’s program, sure, you could do it, but I’m not clear on how many years of full-time work experience you have had.

      1. Thanks for reply
        I have work experience of >4 years in a small company (less than 10 employees) in Germany. So, what would be the best way to break into the industry?

        1) after bachelor -> master in Finance or MBA?
        2) after bachelor -> IB?

        What about HF, PT, S&T or PE? Do you think it’s possible to break into one of them in London or Germany out of undergraduate? Do you think that I should give up?

        1. OK, so you had this work experience before or during your Bachelor’s degree? If so, then your best bet is to say it was a part-time role or something like that so you don’t seem over-qualified. Try to get in right after the Bachelor’s degree, if possible. If that doesn’t work, do a top MSF program like some of the ones offered in London and recruit there. An MBA should be “Plan C” because it’s the most expensive and time-consuming of these.

          It is difficult to get into PE or HF roles right out of undergrad. Some firms do now hire Analysts, but it’s still difficult without doing IB first (or S&T for certain HF roles). You can get into S&T out of undergrad, but you need more of a coding/math/statistics background these days to have a good shot.

          1. You got that right. I quit my job for university at 26. So, I have work experience before pursuing a bachelor. But wouldn’t that come out in my favor for PE or HF? I know of funds that invest in companies that are very similar to the company I have worked for. Do you think breaking into a BB is still possible for me? Or should I target MM Banks or EB? I am strong quantitatively (math major) so I can target classical or quant roles.

          2. It’s still not a good idea to mention this experience or claim several years of FT experience because banks like to hire fresh graduates for Analyst roles. You could bring it up for PE interviews later on, and it may help there. I can’t really say which type of bank you should target right now because it depends on the quality of your current university, your grades there, and the amount of networking you’re doing. Honestly, if you’re studying Math and you like math/programming/statistics, it will probably be much easier to win offers at quant funds, and unlike IB/PE, they don’t require multiple previous internships and so on, just raw ability.

  6. I’m French, lived in the US and China my whole childhood, but went to high school in Italy, which is typically one more year than other European high school programs. Right after, I went to do my Bachelor’s in the UK at a target school. As in most UK unis, this was a 4-year degree program. During that time, I had one 6-month internship at an IB boutique in Hong Kong. I’m 22 years old and I’m currently in the last year of my undergrad program. I just got accepted to a French target school (HEC Paris) for a 2-year master’s degree. For those who don’t know, most kids in these masters’ do a gap year in between the two years and take two off-cycle internships of 6 months at large European or US IB banks (BNP, Goldman, etc). This is quite normal, especially in Paris and London. BB banks usually prefer those profiles (at least in Paris and London). You usually get a full-time offer during those, go back to school for the last year of the master’s and go back to the firm right after. I’m planning to start my career in IB in Paris or London for a few years.

    The thing is I’m also planning to move to Hong Kong, Singapore, or Shanghai after around 3-5 years of experience in Europe. Why? Because it would be too hard to directly start in Asia as a foreigner and also I think I’d rather get my first years of experience in Europe (and leverage that). Basically, my life plan is to settle in one of these cities (I know that it’s hard to break in in Asia as a foreigner but I don’t think it’s impossible especially if you get relocated). To do so, I would need to speak perfect Mandarin. I already have a decent level, but very far from being fluent. So I was thinking to basically take another gap year in between my two years of Master’s degree to go to China and take intensive Mandarin classes for one year. After one year, I can expect to be fluent. Just so you guys understand better, I legit really like the language and honestly, I really see myself living there. I’m just so bored of Europe and the US in general.

    So basically, I would do my first year of Master’s, then one year of intensive Chinese classes, one year of Internship, and my last year of Master’s (or a double degree somewhere else – maybe in Asia then). At the time of graduation, I would be 27 years old. Honestly, I’m having doubts about the whole thing. This is really something that I would want to do and I think I would have a background that could lead me far, but it’s also a kinda risky move (maybe not) as I’ll be 27 years old. I don’t know. Starting as a full-time IB analyst at 27….. what are your thoughts about that and my whole plan?

    Thanks guys

    1. I think this sounds like a very complicated plan with multiple failure points, but the biggest problem is that it is already exceptionally difficult to work in China/HK without being a native Chinese person. It doesn’t matter if you know the language perfectly and can understand detailed books on nuclear physics – culturally, they just won’t accept it. It worked 20-30 years ago, but not today. I think you should get work experience ASAP wherever you are, and worry about what to do later. Real-life experience usually reveals the best path, while detailed plans often lead you astray.

  7. Hi Brian,

    I am 41 years and working in Internal Audit for long 11 years and now developing interest in IB & would like to move to IB, any options you can suggest. I have CIMA, CGMA, CISA & CIA.

