by Brian DeChesare Comments (176)

How To Get Into Investment Banking

how to get into investment banking cover
So, you want to know how to get into investment banking

…despite the fact that:

  • It’s a much less “prestigious” field than it used to be;
  • It no longer pays a huge premium to other career options, such as engineering jobs at big tech companies; and
  • The recruiting process is now hyper-accelerated and crazy.

It’s OK – I understand!

Despite these potential downsides, we continue to receive questions about how to get into investment banking, and our traffic and sales have grown every year.

So, in the spirit of these continued questions, we’ll examine this topic from A to Z and provide a blueprint for banking recruiting.

Is Investment Banking Right for You, and Can You Get In?

Before reading this guide, you need to answer two important questions:

  • Is investment banking (IB) right for you?
  • If so, do you have a viable path to breaking into the industry?

If you are an undergraduate student, especially at a top university, the first question is less important because you do not have time to “test the waters.”

Now that recruiting is hyper-accelerated, you have to think about IB starting in Year 1 of university, and ideally in high school – or your chances aren’t great.

So, your honest reason for pursuing investment banking might be:

“I’m potentially interested, and I need to win an internship since recruiting starts years in advance. If I don’t like it, I can always switch and work in a different industry later on.”

If you attend a “target school” that the big banks recruit at (in the U.S., roughly the top 15-20 schools in the country), it is significantly easier to break in as an undergrad.

You still have to start early, network, and prepare for interviews, but you’ll have a much easier time winning interviews if you have a prestigious university name on your resume/CV.

If you are not currently an undergraduate at a top university, then you need to think long and hard about whether or not you want to put in the mammoth effort required to get into IB.

Even if it is possible to break in, there might be other career options that are far more suitable.

For example, many engineers contact us and say they want to move into finance to make more money, advance, work with clients, or make a bigger impact on the world.

These are valid reasons for wanting to do something outside of engineering, but they are not great reasons for wanting to do investment banking, specifically.

For example, with ~5-10% of the effort required to get into IB, you could satisfy these desires by starting a side business, investing in the stock market, offering freelance coding services, or making small real estate investments.

Or, you could pursue roles like quant research or quant funds where your math and coding skills will be far more useful.

For investment banking to make sense:

  • You must really want to advise companies on debt, equity, and M&A transactions and spend a lot of time in PowerPoint, Excel, and Word; or
  • You must be interested in a specific exit opportunity that normally features investment banking as a prerequisite, such as private equity or corporate development.

For more tips on how to make a decision, please see our articles on “Is Finance Still a Good Long-Term Career?” and “Investment Banking Exit Opportunities.”

If you are still in “exploration mode,” you should read our Day in the Life coverage to get a sense of the different fields in finance.

And, finally, to understand more about the industry itself, see our Investment Banking Overview article.

The rest of this article assumes that you’ve done your homework, you understand the trade-offs, and you are certain you want to get into investment banking.

Now, you just need to know whether or not you have a viable path, and if so, the right set of steps to follow:

There Are 4 Main Pathways For Getting into Investment Banking

4 Pathways to Investment Banking
If you’re in a region such as the U.S. or U.K., there are four main entry points into the investment banking industry:

1. As an Undergraduate, Ideally at a Top University

This is the easiest and cheapest way to get into the industry, but you must decide very early on that you want to pursue IB. “Very early on” means your 1st year or the start of your 2nd year. That is tricky, but if you put in a lot of effort, you have a pretty good chance of getting in. Outside the U.S., you might be able to decide a bit later and still have a shot.

2. As a Recent Graduate

Some students graduate, accept a role that’s related to IB, such as a Big 4 valuation job, corporate banking, or corporate finance, and then move into IB from there. The probability of making this move depends heavily on market conditions and the nature of your full-time job. If your full-time job has nothing to do with finance, you will have to consider a Master’s in Finance or MBA degree. And if you’ve been out of undergrad for 3+ years, or the hiring market is terrible, you’ll probably need a top MBA degree period.

3. At the MBA Level

If your full-time work experience has nothing to do with finance, or you got interested in investment banking after you had already graduated, you will probably have to apply to top MBA programs, get in, and use one of them to move into the industry. Assuming you get into one of the top programs, you have a pretty good chance of winning an IB offer if you put in a lot of effort and start networking long in advance (i.e., months before the program starts).

4. Beyond the MBA Level

If you’re well beyond the MBA level – for example, you have 10+ years of experience and are now a mid-level executive at a company – then you do not have a decent chance of breaking into IB at the Analyst, Associate, or VP levels. If you’re in this position, you’re better off pursuing non-IB roles or advancing to a senior executive role and then trying to move into finance from there.

Regardless of your pathway, you will need a sequence of work and leadership experience that demonstrates your interest and commitment.

In addition to this work experience, you’ll also need to devote significant time to networking, learning the industry, and preparing for technical and “fit” questions in interviews.

Finally, you’ll also need at least one “interesting point” such as a hobby, interest, or life experience that makes you come across as a human rather than a robot.

This point is especially important for undergrads because brief internships, no matter how prestigious the firm, won’t be enough to set you apart.

Getting into Investment Banking Around the World: Other Pathways and Other Regions

How to Get into Investment Banking Around the World
In some regions, not all these pathways are viable.

For example, MBA-level recruiting is virtually nonexistent in Australia, so you need to get in as an undergrad or recent grad or move to another region.

In India, recruiting is sparse outside the top 2-3 IIMs (the top business schools there); even if you’re at one of the top IITs, it will be difficult to win a true front-office role.

On the other hand, some of these pathways are also more viable in certain regions.

For example, in the EMEA region, it’s arguably easier to graduate from a top university, complete off-cycle internships after graduation, and win a full-time IB role than it is in the U.S.

There is a culture of longer-term, off-cycle internships there, especially in countries like the U.K. and France; the trick is converting them into real full-time roles.

Banks love cheap labor, so they often string along interns for long periods with no intention of hiring them full-time.

Finally, in some regions, there are other viable pathways.

For example, in South Africa and India, “Chartered Accountants” (CAs) often complete their training, work for several years, and then move into investment banking. Some banks even have programs dedicated to recruiting these candidates.

In the U.S., corporate lawyers can move into investment banking since there’s significant skill set overlap.

I’m not sure it happens frequently enough to be labeled a “pathway,” but it is an option.

“But Wait! I’m a 45-Year-Old Plumber, and I Want to Know How to Get into Investment Banking!”

We’ve received a lot of questions from mid-career professionals in other industries who suddenly “decide” to switch and immediately want to know how to get into investment banking.

The blunt truth is that you have no chance of getting in if you are, say, a 50-year-old professional with decades of unrelated experience.

Yes, there may be a crazy story or two where someone has done it, but these stories are extreme outliers.

If you are having a mid-life crisis and want to make more money or lead a more exciting life, you should read our article about how to move into finance as an older candidate to come up with better ideas.

Some banks now have “Junior Analyst” programs that are aimed at recruiting non-traditional candidates.

If these candidates join and perform well enough, they may be promoted to full Analysts.

These programs are worth exploring, but they may or may not last.

Also, “non-traditional candidate” still does not mean “45-year-old plumber” – it means someone who graduated from a reasonably good university and held a professional job in another industry for a few years.

It’s the type of person who previously would have had to complete an MSF or MBA to get in.

Getting into Investment Banking: The Process and Timing for Each Pathway

How to Get into Investment Banking - Process and Timing
We will cover the first three pathways here, but we’ll skip the last one (“Beyond the MBA Level”) because it’s a low-probability method that’s difficult to generalize.

Path #1 – The Undergraduate

You need to decide on IB in your 1st year of undergrad because recruiting for 3rd year internships begins in your 2nd year.

These 3rd year internships lead directly into full-time roles after graduation; without an internship, your chances of winning a full-time role plummet.

You’re not necessarily doomed if you start late, but you’re more likely to end up at a smaller bank or in a non-IB role; you can also get away with a late start more easily if you’re not in the U.S.

A typical undergrad at a top university will start preparing in his/her 1st year by networking with bankers and learning accounting, valuation, and financial modeling.

He/she will then complete a relevant internship or two over the summer or during the school year and will continue networking into Year 2 to prepare for IB recruiting – whenever it begins at the large banks.

The initial internships might be at search funds, smaller PE firms or VC firms, or startup hedge funds; or in corporate finance at normal companies, Big 4 firms, non-Big-4 valuation or accounting firms, or even non-IB groups at banks, such as corporate banking or wealth management.

You’ll need a sequence of experience that you can turn into a coherent story for interview purposes, which means “more than one relevant internship or activity.”

You’ll also need to start networking with bankers via LinkedIn and email 6-12 months before interviews begin to have the best shot.

Path #2 – The Recent Grad

The timing here is harder to characterize because it depends on your full-time job and your time/money constraints.

But the main rule of thumb is that you need to act quickly, or your chances of getting into IB decrease dramatically.

For example, if you graduate, take an accounting or audit job, and then switch into a valuation role, you could move into IB if you make these moves quickly, i.e., all within 1-2 years of graduation.

On the other hand, if you wait 3-4 years, you will probably need a top MBA program to make the move.

The basic formula here is “Complete internships during undergrad + accept a relevant role right after graduation + network extensively = gain the possibility of getting into IB.”

You’ll still need to begin preparing 6-12 months in advance of interviews, but it’s harder to say when recruiting “begins” if you’re on this path because you won’t participate in a structured process.

Banks make lateral hires mostly when someone quits unexpectedly in the middle of the year – so you need to be on their radar to take advantage of such events.

Turnover at banks is very high because many people hate their jobs, so these “unexpected departures” happen regularly.

My best advice is to keep in mind the time limits and the fact that your chances diminish once you’ve been out of school for more than a few years.

So, you should start the job search once you have “good enough” client, deal, or project experience to speak to in interviews.

That might happen a few months into the job, or it might take closer to a year.

If you’re on this path, a Master’s in Finance degreenot a traditional MBA – might be a good idea so you can re-brand yourself and gain access to recruiters.

If you have done everything above (networking, relevant jobs, etc.) but still have trouble winning interviews because of issues with your undergraduate experience, such as low grades, then the degree might help.

Path #3 – The MBA

The idea here is that you’ll gain full-time experience in a certain industry, such as technology, consumer/retail, healthcare, or energy, and then you’ll move into an investment banking group where you can leverage that knowledge and experience.

The usual path is to work full-time for 3-5 years, get into one of the top MBA programs in the world, and then, if necessary, complete a pre-MBA internship or other ‘steppingstone role’ before you start the program.

You will also begin networking with alumni ASAP, ideally the moment you accept admission and decide to attend a specific program.

Do not be fooled into thinking that you can “reinvent yourself” solely via an MBA program; it’s just marketing hype from business schools.

I’ll quote a reader who moved from a boutique consulting firm to a Big 4 firm to a top MBA to investment banking:

“Banks don’t care about how you’re using the MBA program to ‘make a change’ – they only care about what you did previously and how it relates to investment banking.”

