by Brian DeChesare Comments (394)

Can You Really Use Business School to Re-Brand Yourself and Break Into Finance?

rebranding“Just go to business school.”

“Go to a top MBA program.”

“With HBS on your resume you can do anything you want.”

It’s one of the most common pieces of advice given to anyone interested in consulting or finance: get into a top MBA program.

Even if you went to a no-name undergraduate, did nothing finance-related since then, and you don’t know anyone in the industry, a top MBA program will let you break in.

Or will it?

The Short Answer

Getting into a top MBA program may narrow the gap between you and former bulge bracket investment bankers.

But it won’t level the playing field.

Business school is often thought of as a magic bullet – a way to break into finance when all else has failed or when you have no shot normally.

There’s some truth to that – but there are also a lot of problems with it.

“Non-Target” Programs

Ranking banks, schools, and anything else is a massive waste of time and brain cells – which is why there will never be “rankings” of any kind on this site.

But the relative “prestige” of your business school is important, even if the specific “rank” doesn’t matter: if you don’t go to a school that banks recruit at, you’re wasting your time and $150K.

So even if something seems prestigious on paper or it’s in “The Top 10” you need to go there in-person and ask students how recruiting really works.

There’s a less obvious conclusion as well: if you have a very small chance of getting into the top programs, then you’re better off pounding the pavement to get in.

Start with informal and unpaid internships and temporary positions at smaller places, and then leverage that to move up.

Cold-calling may not be fun, but it’s a far better use of time than going to a school where no banks recruit and where no alumni are in finance.

Part-Time vs. Full-Time

Until recently, there wasn’t much respect for part-time programs.

This is starting to change, but they’re still not on-par with the most well-known full-time programs.

If you can’t afford to go back full-time and are only looking at part-time options, you need to visit the school in-person, walk around and ask students and faculty how many banks actually recruit there – otherwise you’ll end up with $150K in debt and access to 0 recruiters.

Running Away From Your Past

If you’re coming from an unknown school, you have a lower GPA, or you have less “prestigious” schools or companies on your resume, you might feel like The Fugitive: you didn’t do anything wrong, but you’re always running away from your past anyway.

But here’s the problem that often gets overlooked: your past will still come back to haunt you, even if you get into a top program.

There are some people in finance who just don’t understand anyone who’s not from a wealthy, blue-chip background, and you’ll always have to deal with it if you have the misfortune of running into them.

Getting into a top business school may reduce your sentence, but it won’t clear you of all the false charges.


“What about top MBA programs in Europe / Asia? Are they as recognizable as ones in the US?”

The short answer: the best programs are still well-known, but no, they are not viewed the same as Harvard/Wharton/Stanford etc. if you want to work in the US afterward.

It’s not because they’re “worse” – it’s just that most US positions are taken by people who go to US business schools. Recruiting is a lot easier when you don’t have to cross multiple oceans for an interview.

If you can get into top schools in Europe / Asia, but can’t get into the top US programs, then sure, go abroad.

No Network

You might be motivated to go to business school if you don’t have a great network and don’t feel like cold-calling dozens of firms each week to get into a local boutique and then working your way up.

On-campus recruiting is convenient, but it’s almost too convenient. The temptation is to sit around and wait for companies to come to you – but that doesn’t work when everyone else at your school is also impressive.

So you need to start building your network even before you even get there. Start calling alumni, say you’re going to attend XYZ school next year and wanted some advice, and take it from there.

Experience: Too Much vs. Too Little

Another dilemma: you might have too little experience or too much.

Going straight for an MBA right after undergraduate is a losing proposition (yes, there’s Harvard 2+2 but that is new and unproven) – you need at least a few years of experience and often more than that to be competitive.

I get emails every week from students asking, “Should I go for a top MBA program right after I graduate?”

No. Bad idea.

Many Associate-level resumes have 5 or more years of work experience – even if you get into a top school, it’s tough to compete with that.

You can also have “too much” experience to make business school useful, but this is less of a problem than having too little.

If you’ve been working for, say, 15 years, it’s almost easier to work your way to the top in another field and then move into finance at a much higher level.

The Solution?

All these pitfalls go back to the original point made in the beginning, and something that Kevin and Jerry brought up on Management Consulted (Why Harvard Business School Does NOT Equal McKinsey):

Going to a top MBA program helps, but that alone will not solve all your problems.

It’s Just Like Breaking In As an Undergraduate

I still get a lot of questions on the CFA and other certifications, despite repeatedly bashing them in the past.

Many students think that adding these lines to their resume will seriously boost their chances, forgetting that they’re just small pieces of the big picture.

And yes, business school is different and much more than just another certification, but the same principle applies: a top school and access to recruiting there will improve your chances, but you need to do more than just go to a good school and drop $150K to break in.

What to Do?

Let’s say you are committed to going to a top MBA program to re-brand yourself and then using that to break into finance – what should you do to make sure it’s not a waste of $150K and 2 years of your life?

  1. First, make sure that banks actually recruit anywhere you’re seriously considering. Visit in-person, meet with students and career services, and see what the real story is.
  2. If you come from a more “random” background then start addressing “objections” to your background even before you arrive at school.
  3. You also need to start networking long before you ever get to business school – all the former bankers will have a big advantage over you otherwise.

Think about pre-MBA programs in finance – if you can, take time off to do an unpaid or part-time job related to finance.

Think about activities and professional organizations that might take you closer to business, or at least ones that let you spin your resume more aggressively.