    1. I don’t think you have a realistic chance of getting into IB at this stage. My advice would be to find some other position in the Big 4 or other accounting firms that’s related, such as valuation or transaction services, and then maybe try to leverage that to get into corporate development or something else deal-related. They just don’t hire auditors with 10+ years of work experience for traditional IB roles.

  8. Hi, Brian

    I am from Brazil and also have a European citizenship.
    I have a BSBA with a major in Finance and a 4.0 GPA from a relatively small State University in Ohio, where I played tennis at the NCAA Division I level.

    I had two internships during college. One at a small venture capital firm and the other at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. I am 24 years old and currently have 11 months of full time work experience at an investment brokerage firm in Brazil as an investment advisor.

    I would like to get into IB. I am considering a Masters in Finance in a top US School (but would only start mid 2021). Is that too late and would I be too “old” in terms of work experience to get an Analyst position in IB? Should I wait a little bit longer and go for the MBA instead and try the Associate position?

    I appreciate any help you could offer and congrats on your work with M&I

    1. No, I don’t think you would be too old because it depends more on the amount of work experience you have and not your age. So if you start the MSF program after about 2 years of full-time work experience, that should be fine. I would not bother with an MBA in that case, especially since you’ve already done something finance-related.

  9. Brian,

    To be completely transparent, I’m here for the money. I graduated 12/2014 from a respectable school majoring in Accounting as well as Finance. I’ve worked in two different commercial banks as a credit analyst (combined just over 4 yrs). I am on the verge of securing an entry level IB analyst role with a regional boutique IB in town, but was also considering getting my MBA. Any thoughts on if maybe a change in direction would be more feasible to achieve that big paycheck?


    1. Should probably add that I’m 28 – I mean that is the whole reason I came here.

    2. If you’re about to receive an IB offer from a regional boutique bank, you should accept that and work there first before doing an MBA or thinking of other longer-term options. You can then decide whether you want to aim for a larger bank or go back for an MBA and use that to move to a bulge bracket or other large bank. An MBA is generally not worth it if you already have a pathway into the industry. It’s more useful for career changers who need something drastic to win interviews and offers.

  10. Hi,
    I was a coaching client – I tried moving to REPE but ended up in Advisory IB as a senior analyst. I’m old (26) and am about to get promoted to Associate. Having ~4 years of IB experience (REIB and then natural resources), is it too late for PE? Would you guys provide coaching (helping me make a decision between staying in IB and moving to PE – no interest in MBA)?

    1. I don’t think it’s necessarily “too late” for PE, but you’re probably not going to get into a mega-fund directly at this stage if you’re on your way to being promoted as an Associate. A better strategy might be to target smaller / newer funds that don’t use on-cycle processes and then network your way into PE, and then move up to larger firms over time. If you’re at one of the top BB/EB banks, you might still have a shot at large PE firms, but only with aggressive networking outside the normal process and some luck.

      Feel free to contact if you want to ask about coaching for this one, but it’s not really intended to help you make a decision like this – it’s more for how to execute your plan once you’ve already decided on something.

  11. I am 27 years. I graduated 3 years ago with Masters degree in political science. I have since developed interest in finance and want to get into banking. Should I apply for traditional graduate schemes or am I too old/unsuitable at this point for entry-level investment banking roles? Unfortunately, I do not have internships at prestigious banks behind my belt either :(

    1. At this point, you will probably need an MBA to have a realistic chance of getting into the industry.

  12. Hi Brian, would you be able to give me some advice? I would greatly appreciate it.

    I graduated in dec 2014 with BA degree from SUNY Albany. I have been working in the car business since then; however, I really want to switch career to IB. I plan to go to MBA in Fall 2019. Am I too late to do such things? What would you do if you were me in this situation? Thanks

    1. Not necessarily, but it depends on what you mean by “working in the car business.” I think you should read about the typical requirements to get into IB at the MBA level first:

      The short answer is that you’re taking a big risk unless this is a top MBA program and you’ve been preparing long in advance. It’s very tough to get into traditional IB roles from outside the top few MBA programs.

  13. Avatar
    Darko Nedic

    Hello Brian,

    I was born in Bosnia and finished BSc at State University there when I was at age of 24 and after that 1 year later moved to Austria and finished learning course of german language. I had my first internship in Finance at Generali Insurance company and after that got internship at State Street Custodian Bank in Vienna and I am still enrolled there. I have 29 years now and almost 2 years of experience with this internships. I wish to pursue my career further in Investment banking and my question would be if I should do a Masters degree in Business Administration with the fact that I Did my BSc on the University with a very low reputation or if it is too late for a MSc just to try to find a full time employment.

    I would appreciate your answer

    Kind Regards,

    1. If you’ve only done internships so far, a Master’s program is more appropriate. I don’t think you could even do an MBA without true full-time work experience.