The IB recruiting cycle starts before you even arrive on campus, and while the degree can be a part of your story, it can’t be the only support for your transition.

In some cases, it might make sense to complete a part-time or executive MBA program instead of a normal full-time program, so you get more time to prepare – and so you don’t quit your current job for something that may not work out.

This option makes sense if you’re moving in from something fairly close to investment banking, such as the acquisitions team at a REIT or corporate development at a Fortune 100 company, and your opportunity cost is high.

It makes less sense if your opportunity cost is low, or you are making a 180-degree change, such as non-profits or brand advertising to investment banking.

7 Steps To Breaking into Investment Banking

7 Step Process For Breaking In To Investment Banking
Once you understand your path and the proper timing, here are the set of steps to follow:

Step 1: Win “Steppingstone” Internships or Jobs

Regardless of your path, you are not going to break into investment banking at a large bank if you have no relevant experience on your resume/CV.

You need “steppingstone roles,” such as some of the ones mentioned above (search funds, small PE/VC firm, corporate banking, etc.) to improve your profile, tell a better story, and show that you know how to get into investment banking.

As an undergrad, recent grad, or incoming MBA student, the best way to win these roles is to network with alumni.

If your school does not have (m)any alumni in the finance industry, do a cold outreach using LinkedIn and email.

Many articles on this site walk you through how to conduct this type of networking effort; for examples and email templates you can use immediately, please see:

As an undergraduate, 1-2 finance-related internships before you apply to large banks should be enough. If you have just one internship, you could use an activity or student group to support your story.

If you’re a recent grad, you need a full-time job that is “somewhat related to finance.” If that does not describe your current situation, you should find a new job.

You could also complete an internship before or during your Master’s program if you apply for a Master’s in Finance degree.

At the MBA level, it’s the same: if your full-time experience is not at all related to finance, then you should do a pre-MBA internship before the MBA begins.

Step 2: Craft Your Story

Once you have the required experience, you need to develop your story, which is your 1-2-minute response to the “Tell me about yourself” or “Walk me through your resume” question in interviews.

This is not only the most important question in any interview, but it’s also what you will use, in abbreviated form, when you network with bankers.

Therefore, you must prepare a “full version” of your story and a “short version.”

Fortunately, we have a detailed tutorial on how to prepare a very solid answer to the “Walk me through your resume” question in less than one hour.

Focus on the points outlined there – The Beginning, the Finance “Spark,” the Growing Interest, and Why You’re Here Today and Your Future – and if you have any doubts, compare your drafts to our examples.

You will use this long version of your story in interviews; the short version is for networking emails, introductory phone calls, and in-person meetings.

This short version should be a maximum of 1-2 sentences so that even bankers with ADD can read or listen to the full thing before getting distracted.

Here are a few examples:

  • Undergraduate: “I’m a [XX Year] student at [University Name] with experience in consulting at [Firm Name] and valuation at [Firm Name] and technical skills which I have developed in my private equity internship at [Firm Name]. I’m currently applying for investment banking roles.”
  • Recent Grad: “I graduated from [University Name], and I’ve worked in commercial banking at [Bank Name] and then in corporate banking at [Bank Name], focusing on investment-grade debt issuances. I am now looking to apply my credit analysis skills to larger, more complex deals in the DCM or Leveraged Finance groups of investment banks.”
  • MBA Student: “I graduated from [University Name], worked in real estate brokerage at [Firm Name], moved to a real estate acquisitions role at [REIT Name], and then attended [Business School Name], where I am currently a first-year student. I am now looking to move into real estate investment banking to combine my industry experience and finance skill set.”

When in doubt, simplify your story mercilessly.

Bankers hear thousands of these pitches, and most of them are awful because the person goes on for too long.

You may think your story is incredibly interesting, but bankers won’t pay attention if you go beyond 1-2 sentences in an introductory call or email, or if you go beyond 1-2 minutes in a formal interview.

Step 3: Bankify Your Resume/CV

Truthfully, you can only do so much with your resume.

People online like to obsess over their resumes and ask for advice about the wording of specific bullets, the font size, and the formatting, but most bankers glance at your resume for a few seconds and look for:

  • The name and reputation of your university or business school.
  • Your academic performance, such as your GPA and standardized test scores (or A-Levels if you’re in the U.K.).
  • The companies you worked at and your positions at those companies.

If you’re an undergraduate, they want to see that you have a 4.0 GPA at Princeton and interned at KPMG in the valuations team and at BAML in corporate banking.

You can start assembling your resume by using one of our templates:

The extent to which you can bend the truth depends on your job titles and the companies you worked at.

With a vague job title like “Consultant” or “Analyst,” you have some leeway to spin your experience.

But if your job title was “Junior Software Engineer” or “Data Scientist,” you have fewer options.

The best way to spin your experience is to focus on the business impact of your work and avoid the technical details – unless those details happen to be accounting/finance-related.

For example, if you have an entry like this:

Research Assistant, Cleantech Group

  • Worked directly with Professor X to collect data and analyze cleantech industries, including ethanol, solar cell, module, and wafer manufacturers

It would appear to be more of a finance role if you presented it as:

Research Assistant, Cleantech Group

  • Gathered data on U.S. ethanol industry and analyzed performance of specific companies; reviewed firm management, history, financial performance and value of IP and technology assets
  • Analyzed financial performance and production methodologies of solar cell manufacturing companies

You can’t lie, but you can make smaller tasks sound more important, you can leave out less relevant experience, and you can cite independent work as part of your job experience.

Note that even if you spin your experience, as in the example above, it still won’t make a huge difference because this entry is still not a real finance internship.

Spin might make this entry more effective as your Finance “Spark,” but you’ll need something better, work experience-wise, to be competitive for IB roles.

Step 4: Network Your Way into Interviews and Offers

Once you have the right experience, a good story, and a solid resume/CV, you can start to network for investment banking roles.

It is almost always best to focus on alumni when you start the process.

Find them on LinkedIn and via your school’s database, and then email them with your initial message in which you ask for advice about the recruiting process (i.e., some version of “how to get into investment banking,” stated less directly).

Cold calls and cold emails where you ask directly for a job can work, but they should not be your top strategies.

Use them if it’s the last minute and you don’t have time to develop relationships, or if you are applying to boutique firms.

Even if you cannot find any alumni, you’re still better off finding professionals on LinkedIn and emailing them, as long as you can highlight at least one common point (e.g., similar classes/major, same state/country of origin, similar sport or another hobby).

You will ideally start networking 6-12 months before interviews begin, which, at the undergraduate level, means “in Year 1” (!).

If you’re a recent grad, you should start networking as soon as you have a finance-related role and enough experience to speak to in interviews.

And at the MBA level, you should begin networking as soon as you have accepted enrollment at your business school.

The tricky part about networking as an undergrad is that you need to balance the earliness of recruiting with sufficient work experience.

It won’t look great if you reach out to bankers and say, “I’m a student with no experience, and I want to know how to get into investment banking. What’s your advice?”

Even if that is your situation, it’s better to point to upcoming or planned internships, activities, or classes in your outreach emails.

For example, maybe say that you’re a student at [University X] majoring in [Accounting/Finance], and you’re planning to intern in corporate finance and then work in investment banking, and you want to get advice on how to do that.

If you do not have 6-12 months because it is the last minute, you got interested very late, or you’re about to graduate, then you’ll have to use other methods.

Cold calling can work well with local/boutique firms that value persistence and that have easy-to-find phone numbers; there’s a great story about how one non-target student did it here.

Cold calls can be painful, but they are nice because if you present yourself well on the phone, you don’t necessarily need a top pedigree to be successful.

By contrast, cold emails tend to work better if you have good credentials, academic results, and relevant experience.

There are stories and examples from students who used cold emails to win internships and full-time offers below:

If you’re taking a long-term approach, your goal in this initial networking is to set up informational interviews and speak with each banker for 5-10 minutes.

Then, follow up with the person once or twice between the time of the call and the start of recruiting, and ask directly about the interview process.

Your follow-up messages can contain updates on your classes, activities, and internships, or you can ask questions about what the person is doing at work lately.

With cold emails and cold calls, follow-up is also crucial, but you focus on volume instead. If you don’t hear back, try again in a few days… and then try again in another few days… and so on.

If you conduct this process correctly and you start early enough, it will give you a serious advantage in winning interviews and offers at banks.

When applications open, apply ASAP because spots are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Yes, even if you’ve networked, you still need to submit an application in most cases, either through your school or directly with the bank.

It is not worth delaying your applications to network a bit more – recruiting moves so quickly that you’ll miss the process if you hesitate.

Step 5: Prepare for Investment Banking Interviews

For the full list of what you need to know for interviews, please see our article on investment banking interview questions and answers.

Here’s the short version:

  1. A very good understanding of the technical skills required for IB – accounting, valuation and DCF modeling, and M&A and LBO modeling;
  2. A solid main “story”;
  3. 3 mini-stories you can use to answer “fit” questions;
  4. Your top 3 strengths and top 3 weaknesses;
  5. Answers to the key objections that bankers will raise about your background (low GPA, lack of finance experience, lower-ranked school, too old, etc.);
  6. Several deals you can discuss (your own, if applicable, and also ones that banks have worked on).

It does not take that much effort to prepare for most of these questions. You can be ready with your story, “fit,” and deal questions in a few days.

However, preparing for the technical questions will take much longer, especially if you have no accounting or finance background.

You can find websites that list hundreds of technical questions, and you can find even more in our articles and Interview Guide.

But you can’t just Google “how to get into investment banking,” memorize all the questions and answers, and be prepared.

Banks, especially the elite boutiques, have shifted to deeper conceptual questions that test your true understanding of the material.

Accounting and finance are much simpler than math, physics, or engineering, but they’re still too complicated to learn in a weekend.

You’ll likely need at least 3-4 months, and possibly more than that, to be ready for interviews.

So, you should start learning the key accounting and finance concepts right as you begin networking for IB roles, and the earlier you start, the better.

If you want to learn everything from the ground up over several months, our Financial Modeling Mastery course is your best bet.

There’s a lot of content there, but you do not need to complete everything to be ready for interviews – we mark the most important topics in the study guide that comes with the course.

If you just want to review and test your knowledge, the IB Interview Guide is a better bet. It goes beyond the technical side and also covers your story, “fit” questions, and deal discussions.

Step 6: Complete the Investment Banking Interview Process and Win Offers

Assuming you’ve networked, submitted your applications, and won interviews, the next part of “how to get into investment banking” is interviewing successfully to win offers.

The first step is usually a video-based HireVue interview where they ask you a few basic “fit” questions, and you respond by speaking your answers into the camera (see: our HireVue interview guide).

This round is mostly about avoiding silly mistakes: your cat knocking your computer over, your roommate walking in naked, or you forgetting that you’ve dressed up like Gandalf.