And start contacting alumni and going through referrals in the months before you arrive so that they know who you are when it’s summer recruiting season.

But Sometimes You Have to Go

Business school is not a magic-bullet solution, but sometimes you pretty much have to go just to have any shot of breaking into finance.

Recent graduates would be better served by going to boutiques and then working their way up to larger banks – but if you have 5-10 or more years of experience, banks only take you seriously if you’re coming from an MBA program.

And if you had a completely random background that had nothing to do with business – like a traveling bard – then you might have to go just to have more than a 0.000001% chance of getting in.

Got Brand?

There’s always a temptation to buy more degrees, certifications, or anything else that gets you more “prestige” and makes you seem more qualified.

But not only does HBS not equal McKinsey, it also doesn’t equal Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, or any other top bank.

Think of recruiting as a court case, with your key witness representing business school: a great testimony can push the odds in your favor, but you need plenty of “supporting evidence” as well.

That might be informal work experience, anything that can be spun into sounding like business, or a solid network.

So make sure you have both the supporting evidence and the key witness – otherwise, you’ll end up with a hung jury and no offers.

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. Hi,

    I have a PhD in Electrical Engineering and 9 years of experience. I am considering EMBA at Wharton, Will that help me to break into hedge Fund/Investment Management (not the quant side)? Thanks

    1. It depends on how you use it. If you can get a pre-MBA internship, sure, it may help, but you’re going to have to answer a lot of tough questions about “Why did it take you almost a decade to switch careers?” and “Why not leverage your skills at a quant fund instead?” See:

  2. Hi,

    I studied actuarial science for undergrad in Africa (2:1) and have about 1.5 years of experience in equity research. I am currently in a Grande Ecole (Master in Management) in France. I’ll be 28 at the end of the program. What are my chances of breaking into IB as an analyst at the end of my schooling?

    1. The biggest issue is that the recruiting environment in France is very difficult (see: because of cultural differences, endless off-cycle internships, etc. I think you would have a good shot at IB Analyst roles, but you should probably focus on London instead, even post-Brexit.

  3. Hi, I would like to get an IB job in the US. I am an international student that is currently working in corporate development.

    What would be best?
    1) going via top US MBA
    2) try lateral at US (insanely difficult? but saves money and time)

    1. Sorry I’m not a student

    2. I think you’ll probably have to do #1 because it’s extremely difficult to switch industries and regions at the same time. You’d have to transfer to a CD role in the US, and then lateral over to an IB role from that… which gets quite difficult the longer you’ve been out of school.

  4. Hi Brian,

    I have a BSc in Petroleum Engineering and an MSc in Renewable Energy from the University of Sheffield, UK. I have experience across a lot of sectors Banking, Oil and Gas and now Deal Advisory for the Power sector for the UK government in Nigeria. My years of experience totals 8years, and im considered an expert in the power sector and I just got an admit into IESE in spain for a full time mba and also HEC in paris. I have two questions 1) is it possible for me to break into PE or IBD?

    1. 2) which mba is a better option for my goals IESE or HEC?

      1. Don’t know offhand as I don’t track European MBA programs closely. I would look for the rankings list on eFinancialCareers and go by that.

    2. IBD, yes, but PE directly out of an MBA is unlikely unless you have prior deal experience in IB/PE.

  5. Avatar

    Hi! Thank you for the article!

    I’m an international, with apx 7 years experience in the financial services industry (front office role; deal making; credit related products) and have been accepted to the NYU Stern and Michigan Ross programs.

    Which do you think is a better option for breaking into IB in NY? Is there a huge difference between the two programs in terms of recruiting?

    Thanks a lot!

    1. Both should be fairly good, but NYU is probably better simply due to location.

  6. hi, I studied microbiology at the undergraduate level but I have been working as a banker in the business development unit of one of the commercial banks in Nigeria. I am actually considering an MBA. Do I have a chance post MBA?

    1. I’m considering an MBA in the US

      1. and i have 7years of working experience in the banking sector

    2. Sure, but you’re probably going to need something beyond just the MBA to make the move… such as a pre-MBA internship or something else that you can do now, while working full-time, that shows more interest in investment banking.

      1. Thank you for your response. It may be difficult for me to do a pre MBA internship while also working full time here in my country but I’ll like to ask if there’s any professional program that can fill this gap which i can do

      2. Thank you for your response. It may be difficult for me to do a pre MBA internship while also working full time here in my country but I’ll like to ask if there’s any professional program that can fill this gap which i can do

  7. Hi Brian,
    Thanks for your series articles about breaking into IB. I’m 29, female, I have acquired my MBA in Canada and passed my CFA level 2, and currently working in the project management team in a bank, which is non-related to IB. I’ve always been wanting to get my foot into the door but seems like my career path going to the opposite direction. I would very much like to switch my career to IB before it’s too late.
    Would appreciate for any suggestions.

    1. It will be extremely difficult to get into IB at this point, especially in Canada since the market is a lot smaller there. Maybe look at this story:

  8. Hi Brian,

    As a recent grad from a non-target with no investment banking internship, do I have a shot at getting an unpaid internship at a boutique?

    1. I was also a Psychology major but took Calc 1, Financial Accounting, MIS, and Microecon.

      1. Thanks for the reply to my other post. Just wanted to provide my background here well.

        Had a project coordinator internship at a nonprofit my freshman year. I have no finance experience but worked in Retail Sales and worked as a Pharmacy Technician at a top Pharmacy. I graduated in May 2017

        1. You don’t really have a shot in the recruiting environment of 2018 unless you get finance or finance-related experience somewhere (real estate, credit analysis, etc.). You need a sequence of internships these days.