  14. Hi Brian,
    I am 31 years old and I had my undergrad degree from Singapore with information system management and marketing. I’ve been working for the same retail company for 7 years, two of which are here in Paris. I speak “ok” French, which I am sure will improve overtime as I am continuing to learn. I am sick of this job and thinking a career change to IB. Seeing the comments above, I know that my chances of breaking through IB in France are pretty slim considering my background and age. Even then, I am ready to give it a shot. My plan is to get an MBA from one of the Grande école and doing CFA at the same time. What do you think my chances are? And which Grande école would you recommend? Thanks in advance.

    1. I would read this entire article first so you understand the industry in France and why you probably *don’t* want to work there (consider an MBA in another country instead):

  15. Avatar
    Michael Smith

    Hi Brian,

    I’m a 30yo with an entrepreneurial background, setting up and running 4 companies in the leisure, construction and retail industries – with varying levels of success – since leaving school with A levels in London 13 years ago.

    I’m considering completing an undergraduate degree and an MBA. Starting in 2020 and then applying for an entry level IB position, at which point I will be 35.

    I have no children, am used to putting in long grinding hours and have set aside enough to fund living costs for 3-5 years of study.

    I have 3 questions for you:

    1. Do you think I will stand a strong chance of ‘breaking in’ at 35 with this plan?

    2. What else can I do to improve my position/attractiveness to the big banks? Between now and starting the degree in September 2020 as well as during the study period.

    1. You’re going to face a lot of “So… you started 4 companies and had some success in real life, why would you ever want to go into investment banking?”-type questions. Your age will hurt you a bit, but the bigger problem is that former entrepreneurs tend not to make good bankers. See:

      If you actually complete a top undergrad and then a top MBA, yes, potentially you could get in, but you’ll also need a lot of finance internships along with that to have a good chance.

      1. Avatar
        M Smith

        Thanks for taking the time to respond. Much appreciated.

  16. Avatar
    Jane Doe

    Hey Brian! Thanks for the great article! I am 26 years old and this year I graduate from MSc programme from top French business school with specialization in Strategic Management. I also have 2 years of full-time experience in pharmaceutical industry at business analyst positions. I just recently realized that I want to break into investment banking in London, ideally in healthcare teams. Do you think I stand a chance to find an Internship in London next year, one year after graduation at 27 years old without relevant experience?(sounds bad, I know) Maybe an advice how can I increase my chances?

    1. You might have a shot, but you need to act quickly and get relevant internships ASAP. For a few ideas about healthcare IB in London, please see:

  17. Avatar

    Spent 2 years in S&T at BB in the US and keen to move to investment banking. Hard to move internally despite good performance reviews. Curious if you would recommend I focus on applying to business school or start networking with boutique banks to break into investment banking. Currently 24 years old. Graduated from a target school.

    1. I think business school is completely unnecessary in this case. Focus on networking with boutique and middle-market firms, or even other bulge brackets, as you sometimes need to move “down market” to move from S&T to IB or vice versa.

  18. Avatar
    Gaurav Joseph

    Hi brian,

    I have a bachelors in marketing.
    I recently got admitted into a french grande ecole – institut mines telecom. I am 29 now and have some experience in finance software & Business development. I am from India. I do speak basic french and am improving on it. What are my chances of breaking into french investment banking sector if I take the financial systems track ?

    1. I’m not really sure it’s a great idea to even aim for investment banking in France, per the comments here:

      I think you might have a decent shot coming from a grande ecole, but you need to speak French at a professional level to get in. And even then, France is not exactly the most welcoming country for expats…

      1. Avatar
        Gaurav Joseph

        Oh wow. Thank you. I will keep your advise in mind. I have heard that french is very important . I have to choose between financial systems & IT consulting. I couldn’t find my comment and decided to write again and bookmark the page. my apologies.

  19. “Associate-Level: If you’ve done an MBA banks usually want 3-5 years of experience but not more than 10.” Does this refer to pre-MBA experience, or post-MBA, or a combination?

    1. Pre-MBA experience

  20. Hi Brian,
    I am 50yrs old and had ran a retail and wholesale apparel operation in Japan for 15 years, but due to my love and passion for Finance, I am currently a senior at a university here in Missouri. Also I am planning to pursue an MBA in one of the top US schools and all in hopes to transition into Private Equity/Hedge fund/ IB.
    Please what is your advise?

    1. My advice is to follow one of the 6 paths here instead:

      It’s going to be nearly impossible to move into IB/PE as an entry-level hire if you already have 20-30 years of work experience.