If you dress professionally, give articulate answers within the required timeframe, and avoid background noise and distractions, you should advance to the next round.

This next round is normally the “Superday” in the structured, on-campus recruiting process in North America.

In this Superday, you’ll go through 5-10 interviews with bankers at all levels, ranging from Analyst to MD, and you’ll answer questions spanning all the topics above.

If you win an offer, you’ll usually hear back quickly; if not, or you’re on hold, you won’t hear anything for a while (or ever).

Case studies and modeling tests could come up, but they are more likely in Europe or Asia, in interviews with the elite boutiques, and in MBA-level interviews.

If you’re interviewing as a recent grad or lateral hire, the process might be less structured, and you won’t necessarily attend a formal “Superday.”

Instead, you might go through interviews over a few months if the bank does not have an urgent hiring need.

If the bank does need someone ASAP, then you’ll complete your interviews more quickly and hear back more quickly.

If you’re in Europe – especially the U.K. – this process differs significantly.

In the first step, you’ll answer competency questions (written versions of “fit” questions) with your online application, and you’ll complete online aptitude tests for numerical, verbal, and reasoning skills.

Banks could easily reject you if you make a small mistake in one of these, such as a typo in one answer.

They conduct these tests not to find the best candidates but rather to weed out people.

Then, in the final round, you’ll attend an assessment center instead of a Superday.

Instead of pure interviews for the entire day, you’ll complete other exercises, such as group case studies and presentations, report writing, e-tray/in-tray, and test verification to make sure you didn’t cheat on the online tests.

These processes are completely separate topics, so please take a look at our articles on competency questions, assessment centers, and other U.K.-specific interview differences.

Assessment centers are not that difficult, but they often trip up candidates who are a bit more “academically focused.”

In other regions, the process varies and may be closer to the one in the U.S. or the one in the U.K.; places such as Hong Kong, Australia, and South Africa are somewhere in between the two.

One Final Note: If you recruit for off-cycle roles in the U.K., you might not complete the online tests and assessment centers because the process is less structured.

That might be a positive or a negative depending on your real strengths and weaknesses.

Step 7: If You Don’t Win Offers, Reassess and Try Again or Aim for Different Fields

If you complete this entire process but do not end up with any job offers, you need to assess what went wrong.

For example:

  • Was your GPA too low, resulting in too few interviews or too many first-round rejections?
  • Did you not have a firm enough grasp of the technical side?
  • Did you not start networking far enough in advance?
  • Did you not have the work experience that bankers were seeking?
  • Did you get too nervous in interviews and freeze up when answering questions?

Your next steps will differ depending on why you failed to receive offers.

For example, if your GPA was too low or your university was not well-known, then you might think about a Master’s in Finance program at a top school to resolve those problems.

If you didn’t understand the technical side well enough, then you might delay graduation, complete a Master’s program, or do something else to give yourself more time to study.

If you didn’t have the right work experience, you might win a more relevant job first and then come back when you’re better-qualified.

If you’re a recent grad or MBA student, you might have to postpone your plans and pursue related roles, such as corporate development, and try again when you’re more senior.

Finally, there’s no shame in deciding to pursue non-IB roles for now.

Yes, everyone – especially in the online echo chamber – is obsessed with how to get into investment banking and private equity, but there are many other solid careers out there.

For example, there’s corporate banking, real estate private equity, real estate lending, corporate development, CMBS, corporate finance, venture lending, and more that I’m too lazy to type out right now.

These fields are “less prestigious” and have lower pay ceilings, but:

  1. You can still earn into the mid-six-figures (and beyond);
  2. There’s less competition; and
  3. Recruiting is not hyper-accelerated.

Or, you could go in a different direction and do sales at a tech company or work in an engineering or product management role there.

There are many paths to a lucrative business career, and investment banking is just one option.

What’s Next?

If you follow and implement everything above, you will be better-equipped for investment banking recruiting than ~95% of candidates.

The two most common mistakes are also the easiest ones to avoid:

  • Not understanding whether or not IB is right for you; and
  • Not understanding the main pathways into the industry and whether or not you have a shot.

With the first point, if you are not an undergraduate at a top university and you are not planning to attend a top MBA program, getting into the industry will be a bruising uphill battle.

That doesn’t mean you can’t do it – we’ve featured many case studies of readers who have beaten the odds.

But you do need to consider whether or not it’s worthwhile when you could win other finance roles with much less effort.

If you are intrinsically fascinated by deals, or you are very interested in an exit opportunity that typically requires investment banking first, then the time and effort might be justified.

But if not, then banking is probably not for you, and your time would be better spent on other pursuits.

With the second mistake, we receive many inquiries from readers who believe that they are “special” and that they have unique career challenges.

Then, they mistakenly assume that there is a good pathway into investment banking other than from a top university, a top MBA program, or as a lateral hire from a highly relevant field.

But the reality is that you’re not that special, there is a 99% chance that you fall into one of the categories described above, and you should already know whether or not you have a shot.

The sooner you understand that, the sooner you’ll understand how to get into investment banking – despite your urge to tap that “I’m special!” button repeatedly.

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. I have won two offers for steppingstone roles. One is KPMG Management Consulting (within their financial services solutions group), the other is Duff & Phelps Valuation. They are both located in Chicago and both have nearly identical compensation. My passion is finance and I think I may want to be in high finance someday such as IB, PE, or VC, which I think D&P is more related to. I’m not sure though on what I’ll want in 2-4 years, and I know KPMG could provide a broader range of exit opportunities. What else should I think about, or which offer should I take?

    1. If you’re most interested in finance, Duff & Phelps. If you want more options outside of finance, KPMG.

  2. Hey Brian,

    I am a senior at an ultra non-target state school late to the game for FT recruiting – graduating this winter.

    During this last fall semester, I will be doing an internship at a small venture capital startup. This summer, I did a corporate finance internship at a very large Fortune 10 company, and before that, I was a corporate tax intern at a small-cap energy firm. I am the portfolio manager of our university’s investment fund. I am also president of our finance club, having lead our squad in competitions. I have a 3.5+ GPA.

    Given that I have not networked enough and come from a non-target with very few alumni in IB, how would you gauge my chances for full-time (I am recruiting for both IB and buy + sell side ER)? Will my resume even get a second glance, given my unimpressive school?

    1. I think it will be extremely difficult to recruit for IB roles at large banks at this stage. Sell-side ER is more in the “maybe” category because sometimes you can win those roles with enough networking, as they don’t have structured recruiting cycles. I would focus on the ER roles or go for something like corporate banking or an independent valuation firm.

  3. This article is now linked from one that was about getting into IB after a liberal arts degree. Is that one now gone forever, or will there be an updated version? I found it very helpful.

    1. That article is now gone because it received very little traffic, and Google now penalizes sites with many low-traffic pages, as they prefer to see fewer pages with higher average visitor counts. Also, we felt it didn’t really add much to the other recruiting articles on this site. Regardless of your major or academic background, you need early finance internships to have a real chance at the large banks… you could be a physics major or a gender studies major, and little would change about your approach at the undergrad level.

  4. Hey Brian,
    how important is it to make your bachelor degree in a top Uni, targeting IB. Im visiting right now a good (non elite) Uni in Europe and im planing to graduate, a MBA, in a Elite Uni, in the US (obviously im focusing on internship and other things as well). So my question is: is it a disadvantage to make the Bachelor in Europe (non elite Uni, and the Master afterwards in the US) and how much of a deal does the Bachelor (not the grades, the place where you graduate) in total make.
    Kind regards,

    1. Attending a top university is very important for getting into investment banking (see every article on this site)… if you’re applying to undergrad (Analyst)-level roles. You can do it without a top university, but it’s much more difficult.

      Completing an undergraduate degree at a good but non-elite school does not make a difference if you later do a top MBA program anyway.

  5. Hi Brian,
    Thank you for this advice. I just finished my sophomore year at a non-target with a 3.8 gpa and freshmen and sophomore year summer internships at start-ups with mostly sales experience and some exposure to finance at the companies. I am clearly late to the recruiting for Summer 2022 IB but I was wondering what you think is the best move from here for an IB track. Also, I have the opportunity to get a good wealth management internship at a large firm in New York for Junior-year summer, but was wondering what your thoughts on that were on that and if it would ever help for IB. Finally, what do you think is the best way to leverage a personal network connection (parent of a friend is an MD at a large IB firm) into an IB internship?

    1. Your best move at this point is to gain some finance experience, such as with the wealth management internship, and then aim for related full-time roles after graduation, such as corporate banking, Big 4, etc., and use one of those to move into IB as a lateral hire. Recruiting for summer 2022 internships is already starting/done at some banks, and to be competitive, you normally need at least 1 finance-related internship.

      With your personal connection, it’s probably best to ask if he would be willing to speak with you for a few minutes to give you some career advice or recruiting tips if your goal is IB. Treat it as an informational interview and stay in touch with him over time, and contact him again when you’re ready to ask about moving into IB directly.

  6. Hi,
    Are winter analyst interns from a bulge bracket bank likely to convert to full time? To my understanding the ones that do get the chance to convert to full-time roles are summer analysts. I might be wrong but can someone correct me?

    Many thanks!

    1. Your chances may be a bit lower in off-cycle internships, but it depends on the region and group. Summer internships are always best if you can win them, but if you’re late or had other recruiting issues, off-cycle internships are better than nothing.

  7. Hi Brian,

    As you do with everyone else, hoping you can shoot straight and tell me I am wasting my time trying to break into any FO roles. I am in a field I am totally not interested in (Big 4 tax), and are desperately trying to get out. I have been applying to roles on LinkedIn like a mad man, and no bites. I am contemplating using the interview course you offer, but do you think that would even be a waste of time considering my background? I have been in my tax role for 1.5 yrs, and I even tried to move internally to a valuation team at my firm, and still no luck. I have my app ready to go and almost done with the process for Emory evening-MBA, and I’m hoping this type of program will help me get into more FO roles in general. I would settle for AM, IB, Corp Dev, PE at this point. I truly don’t want to be stuck in the BO. Its just not my personality and my interests align with more of the FO type roles from my research and peers I have talked to who are in these types of roles. I also want to mention I have only been applying since late Jan, so it hasn’t really been that long. Also, the reason why I want to do part-time MBA is so that I can continue to work and not loose income for 2 years as it would just put me back more financially then I would be willing to give. Given that I have always worked in undergrad as a full-time student in tandem with internships and other misc. jobs, I have no fear of the workload, and perhaps even accelerating the classes to get done sooner then later. I just really feel like i need a top MBA stamp or at least be in the process, all the while learning relevant skills in the classroom that I can showcase during an interview.

    1. A top MBA will help, but in your situation, the best/cheapest option is probably to move to a more relevant group at your firm or to go to something like an independent valuation firm instead. If it’s too difficult to move into valuation at your current firm, aim for a smaller/boutique firm that focuses on valuations for clients. And you should get better responses to networking and applications with direct valuation experience. I would do the MBA only if something like that is not an option at all or you cannot transfer no matter what you do.