  9. Hello Brian, first off thanks for the website, I’ve found your articles to be quite helpful. I’m writing because I’m at a bit of a crossroads. I am 29 years old, I got out of the US navy last year after being in for 6 years as a nuclear operator and have since enrolled at University of Illinois at Chicago pursuing a bachelors in finance with minors in business analytics and management information systems. I’m also currently working as a teller at a bank while I finish school. I’m on track to graduate in May of 2018 and I was wondering if I should pursue a masters in finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana or if I should pursue a MBA at a school such as University of Chicago Booth or Northwestern Kellogg.

    My overall goal is to become a managing director at an investment bank. If I am correct the career progression for investment banks is Financial Analyst>Junior Associate> Managing Director. From what I’ve read those with masters in finance would be grouped together with those with bachelors in finance as far as positions as financial analyst but those with MBA could potentially start as Junior Associates.

    Do you think it would be better for me to go for the MBA (leaving teller job and getting relevant internships during the summer) and then applying for a junior associate role upon completion; or do you feel it would be better for me to obtain the masters in finance and then apply for a role as a financial analyst.
    Any help is greatly appreciated thank you

    1. An MSF is better if you do not yet have several years of full-time work experience (and military experience is not seen as “full-time work experience” in the same way that a corporate job is). An MBA would be counterproductive for you because a bank won’t hire you as an Associate unless you have several years of full-time corporate work before enrolling in an MBA program.

      1. Avatar
        Scott Reese

        Thank you for the advice. Follow up question, if I obtained the MSF and then started a career as an analyst at an investment bank afterward, would going back to school to obtain an MBA be something that would be expected of me before being considered for an associate position(as long as I meet the other non-degree requirements) or would the fact that I already have a graduate degree be sufficient?
        Thanks again.

  10. Hi M&I,

    I’m a 27-year-old female, interested in a career in IB. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at a non-target/unknown school in 2012. I currently work at a Property Management Firm (Real Estate) for 3+ years. I’m not sure what the best route I should take to pursue a career in IB. As of now, I’m considering MBA programs at top schools but not sure if that’s enough or if there is more I must do to break into this field. Do you think I have chance? If so, what can I do to make myself more marketable?

    Thanks !

    1. Top MBA program + pre-MBA internship in IB ( Focus on real estate-related firms/groups because you need an industry at the MBA-level.

  11. Hi, Brian.I am Kevin from China. I have been working for 4 years in supply chain management and want to break into the finance area. I graduated from a prestigious university with good GPA in China but majored in bioscience. I got 780 on GMAT.

    Really want to ask you about the IB in Japan. Is it hard to break into investment banking in Japan? and how do you think of a career in Japan compared with a career in HK, provided the language is not an issue? I am fluent in Mandarin, English and Japanese. Thank you.

    1. forget to say that I am applying for the MBA program now. Any recommendation? How do you think of Yale SOM, obsessed with Yale’s prestige? Thank you.

      1. We don’t advise on MBA admissions, so not really. Yale is a top school but probably not the best option for getting into IB (Harvard, Columbia, and Wharton would be better).

    2. Yes, it is hard to break into IB in Japan because the industry is not big and they mostly hire Japanese candidates (language skills help, but as in China, they almost always prefer local candidates even if you do know the language). Also, a career in IB in Japan is usually worse than one in HK, London, NY, or other major financial centers because Japanese deal-making is very different and you won’t get the same exposure. If you know all those languages and you are from China, you are much better off going to HK.

  12. Hello M&I. I’m pursuing an undergrad in Computer Science and Engineering in India, Although the university I go to is not big shot, it is still a target school for the bulge bracket I-banks. The problem is that in most cases, Goldman, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan recruit for tech based roles, or quant roles. If my long term goals are breaking into buy side(might require going to a top ranked B-School if necessary), do you think it would be a wiser move to take a non investment banking role at a bulge bracket bank, or to take up an I-banking role at, say, Barclay’s?

    1. The problem is that the Indian market is strange and doesn’t offer the same types of opportunities as places like the US and UK (see all the existing coverage of India on the site). Basically, unless you attend a top IIM, you will not get into investment banking there. Other options might be to do consulting and eventually move in or maybe go to a boutique bank if you can network aggressively and then move up to a larger one.

  13. Hi M&I

    I’m currently attending the top MBA program in Asia and trying to break into the industry in HK. The school is based in Shanghai but I will be exchanging to HK this sept – dec. I already went through the recruiting season summer intern in HK and got to the final round to Merill Lynch. My questions are two part. First, is it much harder to break into the industry during full time recuirt meant, because I heard some firms don’t even hire for full time. Second, how important is MBA gpa? I had over 3.7 before and now wavering around 3.63 wondering if that will be an issue.


    1. 1) Yes, it is much harder, and many firms don’t even make full-time hires outside of their intern classes. 2) MBA GPA is not that important next to the school’s reputation.

  14. I currently work in strategy for a large health plan. I’ve had 7+ years of management, directorship experience. I have a doctorate degree in pharmacy so not finance related. I’m admitted to both Darden EMBA and Cornell EMBA Americas. Do you think it’s possible for me to leverage these programs into an IB role?

    1. Potentially, yes, but you would probably need some type of finance experience first. If you can’t take time off to do that, you might have better luck going for roles at VC funds that do healthcare or corporate finance at healthcare companies.