      1. Thank you so much for such an informative advice!!

  21. Avatar
    Richard Horn

    Hi Brain,

    Don’t know if the best thread for this question, but posting anyways. I’m currently 22, graduated from a larger well known private school in May with lower GPA (3.3) and have been networking/interviewing full time since. I have deferred a few Financial Analyst offers due to low salaries, but have not received a full-time offer for IB Analyst positions. This is primarily due to my technical knowledge being a bit robotic in a sense (lacking an understanding of the underlying meanings behind the technicals for scenario based interview questions). That being said, which option would you recommend:

    1: Pursue a Financial Analyst position to begin my career ASAP and try to develop my technical skills in my free time
    2: Immediately focus the next 1-2 months towards studying/programs to gain a deeper understanding of the technicals necessary for where I want to be (Including mock interviews and additional modeling practice to improve efficiency), then begin the IB interviewing process again with a much more solid understanding of the information.

    Basically, the gap since graduation is growing quite significant. Would it be best to bite the bullet and accept a less relevant finance position to gain some real-world experience while I develop my technical skills further? Or will extending this gap in work even further to work on these skills for a month or two before returning to the recruiting process make me even less desirable in the eyes of an IB due to lack of work experience?

    1. I would go with option #1 because in all likelihood, part of the reason you are not doing well in interviews is because you are not currently employed. Bankers may try to spin it differently, but you always have a better chance of finding another job when you already have one job. So I don’t think you can attribute everything to a lack of technical knowledge. A lower GPA is also hurting your efforts, and you could offset that a bit if you were working full-time.

  22. Hi Brian,
    Thanks for the article. I graduated with a BS in finance from a non-target school in U.S.then went straight for my MBA after that back to back. Now I have 1 year of commercial banking experience with a regional bank. While doing my MBA I had a private equity internship as well. What are my chances of breaking into the IB industry? The bank I work in does not have a IBD.

    1. Not very good because your story doesn’t match what banks want to see – you’re supposed to work for a few years first, and then do an MBA, and then apply to IB roles at the Associate level. You are going to get tons of questions about your story if you apply to IB roles right now. I would recommend first going to corporate banking (should be easier to get into coming from commercial banking) or an independent valuation firm or something like that and then aiming for IB roles at smaller firms. Otherwise, commercial banking to investment banking post-MBA is probably too big a leap.

  23. Great site M&I!

    I’ve purchased your courses and I am very pleased so far.

    Here is my story:

    -28 years old now
    -Bachelor in Finance (non-target); summa cum laude (3.9 GPA)
    -Began career at a very small boutique M&A advisory (1-3 deal closings/year). Spent nearly 3 years at the firm, but working there was very unstable due to volume and non-bonus comp was significantly below average for IB.
    – I ultimately left and I took a position at a mid-sized CPA firm as a valuation consultant. This really sharpened my valuation/analysis skills which complemented my M&A experience, imo

    Here’s where things get a little messy…I left the CPA firm after nine months because I had the opportunity to co-found a fintech startup with a few friends. I spent 1.5 years on the startup and got a lot of experience while building my network. Unfortunately, the startup remained in a pre-revenue phase and we couldn’t get much traction (despite our efforts). While working on the startup, I came to the realization that IB was my true passion. I just really love working on deals.

    Obviously, I’ve spent a lot of time jumping around and getting a handle on what I really want to do, but after careful consideration, I’ve come up with a plan: I would like to re-enter the industry as an analyst with a regional M&A boutique. I want to spend 3-4 years at the analyst/associate level (33 y/o by the end of my tenure) and then move into a lower middle market P/E firm. My end goal is to start my own PE fund (around age 45-50).


    1. How feasible is this plan? I realize my age is a little on the high end, but I feel that I’m young enough to where age still shouldn’t be a real issue. I recently spoke with an associate at a boutique IB and he expressed that my experience is in line with someone they would bring on as analyst.

    2. Would you recommend that I get my MBA or CFA in the future?

    Just wanted to get your .02


    1. 1) I think the biggest problem is not your age, but the fact that you already have a good amount of full-time experience. Some boutique banks may not care about that, but others might not know where you should be in the hierarchy. You might also be perceived as a career changer due to the fintech experience.

      Your overall plan might work, but I still think it will be tough to win an entry-level Analyst role at boutiques, and moving from a boutique bank to a lower-MM PE firm is also challenging (see all the PE recruiting articles on this site… it requires an extreme amount of effort).

      2) CFA, no, but the MBA might be useful if you cannot get into IB initially because people think you have too much work experience.

  24. Avatar
    John Lin

    Hello Brian, I’m new to this website.

    I’m now 21, studying finance in National Taiwan University (should be the best in Taiwan) and I’m now in the 4th year pursuing bachelor’s degree. I double major in law so I might extend my college life to 5, maybe 6 years. My overall GPA is 3.85/4.30.

    My concern is that if I’m finding a chance of IBD internships without relative experience, it might be pretty tough. Obviously I didn’t begin to prepare early enough (Especially my first and second year in the school) and tried some of the other fields.
    I had a summer internship in compliance division of a local bank and will on board in June for a 1-year PTA in McKinsey & Co.