  8. Hi Brian,

    I am currently a high school senior planning on making a career in IB. The college I’m planning on going to is not a top tier school, but I still would like to pursue that uphill battle. Is there anyway I could contact you via email to talk about how I can move forward and get a headstart on this brutal journey?

    1. Feel free to reply to one of the newsletters on this site. But I really don’t have much to add beyond what’s in articles like this one:

      In short, transfer to a target school to maximize your chances. Or roll the dice and try networking a ton and getting good early internships and hope it works.

  9. Hi Brian,

    I might be a bit late to the investment banking game so I’m looking into paths that can open doors into IB. Would you recommend going into something like corp dev or valuation at a big 4 if you had to pick one?


    1. The answer is “whichever one you can’t get.” You can’t afford to be selective if you start late, so recruit widely and pick what sticks. Big 4 firms generally hire far more undergrads than corporate development teams.

  10. Hi Brian, I’m Kristy. thank you very much for your amazing materials.
    I have a MSc in economic and management of innovation and technology. I’d like to get into IBD.
    I graduated in early 2020 from a top university (well-known for finance but not for my major) and now I am a financial consultant (not big 4) and the only project I did was a kyc remediation project in a IB (I’m basically like a kyc analyst right now, so mainly middle back office tasks). I have no other finance related experiences. do you think my current job is a good finance-related experience?
    I have quite good final gpa. I got really interested into finance only recently, so I have no deals to talk about as experience. I’m already 27, do you think I’m too old for IBD?
    How much chance do you think I could have?

    thank you!

    1. I think you will need something more relevant to get into IB. They usually don’t value middle office experience that highly. The problem isn’t so much your age, but the fact that people rarely get into IB directly from middle office roles.

  11. Hi Brian,

    I am a first-gen 2018 Econ grad from the West Coast, US. (I was a transferred student to the 4-year from the 2-year junior college). After my undergrad, I accepted operation consulting gig in the public sector (various relevant duties, covering fp&a, budgeting, and some valuation on capital project). And then after a year, moved to a mature ed-tech startup to work on operation and creating finance reports for IPO as a consultant.
    With a 3.3 GPA (Major: 3.5) from a semi-target school, I am planning to attend Masters. I am trying to see if I can do anything that would be closer to IB before going back to school. I don’t know if corporate finance internship helps here, unpaid PE intern or any other. Many of the internship requires you to be in school.

    1. A PE/VC internship before or during the Master’s program would help.

  12. Avatar
    Nathan Walton

    Hey Brian,

    I’m a Junior at a non-target school with two undergrad business majors, one in finance the other in operations and supply chain management w/ a great GPA. I’ve got experience in corporate finance/accounting at a pharmaceutical manufacturer, and am working a summer internship at a financial services consulting firm. I’ve been networking extensively with bankers and have relatively good relationships with a couple of MD’s. Do you have any advice on how I could market myself to bulge bracket or middle market banks most effectively?


    1. The problem is that you’re very late to the IB recruiting process, since internship recruiting starts a year in advance, so… you can’t do much to win offers at the large banks at this point. Potentially you could win something at a smaller bank at the last minute, but it’s very random (see:

      If that doesn’t work, aim for a full-time offer in a related field, such as corporate finance or valuation or corporate banking and move into IB from there.

  13. Avatar
    Richard Evans

    I am struggling to get into banking, I have a degree but not from a top university. I have experience in PPI complaints, I want a career in banking and been looking into getting in compliance. I apply but hear nothing back. Should I focus on an entry level position in banking and then try and work my way up? What are entry level positions in banking?

    1. It’s hard to give you specific advice because I don’t know your full background (Years of full-time work experience? Grades in university? Quality of alumni network?). If your current role is quite disconnected from IB, then often it’s a better to move to get a Master’s in Finance or MBA degree to get in.

  14. Hi Brian,

    Really appreciate all the content and your willingness to stay updated with the comments.

    I was hoping to get your insights on how difficult would it be transitioning into banking (front/middle) from a rating’s agency (like Fitch) or from a insurance/broking company like AON/WTW after say 1-2 years after graduation. Would it be worth sticking within the rating’s agency or insurance company for 3-5 years then doing an MBA?


    1. I don’t think it would be the easiest transition, but it might be possible if you target a credit-related group, or maybe if you go to corporate banking first and then investment banking.

  15. Hi, Brian. I’m a 15 year old high school freshman, looking for the best career in finance. I’m a generally reserved person, but I have good networking skills, and I’m very attentive. I also have good quantitative skills. The only problem is that I’m relatively shy. I’m looking at Investment banking as a future career path for me, but I do not know If i’m a good fit for the job. What kind of people succeed in Ib, and what are they like as people?

  16. Hi, Brian. I’m a 15 year old high school freshman, looking for the best career in finance. I’m a generally reserved person, but I have good networking skills, and I’m very attentive. I also have good quantitative skills. The only problem is that I’m relatively shy. I’m looking at Investment banking as a future career path for me, but I do not know If i’m a good fit for the job. What kind of people succeed in Ib, and what are they like as people?

    1. Depends heavily on the level. There are a lot of introverted people at the junior levels who succeed via their work ethic and attention to detail. As you move up, it turns into a sales job, so you need to become more comfortable with that over time. There are many senior bankers who would have been terrible Analysts because they’re good at selling but bad at numbers.

  17. If you don’t go to a target school and you have no internships under your belt do you think going for a mba would be the right route to get into investment banking? Or do you think that networking would be a better option

    1. Depends completely on your years of full-time work experience, if any, and your current job. Networking really only works if you’re in a closely related field currently (Big 4, corporate banking, valuation, etc.) and you have quite a lot of client/deal experience to point to. If you’re doing something unrelated, you usually need an MBA.

      1. Right now I’m currently working at a bank I’m a client advisor but i don’t think that this role would help benefit me networking my way into investment banking. Do you think getting an MBA would be my best bet?

  18. Brian, I hope this finds you well. Incredibly useful articles, this one in particular being so detailed. I would hugely appreciate your advice. I’m in the UK looking to get into IB. I am reading Economics and Finance (on track for at least a high 2:1 and potentially a 1st), and have done two summer internships in asset management in my first and second year summer holidays. However, I’ve had no luck getting any grad schemes or other internships this summer, thus I have applied for Masters in Finance courses. I know a few people in VC who I could email asking for work experience this summer as, in my opinion, it’s vital to have more work experience than I currently have when the next grad application cycle comes round.

    I was wondering if you could give me advice on how I should go about this next year and a bit. I am hoping (correct me if I’m wrong) that having an MSF will help a lot in getting a grad job, especially as my story is very finance-heavy already, but are there any steps I could take in the meantime to ensure I am competitive for the big banks? Looking at your articles it seems that a VC internship may be helpful, especially as I can spin it to seem more IB related but any further advice would be much obliged.
    Thanks in advance

    1. The MSF may help, but it depends on the quality of your current university. The MSF tends to help the most when you attend a non-target school that doesn’t get much attention from banks or other finance firms. At this point, you should try to get work experience in VC or any field that’s more closely related to IB as soon as possible. Small/local PE firms would also help. Other than that, it’s just the standard steps of networking and refining your applications (networking can be less effective in the UK, at least at large banks, because so many people apply and the process tends to be more automated).

  19. Hi Brian, I was hoping you can offer me some realistic advice. I am less than 2 years removed from college (24 years old) where I graduated with a BS in civil engineering. I graduated with a 3.42 GPA, which is solid for engineering, but nothing that differentiates me. I have been working as a structural engineer in NY since, but am strongly considering a full 180 career change into finance (specifically IB). My finance knowledge is very minimal right now and the work I do definitely doesn’t carry over into IB, therefore, while I do have work experience, it is not relevant at all to the field. I have gotten mixed reviews from professionals in the field on whether I will be able to break into IB without going back for an MBA. Most agree with you and believe it will be extremely difficult to land a job, but some say that by taking some relevant courses and also self studying / picking up useful skills along with networking might be enough to break in. I am very skeptical and do not want to waste more and more time delaying my decision, because I feel as the older I get the less chance I’ll have of breaking in as an analyst. Do you think it is worth the effort to complete some courses and really gain an understanding of the finance industry while studying for the interview process or would you suggest applying for an MBA program? I also feel like I could be wasting my time studying to get into a top MBA program given my age (the average age is typically ~28) and non-spectacular resume (~2 years of structural engineering experience).

    I love your content on this website and would love some honest advice. Thanks!

    1. I think it will be tough to break in without a top MBA, but there’s an outside chance that you can do it if you complete something like a 1-year Master’s in Finance from a top program, network extensively, and complete an internship before/during the program.

      I don’t think courses alone, without some other degree, would be enough. Maybe if you had experience that was more closely related, such as corporate finance at a normal company or valuation or something like that. But engineering is usually too far removed to move directly into IB.

      One option might be to apply to top MSF programs, network around, try to get a more relevant job first, and then if none of that works, apply to top MBA programs once you have more experience.

  20. Avatar
    Gregory Pitts

    Very insightful article Brian.

    Could you comment further on how the nature of recruiting has changed dramatically in the past years? How exactly has it become more accelerated? Is it much more competitive? Just curious to hear about how the paradigm has changed and what the implications of that are, especially for people from less privileged socioeconomic backgrounds looking at opportunities like this.

    Would appreciate if anyone in the comment thread has insights to add as well. Thank you.

  21. Hi Brian! Thank you for these articles, they are very useful

  22. Avatar

    Hi Brian! Thank you so much for this thorough article. I’m a high school senior, and I’ll attend Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania as class of 2025. As you’ve suggested in a previous comment, I will learn about the industry as much as I can before I start college. I’m wondering if you would suggest learning a new language (such as German or Spanish) to maximize my chances of landing an investment banking analyst job. Wharton requires all undergraduates two semesters of foreign language, and I have the time to advance in a new language. Do you think it would be useful for my career in the future? If so, what language would you recommend? Thanks.

    1. Unless you get to near-native fluency in the language (highly unlikely if you’re starting to learn as an adult), this is not a good use of time. Also, languages matter much less for IB roles in the US than they do in Europe.

  23. Hi Brian, my name is Dan. I graduated in the UK last year and promptly signed a 2 year contract for a job as a data analyst at a retail bank. In 2 years time, when my contract expires I hope to do 2 years as an analyst in a boutique IB. My family has connections and I will very likely get in. I have 2 years to gain at least some relevant experience and demonstrate my relevant capabilities. At the moment, I plan to complete my CFA level 1, and will probably also purchase your course. I have toyed with the upskilling my coding abilities, which I also use as part of work, do you think that could be of any relevance? And what would you recommend I do to gain experience that could be applicable in IB interview outside of office hours? Thank you!