  15. I am working at a bulge bracket bank back office. Im in investor services where we provide customer support to FAs and investors who invested in our funds. Im doing very easy work everyday like managing contact info or emailing tax documents, and creating investor profiles.

    My question: if i do this for 2-3 years and i get 700+ in gmat, would i have a good shot at a target mba program?

    1. Potentially, yes, but you’d need some really good leadership or activities outside of work to get in. Because that type of job alone isn’t impressive enough to give you a good shot at the top schools.

  16. I completed my undergrad program (architecture) but became very bored with what i was doing after 4 years. I recently became interested in finance after a friend allowed me to shadow him at work. I graduated with my bachelors in 2012 and am looking to break into (IB although i have NO experience). Ive looked into MBA programs (nyu, baruch, etc) but want to know if this route makes sense.. Is it even possible?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, if you break into a target school, this will help. I’d say Stern, Wharton, Columbia, HBS are all good schools

  17. Situation:

    Recent graduate (May 2015) Non-target D-3 small liberal arts school for undergraduate. I have experience in financial consulting but have been trying to break into investment banking, PE, hedge funds etc. Unfortunately I did not have opportunities for internships in any of those segments. I know most people usually intern in IB then get into a full-time program. What are some ways to break in ? Im not in the worst experience possible because I 1. Am at least a finance major 2. Have some experience in the financial services field. Also, does it make sense to rebrand myself through a top MBA, MSA (M of accountancy) or MFA and go to a school where I know there is goood recruiting attention? Thank you

    1. I wouldn’t go back to school at this point. Your best option is to follow the exact same plan this reader did here:

  18. Hello,

    My situation:
    Bulge bracket IT Business analysis -Associate-level, non-finance degree Penn State, military experience, 29yo.

    Do I work from within to break into IB by going to a part-time MBA (i.e. NYU), or leave; go to a full time program. The second choice freaks me out because I already have a decent job, why would I want to go through the process of finding another one? I’m fighting myself everyday on this topic.

    Thank you for your time.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d probably go with the part-time one if you are not ready to leave your current job.

      1. Thank you, Nicole.

  19. Hi
    I am an eastern Europian female, 26 y.o. Have some background in private banking, speak 5 languages. Willing to transit into management consulting.
    I have been accepted to LBS, Cornell, UCLA and Emory full-time MBA programs. Which school sounds the most appealing in terms of employment internationally?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Congratulations! I’d say LBS and Cornell. It also depends on which country you’re looking at, as well as which city you want to study in.

  20. Hi,

    I have 2.5 years of IB experience as an analyst (in a non-bulge bracket bank). I want to get into a top-tier bank/boutique, where I can work on more diverse and international transactions. I’ve been applying to schools and am currently meditating between two offers – one is a 2-yr MSc in Europe with a focus on the power/network industries and the other an MBA in Turkey (top 100 in FT European business schools) at a school that has very good business connections locally (but not so much on an international level). Both are with scholarships that cover fees and accommodation. Most of the MBA class are people with no or little work experience, and the MSc class consists mainly of people with experience in the electrical/product engineering. What advice will you give me as to what’s best to do in my situation? Do you think it is better to take the easier option (the MBA) and earn time to try to break in at a senior analyst level in Turkey (can speak the language due to background) or take the more rigorous and international (and arguably more reputable) European MSc programme and deepen my knowledge in the network industries sector? Thank you.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      If you’re interested in network industries, I’d go with the MSc. If you want a more general education with an emphasis on management, I’d go with the MBA. I don’t think you’d go wrong either way.

      1. Thanks, Nicole!

  21. Hi,
    This is a really interesting article, thank you for the post! I have a question, I am 19 and just got accepted into law at McGill. I would ideally want to do business consulting and get accepted into an MBA program in one of the top business schools, but I am really unsure whether I should be doing an undergraduate degree in business, instead of law. I just finished college, and McGill offers a direct entry into their law program. Would you suggest that I should focus more on getting an undergraduate in business, or will it be beneficial for me to have a background in law to attain my ultimate goal?
    Thank you.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I may be wrong. However, if you are not sure, you may want to pursue law first and switch to business later. It would be harder to switch back to law if you decide you want to do law down the road, because it is a specialized industry.

  22. Hi I’m a Singaporean student, I’m currently doing an engineering bachelors degree from the National University of Singapore which is ranked 2nd in asia and in the 10s worldwide. However my GPA isn’t fantastic. and am looking to switch over to finance. If i do work before dong my MBA, it would most likely not be in non-banking sectors. What is better? taking an MBA after graduating or doing a non-banking job for a few years first? I’ve heard if you’re job has nothing to do with the business side of things then it’s as good as not having experience.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think it is easier to get into a top MBA after working for a few years, in banking or non-banking. So in your case, yes it maybe beneficial to work for a few years. Make sure you get into a top MBA or else it wouldn’t be that useful if you want to break into the industry.

  23. Hi I am an American who just got accepted into LSE Finance and PE, Oxford MFE, and LBS Mgmt. (Still waiting to hear back from Cambridge MPhil Mgmt).

    LSE – heard it’s like a factory.
    Oxford – financial economics sounds not so serious??? Oxford has a good rep worldwide but not sure if it will help me get a job.
    LBS – great MBA, but keep having it confused with LSE in the states.
    Cambridge – eh.