    If I’m aiming for a 2019 summer investment banking or M&A intern, say Goldman, Morgan Stanley IBD or HSBC Global Banking(hk), is it possible(after all, it’s my 5th year as a college student and I’m kinda “older”)? What should I do or learn in advance?

    Many thanks.

    1. I think this really depends on where you want to apply for internships – North America? Europe? Taiwan? Hong Kong? Elsewhere in Asia?

      Recruiting is already over and done with for many 2019 summer roles in the U.S. because everything is hyper-accelerated, but it moves more slowly in other regions. The main issue for you isn’t age, but how far in advance you need to start recruiting.

      With McKinsey on your resume and a good GPA and top university, you should be able to win IB internships at least in Hong Kong (I think the market in Taiwan is very small, so probably not worth applying there) since the process starts a bit later than in the U.S. You should read this article as well:

      1. Avatar
        John Lin

        Thank you for the response.
        Well I’m open to opportunities in Greater China zone, while HK and Taiwan should be in the upper of the list.
        In Taiwan, 2019 vacancies should be available around this September till December. MS has a later schedule in 2019 March. The main concern is that I don’t think I’m fully prepared. I should dig into some cases and other online resources relating to modeling and valuation.

        Again, thank you so much.

  25. Avatar

    Hi Brian
    I am a 30 year old. I recently completed my MSc in Maths, I am also completing the CQF. I have also been doing some data science through WorldQuant University and Am also doing an MScFE with WorldQuant. I have spent the past 5 years as a Teaching assistant at a University till recently. Currently I am a parttime lecturer. I wanted to pursue a Masters in Finance or a related field. Would that boost my chances of getting employed. I was looking at a 1 year MSc in Financial Engineering or Financial Maths. What are the odds I get a job in the financial sector. Most likely will complete the MSc when Am 32.

    1. Avatar

      I am in Zimbabwe and was looking at doing the MSc in either UK, Canada, Australia or Ireland even the USA

    2. Yes, you would probably need some type of degree to move into the finance industry at this stage. But your chances still aren’t great because you’d be competing against people with more relevant work experience. However, sometimes on the quant side you can get in if you have good enough side projects:

  26. Avatar
    Shruti Kansa;

    Hi Brian. Thank you for this article. I am 29, currently a CFA Level 2 Candidate, After my undergrad in Commerce, I started my Accountancy course in India. I did my 3.5 years of internship (which apparently is not covered under Work Experience by Companies generally) as required by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, and yet to pass my Final 4 papers of the course. I had a work gap of a few years owing to a few personal issues followed by an accident and health issues.

    Just to get back to work, I started working with this company in the Compliance side, but not related to Finance or Investment Banking. I am interested in PE and Invesmtent Banking. Plus, I have lost years of employment which doesn’t look too good. What are your thoughts on it ?

  27. Hi Brian,
    Thank you for this article, super helpful information. I graduated with a marketing degree and have 3 years work experience at the moment. I’m trying to figure out if I can still break in on the analyst level or if I need to wait to get an MBA and then break in at associate level. Any thoughts?

    1. You would probably need an MBA at this point because you have 3 years of work experience in a completely unrelated field.

  28. Hello Brian, thank you very much for your article. If you have time I would like to ask you to assess my possibilities of entering into one of the big names in IB. I recently turned 29, graduated as a mechanical engineer in Venezuela, did a masters in finance at one of Latin America’s top 10 business schools (4.0 GPA). Worked at Kraft Foods as a corporate finance trainee, then joined a multinational asset management firm (+1.5BN A.U.M) and became partner in less than 3 years. I feel I have peaked at this firm at a way too early stage of my life and I’m currently considering applying to a top MBA program (starting in the summer of 2019 when I’ll be 30 yo) and then testing my luck at one of the big names in IB in NYC. What do you think about my odds of getting in?

    Thank you very much.

    1. If you can get into a top MBA program, you have a fairly good chance of winning an IB offer at a large bank.

  29. Hi Brian,

    I’m 25 and about 2.5 years out of college, where I majored in finance and earned a 3.6 GPA. I attended a Pac12 school that boasted a decent business program but didn’t necessarily attract IB recruiters. So to bolster my resume I’ve worked in Fin sales since graduation and I’m currently a financial advisor at JPMC. I’m trying to break into an entry level IB analyst role hopefully within the next year or so. I spoke to one of our internal recruiters and he thought that my experience wouldnt measure up to some of the open IB Analsyt roles but I might be a better fit for the junior program which is meant for soon to be graduates or candidates with 3 years or less experience (applied to the junior program last week). I know I have the mind and skill set necessary for an IB role but I can’t help but get the feeling that my window of opportunity is closing. I’ve worked in fin sales roles out of college for the sole reason of blustering my resume to apply for an IB position but now I worry that I might be getting too old. Is my window of opportunity closing? Or was it never open to begin with?