    1. For IB, coding skills won’t really help. We do teach some VBA in the courses, which is the most relevant language and will save you time, but it’s not something they test for in interviews. The biggest thing you can do now is network extensively and learn the industry very well so that you can tell a reasonable story about your transition.

  24. Avatar
    Kolby Mack

    Hello Brian,
    I am currently a junior going into my senior year in this coming fall, I currently attend WVU which is a non-target school. I do have an Internship with PNC in the summer but it is for Corporate & Institutional Banking. I also plan on joining our Student Investment Fund in the spring. I haven’t started networking yet but I soon will. Is there any advice that you could give me on breaking into Investment Banking.

    1. It’s not going to happen at this point because recruiting for summer 2021 positions in IB finished up months ago. It starts around a year in advance of internships currently. Your best bet is to do the PNC internship, win the corporate banking full-time offer, and then aim to win a lateral offer in investment banking at a larger firm.

  25. Hi Brian
    I read a lot of articles in Bloomberg and financial times talk about the coding will be very important skills for all finance professionals but l can’t understand how coding will be useful in finance career
    Should I learn coding and be developer and equity research analyst for example ?
    Thanks in advance

    1. Coding will be more important in some fields, such as trading and parts of asset management, and it already is quite important in some roles there. But it is less relevant for the types of jobs covered on this site (investment banking, private equity, corporate development, etc.) because they are all based on human relationships and deals, not trading the markets. Equity research is also relationship-driven, so coding will not help you much there.

  26. Hello, I am a second year BBA student in a prestigious business school in France, I have an intermediate GPA. I have no experience in finance, so far I have only done summer jobs even last summer unfortunately. What advice can you please give me to boost my applications this year.
    Thank you in advance for your answer

    1. You need to win off-cycle internships ASAP. There are some tips for France here:

  27. Hi Brian – I hope this message finds you well. I’m a sophomore who landed a BB 2021 IBD Summer Internship (GS/MS/JP). I worked really hard during recruiting, but after I landed my offers, I was extremely burned out. For that reason, I didn’t pay as much attention in my classes this semester, and may get a less then ideal grade in one course. Do you know if my bank (GS/MS/JP) cares what my grades are moving forward? I do not plan on recruiting elsewhere (PE/HF/MBA) and already sent in my transcripts for my freshman year. I would really appreciate your insight. Thanks for your time!

    1. They probably won’t care if you already submitted transcripts for your first year. Even if they do request updated transcripts, I don’t think it will matter unless your GPA dropped by a huge amount, something like 4.0 to 2.5.

  28. Hi Brain, I’m now in a Ph.D. program studying (pure) math, this is my second year of grad school. I had recently changed my mind about working in academia and am thinking about finding a job in investment banking/ quant. My school is not a target school, I worry staying in grad school won’t be as helpful as mastering out and find an entry level job to gain some experience first? And I can master out as soon as this upcoming spring semester. I guess you could say I can stay in grad school and find some summer internship instead, but I worry from a non-target school really put me in disadvantage, and I’d be “wasting” 3 more years? It would be great to hear what you think! Thanks!

    1. If you are working toward a Ph.D. in math, you will be bored out of your mind in IB, and interviewers will question why you even want to enter the field. You’re better off going for quant roles instead since they like Ph.D. candidates there (and even Master’s degree holders). Being from a non-target school will hurt you a bit, but it matters less for quant fund roles because they mostly care about raw ability.

  29. Hi Brian!
    First of all thank you for your answers. Could you tell estimate my chances of winning IB analyst offer? I have 1.5 years of experience at big4 and not a good gpa ( 3.1) from not a prestigious University . Now I am trying to be admitted at ESADE Msc Finance program.

    1. Depends on your role at the Big 4 firm. If it was audit, not great, as you’ll usually need something more relevant. With TS/TAS/Valuations/M&A at a Big 4, it might be feasible, though your GPA will hurt you.

  30. Hi Brian! This blog has literally been a lifesaver for me these past few months- I definitely got my IB internship for Summer 2021 because I was keeping up with your posts so thank you!

    I am also looking for a bit of advice- I started out the IB process pretty late (currently a junior at a semi-target with a 3.65 GPA w/ previous summer internships in PE and research and solid ECs). Through a good amount of networking, I was able to land a summer 2021 internship at a really small MM in NYC for next summer. Although I didn’t get an offer from BBs, I built a pretty large network at those places both with recruiters and bankers. I was wondering what FT recruiting for next year is going to look like, if there will likely be any roles open at all and whether or not I will have a realistic shot at BB IBD roles or if I should consider switching to a different industry?

    1. Thanks. It’s really hard to say what recruiting next year will look like because no one knows if/when the pandemic will ever end (I’m skeptical of these “vaccines,” personally). Also, even in good market environments, switching banks at the end of an internship tends to be difficult.

      So… you may have a shot at some BB roles if the economy improves and deal activity picks up, but I would not count on it.

  31. Avatar
    Jahanzeb Tahir

    Hi Brian, I plan on doing my masters in UK two years from now, probably at a non-target (think cass, manchester or durham in finance) and I would like to break into investment banking post masters. I am an overseas student and will be settling in London after graduating and will be 26 by then. I just finished my undergraduate studies in my home country and looking to take an advisory/valuation role at Big 4 which would give me a good 1-1.5 years experience before I move to UK to start my masters. My goal is to take an IB analyst role at a BB or EB and then move to a hedge fund. My undergraduate is weak (2.7/4) and am an ACCA affiliate starting CFA. Because of my weak undergrad I am heavily relying on my masters and the Big 4 experience to help break into investment banking. How bleak do you think my chances are? Do I still stand a shot if I network well (like start networking even before my masters begins) or do I stand no chance at all and should look for other roles like asset management at BB (where my msc finance plus cfa level 2 atleast would make me stand out)? Please guide me on this, I have been reading your articles for a while now and they have been super helpful, I just am confused as to what should I do?

    1. You can still do it if you get into a good Master’s program. I’m not sure your chances would be good at a non-target. If you can only get into non-target schools, then you may want to think about options outside of pure IB roles, such as corporate banking, other Big 4 jobs, corporate finance at normal companies, etc.

      1. What about other roles such as Sales & Trading or Asset Management? I mean to maximize my earning potential and hit a million pounds after 15-20 years in industry, which path would you recommend?

        1. I would recommend targeting roles that you can actually win rather than targeting a specific amount of money over a 15-20 year time frame, which has so much uncertainty that long-term planning is almost impossible.

      2. Also, if I do go for Corporate Banking or Big 4 valuation roles right after my masters (from a non-target), would that help me make a switch to IB?

  32. Hi Brian,

    I recently read an article about JP Morgan starting an investment banking apprenticeship in the UK for school leavers. Details of this are found here: Just wondered what you think of this and whether it may be an easier route into a front-office role compared to entering as a graduate.

    1. I’m a little skeptical because banks tend to try these strategies every few years, but then they end up back where they started, recruiting mostly students from the top universities and business schools. If this beats your other options, sure, give it a shot, but I don’t think it will beat a degree from Oxbridge / LSE and the traditional internship path into IB.

      1. Thanks for your reply. I was skeptical aswell, however after talking to someone from recruitment at JPM, it seems as though the bank are committed to using this method of recruitment in the future. I also thought that with the uncertainty of Brexit’s impact on the UK, this route may give me more certainty of a job.
        On a separate note, If I don’t do this, I’m going to apply to either LSE’s BSc Economics or BSc Finance course. Do you have a recommendation of which of these degrees may be best for IB? I imagine the difference in their prospects is little, however, I’d appreciate your opinion.

        1. Either one works because it’s more about the school’s reputation than the degree. But Finance is more relevant than Economics, which bankers often perceive as too abstract to be useful.

  33. Brian, thank you for another wonderful post.

    I suspect I’m one of the 99% you mentioned above but I hope you’ll indulge me. I went to Stern and did statistics, worked for two years doing statistical modelling at an analytics firm followed by a master’s in financial economics at Oxford.

    I have since spent two years working in strategy consulting at a boutique insurance consulting firm. I’m moving to Europe for family reasons and have been thinking about breaking into investment banking there. Do I have a decent chance of doing so or should I pursue other career options?

    I would like to get into private equity or distressed investing at some point later. So, I was wondering if it is worth the effort. Thanks in advance!

    1. I think it will be difficult but potentially possible to get into IB since you do have consulting experience, which is more helpful than something completely unrelated. However, you could run into work visa issues depending on the country you relocate to, so I can’t advise on that part.

      I think you should at least make an attempt to get into IB, and if that doesn’t work, and you’re still 100% sure you want to do it, maybe consider an MBA program.

  34. Hey Brian, you are article is amazing ;however, I wonder that what should I do in order to get an initial internships for small PE or asset management firms near by my school?
    Should I cold emailing or make a information interviews to get an initial internships??

    1. oops sorry for grammatical errors

  35. Hi Brian, another excellent post (thank you!). I’m 25, graduated in 2016 with a 1st in econ from a non-target (UK), and have 3 years experience and am currently working as an analyst at a wealth manager. I’ve got the CFA under my belt, and have just been accepted into LSE on the part-time MSc Finance course. Do you think I’ll stand a chance of breaking into IB after my 2-year part-time MSc is complete?

    I’ll be 27 with the CFA & an MSc from LSE – but I have no IB experience, despite 5 years experience in the industry as an analyst. Would I be too old to apply for graduate/analyst roles, or would I stand a chance applying for associate positions? Any guidance would be appreciated!

    1. I think you would probably need an internship or more relevant full-time work experience to be competitive. You may want to think about off-cycle internships, which are more common in the U.K. It would make more sense to do a full-time MSc and then intern before or during. This story has some tips:

      Doing a full-time program would also help with seeming “over-qualified” because you would only have 3 years of full-time experience then.

  36. Hi, I’m Korean and currently a junior at one of Korean IVY with a decent GPA(3.78) and have internship experience in major local IBD(2months) and MBB (2months).
    My career goal is to work in BB(M&A), but struggling to get an internship in BB and global PE.

    I once met one banker who graduated from top US MBA school and recommended me tech startup internship, telling me that in the US, lots of candidates for BB have consulting, tech startup, banking experience in their resume.

    After hearing that, I found a 2-month internship in the business development team at an AI-based tech startup that is growing at a fast rate and receiving $70M investment in total.

    I think this opportunity would give me a competitive edge since I can have real industry experience and puts some buzzwords like AI, deep learning in my resume.
    But worry that this could be viewed for interviewers that I don’t have enough passion for banking.

    What’s your guy’s opinion? Do you think this will help my career for M&A?

    Thanks for your reply in advance.

    1. I don’t really think it will help for M&A. The more likely problem here is that internships in markets like Korea are often “discounted” because the perception is that you don’t do much real work there. It would be more helpful to intern in a financial center like NY, London, or HK.