    I have zero finance internships, but graduated from an Ivy League School. Which program will help me get a job in the US?? ***

    No, I didn’t apply to MIT Masters of Finance bc I heard bad things and was not impressed when they came to my school to give a presentation. Also mad $$$.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Congratulations! I prefer LBS but this is a personal choice. It offers a great network and is situated in London which increases your networking opportunity. I don’t think you’d go wrong either way, and I believe LBS is well recognized in international cities in the States. Perhaps Ox-bridge may be better recognized at other states but I would’t worry too much about it – if you decide to study in Europe, there’s always a chance that some Americans back home (if you were to go back there) will not know of your school’s name no matter how famous your school is back in Europe.

  24. Thanks for the read. I have a bit of a query that isn’t exactly related to this article. I am in the Peace Corps and want to stay abroad, particularly in Africa. Given that the author’s bio says he is traveler maybe you can share some advice.

    My background is in Education, 2 years with Teach for America and two years with an education program in the Peace Corps. I enjoy working in education but not the classroom. I like the idea of working with expanding private options for low income households and working with rolling out projects in any field.

    After reading this article, the idea of interning with a business in Africa seemed cool. This furthered my belief that my options are pretty wide open. Do you have any suggestions for how someone could crack into the business world, as an American, in the continent of Africa with a background such as mine?

    Thank you for your time.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Have you explored emerging market funds/companies? Or you may want to explore international companies in Africa and start contacting them? I’d narrow down a list of companies in Africa you want to work for and start contacting people at such firms via LinkedIn, ideally Americans who are working there

  25. Hi Nicole,

    Thank you for your response. The only way I know to build an investing experience is to have a personal portfolio. Do you think this is going to be enough? Are there any other way to showcase an interest in investing? Besides the IT role in funds, what else can be a conceivable entry point into the finance field?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Having a personal portfolio helps. If you can point to an finance self study course and activities outside of work (i.e. finance club etc) this may also help.

  26. Hi, this is a very interesting article. Thank you for publishing. I have 15 years of IT (infrastructure) background in various industries (local government, finance, retail and advertising). Currently, I’m an Associate Director of IT. I’m also attending Cornell EMBA program, which is very intense. I’m planning to switch to finance field, to either VC (best case) or Portfolio/Fund management. Do you think it is doable? Would you have any particular suggestion?

    thank you in advance.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, perhaps you can look at IT roles in funds. I would recommend you to build your investing experience if you’re interested in transitioning into a front office role

  27. Hi M&I,

    I have a question about the top tier business schools.

    I graduated in a top university in Asia and am working in the sales team at a top tier global asset management firm, based in Hong Kong.

    I would like to go to business school to rebrand myself to break into the investment area. I am targeting London Business School (because I love London!), but I am not sure whether LBS is considered top-tier in Asia.

    Most of the discussions about MBA are quite American-oriented, many people suggest LBS cannot compare to M7 for recruiting in the US. However, I am not aiming at working in the US, I want to get back to Asia Pacific after graduation. So I would like to see how people perceive LBS in Asia (probably Hong Kong or Singapore)

    Thank you.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Not necessarily, LBS is a good school, though yes HBS, Wharton & GSB may have better reputation

  28. Hello,

    This is a very helpful article. I had a query. I have 4 yrs of experience in family business with a Econ degree from a non-target. Which would be wiser to break into IBD/VC/PE: pursuing an MSF degree or an MBA. Also, what do you think of online mba/msf programs in regards to recruiting.

    Thank you for your response in advance.

  29. Hello,

    I just came across your article after doing a quick google search and found it to be very informative. Thanks for the clarifications.

    I’m interested in breaking into finance. I graduated from a non-target school, majored in finance and graduated with a 3.5 GPA. I currently work for a global payments network company in their pricing division. I plan on attending a top MBA program after completing roughly 3-4 years of work experience (currently have a little over a year of work exp.)

    What are my chances of breaking into finance – whether it be IB, PE, or VC? (Assuming I do get into a top MBA program)

    Thanks for your help.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Assuming you get into a top tier MBA program, you may have 50/50 chance because you’ll still be competing against people who have had industry experience

  30. Hi, Nicole.
    I am hardware engineer working at one of the top tech firms (e.g. apple, google, microsoft). I have bachelor’s and master’s degree from top engineering school. I also took a few economics courses. I would really like to switch my career to investment banking or hedge fund, specifically in technology sector! I am planning to attend a top MBA to learn more about finance. Do you think it is common/plausible for someone like with no finance background to break into investment banking or hedge fund in tech sector after pursuing MBA? I wish my tri-lingual (Chinese and Korean) can help too. In addition to pursuing MBA, is there any other thing I should prepare for?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes people do break into the sector with no experience after a top tier MBA, though it can be more challenging these days. You’ll have to demonstrate your passion in & knowledge of the markets. Try your best to be active in finance associations on campus during your MBA program, network with alumni aggressively and learn modeling (you can check out BIWS) – this shows that you have some finance knowledge & interest in the sector. A CFA may also help if you’re interested in the buy-side

      1. Thanks Nicole. I just have few more questions. Do you regard top tier MBA as top 5 or top 10? And is getting into IB more plausible than getting into Hedge Fund for my situation? Is it realistic for someone like me to break into hedge fund?
        Regarding CFA, since I have no industry background in finance, is passing CFA exams would be helpful enough?

        Once again, I really appreciate your effort and time.

        Great Thanks.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Yes, I meant top 10 schools, though if you can get into a top 5 MBA program, that may even be better. Not necessarily, your background maybe interesting to some quant funds.