    1. Yes, it gets harder to win IB roles the longer you’ve been out of school and working full-time. Your best bet at this stage is to go for the junior Analyst roles (they’re not the same as FT Analyst roles but can provide a pathway into it) or to attend a top Master’s in Finance program and use that to get in.

  30. Hi Brian, my teaching experience are in undergrad university level and originally my background is with a MS in Electrical engineering from the US. I see Columbia and New University feeding their students in highest number s in the IBs, but with experience in a different sector, how is that possible? Does the executive MBA in Columbia University help anyway to make careers in IBs starting from associate level?

    1. Please see my other response to your question. It is tough to just apply to MBA programs, accept admission, and win offers these days unless you have some other experience that looks quite relevant.

  31. Hey.. I am trying to apply for a good MBA school so that right after graduating, I can join any if the major investment banking firms as an associate? I have six years if teaching experience in applied science and engineering and 5 months of managerial experience in a small local investment firm, so is this possible? I did CFA level 1 and somewhat of level 2… I asked this to Cornell University 1 year MBA program, they said, it’s not possible from 1 year program to even get an internship as an associate. So what do you suggest to prepare myself from my country to get into MBA for an IB associate job?

  32. I just wanted to give my 2cents to this discussion. I am almost 27. I have no M&A or PE experience. However, right now I got 7 offers for M&A and PE jobs (no BB, but I have 0 experience and applied in Dez. for jobs starting in Januar to not loose time. Im still in the process for MS though). How did I get those jobs? Good universities were an asset. However, I broke into M&A and PE due to my character. I travelled over 1yr with a backpack, and was fighting professionally (thaiboxing). Recruters now have 100s of persons applying with the same generic CV. Try to prove that you are smart (with GMAT or comparables) and especially be different!! If you manage to become the Person that is more interesting than most of the others, thats as valuable as having the best grades from top universities and having the most work experience. Then age won’t matter (that much)..

    1. Thanks, but I think we’ve emphasized those points many times as well:

      Of course you need an interesting story to win these roles. No one is arguing with that. But there is still some point past which it will be very difficult to win entry-level offers at finance firms, regardless of how interesting you are. For example, you’re not going to win IB Analyst offers as a 40-year-old candidate even if you’ve climbed Mt. Everest, cured cancer multiple times, and also started your own traveling reggae group in the Caribbean.

      “Almost 27” is not even close to being “too old.”

  33. Hi Brian,

    I’m a 27 year old junior majoring in finance (3.85 GPA) and graduating in Fall 2019 when I’m 29 years old. I have started school late for I joined the Air National Guard and have a deployment on my resume. Will age count against me?

    Also, when I was younger, I filed for bankruptcy. Will this make it impossible for me to get into investment banking or asset management?

    1. As long as you do not have prior full-time work experience, no.

      The bankruptcy charge could be a bigger issue. This story had a reader in a similar situation, and he ended up having to go into real estate instead:

      1. Thanks for the reply. If I go into real estate instead, do I have a chance of breaking into asset management when the bankruptcy is off my record (I will be 33 years old)? I also have the opportunity to commission to become an officer in the Air National Guard and work for them full-time and wait until my bankruptcy is up. Which do you recommend?

        1. Yes, potentially. I would not recommend waiting for your bankruptcy to be wiped away, as the better solution is to work at a smaller firm that does not care about those issues.

  34. Hi Brian,
    I’m a 27 year-old with a pHD in chemistry currently working in research in industry. I’m interested in being a VC and would like to go through the IB route. Here’s my plan so far:
    -1.5y more in research (2.5 years total). I’ll study in my free time and finish at least the first level of CFA before I finish.
    -1y MBA in a top school with a focus on finance
    -internship in IB
    -2-3 years of IB (I’ll be 30 when I start)
    -start as an associate in a VC firm

    Does that make sense? Is it possible? Will I be too old? Should I cut the research short to 1.5y total? What do you suggest?


    1. It’s possible, but if you have a PhD, you may be able to get into an early-stage life sciences VC firm without IB or an MBA first. So you might be spending a lot of time, effort, and money for little gain if that’s your goal.

  35. Avatar

    Hi, Brian!
    I’m 30 yo and have 6,5 years of capital markets experience in local boutique Investment banks in Brazil (structured finance / debt, front office role, participated on many big deals).
    My goal is to break into a Leveraged Finance (some overlap of knowledge with my prior experiences) team at an Investment Bank or boutique in NY or London.

    I’m planning to apply for an MBA next year (Schools in US and Europe). I can probably be accepted by a Top 5-20 School.

    Do you think it’s a good plan? Will I have good chances to break in Post-MBA?

    Does it worth to get an MBA in Europe, even with less MBA recruiting for IB roles?

    Thank you very much!