  37. Avatar
    Nicholas Farcas

    Hey Brian, I am a high School junior interested in IB, and was interested when I read how you said that it would be ideal to start thinking about IB in highschool. Would you suggest anything in addition to simply taking principles of finance/economics courses? Would the course(Excel & Fundamentals Course) you posted above be reasonable to take at my level, or does it require base level knowledges of modeling and accounting? Are internships available for individuals such as myself with such little knowledge and work experience? Should I and would it be reasonable to begin networking at this stage, and how would I do so? Thanks for your time.

    1. You could start learning via the courses here, but it may not be the best idea to start right now because you may forget a lot of it by the time you interview for jobs. You’re unlikely to win internships at this stage, so maybe just focus on learning about the industry and trying to find family friends who are in it or a related area.

  38. Hi,Brian can anyone tell me how do guys get that 1st internship in Investment Banks without a relevant major.I they network better,have stellar grades but how come a person without any knowledge of modelling or things required for Investment Banks get in as a summer analyst as a 1st year college student.

  39. Avatar
    John Adams

    Hi Brian, I am a rising senior whose summer internship (not IB) was cancelled this summer. I am planning on doing some financial valuation courses and start networking. I have completed one AM summer internship in the past and have taken some accounting courses. How unlikely is it to break into IB after graduating in May 2021 if I start networking now, and what do you think are the best steps to take to improve my chances?

    1. I think it will be very difficult to win a full-time IB role without an IB summer internship first. It’s possible, but your chances aren’t great because of all the uncertainty this year. I would read and follow this account:

  40. Hi Brian,

    Is it unheard of to do two junior internships in IB? Thank you.

    1. “Junior internships” as in “multiple internships in Years 1-3 leading up to the all-important Year 3 internship that converts into a full-time return offer”? That is pretty common.

      I don’t think it is possible to complete 2 “Year 3 Internships that may convert into full-time offers” at the same time.

  41. Hi Brian
    I am medical graduate(MBCHB) with more than 10 years experience in a hospital set-up without any commercial experience, recently graduated with an honours Business administration degree at recognised Business School in South Africa with a B+ grade average, looking for investment banking opportunities preferably prior to completing an MBA. Finding it extremely difficult to attract attention in graduate programs even analyst roles without prior corporate experience. What advise can you give

    1. I don’t know, I think you might have too much work experience to compete for entry-level IB roles at this stage. Maybe pursue something like the strategy here, which can work well if you have a background like healthcare:

      If that doesn’t work, maybe think about options like corporate finance at healthcare companies or life science venture capital or something else where you could leverage your medical background.

  42. Hi Brian,
    I just finished all my master exams at LSE and I am now looking for a job, ideally in IB, in London. Not the best time to graduate, I guess!
    My master is in accounting, but I added some electives in valuation and corporate finance. I’m positive that I’m going to get excellent grades. However, my problem is that I don’t really have relevant work experience and I’m 26 (I started uni two years after high school). I only worked in retail banking in a small office for the n.1 bank in Italy (the best I could get with a bachelor in Italy). It only lasted 6 months between the end of my bachelors and the start of my master. Despite LSE is a big name, I still have a big gap in work experience to justify. Thus, I’m thinking to first find an internship in an unknown IB boutique in London for 6 months/1 year in order to get relevant work experience and then try to leverage it + LSE name to get into a BB as an analyst. Alternatively, if I see that it gets too complicated, I go for a big 4 TAS role. What do you think? Thank you for your interesting articles.

    1. Yes, that sounds like a reasonable plan. Boutique banks are probably not doing much hiring right now, but off-cycle internships still come up because smaller banks sometimes have unpredictable deal flow.

  43. Hi Brian, I am incoming Masters students at Columbia University. I did my 3-year undergrad in London, graduated First Class, and did 2 IBD internships in HK. I want to break into IBD in NY (I am US citizen so visa is not an issue) and was wondering what should be my strategy going forward? Should I look for off-cycle internships or jump straight to full-time analyst rules? What is the recruiting timeline like for full-time roles? Do recruiters have higher expectations for Masters students/ full time applicants? Thank you so much!!

    1. You probably have enough experience to win full-time Analyst roles. I’m not sure another off-cycle internship will help at this point if you completed the 2 other internships recently. The recruiting timeline is very strange now because of the pandemic combined with early recruiting, so no one really knows. But you should probably start by networking with Columbia alumni and asking about the timing this year – traditionally banks hire for FT roles a year or so in advance (and more in advance for internships), but if it’s a 1-year Master’s program and the bank comes to campus to recruit, that might not happen. Expectations will be higher mostly because you already completed 2 IB internships.

  44. Hi Brian, I’m a non-traditional (meaning: older, prior interesting work experience, no fixed graduation timeline) student at an Ivy League. I just got an IB offer (junior internship) at a BB for 2021. I’m still unsure what my graduation timeline is going to be and I’m also considering to re-recruit and get another IB internship at a better bank before I graduate.
    My question is: will it be hard to explain to a different bank why I am re-recruiting, considering that my current offer is for the junior summer? Or does it not matter?
    Thank you.

    1. I’m not sure why you’d want to do that, and yes, it will be difficult to explain why you are going to recruit once again since you already have an offer that could lead to a full-time role. So unless you are making a big jump, such as a middle-market firm to GS or MS or JPM, I don’t think it’s worth it.

  45. Hi Brian,

    I’m currently pursuing an internship in Italian Boutique, and I study at Bocconi (target for UK), having good grades and this internship experience would be easier for me to get a summer internship in London?

    1. Yes, an IB internship anywhere will make it easier to get future internships.

  46. Hi Brian,
    I’m currently in the my final two years of high school and am planning to take a bachelor of commerce, majoring in finance, in Australia. Given sufficient internship experience, would it be possible to get a job in investment banking in the US? What networking tips

    1. *What networking tips do you have for somebody in my position? I appreciate your help and look forward to your reply.

    2. It’s extremely difficult to network to another country like this because you’ll run into visa issues. Your best bet is to transfer to a US university and get in that way, or work in Australia at a large bank and ask for a transfer once the bank can sponsor you.

      1. Hi Brian, just a follow up question from that. I’m someone who’s currently in my 2nd year of an Advanced Finance and Economics degree in Australia, and would also be interested in moving to the US. I’m an American citizen too, so was wondering if you had any advice with regards to networking and how to approach potential employers in the Investment Banking and Consulting industry?

        1. Your best bet is still to transfer or study abroad at a US university or something similar. Having citizenship will help, but people generally don’t take you seriously in a huge move like that unless you’re already in the country or you’re already working at a large, well-known firm, and you want to move internally. You could always try networking remotely, but most people in the US have little awareness of the top schools in Australia, how the system works, etc., so your main options are transferring/studying abroad or winning an offer in Australia at a large bank and then transferring internally.

  47. Avatar
    Aparna R Nair

    I wanted to know weather there is a scope for career in investment banking after doing MBA distant course. I really would like to join in this field. I really look forward for a reply.

  48. Hi Brian, I am currently studying an MSc in Management at a semi target UK university, I did my undergrad at the same university and got a 2.1. My current plan, considering the fact the only finance experience I have is an insight event at an elite boutique, is to take a year to get any kind of finance experience I can, preferable in AM/PE/VC funds and then applying for off cycle internships. Do you think this is an optimal plan? Also, are there specific windows in the year where it would be best to submit applications for off cycle internships? Finally, if a firm doesn’t explicitly offer off cycle internships on their website does this mean that I shouldn’t apply to them or is it more a matter of cold calling? Great article as always and thanks in advance!

    1. Yes, that could work. But it depends on if/when hiring ever recovers in the current environment. There aren’t really “windows” for off-cycle internships other than the fall and winter because spring weeks and summer internships do not take place then. Apply regardless of whether the firm mentions anything about off-cycle internships, as they’re usually not posted anywhere. You just have to ask and be persistent.

      1. Thanks for your help!

  49. Avatar
    Ronak Shah

    Is UC-Berkeley a target school for top IB firms? Specifically firms with a substantial private equity exit opportunity.

    1. Yes, but mostly for west coast offices… not as much for NY.

  50. Hey Brian / Nicole / M&I,

    Sorry in advance for the essay

    I’m from the UK, go to a non-target school, currently doing my Master’s in Finance (Undergrad was in Math with 2:1) and am set to finish this August.

    I’ve had 2 Actuary internships (my original career plan before IB) and last summer I finished a Big4 Restructuring/Distressed M&A internship, which got converted into a Big4 TS FT offer for this September 2020.

    I’ve been keeping the Big4 TS offer as a backup and have been applying for FT roles at BB+EB+MM banks this past 9 months, I was fortunate to make it to 1 EB Superday and 1 MM Superday/AC but received no offers (the feedback was always – great personality, well researched, really enjoyable interview, but technicals could use brushing up)

    I landed the interviews at a time when I was completely new to Accountancy and just started learning the content

    Now I’m coming to the end of my Masters having finished accountancy classes for the first time in my life and I’ve also been studying for the CFA 1 for June (before it got cancelled to COVID-19) and feel as if I’ve now plugged up the gaps in my corporate finance/accountancy knowledge

    I feel drained by the idea that I have to take this Big4TS offer as I’ve had very positive feedback for exceptionally better roles – I’m reluctant to take this Big4 FT position as I feel as if EB, MM and BB banks will be far out of my reach at this stage through later jumps (or will take a good number of years to make it there )

    What do you think is my best and most viable next step strategy –

    1. If possible, try and land an off-cycle internship for this Aug/Sep 2020 through networking strategies I’ve seen on this site for BB/EB/MM/Boutiques and give up my Big4 FT offer and convert it to a FT offer (How likely will I be offered an FT position given the market climate? Is this plan too risky and not worth it even if I do land an off-cycle offer?)

    2. Take the Big4 TS and apply for FT Grad roles for 2021 at the same time (I’ll still be eligible to apply cos my Masters *graduation date* is technically June 2021 due to COVID-19, even though I finish my studies this August 2020)

    3. Take the Big4 TS and try to make a Lateral jump after 6 months or so (will banks be hiring as it seems we’re headed into a recession? Realistically will I be able to get into a BB/EB/MM bank after starting out in Big4, how would i go about doing it , do I need an MBA? )

    4. All of the above as they are in different time periods (or scrap the off-cycle internship networking and focus the networking for FT 2021 positions )

    Thanks Again, really appreciate all the advice on this site

    Kind Regards

    1. I think you’ll have to go for #3. In the current environment, it’s very risky to turn down a FT offer at a stable Big 4 firm. Yes, banks “say” they are not canceling internships, FT offers, etc., but don’t believe that for a second – if things stay bad for months, or get worse, all bets are off the table.

      Banks definitely hire less in a recession, but coverage groups (and obviously Restructuring) still stay active; equity issuances and large M&A deals tend to decline the most. If you join the Big 4 firm, you’ll have more options: stay there, move into a different team at the Big 4 firm, move to a BB/EB/MM/other bank, join an independent valuation firm, etc. It’s just the smartest thing to do in this environment where no one knows what’s happening and there is no timeline for a return to normalcy.