          Yes passing the exam demonstrates your passion in the industry. CFA is mostly useful for HF and buy-side roles, but not necessarily for IB roles.

          1. Thanks, Nicole.

            I heard that it is not quite possible for one without finance work experience to break into private equity. Does it hold true even after pursuing MBA for someone like me?

          2. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            Yes it can be challenging to break into PE without IB experience, even if you’ve got your MBA –

          3. Hi, Nicole.

            Is there any field (PE, VC, IB, HF, MF) you would recommend considering my situation assuming if I have graduated from a top tier MBA?

            Again, thanks for your time and effort.

          4. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            It depends on what your previous experience is so I can’t say. I’d say its hard to enter PE without IB experience. Its also tough to enter HF without investing experience (personal or professional) or these days, a strong quant background, to compensate for that. VC – you’ll need entrepreneurial, investing and/or IB experience and rarely do VCs take in b-school grads with no experience. So that leaves you to IB and MF. I’d say you may have higher chances with those 2 routes.

  31. Hi,

    I am an Indonesian applicant for MBA degree. My aim is to work for an asset management firm, and I know that target MBA is required. Though, I am not sure what are target MBA for asset management firms (i.e. besides M7, what are the others? Are UCLA Anderson, Yale, Ross, Cornell considered target schools?)

    Thanks a lot!!!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes Cornell is also renowned for its buy-side connections I believe. The rest maybe semi-targets, though they are good schools.

      1. Thanks a lot for your prompt response. How about Hass, Fuqua, Tuck, Darden, NYU?

        Graduating from semi-targets, am I in a good position to land an Asset Investment job?

        The article below states that to get the job in this industry, it is not necessary to attend top 10-15, what does that mean?

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          I think they are all decent business schools though Stern definitely stands out especially given its location.

          It depends on whether you have solid industry experience and passion for the markets or not. Bear in mind you’ll be competing against people who have the 2 and graduated from top tier schools.

          Yes if you have the passion for the markets and some sort of investing experience & knowledge. AM places more emphasis on the above 2 and yes a CFA so if you have the 3 factors listed above, it might not be necessary to attend top 10-15

  32. Hi,

    I am currently a Junior at Middlebury College, ranked as a 4th liberal arts university in the US. By the time I will graduate I will have a GPA of 3.4 or somewhere around that number in Econ/Math double-major. I have had a few questions and I will really appreciate it if you could answer them:

    1) What are my chances of getting a job in IB without any prior internships in finance? I have only had 2 internships in Marketing, one of them being in General Electric Healthcare division.

    2) If I instead, pursue marketing or sales rep positions in general corporations rather then in banks for 3-4 years, and then get into one of the top MBA programs what are my chances of than breaking in IB as an Associate?
    Would sales/marketing experience help, or should I go with corporate finance instead before getting an MBA?

    3) How possible is it to become an IB analyst after working in Sales/ Marketing/ Corporate Finance for 1-2 years? Do banks only hire their analysts out of college?

    Best regards,


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      1) Your chances are 50/50 since you’ll be competing with people who have GPA >3.5, experience & connections in the industry. To increase your chances you will have to network a lot and gain some sort of experience in the industry
      2) Your chances will be higher by doing a top tier MBA. If you can get into corporate finance after graduation, I’d just jump right in. Your sales/marketing experience would help you in other business-related roles though I wouldn’t say it is directly relevant in helping you land a job in IBD because you still lack the deal experience. But the top-tier MBA will help you retool yourself assuming you go down that path.
      3) Yes you can transition to IB from corp fin because the skills are relevant. Its harder to transition to IB from Sales & Marketing. Banks don’t only hire analysts out of college though it is easier if you were to break in from a top tier undergrad/grad program, or from another bank in the industry.

      1. Nicole,

        Thank you very much for your response. In that case I have a few more questions:

        1) Regarding my chances of breaking in IB after college, with my existing credentials, what types of investment banks are more likely to hire me? I understand that I haven’t got much of a chance in the Bulge Bracket, but do you think it would be easier and worth it to try to aim for small regional investment banks, or is the competition the same regardless of the size of the bank?

        2) If I end up getting a job in a small investment bank, how possible would it be to transfer to one of the big ones (let’s say Top 20) in a year or two assuming I do well there?

        3) This may not be a part of your expertise but: Would it be considerably easier to get into corporate finance in the big IBs than in the Investment Banking Departments?

        Thanks and best regards,


        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          1. Yes aiming for smaller boutique banks will help you.
          2. It is possible and many people move around the industry. As long as you’re good at what you do, I think you can easily move around.
          3. In IBs, I believe corp fin & IB are under IBD. No I think the process would be similar. If you’re asking whether its easier to get into corp finance at a company, I think the process maybe slightly easier though it’s still challenging.

          1. Nicole,

            Thanks a lot for the information again.

            I had one more question that I wanted to ask you:

            1) I may have an opportunity to intern in one of the biggest Ibanks in my home country (non-english speaking). Do you think this would give me a better chance when I apply for IBs after my Bachelor’s? For some reason I feel like Ibanks in the US wouldn’t really value an IB internship if it was done in a non-english speaking country.



          2. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            Not necessarily. Having this internship is better versus having no internship/having internship in a field irrelevant to IB. If you have an offer with an IB/reputable boutique in NY, I’d choose the internship in US over the one in your home country. Otherwise, I’d take the one from your home country.

  33. Hi,

    Thank you very much for putting together such useful article. I studied computer science in one of the top 15 universities in the US (lower end 15) and have been working as an IT role in a decent hedge fund for around a year. I want to switch to the business side from supporting role and for now my goal is to land on a p/e job (understand usually have to work in I-bank first).

    I was wondering what are my options to make the switch: I went to school a little late than others so I am one – two years older than people graduating from the same year. I would love to explore the time-efficient way however I am open to the MBA path. Apart from going through an MBA program, I was wondering if there is any alternative. Also I was wondering if a one year master of finance say from MIT or Princeton might help. From what I researched, those are more for trading than investment banking jobs but I would really love to hear your opinion on it.

    Thank you

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes an MBA at a target will help you. I’d say an MBA is probably a better option vs master of finance if you want to break into PE. If you don’t get IB or PE experience early on and don’t want to pursue an MBA at a target, your next best bet is to work at one of PE firm’s portfolio companies or another company in the industry and get experience running a line of business, and then join the “Operations” side of a PE firm.

      1. I understand it can be hard to directly break into p/e, if I will shoot for investment banking analyst position (I understand MBA in this case can actually be a short cut for me to get into associate program but I am trying to explore ways alternative to MBA), do you think I can directly apply for those analyst program or MBA in this case is also necessary?

        Also, I do want to make the switch as early as possible however I am not sure what is a good number of years of work experience. Would you say 2 years work experience might have a shot?

        Thank you

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Yes it is feasible to break into IB without an MBA. However, it can be more challenging in your case because you’ll have to demonstrate your deal experience & knowledge of IB. An MBA will allow you to retool yourself and give you the opportunity to build the network.

          If your end goal is PE, you can also try to explore working in IT roles for PE first and then switch to FO. I think this is probably more challenging, but with the right network its doable.

          In your case, I think its best to switch as early as possible, because if you do land an IB role, you may have to start from the bottom given your lack of experience in the industry.

  34. Hi am a young graduate of Business Adminisration with no work experience and i want to do masters (MBA PROGRAM) by 2014 at canada.i graduated with(CGPA 3.25). i have the aspiration of breaking into the investing and manufacturing world. in these case of my which masters program and university will give me a chance in the competitive world.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think having the work experience will be most relevant.

  35. Hi,
    I am 34 years old and come from a non finance background. I have a background in Property and design. I have also been doing commodity and equity trading for over a year and find it very interesting and challenging.
    I have now saved enough to get into a MBA in London, UK (Non ranked). I am also thinking of doing CFA level I. Is this a good route to switch into Finance – Hedge Funds / Equity Trading?
    Please advise.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      If you aren’t going to a target MBA school, I’m not quite sure if an MBA can help you in breaking into IB. It may help you retool yourself and help you break into other roles in finance though. CFA is useful for buy-side roles (think PWM, AM), but not necessarily for IB roles

      You may find the below interesting:

  36. Hey guys – great site. Was just wondering if you could any share insight as to how Canadian investment banks (Big 5) are perceived by top MBA schools?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think what matter most are your experience, your level of responsibility, and your references. While the big5 may not necessarily have the same level of reputation as “Goldman”, or “Morgan”, the name is not as important as the content – what have you learned there? Did you lead? How were you a team player? Schools will be looking at these factors.

  37. Why does everyone want to ‘break in as an associate’? That being said, I have two offers from IB’s and one for a boutique firm that’s a block away from my residence… As the boutique manages just over 5B, should I stick with the boutique due to logistic reasons? It must be noted too that i’m in my 3rd year of university, my gpa is 4.0 and my major is in Finance, double minor in Accounting and ‘Business Economics and Law’.

    Your reply and recommendation would be more than unreal to hear.


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Congratulations! Seems like you’re leaning toward the boutique firm. You may want to check out Logistic reason is actually a good reason because I assume you’ll be working long hours and if there’s a way you can minimize your travel time this will help.

      1. Perfect. I enjoyed the secondary article as well.



  38. Hi Brian,

    If I work for Big 4 corporate finance for 2 years now, tried networking around but haven’t had much luck. Should I go for a MBA program to get in? My thoughts are if I were break into banking now, I would still be around 1st/2nd yr analyst and it would take me another 2 years to be associate. If I were to go for MBA next year, then after 2 years, I will be an associate. In this way, I would only save 1 year if I could get into banking now.

    What’s your thoughts on this?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes getting in MBA before breaking into IB as an associate is a longer route. So if you want a faster route, I’d suggest you to break into banking now if you can, especially since there’s no guarantee you can get a job in IB after your MBA. However, if you don’t get into banking, I’d suggest you to go for your MBA as a backup plan.

  39. Hi, this is quite insightful. But my situation is a bit different.
    I came from a regional top school with a rather quantitative major in Asia and am now a fund sales in a top asset management firm with 2 years of experience. In fact, I am interested in portfolio management, I do work with people portfolio management for some sales stuff. But I am not involved in the investment process. It is a bit difficult for me to find a relevant job. Do you think going to a top school for an MBA or Master in Finance can help me rebrand myself to shift to the portfolio management or equity research function? Or would you think just networking directly with other portfolio management people is more effective? Thanks.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I think a CFA will help you more than an MBA. I think networking with PMs and switching to more investment-related role would be more useful. You can always try networking in the next few months and apply to business school next fall and see how it goes. If you still can’t break into an investment related role in a year, you can consider going back to school (by the time you’d have applied already so you’ll have a backup plan if you get in). A school like Wharton will help you retool yourself to get into other areas in finance.

  40. Avatar

    P.S.S.: My degree is a 4 year program with only management/economics courses.

    Sorry for commenting three times in a row, i thought this info would be relevant.

  41. Avatar

    P.S.: I live in spain (canary islands), should I try with london based banks? Do I have to live there when I apply? It would be very hard and expensive to do that without any income.

  42. Avatar

    I am 23 years old and graduated from a non-target spanish university. My average socre is 7.1/10. I speak spanish (obviously), have the highest certificate in english issued by cambridge (c2 level) and intermediate/advanced level of german. I have no qualified working experience whatsoever.

    In this particular situation, should I start networking for bulge banks, try with boutique banks or get a masters degree in finance? I’m writing this in January, so most application deadlines are closed.

    1. If you have no work experience, you need to get an internship first… but if you can’t afford to go to London and network, consider a top Master’s program in the UK such as LSE.

  43. If your looking to break into investment banking as an Associate what career experience would be more favourable: If you enter an mba with approx. 3 years of capital markets ops experience such as trading support or reconciliation at an investment bank or 3 years of experience with a corporate finance / strategy experience at a Fortune 500?

    1. Probably about the same, but the 3 years of corporate finance / strategy experience would probably help more with getting into banking because the work is more closely related.

  44. If your looking to break into investment banking as an Associate what career experience would be more favourable:
    If you enter an mba with approx. 3 years of capital markets ops experience such as trading support or reconciliation at an investment bank or 3 years of experience with a corporate finance / strategy experience at a Fortune 500?

  45. Hello,

    I am 34 years old IT professional, doing well in IT. I am now keen to switch my field and want to break into finance. I have just registered for CFA Level 1 and would take a break to do MSc in Finance in 2014 ie in two years time. Therefore I will be 37 by the time I graduate out of Msc.
    What are my chances in the industry?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole should help

      To increase your chances, you can try IT roles within finance firms – I think this is your best bet

  46. Hi! I posted a rather lengthy question in the IB hierarchy thread. I still need some advice on those questions, but reading here also brings up some additional questions:

    Is my experience in commercial finance (4 years in sales and not real estate/mortgage related) considered experience in finance and will I be able to leverage it after getting an mba to get an associate position? I know it’s not really investment banking, but you mention it should be pre-mba finance experience–so is this the kind of finance experience that will be enough or does it need to be IB analyst work? Will I be viewed as a career switcher instead, and does that mean I will be looking at entry level analyst positions when I graduate, or is an associate position still possible? If is is possible, what else do I need to do?


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes – depends on what kind of sales. Perhaps a relationship management role at an asset management/private wealth m’gmt firm will be a better fit if you have had sales experience. Institutional sales may help too but tougher to break in these days

      1. So yes I can get an associate position after I get an mba because of my experience? The kind of sales my experience is in: commercial equipment leasing/finance. I mentioned it in the airplane leasing thread. Not specialized in a particular type of collateral or industry but decisions are very credit/financials driven.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Perhaps CDO sales? Not quite sure how the CDO industry is doing ATM but your skills may be of use. Also look at credit sales roles etc

  47. Hello,
    I am currently working in KPO in India.My field is reconciliation and verification of booked forex trades for a major Investment Bank In US.I just started working.MY GPA is 3.00 in BS computers.Can i use studying in BS maths and MA economics to build Alternative transcript? My plan to do MBA is 5 yrs down the line.
    Alternative Transcript means where i can replace my original marks by the new and better ones? Will it help to build the profile?

    1. I am not sure about that one but I don’t think they would “replace” your existing GPA. Earning better grades the second time around may help improve their initial image of you and will only help your case.

      1. Ok,so which one is better? MA economics or BS mathematics.Both the above courses are provided by Indias Central govt.distance education University.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          I don’t think it matters in your case

  48. I think this question came up a thousand times:
    What is better to get started into Investment Banking (I am 31 years old and working in a Bank, but not in the Investment area)
    Master of Finance or MBA? (ceteris paribus)

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      MBA may be better, but only an MBA from a target school

      1. Thanks for the quick answer.
        In Germany we have only four universities with an “EQUIS”-approved MBA. I think nobody will know them in USA or UK. You think there is any chance to be competitive with one of those?

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          I don’t think they will be as reputable as the target schools in US & UK if you want roles in US & UK

  49. Hi,

    I am currently 19 yrs old and have done 3 years in Information Technology, currently working for a fortune 500 company in Canada. I have interest to get into business and finance. What should i do? get admission into an undergraduate program here in Canada?

    Which schools do you recommend? and what should i look into their curriculum? does the name and prestige of the school matters?

    How about studying for undergraduate in India ( I have heard that IIM and ISB are good, but tough to get into)

    and which skills should i work on? Be a math geek, personal skills, or speak more languages ( i currently speak 4) or learn at free time more about finance and markets as there are many open courses from Yale,Stanford,MIT and other schools at iTunes U.

    Thanks and Regards!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Top schools like McGill in Canada can help.

      Not sure about schools in India.

      Skills – ability to analyze financial statements; ability to model; ability to sell; ability to multitask; strong leadership, networking, communication, organizational & interpersonal skills, etc

      Being from a target school will help

  50. Hi,
    I went to a target undergrad school in Europe (average GPA though),
    didn`t get into IB, and I`m currently doing private banking for a top tier BB.
    How hard will it be to get into a top 10-15 MBA in the US/Europe

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      As long as you have solid essays, recs & GMAT I think you should have a decent shot.
      We’re not MBA admissions consultants so you might want to consult them

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