    1. If you can get into a top school, yes, it is a good plan. There is relatively little MBA recruiting in Europe, so you’re better off going to the U.S. if you want to do that.

  36. Avatar
    Adam Orlowski

    Hi Brian,

    I will be graduating from WP Carey Business School with 3.8- 4.0 GPA at the end of next year, Mutual Fund Club Member, and trying to network into a good internship next summer before I graduate in the Fall. I also have volunteer experience. Here is the kicker though – I didn’t start school till later. I will be 33 when I graduate. I absolutely love learning about investment banking and spend the majority of my FREE time learning more about the markets and tracking them. While the money is good, the real reason is I truly believe in the phrase “if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life”. So if I am too old what would you recommend?

    1. As stated in the article, whether or not you’re “too old” depends on your prior work experience. If you can spin it into sounding like it wasn’t real work experience, you might be able to pull it off. And if not:

  37. Avatar

    Thanks M&I for the great article,
    Do you have any idea if age issue is relevant only to US citizens or anyone?
    Thanks again!

    1. ??? Banks are global enterprises. The age issue is relevant for anyone who wants a client-facing, front-office role advising on M&A and financing deals at an investment bank anywhere in the world.

      1. Avatar

        I’m sorry, should have been clear.
        In US, it is illegal to discriminate a candidate based on his/her age. Is it applicable only to US citizens in US? Will a foreigner be discriminated because of his/her age in US?

        1. Banks will always discriminate based on age because you cannot do the job of an Investment Banking Analyst as a 65-year old; you just won’t have the energy and ability to pull all-nighters. They’ll just frame it differently and say that you have too much experience for an entry-level role or that you’re over-qualified.

          1. I am 31 years old, I want to enter the M & A market, private equity. I have taken several courses in financial modeling, valuation and now I am studying for CFA level 1. I have knowledge and skills but I want to put into practice. I have little experience in the field of finance what should I do? which paths should I do? Can I still work in this segment? maybe in small boutiques.

          2. I can’t say without knowing your past work experience, academic background, and so on. Start with:


  38. Avatar
    Jennifer Kane

    Going to graduate from an Ivy League school in May 2018. Was an athlete all 4 years D1. Really would love to somehow get into a large financial institution and get hired in a rotating type situation. Have a great resume.
    Freaking out because I don’t know anyone on Wall Street.

    1. As of 2017, you need a sequence of internships to have a good shot of working at a large bank out of university ( So, if you don’t have that, your best option might be to go for something outside of IB (wealth management, etc.) or something at a Big 4 firm and then move over later.

  39. Hi Brian,
    I’m currently a rising junior from a (prestigious) non-target liberal arts school that’s definitely not known for finance (it’s very “social justice” oriented), with a 3.7 GPA, majoring in Economics.
    I’m considering taking a gap-year for personal (health-related) issues, but I’m contemplating the potential benefits/drawbacks of doing so (in terms of full time recruiting for junior summer, etc.). If I took this “gap year” between sophomore/junior year, my goal would be to prep for IB and take accounting, learn how to model, etc. on my own. I had a finance related internship summer after freshman year (interned w/small RIA), but this summer I got a non-finance related role at a F500 insurance company (researching potential clients for Sales team).
    If my ultimate goal is IB, have I screwed myself with my current internship role? Is taking a gap year and obtaining an internship in IB/HF/Startup a good idea if I wanted to show banks that I am serious about Finance, and is it realistic? (I wouldn’t financially be able to accept an unpaid role)
    Would taking a personal gap year affect my eligibility on how I would look to banks for SA recruiting for summer before senior year (since I technically would be in school for five years, but attended for four)?

    I would really appreciate your thoughts — thanks for your help.

    1. Your biggest problem is that internship recruiting now (as of 2017) starts a year in advance of junior-year internships, at least at many banks and schools. So, taking a gap year at this point is probably your only shot at winning a summer internship – get an internship at a boutique IB/PE firm, change your graduation date, and then get to work networking so that you’re prepared to apply for internships 1 year before the internships begin.

      1. Hi Brian,
        I appreciated for your response earlier.
        If I decided to continue studying the fall semester and take a gap Spring ’18 semester for personal reasons (w/an internship ideally) and delayed graduation for a semester, will I still be able to virtually “reset” my SA recruiting chances w/Junior standing provided that I didn’t apply to the SA roles this summer (and aimed at boutiques?)
        I’m concerned if BB/Elite Boutiques would reject my application automatically if they see that I had applied for two consecutive years with different graduation dates.
        I really appreciate your thoughts — thanks for your help.

        1. Recruiting is based on your current graduation date. Given the volume of applications to banks, they don’t track individuals unless you make it very far into the process and everyone remembers you.