      1. Thank you, appreciate the advice

  51. Hi Brian, I am from India and have recently qualified to become a CA. I wish to get into private equity but have no relevant experience. Can you suggest how I can upskill and which firms should I target?

  52. Hey Brian,
    Great work with this this article. I am a 3rd year college with a 3.5 gpa at a non-target school who just got interested into investment banking right now but I haven’t done any networking or done any internships yet. I was wondering if you thought I had any chance of getting into IB. Should I attempt to pursue my masters in order to buy some time? Do i have a decent of shot of going to a good masters program? Or should I try to just get another kind of job and try again later with an MBA?

    1. I was also thinking about tech but I guess I could always minor in computer science and transition after school right?

      1. You could, but it’s not necessarily that easy to get into FAANG from a non-target school, either. You could go into tech more broadly, sure, but it’s still tough to pass the coding interviews and other tests and win offers at the biggest tech firms. Minoring in CS could still be helpful as a hedge and a way to give yourself other options, though.

      2. Currently a finance major btw

    2. You’re not going to have much of a chance at the large banks with that profile. I think you might have a chance at smaller banks that recruit later or that have poor “intern yield.” But the biggest issue is that if you haven’t done any internships *and* you’re also at a non-target school, you’ll have an uphill battle no matter what you do.

      I would recommend aiming for the best internship you can this summer, ideally something in finance, and then applying for a Master’s program so you gain more time to recruit for internships at large banks that eventually lead to full-time offers there.

      Another option may be something like this strategy:

      It just depends on how much you’re willing to do a ton of work in a very short period of time.

  53. I’m just wondering what you think would be better a second internship? M&A boutique or deal advisory at a big4 (non-m&a)? I got an offer for both and trying to decide. I feel like doing an M&A internship might give me more relevant experience and prepare me better for technical questions? I’m planning to apply for internships at bb/eb when applications start in 2020 for 2021.

    1. I’m applying for banks in Frankfurt btw

    2. I don’t know what your first internship was, but probably the M&A Boutique based on what you described here.

  54. For recent grads, is it ok to network with people at different groups at your firm? Assuming you work in a non-IB role at a bank but are looking to transition to an IB role at the same bank.

    If so, would you go about it the same way?

    1. Yes, but you don’t want to go overboard because people from different groups do talk, and it doesn’t look great if you’re speaking with 5 people in 10 different groups to ask about jobs there. Try to keep it to 1-2 people in each group at most, at least at first, and limit it to a few other groups.

  55. Hi Brian, thanks for the stuff. I finished by Bachelors in commerce in India and got recruited to work as a back office role in an investment management firm, in which currently I have two years of experience. I want to switch to Germany/ Europe for a larger role. Could you please advise me what the best of chances.

    1. You will probably need an MBA or Master’s degree in Europe to make the switch at this point. There are very few real front-office jobs in India, and it’s insanely competitive to get them, so you’re best off going to a different region and doing a new degree to re-brand.

  56. Would you say that doing a big4 TAS/deal advisory (M&A) internship is just as helpful as doing a valuation internship at a big4? Or would you prefer one over the other as a relevant internship for breaking into investment banking?


    1. They’re about the same, but M&A is seen as slightly better since you work on deals more directly. But it’s splitting hairs because most bankers perceive Big 4 experience in the same way regardless of your specific area.

  57. Hello Brian, I am currently in my last semester at an ivy league who majored in the sciences. My GPA is below a 3.0, and I dont have any finance internship. My plan is to do a bootcamp for financial analyst and try to use my experience as an analyst to get into a small IB firm or try to get into a good MBA program to transition into IB. What do you think of my plan or what advice would you give me to get into IB?

    1. Your chances are not great because you have a lower GPA and no finance internships. It will be extremely difficult until you fix one or both of those.

      It will be tough to win even an off-cycle role at a small bank as well – so I think you’re better off going for something more like corporate finance at a normal company, sales/business development at a startup, or maybe something that leverages your science background but in a business role (Maybe an internship at a life science VC firm? Or go for a sales/BD/finance role at a startup in a related area?). And then use that experience + possibly an MBA to transition into IB.

  58. Hi Brian, I am currently a sophomore from target/non-target depending on the bank thinking of recruiting for IB internships or possibly consulting as another career option I am interested in. Currently recruiting for Fortune 500 internship for sophomore year and was wondering how a capital markets or valuation and advisory internship for a top real estate company would look on the resume vs a private equity or hedge fund internship that manage or work on $600 mil to $1bill deals.

    1. I think it would look fairly good, but not as good as an IB/PE/HF/VC internship. Real estate is perceived as more niche, even though that’s not necessarily true. But you should still be in a good position to apply to IB internships with that.

  59. Thanks so much Brian – great stuff!

    I actually graduated back in ’10 with an MA in Economics. Worked in academia (economics professor at several community colleges) before switching over to a commercial real estate investment boutique and then most recently to a crypto research firm, before starting my own digital asset portfolio consulting firm (which has been very stale this year).

    I’ve managed to land several interviews from small, boutique IBs as well as PE firms and even Deloitte but recent graduates or those with MBAs always seem to get chosen over me, despite my general knowledge and finance acumen. I think I am in the “over experienced” category and I doubt an MBA will help at this point.

    1. I think you probably have too much experience at this point, and an MBA may not even help if you’ve already been out of university for ~10 years. But you could still probably get roles in fields like real estate or venture capital because they’re not as strict about “how much” or how little experience you have going into it. Other options might be corporate strategy, finance, and development roles.

      1. Thanks Brian! Will check those roles out.

  60. Avatar
    Ahsan Muhammad

    Hi Brian
    I have a PhD in Chemical Engineering with 3 years of experience in the water sector in UK. I have recently started applying for IB analyst roles. do i stand a chance?

    1. You’re going to be incredibly over-qualified, so the answer is most likely “no.” Maybe you would have a shot at some equity research or venture capital roles that require more advanced scientific knowledge to assess the products. But if you want to do IB, you would probably need an MBA to change careers and move in at this stage, as they very rarely hire PhD candidates.

  61. Hello Brian,

    I am interested in transitioning from my career in human resources outsourcing to investment banking. I’ve worked in HR for over 3 years and do not see any future in the particular role that I do. I know HR and investment banking have no correlation at all as far as experience. This worries me as I have been gearing myself up to apply for a MBA program with the goal of obtaining a investment banking job. From what I read in your post, it sounds like using an MBA as a means a career pivot to IB may be a pointless endeavor. Additionally, I am seeing investment banking summer associate job descriptions requiring several years of relevant work experience. Clearly, I would not have any relevant work experience having not worked in IB before. Do you have any advice on what could possibly do to transition to IB?

    1. Get into the best MBA program you can, and do a pre-MBA internship in a related field such as a small PE or VC firm.

  62. Brian. You are the man! This site has been extremely insightful.

    I am in the process of reinventing myself and want to move out of the Michelin starred fine dining and wine world into the investment world. After learning of this renaissance I’m curating and that I passed Level one of the CFA a guest invited me to her office for lunch and tour the trading floor this Friday. She happens to be a VP at Goldman in wealth management and has been there for 20 years.

    I didn’t go to a target school, have little finance experience, but am a curiosity driven self-starter who’s great with people and want to turn this meet into something tangible. This scenario has happened before with a prominent mutual fund before I passed Level 1 and I was able to transition it all the way to Superday interviews where I choked (“superb demeanor and personality but knowledge of investment market lacked substance” was the feedback).

    I don’t have a lot but clearly I have something of value. What is my greatest entry point into the investment world, how can I build more knowledge in that area to be more valuable to firms, and most importantly how can I turn this meet and great into gold?

    Thank you in advance.

    1. It’s really hard to say because I don’t know how long you’ve been working in restaurants/fine dining, what other experience you have, how much you know about accounting/finance, etc.

      The general rule of thumb is that if you’ve been out of undergrad more than ~3 years, you probably need a top MBA program to get into investment banking. You might be able to get into some other areas of finance without it, but again, I need more information to tell you anything more specific.

  63. Avatar
    Ruy Guarita

    Hey Brian,

    First of all thanks for sharing this article.

    I am a junior student at a non-target (Babson College) and I have a low GPA (3.0). On the other hand, I have done a semester abroad at Singapore Management University and I have done two internships: Credit Analysis Unit for Middle market companies at Citibank and I am currently interning at a well-known M&A boutique in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
    I am planning to apply to IB positions in Brazil for the summer of 2020 since I believe the US market is too competitive for myself. I am also applying to positions in the USA but I am not too confident about them. What do you think? Do you have any recommendations/suggestions? I really appreciate it..

    1. Well, what is your goal? Are you trying to work at a large bank? If so, in the U.S. or U.K. or some other region like Brazil? Do you want to stay in banking or eventually move into private equity or something else? It’s too hard to give you advice without knowing that information first.

      In general, it is quite difficult to leverage experience in a place like Brazil and then use it to win offers in bigger/more developed markets because they often “discount” experience in emerging markets. So if you want to work in the U.S. long term, it’s best to start out there.

      It is more competitive and your chances aren’t great with those stats (non-target, lower GPA, relevant-but-not-the-best internships), but another option might be to work in a closely related field such as Big 4 TAS or valuation first and then move into IB.

  64. Hey Brian

    Thanks for all of the great articles. I am a rising junior at a non-target school currently going through Summer 2020 recruiting. After a few of my applications were submitted, I was sent a link to complete the HireVue interview fairly quickly. The speed that the HireVue prompt was sent made me think it was an automatic part of the process, but should I take it as a good sign that I’ve made it to a “first round” of sorts? Thanks.

    1. Possibly, but it might also be an automated response… depending on the bank. But it’s definitely better to get the invitation quickly than to get nothing or a delayed response.

  65. Hi Brian,

    Thank you for the advice. I’m currently one year out of graduation from a non-target (3.5 GPA), and I am interning at a boutique part-time. I had a good sophomore year internship at another boutique. Things didn’t pan out well for me when I tried leveraging that experience for a BB offer. I ended up with no junior year internship. I’m currently trying to find a full-time role or an internship that can lead to a full-time role, however, that has proven to be very difficult.

    I would really appreciate any advice as to what direction I should take? Thanks in advance.

    1. It’s a bit hard to say without knowing why you didn’t get the junior-year internship, but my advice would be to forget about large banks for now and focus on independent valuation firms, Big 4 firms, or maybe something like a corporate finance rotational internship at a large company. You don’t want to complete a string of boutique IB internships repeatedly, especially if you’ve already graduated. It’s much better to get a full-time job in some related field and then use that to move over later on.

  66. Dear Brian,

    I am an incoming sophomore transfer to Emory intending to pursue a BBA with a concentration in finance or accounting at Goizueta.

    Where I Am Now:
    I work a summer door-to-door sales job at an outsourcing sales & marketing firm whose client is Direct Energy, headquartered in Houston, acquired by Centrica(Fortune Global 500) in 2000 (potential Spark or Growing Interest I guess. Also brand name on resume through spinning)

    I do not have any finance-related internship yet.

    In June, mainly through M&I and WSO, I am starting to read and learn about
    1) finance industry
    2) technical knowledge
    3) my story
    4) resume & linkedin
    5) networking

    My Future Goals:
    Short-term: “Steppingstone” Internships
    • off-cycle, during fall 2019-spring 2020 academic year
    • summer 2020

    Medium-term: BB IB analyst internship in summer of junior year(2021)

    Long-term goal: BB FT IB analyst after graduation

    1. Wining my first “Steppingstone” off-cycle internship during fall 2019-spring 2020 academic year
    1) You have recommended interning at a small PE/VC firm, boutique, PWM, independent valuation firm, etc. But is there a preference given my goals?
    2) I need industry and technical knowledge so that I do not sound like an idiot when networking. But if I start to network when I feel comfortable enough with the industry and technical knowledge, it may be too late. What should I do now?
    3) In the “Your Future” part of the story, should I tell them straight that I want to intern here because it prepares me to go into investment banking?

    2. What’s the best thing(or sequence of things) for me to work on right now given my situation? And any general advice?

    3. When networking, should I use my gmail(has a proper address name) or Emory email?

    Thank you for M&I and your amazing work!


    1. 1) I would focus on boutique PE firms and investment banks because they will be the most useful, especially as a transfer student.

      2) Spend the next few months reading and learning, and then start networking in the fall.

      3) No, never say this. Any story that ends with “I’m only doing this so I can get a different/better job in the future” is a bad story.

      4) Industry research/learning, then an internship, and then networking.

      5) Use your Emory email address, but make it forward to Gmail so that you can read, respond to, and track everything there.

      1. Hi Brian,
        Thank you for your response! I’m trying to strategize, visualize the future, and ensure its probability of success.

        As a sophomore in fall, I will
        1) Jul & Aug: learn the industry, technical knowledge, networking knowledge, interviewing, and my story
        2) Sept: start cold-emailing to gain 2019-20 Off-cycle Internship at small IB/PE/HF
        3) once finishing 2) ideally in fall,
        3.1) start doing informational interviews and weekend trips to network for interview opportunity in winter and spring 2020 for 2021 SA Internship at BB
        3.2) turn that Off-cycle Internship to 2020 Summer Internship

        I would much appreciate your advice and suggestion on this game plan, or pointing out anything wrong with it.

        a) What should I do if I do not secure an Off-cycle Internship fast enough in fall, which hinders networking for 2021 SA since I cannot put incoming XXX

        Thank you very much!

        1. Yes, that’s fine. There’s a fairly recent example of the timeline here:

          Maybe join a finance or investment-related student club and list that on your resume if you can’t get an off-cycle internship.

  67. Avatar

    Hey Brian,

    I am a recent grad as of last month and I never had success finding a finance internship during my undergrad. I have a 3.7/4 gpa from a non-target City University college with a finance and economics degree. I am an Analyst Intern at a Utilities company for the last year, which would be the bulk of my work experience. Trying to apply for full time to lesser divisions as i obviously know i wont be able to interview for IB. What would be the best to aim for in my current situation located in nyc to work towards getting into IB?

    1. Your best bets would probably be to aim for boutique or middle-market banks (if you can say you work in “corporate finance” at a Utilities company, you could still have a shot at those), independent valuation firms, or maybe valuation/transaction groups at Big 4 firms. Other options might be corporate banking at an investment bank or credit analysis at a credit ratings agency.

      But it really depends on the nature of your current experience – if you can call yourself “Financial Analyst” or something similar, and the company is well-known, you’re in a stronger position.

  68. Hi Brian, I am about to graduate from my undergraduate degree from Manchester, UK and will be doing a postgraduate masters in finance at the University of Cambridge this fall. Whilst I failed to break into IB during my undergrads, I am passionate about the industry but have not had any internship/experience in IB as my summer placements are commercial banking and Big 4 advisory only. I would like to hear some two cents of yours based on my current circumstances. In the event where I only have a final shot at IB before I graduate from my one-year masters, should I forego front office roles and focus my attention on middle/back office instead? As I am an international student and given my immigration status, it might be my last shot on securing a job (if any) in the U.K.

    Thanks and appreciate your insight!

    1. I don’t think that’s a great idea – your best option is to win an off-cycle internship and eventually use that to win a full-time offer. Going for middle and back-office roles will just make it harder to switch later on. If you run into visa issues, it’s better to aim for IB roles in some other European country rather than the U.K. But the middle/back office is not a great idea if you’re about to attend a top university for an MSF.

  69. Hi Brian ,
    I am an Engineering graduate from India looking to break into Finance, completed L1 CFA but figured out I need quality work experience and a MBA from a top university to get into IB , I am not sure if I’ll still be able to break in.
    I’m more interested in the exit opportunity of IB and get into corporate finance. Do I have a chance to break in ? Is it worth the effort ?

    1. The problem is that the market in India is extremely difficult because you usually need to be at a top IIT or IIM to have a chance. See:

      Other options might be:

  70. Hi Brian, I’m just getting into my second year at a top Canadian university (I’m not sure if non-US schools can be target). I don’t have any real work experience in finance. Are things like the IBP exam worthwhile? I’m wondering how I can get started in IB at a boutique since I didn’t receive any offers this summer. Thanks.

    1. Certifications do not matter. The only one that carries any weight at all is the CFA, and even that is marginal next to your university and internships. You need to get as closely related an internship as possible, as soon as possible. I would recommend reading and following the tips here:

      Recruiting is not quite as accelerated in Canada (yet), but it’s still moving up earlier.

      1. Thanks for the quick response Brian~
        I’m in a math degree majoring in actuarial science (I know it’s not ideal for banking). What are some types of internships that can be relatable? Also, is it much harder for Canadians to break into US firms since we are considered international?

        1. Corporate finance, corporate development, business development at a startup, venture capital, the list goes on. Even actuarial work at an insurance company might work if you could somehow spin it into sounding like banking-style modeling. Yes, it’s still harder for Canadians to win US offers due to visa issues and the increased difficulty of winning work visas under the current administration.

  71. Hi Brian, thank you for an amazing blueprint. I am currently a Junior at a non-target university pursuing a major in Finance and minor in Econ. Although I have a high GPA (3.9/4) and several on-campus leadership positions, as well as Finance/ IB organization position in my resume I have no real finance work experience.

    I am currently focusing on becoming truly comfortable with excel and technicals, as well as preparing my story for interviews; However, I am not sure where to focus my efforts regarding recruitment. I would like to get a chance to interview with BB for Summer 20 to maximize my chances of going straight into IBD out of college.

    What would you recommend/ where should I focus my efforts to maximize my chances of getting into IB?

    1. You’re late for summer 2020 recruitment at the large banks because most firms have already filled their internship spots by this point. I think you should probably:

      a) Network and focus on smaller firms/boutiques and see if anything there opens up since they sometimes recruit later; and/or

      b) Forget about IB for now, go for an internship at a Big 4 firm, valuation firm, or even a normal company (in corporate finance or something similar), and then move into IB from a full-time role in one of those, or from a top Master’s program.

      Not to be the bearer of bad news, but I think it will be challenging to win a summer internship role in IB for next year if you got a late start, you have no relevant internships, and you’re at a non-target school – you need at least 1-2 of those to improve your chances.

      Also see:

  72. Hi Brain I would like to know if I stand a decent chance of getting into IB. My first degree was in food technology with minors in business, from where I picked interest in the business world. I made great grades and was accepted to the masters in business management program in strathclyde business school after which I worked in sales marketing and business development for 2 years. I have now settled in the USA (married) and was wondering if I could pursue IB here.
    Great job on sharing your knowledge and experience… it’s been very helpful to me

    1. I don’t think you have a great chance at IB because you’ve already attended undergrad and a Master’s program, and it’s almost always easier to get in when you’re still in school. And your experience, while somewhat relevant, is still not exactly “deal experience” (i.e., not what you would do at a Big 4 transaction services team or something like that). At this point, you would probably need a top MBA to have a good shot at traditional IB roles.

      1. Okies… thank you ??

      2. To be honest tho I’ve always been torn between consulting and investment banking… and although I intend to try and get into an MBA program in the next 2 years(saving up for it).can I try consulting for now?..

        1. Yes, consulting is probably more plausible for you than banking at this stage.

          1. Thank you Brian

  73. Hi Brian,

    I have a very specific question about getting into investment banking in the US:
    I have been doing M&A and fundraising transactions in Russia for over 10 years and recently moved to the US. I would like to find a position within the US investment bank. I have Master’s degree in finance and PhD in economics from the Russian universities.
    Online applications and sending my resume do not work – never got a reply.
    I would really appreciate your advice on getting into IB given my background.


    1. It is extremely difficult to just come to the U.S. and find a job because you need a company to sponsor your work visa, but many companies don’t want to hire you if you require visa sponsorship. It is almost always better to work at a multinational firm in your home country for a few years first and then ask for a transfer to the U.S. because larger companies can handle the visa process more easily, and they have more incentive to help you if you’ve already been there for some time.

      Also, I think you might have too much experience for entry-level roles; 10 years is far beyond what most Analysts and Associates have. So… I’m not sure what to recommend here. The work visa point will be a problem no matter which industry you apply to. Maybe focus on Russian companies that have a presence in the U.S. and see if you can win an offer there?

      Another option might be to look outside of investment banks and go for jobs at normal companies where you do M&A and fundraising – maybe something like corporate development at large companies with exposure to the Russian and FSU markets.

      Applying online and just sending your resume definitely won’t work because of the visa and your 10+ years of experience. If you want to apply, you’ll need to go on LinkedIn, start networking with bankers/other professionals, and contact them via email to build the relationship first.

  74. Hi Brian, I am currently a high school freshman and am wondering what I can do now to better help my chances of securing a job in the field of investment banking. I know it is a highly competitive industry, so I’m assuming that the earlier you start to prepare, the more success you will see. Is there anything specifically important that I should be doing right now in order to reach prosperity in this field?

    1. The best thing you can do at this stage is to read about the industry and see if you can meet a few people working in it. And then get into the best university you can and start networking with alumni in finance right away and aim for an internship within your first 1.0 – 1.5 years. I don’t think you can get a real internship in IB if you’re still in high school, so it’s more about reading/preparing for now and being ready with your networking efforts as soon as university starts.

      1. Avatar
        Harrison Ajisogun

        Hi Brian, my name is Harrison Ajisogun. i want to ask you about investment banking. my major is business management . i was thinking of pursuing a career in investment banking. is it compulsory for me to get a job without no experience. i really don’t know anything about their finance. is there any way out for me to get into their job. i am about to finish my college in the next two years.

        1. I’m not really sure what you’re asking. Did you read this article? Or the rest of this site? I would start here:

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