  40. Hi Brian. I am law student (21) and I have made two bachelor courses in Finance and Economics in Germany. I am planning to apply for the Master in Finance in the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management and I would like to know your opinion if it is really worthy to make MoF or an MBA to break into investment banking and how is te environment in Frankfurt to get a job and if this Master is well-recognized over the world.

    1. Well, it’s in the top 30 worldwide according to FT ( Maybe not the best option in Europe, but I think you could easily win a front-office finance role from that program. For IB in Germany, please see:

      1. OK.Thanks!!

  41. Avatar

    Hi Brian,

    I will have 40y old soon and have more than 10 years experience in financial markets (middle office in Europe). And have a master degree.
    Do you think it’s possible to switch into PE since i already have experience in financial market ? Also, i wanted to get an MBA at a top business school if that help.
    Thanks for your response

    1. No, probably not. Think about other options such as working at a PE portfolio company, corporate development, corporate finance, etc.

      1. Avatar

        Thanks for your response Brian.
        The use of the term corporate finance varies between Europe and U.S. Does that include M&A (i would like to work in M&A actually).

        And last question, is it still possible to try an MBA or not worth it ?

        1. No, corporate finance is different and refers more to budgeting and planning. Corporate development is for M&A. I would not recommend an MBA at this stage because banks usually want candidates with less work experience.

          1. Avatar

            Thanks Brian, really appreciate your help.
            And love your website.

            Plz keep up the good work !

  42. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for publishing the article – it was very informative. I was wondering it if you could let me know your thoughts on my current situation would really appreciate any advice you could give:

    I graduated in 2014 from a target UK undergraduate uni and tried to get into IB back then but did not get any offers (had quite a few interviews/assessment centres with bulge bracket banks for summer internships). So with no IB offers i ended up taking a job with one of the big 4 firms in tax. I have been working there for almost three years now and am close to complete the ACA (UK equivalent to CPA). I am thinking of giving IB recruitment another try and have applied and got an offer for a masters at a UK target uni with the intention to apply for IB summer internships/full time roles while doing the masters. I am just wondering if you think this is a good approach and would my 3 years spent in big 4 tax disadvantage me? Many thanks.

    1. It will be tougher to win a role as an Analyst with 3 years of work experience already, but yes, it is possible. Please see:

      1. Thanks Brian. So in this case would you recoomend going down the masters route or going to business school to do MBA instead?

        1. I would go for a Master’s degree. 3 years is borderline in terms of work experience, but it’s still almost always better to enter as an Analyst if you can do so (especially in Europe, where there’s less MBA-level recruiting).

          1. I see. Thanks very much for your advice Brian it was very helpful. Looking forward to more contents on the site in the future! :)

  43. Hi Brian – I graduated from UC Berkeley back in 2011 (GPA 3.5 in biology) and did a lot of random stuff after. I volunteered a year abroad, traveled, and my only work experience is as a medical technician for 2 years. Basically I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

    I am a bit unsure how I can get into IB at this point. Starting Jan 2017, I am back in school and taking undergrad classes in math/stats/econ. My main goal is to try and get an analyst internship over the summer (I realize it is quite late already). Worst case, I might take classes for another semester, and later apply for masters programs. What do you think of this plan? Thanks for any advice

    1. It will be very tough to get into a formal IB role at this stage if you graduated 6 years ago. My advice would be to go for Big 4 roles, valuation roles, or corporate finance roles, and then think about an MBA or MSF and move into banking from there.

  44. March 13, 2017
    Thanks for the article.
    I attended the military after high school, and attended a solid but non-target state school. I have been at a top restructuring/advisory firm for the last two years (promoted with excellent reviews), but would like to make the jump to to a Restructuring/Special Situations banking group. I am about to turn 30, so the natural fear of being too old has crept in. Thoughts?

  45. to point #2:
    If one is used to working in an ambiguous environment with only a order of “just get it done by day xyz,” and thrives in that environment, then IB is not for him/her?

    1. ??? Not sure I understand. The point is that if you’re older/more experienced, bankers will assume that you won’t follow orders as blindly as a fresh graduate would.

  46. Left being an FA because it was entirely sales, no analysis*

  47. Series 56*

  48. Spent 1 year as a prop trader after earning my bba in finace (series 57), 7 months as financial advisor (series 7, series 66, insurance license), then decided to go back to school for MBA. Finished mba in august while working in aerospace project finance 3 1/2 years. I left trading even though i loved because I am passionate about building relationships and working with people, left being an FA because it was entirely sales and no relationship building. I want to pursue IB because I love finance and have all my life, greatly enjoy analysis and can sit for days on end doing analysis, work with people and build relationships, and very interested in structuring transactions. Im approximately 30. MBA was a 1 year while in Aerospace at a non-target. Thoughts?

    1. I think it will be tough to get in if you already finished the MBA because banks mostly recruit from MBA students at top schools who are still in school. Maybe focus on smaller firms and see if you can gain traction there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *