by Brian DeChesare Comments (244)

Master’s in Finance Programs: The Best Last-Minute Path into Investment Banking?

Master’s in Finance Programs: The Best Last-Minute Path into Investment Banking?

If you don’t succeed the first time around, should you try and try again?

It depends on your reasons for not succeeding the first time around, but most people ignore that point and jump straight to the “try and try again” part.

And one of the most popular methods for getting a “do-over” is the Master’s in Finance (MSF) program offered at universities around the world.

These programs can be useful if you use them correctly.

But most students don’t understand when they’re helpful, which leads to wasted time and money and big disappointments:

Why a Master’s Degree?

Many students and professionals believe that a Master’s in Finance degree is a magical solution for getting into investment banking.

That explains how we get emails like the following:

“I’ve worked in marketing for two years, and I have a B.A. from a Top 50 university in the U.S. I decided to change my career a year ago, and now I am pursuing a Master’s Degree in Economics at a Top 20 university.

I have no experience in finance, but I am currently taking accounting and finance classes. Which area of investment banking should I apply to?”

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a Master’s degree is not a great idea in this case.

But first, let’s define a “Master’s in Finance” degree and explain how it differs from other options like an MBA.

What is a Master’s in Finance Degree?

A Master’s in Finance program is shorter, cheaper, and narrower than a traditional MBA:

  • Length: Usually one year rather than two.
  • Cost: Far less because of the shorter length, though tuition still adds up to tens of thousands of USD, GBP, or EUR.
  • Scope: Covers just accounting and finance; classes are more focused than those in MBA programs. You won’t learn about operations, management, or marketing unless it’s a Master’s degree in Management or another, broader area.

You might apply for this degree right after finishing undergraduate, or you might do it after working for 1-2 years.

Applying after 5-10 years of full-time work would not be useful – go for an MBA or skip the degree altogether.

There are also Master’s degrees in other areas, like Economics or Management, but you’re best off with Finance or the Finance track if you want the types of roles featured on this site (investment banking, private equity, corporate development, etc.).

There are exceptions to the rules above: For example, many top European MBAs last for one year (INSEAD, Bocconi, etc.), and some MSF programs last for two years.

Finally, there are some differences between the U.S. and other countries because 4- or 5-year combined Bachelor’s/Master’s programs are more common in the rest of the world.

What MSF Programs Can and Can’t Do for You

MSF degrees are most useful when you’ve decided on investment banking late in the process, but not too late.

So, you have some finance-related coursework, internships, or full-time work experience, but not enough to get into banking out of university.

Here’s a specific example:

  • Useful: You majored in accounting and became interested in banking in your last year of university. You have no IB-related internships, but you did win a Big 4 full-time offer. You’re planning to work there for 1-2 years and use that experience, plus a Master’s degree, to get into investment banking.
  • Not as Useful: You majored in biology, worked in a lab for 1-2 years, and you’re going to apply to MSF programs to make a career change into banking. You were not interested in banking until you started working full-time and got bored with your job.

In the second case, you’ll have no relevant work experience, which is a big problem since you need a sequence of finance-related internships or full-time roles to get in.

An MSF degree would make sense in the second case only if you could complete finance internships before or during the program.

Here’s another example:

  • Useful: You became interested in banking when you were attending university in China, but it was too late to win real IB internships. However, you did complete a corporate finance internship at a local firm. You’ll apply to Master’s programs in the U.S. or U.K., complete several internships, and move into IB from there (a similar story from a reader).
  • Not as Useful: You completed a technical degree in India and worked as an engineer for 1-2 years. You have no finance experience. Now, you want to make a complete career change and apply to Master’s programs in the U.S. or U.K. and get into investment banking from there.

It’s the same problem as in the first example: It’s a big leap to go from no finance experience to investment banking solely through a degree.

Even if you completed an MBA instead, you would still need a pre-MBA internship in finance or something more relevant to have a good shot.

A Master’s in Finance degree helps you with:

  • Re-Branding – If nothing in your background seems related to finance, the degree will move you closer if you also get work experience.
  • Boosting Your Prestige – If you went to a lesser-known university, you could make up for it by completing a Master’s degree at a top school.
  • Access to Recruiters – If you attend a program that offers on-campus recruiting, you’ll have a much easier time winning interviews.
  • Access to Internships – You’ll also have an easier time winning internships before and during the school year if you contact firms and say you’re an incoming or current MSF student at University X.

But there are also some limitations.

For example, you won’t win IB roles as an Associate from an MSF; banks recruit Analyst-level candidates from these programs.

The usefulness of MSF programs also varies greatly by region.

They’re the most helpful in the U.S. and U.K. because of the sheer number of IB roles and because many banks recruit students from these programs.

But they’re useless in a place like Australia because most banks recruit only top undergrad students with Law and Commerce degrees, and post-graduate recruiting is underdeveloped.

The physical location of the university is also important.

It’s easier to win investment banking roles if you’re close to London, New York, or another financial center than if you’re in a small town with only a few local firms nearby.

Finally, if you’re an international student, you have to look up whether or not the degree qualifies for STEM treatment.

If it does, then you can work in the U.S. for 36 months after graduation (the OPT program) without applying for an H-1B visa, which makes it far easier to win job offers.

You cannot necessarily go by the lists of the “top” programs – you have to make sure anything you pick qualifies as STEM.

For example, the Princeton and Vanderbilt programs both qualify, so they are much better options than programs that do not.

The Best MSF Programs

On that note: I am allergic to rankings, but I’ll link to a few lists here.

In Europe, places like LSE, Imperial, HEC, LBS, Esade, IE, and several others offer the best MSF options (the eFinancialCareers list here is a good starting point).

You can find a partial list of the “top” U.S. programs here.

Note, however, that many schools are not on the list because of terminology differences.

For example, the UVA program is well-regarded, but the school calls it an “M.S. in Commerce” and offers a Finance track within that degree, so, technically, it is not an “M.S. in Finance.”

You’ll see that many of the best schools for MSF programs are not Ivy League universities, but are good state schools (UT Austin, UVA, etc.) and Top 20-30 schools (Vanderbilt, WUSTL, Notre Dame, USC, etc.) instead.

Many of these schools have stronger placements into certain industries than others, so you should always look up or request placement stats from the school before applying.

There’s an example for Villanova here.

How to Apply and Get In

It is extremely competitive at the top schools, which is another reason why these programs do not offer a sure-fire path into IB.

For example, the admissions rate at MIT appears to be ~10%; at Princeton, it’s closer to 5%.

These programs aren’t as competitive as Ph.D. programs with ~1% admission rates, but they’re also far tougher than community colleges with ~80% acceptance rates.

So, your GMAT or GRE scores must be high, your personal essays must be great, and you must have glowing recommendations and interview performances.

It goes back to the point I made in the beginning: Master’s programs are appropriate if you became interested in IB too late to get the required internships, but they aren’t a panacea.

We don’t do admissions consulting here, but a few application tips include:

  • Show That You Can Win Job Offers – These programs, especially the ones with smaller class sizes, care a lot about placement stats, so they’re more likely to admit someone who has front-office (or even middle-office) finance experience than someone who is coming in as a total career changer.

If you haven’t had full-time work experience, play up your internships and finance-related coursework. You need to give the impression that you could have won a front-office finance job if you had applied for one.

  • Show That You’re a Real Human Being – Have at least one solid interest outside of work and academics. It’s the same as responding to the “Walk me through your resume” question, and your interests, or lack thereof, will come across in admissions interviews.
  • Show That You Can Bring Something Unique to the School – For example, some programs are more research-oriented, so if you have published research, emphasize it (even if you have no intention of pursuing a D.).

What to Do When You’re There

Much of the advice in our MBA-level IB recruiting articles applies here as well:

  • Get Internship Experience ASAP – Many of these MSF programs are full-time, so you’ll have to go for part-time, school-year internships. You should try to take time off before the program to complete a “pre-MSF internship” as well, especially if you’re making a big change.
  • And Maintain Reasonably Good Grades – Now you have two sets of grades, and they both have to be reasonably good.

As with MBA programs, the notion that you can “reinvent yourself” in MSF programs is completely false: You have to prepare for recruiting long before you set foot on campus.


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Master’s Programs: The Ultimate Second Chance?

If you use a Master’s in Finance program correctly, you won’t have to try and try again because you’ll win the offer you want the first time around.

But that only works if you’re the right candidate for MSF programs and you approach the entire process correctly.

Get any of that wrong, and you’ll be back in the “try and try again” camp for a long time to come.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the great content. I graduated from a non-target with a 3.1 Gpa in Econ and Comp Sci in 2018. I was able to do an internship at a large bank (non-BB) before I graduated through the side door, but wasn’t part of the Summer Analyst program. I did work on an interesting part of the trading floor however.

    After graduating, I’ve been working for a F500 Energy firm as a Business Analyst for almost 2 years now. My worry is my undergrad GPA. If I get a better Msfin GPA and job post-graduation, I would feel like I have a better chance at a Top MBA in 4-5 years.

    Would the MsFin make sense? or should I focus on getting a better job in NYC and competing for a top MBA?

    I am considering Villanova, Rochester, Fordham, Baruch MsFin mainly. Perhaps I can shoot higher with my strong work experience and letters.

    Thanks in advance!

    1. If you can apply and win admissions to MSF programs ASAP, yes, I would recommend it so you can overcome the non-target and GPA issues. But if you’ll have to wait ~2 years to do it, I wouldn’t bother because then you’ll be over-qualified for Analyst-level roles (in that case, go for a better job first and then a top MBA).

      I would also aim for the top MSF programs if you decide to do that.

  2. Brian thanks for this content!

    I suppose I am in option B? Double majored in Mathematics and biology (3.6) and completed a masters in molecular biology (3.85). However, I have no official job experience as I just graduated. What would be the best option to break into finance, particularly with a aim of breaking into IB?

    1)Do I apply to MSF or do I apply to MBA?
    2)Is there any possibility of cold calling/emailing for a IB internship?

    1. I would take a look at some of these articles (no, don’t do an MBA – maybe consider an MSF but try to win an internship or other job first via networking):

  3. Hello Brian,
    I earned my BSc in Canada (2018) and my MSc in the UK (2019), both degrees in political science. I decided I want a career in finance only during my master’s degree. I highly value growth opportunities, salary and working with inspiring and ambiguous people. I don’t worry too much about work-life balance and location because I don’t need to stabilise yet.

    I am Canadian and I am 24 yo. I have no full-time work experience or relevant internship, and I don’t know if I can stand a chance coming form a non-traditional background. My grades were good and I have held several leadership positions in university societies, but my internships were unrelated to finance.

    My questions:
    -What sort of career path would you recommend me? Do you think emerging markets, corporate finance within a global firm or credit analysis are sound and reasonable goals given my situation?
    -Should I apply for a MFin? I already enrolled for the CFA L1 for June 2020 thinking it could be a substitute for a MFin, but in hindsight I think the CFA cannot not help me in the recruiting process at this point…

    Any advice would be a huge help. Thank you in advance, it’s kind of you to answer all of us.

    1. 1) It’s almost impossible to say if you haven’t had internship experience yet. You need to try different roles and see what you like and what you don’t like first. Political science is not directly related to finance, but you might like roles that require knowledge of geopolitics and policy decisions, such as anything macro-related in S&T or groups in IB that depend heavily on government policies and regulations.

      2) The CFA will not help you with traditional finance roles because you really need internship experience. So… if you can afford it, yes, do a Master’s in Finance at a top school and start networking ASAP for internships before/during the program.

  4. Hi, Brian, thanks for the information. I worked full-time for 2 yrs in credit industry after finishing my bachelor of science in Financial Math. I applied for master school this year and will be a student at CUNY-Baruch College for MS Finance starting Jan 2020.

    I have been searching for summer internship recently, but found most of them are for undergraduate student. Do you think I can possibly get an offer if I apply as a graduate student? While it is Christmas season so I am not going to bug bankers for information sessions. Besides networking, do you know any website/way to find internships for master school student?

    1. And happy holidays!

    2. Yes, you can win internships as a Master’s student. Now is not a great time to network due to the holidays, but you can start again in the first week of January.

      Remember that most useful internships in finance come through networking, so it’s probably not even worth your time to look online, except as a way to see which firms might have openings. But once you do that, find people on LinkedIn and go through email to get the best results.

  5. Hello Sir

    I have just been recruited by one of India’s most premier financial services companies in their wealth management division. I will be working as a Management Trainee under a Relationship Manager/Financial Adviser for 3 years before becoming one. I want to enter PE/IB in the US/UK.

    I am graduating from my current MBA in 2020 as a fresher from a new IIM.

    I am confused as to:

    Whether a MSF or a second MBA program from an Ivy League B-School will help me to achieve my aspirations ?

    Do I need to switch to IB before applying for them ?

    1. Yes, an MSF or second MBA from a top business school in the US or Europe will help you get in. Degrees from the IIMs are treated differently.

      You don’t need to switch into IB, technically, but it would help to get a role that’s more relevant, such as one that involves valuation, deal analysis, due diligence, etc., as you’ll be competing against people with previous IB/PE experience.

  6. Hi Brian,

    I have just completed an MSc Finance degree at a target university (think Oxbridge, LSE, Imperial) in the UK. However, I just achieved a degree classification of a ‘Pass’ for various reasons and which I am extremely embarrassed for. The classification is below the minimum requirement of investment banks and just one notch above a ‘Fail’. I do have a couple of IBD internships incl. a bulge bracket as I did very well in my Bachelor. No bank will take me with such a degree classification. I know I can do better than a Pass. I am considering doing another Master degree, maybe in Management, to get the grades I need. Do you think I should even take another Master degree and, if so, will Investment Banks still look at my first Master degree result and still reject me based on that even if I do very well in my second master degree?

    1. I don’t see what else you can do, so yes, you will probably need a second degree and you can point to the results from that instead. Banks will still look at both, but if you do much better in the second one, it might be fine.

  7. Hi Brian,

    I went to a top public university in the US. I double majored in finance and chemistry, however I got interested in finance and investment banking very late and was not able to capitalize on the available opportunities. I currently work in consulting (public sector) and I have had a financial planning internship in the past. I am thinking of doing a masters in finance (US or UK) to break into investment banking. My current plan is to cold call and get a summer internship before the masters program starts for some experience. I would apply to intern roles and analyst roles for after the program is over, as I understand that it will be difficult to secure BB roles without prior experience. My financial modeling experience is minimum to none and I plan on taking a financial modeling course and learning on my own. Is this a viable plan?

  8. Hi Brian,

    First and foremost thank you for your insight through this site, it has been very helpful for me so far. I am currently getting an MBA with a specialization in Health Sector Management in Policy at the University of Miami. I only have one year left in the executive program and I’m looking at pursuing a part time MSF degree at either Notre Dame or Johns Hopkins. My goal is to transition into IB within the healthcare space. I am 32 years old, my current work is in overseeing the transition and acquisition of our retiring doctors practices as Associate Director. Do you have any recommendations for me? Which of the two schools would you choose?

    1. I’m not really sure why you’re getting an MSF after an MBA if your goal is IB. Normally, people work for a few years, complete an MBA, and then use that to move into IB as an Associate.

      If you really want to go that route, you’ll need some type of finance experience before/during the MSF program to have a shot, and even then, I think you might get a strange reaction from bankers because they’ll wonder why you did an MBA and then an MSF instead of just an MBA to get in.

      Notre Dame appears to be ranked much higher than Johns Hopkins in the MSF degree list, so that is probably a better option. But again, this one is putting the cart before the horse because you need a good answer/explanation for your plan.

  9. Avatar
    Himanshu Sharma

    Hi Brain,

    I’m qualified chartered accountant (India) and CFA L1 cleared in June’17, having experience of 1 year into external audits, 1.5 years into corporate finance advisory role and 1.5 years as credit manager into Working capital loans.

    I want to make carrier in equity research roles/ corporate valuations roles or Investment banking roles.

    Is it advisable to do M’fin to get into these roles.

    I’m considering warwick business school, University of Edinburgh or Trinity / UCD college in dublin, due to higher fee in other universities considering my budget.

    Please advice / guide.

    Best Regards,
    Himanshu Sharma

    1. Yes, but the biggest benefit is probably that an MFin in one of those places will let you work in a bigger/broader market (Europe). If you want to stay in India, I’m not sure how much it will help because all the recruiting for IB roles seems to take place at the top IIMs.

  10. Hello Brian your in-depth industry experiences and constructive advices are so impressive! My own background is grad from a Midwest big ten, BA in Econ, with extremely low GPA as 2.6. Mainly due to those years as an international student my English totally killed everything so it was the language skill rather than the study or intelligence ability prevented me from getting a better GPA. Since recent years I set a bigger goal for myself to reach and have completed some certificate exams now sit for the CFA 3(2020) and FRM 2 (2019) if say I am lucky enough to clear all CFA &FRM exams and combined withl >730 GMAT before MSF application, by your experience is that good enough to offset the low GPA? and which schools do you suggest me to try? Schools post student profile but only the average GPA or scores got exhibited, the tail data is always not access to so I don’t really have any clue. Another sore spot for me is I got my bachelor degree in 2011, which means I am old but not experienced. I have many years unemployed because my immigration status was frozen so I had to wait. I got 3 months equity research experience in NYC last year and was my only relevant intern.Do you consider I am even eligible? Is that still some possibility for me to break into the IB?? Thank you for your precious time in advance!!

    1. I don’t know, possibly. They do care about GPA, but if you have good enough work experience or test scores, you might be able to get in anyway.

      If your goal is to win competitive finance jobs in fields like IB, then you should focus on the schools described here.

      If you finished undergrad in 2011, it might be very difficult to win these types of entry-level roles, but it depends on how you present your experience since that time… the first question they will ask you is what you’ve been doing since then.

      Honestly, with your background, you might have better luck in less traditional fields like real estate finance, where you can get in and do well if you work hard enough and where grades/pedigree are less important.

      1. Thanks for all these supportive guides I could merely access to elsewhere. It’s very inspiring that the real estate related positions were deemed as possible ways for people not yet on the traditional track like me. Yet my passion for it is very limited though I ‘ve learned some valuation methods for buildings and REITS. Could you please figure out some other ways I might break in and start with?? I heard some PEs recruit entry analysts from college graduates, just curious if clearing CFA/FRM exams will make resume any appealing to them??

  11. Hi Brian,

    thank you for your content! I am a 2020 undergraduate from a top target school with a mediocre GPA 3.4/4.0 majoring in finance. Had two internships in boutique investment banks in NY. looking for full time right now but the chances are I am not going to get an offer due to my citizenship status. should I look into these masters programs for fall 2020?

    1. Yes, but make sure the program qualifies as STEM so you can graduate and then work for 36 months afterward:

  12. Avatar
    Mohammad Saami

    The question is specifically for those who are finance aspirants or want a career in finance ie. In IB, Asset management, hedge funds, investments etc. (Front office)

    Is it suggested to do a MBA in finance or MS Finance? Because what I have heard with an MBA you have more opportunities and a higher position and pay in an investment company Iike Jp Morgan etc.
    Whereas with MS since you are a fresher you would be more or less given a minor role compared to what you would have got with an MBA.

    Please help!

    1. It depends on how long you’ve been out of undergrad and how close your existing full-time work experience is. Once you move beyond 2-3 years out of undergrad and/or you have experience that is completely unrelated, you’ll probably need an MBA to get in. An MSF is more for scenarios where you “almost made it” and had pretty relevant experience, but need a bit more time and another shot at recruiting.

  13. Avatar

    Hi Brian,

    I’m Italian and I’m 25 years old. I’m about to start the MSc in Accounting and Finance at LSE in September. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with the highest grade from an unknown university in Italy. I took two gap years before my bachelor’s degree and one after. In the last year, I worked at UniCredit bank as a brach consultant for 6 months and that is my only relevant experience (is it relevant?).
    Taking into account my personal situation, do you think that I could break into IB right after my master’s degree at LSE?

    1. I think you will probably need an additional internship to be competitive for IB. Something closer, such as a boutique PE or VC firm, Big 4, valuation, corporate finance, or something else like that.

  14. Would an MS finance make sense for someone in my situation to break into IB: I attended a non target state school and got decent grades (3.68/4) and double majored in accounting and finance and I now am in a financial rotation program at a F500 co. I am also beginning the recruiting process with Big 4 accounting firms (audit positions mostly). I took the GMAT after graduation and got a score above what the median at Vanderbilt and UT Austin have on their page. Would applying here after 1 year work experience be a good idea? or perhaps moving into Big 4 accounting and waiting until I am experienced enough to pursue an MBA be a better option?

    1. I think you could probably just go directly from the F500 into a “high finance” role (not sure why you would move to audit first? It seems like a step back if your goal is IB/PE). An MSF might make sense, certainly more than an MBA, but personally I would only do it if you spend some time recruiting, come up empty-handed, and decide that you need to gain better access to recruiters.

  15. Hi Brian,
    Quick question. My background is economics and I’ve always worked in corporate banking as a credit analyst (large corporates), and now front office. I have 6 years of working experience.
    I am trying to move into investment banking and willing to go for a more junior role.
    Do you think that doing a MSF, say in LSE, would help me break into investment banking having worked a few years already in corporate banking?
    I am based in London.

    1. I think 6 years might be a bit too much to get into IB via an MSF program. You might be able to do it since CB is closer to IB than many other roles, but they also might be reluctant to hire you as an Analyst with that much experience. You would have a better chance if you attended a top MBA program and used that instead (though MBA-level recruiting is not as well-developed in Europe, and it is a huge time/money commitment).

  16. Brian,

    I am approaching the final year of my bachelor degree in Business Administration at a semi-target in Europe. Furthermore, next summer I will be interning in the IB division at a top BB in London.

    Because I am already going into the final year of my bachelor degree, I would have a gap year between my SA stint and FT (assuming I receive a return offer).

    Would it make sense to take the GMAT in this situation and apply for top master programs (LSE/HEC/Boconni) to have a better ‘name recognition’ when starting FT? Or would it make more sense to just do a masters at my university (no requirements for internal students)?

    I am struggling with the decision if I should take the GMAT or not, especially if the better name recognition doesn’t mean anything after starting FT.

    Would love to hear your opinion.

    1. I don’t think a better-known school will help much, assuming you receive a full-time return offer at a top bank. So if you want to do a Master’s degree, just do it at your current university.

  17. Hello Brian,
    I am 28 years old and I am deciding on whether I should pursue a MS Finance or a MBA.
    I am planning to get into private equity as an analyst or associate. I have 7 months of experience in accounting and 17 months of experience in operations in a big investment Management firm.

    which one should I choose? the MBA or the MS finance?
    thank you!

    1. It will be extremely difficult to get into private equity with that type of background unless you gain deal experience, normally in investment banking but also possibly in corporate development, first. So you need to think about how to gain deal experience first. The best way to do that in your case is probably to do the MSF at a top school and use recruiting there to win an Analyst-level IB offer, and then move into PE. An MBA does not make sense because you won’t have what it takes to get into PE directly from the degree, and going into IB following an MBA will make it more difficult to get into PE later on.

      1. thanks for your time Brian =)
        very helpful!!

      2. I am sorry Brian,
        I forgot to mention I have a BBA in finance and I am looking to get specifically into a boutique private equity firm ( middle market.) does this makes any difference?

        1. It does not matter. It is exceptionally difficult to get into PE no matter what you do – even if you actually have deal experience at a bank. Please see these articles to understand why:

  18. Hi Brian,
    I’m a long time lurker here and your guide has really helped me over the years. And I’d love to hear your advice for my situation. I’ve graduated from a Semi-targeted Canadian University with a finance degree and have been working in a boutique IB shop for a year now. I’m currently looking for lateral shift opportunities into bigger banks but is struggling to do so by just networking. My friends have suggested doing an MFin degree at a target school here to compensate for my lack of business background. Do you think its a good idea to pursue a Mfin degree at this point? I do want to complete an MBA program in the future, but as a first-year analyst I think it’s still too soon for me to do that. Any insights or suggests that you might have would be much appreciated!

    1. I think the main issue is that you’re in Canada, so the market is smaller and there are many fewer job openings since the Big 5 Canadian banks might only hire a few dozen students per year. Instead of doing an MFin or MBA, maybe think about switching regions and going to the U.S. or U.K. (much bigger markets). I don’t really think an MFin will help you move to a bigger bank because you have a finance degree and IB experience already. An MBA might help you, but more so if you use it to work in the U.S., where MBA-level recruiting is more developed and where there are more Associate positions.

  19. Avatar
    James Pope

    I am considering an MSF from a non-target school (but CFA accredited program). I have a B.B.A. in finance, and no interest in IB: I’m “older” (27), and don’t like the IB environment.

    I’m interested in corporate finance or commercial banking, but have had trouble finding job as I have no experience. Do you think an MSF make me more desirable in the market or help me land internships?

    1. It depends on what your work experience looks like. If you have literally no full-time work experience and also no internships (but what were you doing before/after university?), then yes, an MSF would help your profile and give you a better chance at winning a job. But you’ll still probably need *some* type of internship or pre-MSF internship to have the best shot at using the program to win offers.

  20. Hi Brian,
    I have one year left before completing my Master’s degree in finance at a target school in France. I have completed one internship in audit and am currently interning at one of the top French banks in M&A. Would you recommend that I enroll into a MSF in a US school if I want to find a position in the US, even though I will soon obtain one from France? I am afraid my choice will be questioned since I expect courses to be somewhat repetitive.
    Thanks in advance and keep up the good work!

    1. If you want to maximize your chances of winning a role in the U.S. and you are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, then yes, an MSF or other additional degree in the U.S. would help since it’s easier to win a role if you qualify for the F-1 OPT program.

      Another option would be to work in Europe at a large bank and then ask about a transfer to the U.S. after 1-2 years there.

  21. Hi Brian,

    How do you feel about a Master’s of Business Analytics? I’m currently trying to decide between two acceptances I received: an MSF (Vanderbilt) or a Master’s of Business Analytics (Notre Dame – with partial scholarship).

    My goal is to go into investment banking in Chicago.

    A little background about me – Finance degree from a big state school in 2017 (3.5 gpa). I’ve spent the last two years in corporate finance at a F100 company.

    I realize I’m late to comment on this thread, but it’s so full of relevant info for me. Any insight you could give toward my decision between these two programs would be fantastic. Thanks.

    1. Unless you need Business Analytics because of visa issues (as I think it qualifies for STEM treatment, so helpful for international students who want to stay in the country), you should go with the school that has the best reputation and placements. And I believe Vanderbilt is slightly better in MSF rankings, but there’s not a huge difference if you value the partial scholarship at Notre Dame highly.

  22. Hello Brian,

    As an international candidate who wants to break into investment banking, I would appreciate your view on what degree would be more appropriate for me- MSF or MBA?

    I spent three years as an accounting officer in my country’s armed forces for national service and I have worked subsequent two years as a corporate banker in the local office of Citibank. I feel that I may be too old for MSF/Analyst route and yet at the same time, I feel underqualified for MBA /Associate route. Would recruiters consider my three-year national service a work experience?

    Just in case it helps you answer the question, I did my undergraduate degree in a target school.

    1. You will almost certainly need an MBA at this point because the 3 years of accounting will be viewed as work experience, even though it was technically in the military.

  23. Avatar
    Himanshu Sharma

    Hi Brian,
    I’m Chartered accountant from India, having CFA L1 with Over all experience of 3 yearz which includes 18 months in corporate finance role.
    I’m 26 years old. Considering my age, qualifications and experience is it advisable to do Master’s in finance.
    I had worked in accounting and auditing roles. But I had figured out that I want to work in finance only.

    Please suggest.
    I’m considering Canada at the moment. Is it a good market for finance roles.
    Further I will study by availing finance so it’s a huge decision for me carrer wise as well as Financially

    1. India is a completely different market. The guidelines here don’t necessarily apply. Please see:

      An MSF won’t help much there because recruiting is so focused on the top IIMs.

      Canada is also not a great market because it’s so small and it tends to be difficult to get a work visa there.

  24. Hi, I recently found your website and I am obsessed. I have a Bachelors of Economics in Finance (3.73GPA) and I am currently doing an MBA in a non target school in SanFrancisco (Finance emphasis). I began this fall, and will be graduating June 2020. I chose to get an MBA right after my bachelors because I wasn’t sure what to do and did not want to just lay around. It’s been 3 months now and I’ve decided to go the IB route. In hindsight I would have chosen to get an MSF instead.
    I am an International student and my current program qualifies me for just one year of OPT.
    I’m considering switching to a MSF that qualifies as a STEM program just to give me more time but I feel as though that’s backwards. Not sure what to do.
    Any advice will be highly appreciated Thanks!

    1. I would definitely recommend switching to an MSF, if possible, because an MBA right after undergrad is not a great idea for IB recruiting (it will be tough to compete against others with full-time experience). This article may be helpful:

  25. Brian, I was just accepted into a two year MSF program and it is my intent to quit my job before the semester starts next year. I’m currently a business analyst at a consulting firm (Booz, Deloitte, ACN) and I will have been here for a year before I leave. My question is, do I really need another internship prior to starting the program if I completed two PE internships as a senior? My goal is to get a PE role a MM fund.

    1. No, probably not. It will still be difficult to win a PE role directly out of the program, but another finance internship will not change that at all. You have a good shot at other roles that lead into PE with that type of background.

      1. Thanks Brian. I figured that going straight into PE would be unlikely so I’m going to aim for IB. I graduated from a semi-target but I finished with a low GPA (2.83). My plan is to focus on getting a 3.5+ GPA in my first year and then competing for an IB role during full time recruiting. With that in mind, should I try to do a summer internship with a small IB shop in my first year to have it on my resume or would my experience with an improved resume be enough? I was also a fighter aircraft maintainer in the Air Force for a year and a half before college so I feel like I have a unique resume as is. My main concern is that is finding a balance between having enough experience and having too experience much to get an analyst role.

        1. I don’t think that plan will work because normally you win a summer internship that you then convert into a full-time role. And if it’s 2-year MSF program, you really only have 1 summer available for an internship. So, you probably need to focus on winning an IB role in that summer, ideally at a mid-sized-to-large bank so you have a reasonable chance of receiving a return offer. Of course, since recruiting is now hyper-accelerated for undergrads, it’s not clear how the timing will work for Master’s students… you can’t really apply for internships before you start the program. I don’t think you need an additional internship beyond your consulting role and PE internships to apply for IB roles.

      2. So if I’m going for the MSF->IB->PE route, do I need to have an investment banking internship on my resume to be competitive with my background?

        1. As I wrote above, no, I don’t think you necessarily need it, though it might help you a bit if you can do it before the program or during the first few months.

  26. Hi Brian,
    First of all, I would like to say that I really appreciate what You do here, especially considering that comments and questions are actually answered.
    Long story (not-so) short: I am a first year student at the Bocconi MSc in Finance, having graduated last summer. During my three-year bachelor, always at Bocconi (Finance too), I was a really good student (that’s why I was able to be admitted to the MSc program), but I did not focus at all on the working-related aspect, so that now I do not have any experience whatsoever.
    Now, getting to post-graduate level without a working experience in Italy is not uncommon at all (I would say that it is basically the norm), but still I would like to ask You what my next moves could be, considering that I was not-shockingly not able to land any bulge-bracket IB summer internship in London.
    I was thinking about either trying to get a consulting internship (MBBO), maybe in the middle east, or trying to break into Venture Capital in London (as I read in one of your articles).
    Is any of them actually a good idea, considering that I would still like to break into banking, once graduated from my master?

    1. At this point, you need to get any type of work experience you can to have a shot at winning IB roles. Internships or off-cycle roles at small PE/VC firms might work, a consulting internship might work, and even something like a Big 4 or other valuation/accounting internship might work. You’ll probably have to go outside Italy for the best chance at winning one of these because it’s notoriously difficult to win internships there, and there aren’t that many firms. The Middle East might be better, especially if you have some type of connection there, but I think you’re best off going to the largest finance market in Europe (the UK) and applying for roles there.

  27. Thanks for the articles, I have gained extensive insight from M&I over the last few years. However, I think I need advice on my specific situation. I would really appreciate your thoughts on whether a Masters in Finance makes sense for me. I am an Australian student from the University of Queensland and am about to complete my undergraduate degree in November. I am studying a dual of Bachelor of Engineering/Commerce with a double major of Mechanical Engineering and Finance. My overall GPA is 3.5+ equivalent and my Finance Major GPA is 4.0 equivalent. My career goal is a career in investment banking, preferably in the energy, mining and utilities sectors as it fits my background and are huge in Australia. My experience consists of the following:
    – worked as an undergraduate mechanical engineer at a mid-cap utilities company for about 5 months,
    – interned in an internal operations role at a mid-tier retail/commercial bank (2 months),
    – interned in audit at big 4 (2 months), and
    – interned in corporate finance at big 4 (6 months).
    With this experience, I gunned hard for investment banking internships and graduate roles throughout 2018. I managed to make the final round for graduate interviews with two bulge bracket firms. For internships, I got first round interviews with 6 firms, and made final round interviews with 3 of them (2 boutiques and 1 bulge bracket). All of these interviews were in Sydney, and many came as a result of my networking. I developed a very strong network with a senior banker at a bulge bracket, and other decent networks of analysts and associates from the boutiques. They have encouraged to keep in touch, particularly if I secured a big 4 role or boutique. Unfortunately, there are very few opportunities in my home city, where I was unsuccessful with big 4 corp finance which are the best avenue for IB in Brisbane. After this application season, I applied for many other roles just to gain more experience in relevant industries. Soon, I am about to complete a 3 month internship (Nov-Feb) in Brisbane for mechanical engineering. This is with Australia’s leading energy retailer and has the largest market share in Australian shale gas. I am also the preferred candidate for a graduate role at a services company in their project management division (contract bidding, procurement and contract administration/project execution), which will mainly consist of projects related to utilities, particularly renewable energy. This company is not a well-known name and will most likely provide a contract offer next week.
    With all this under consideration, I have mapped out this potential plan:
    1. I complete my Engg internship in 2018/2019. If successful, I could have the option to start a full time role with this energy company in 2020.
    2. My grad role for 2019 would start immediately after this internship. The job is located in Melbourne.
    3. Due to the lack of transferable skills with this role, I am planning to study a masters in finance at the University of Melbourne. Application deadlines are very soon.
    4. During 2019, I will study part time and utilize the networks and campus events to continue to try and break into banking. This will be graduate and internship applications which span from March to July. I will also continue to apply for off-market entry level positions for big 4, boutiques and maybe bulge brackets.
    Pros of plan:
    – Melbourne is the best choice as I have a job and can support myself.
    – University of Melbourne has the highest corporate finance rankings for Masters degrees, and Melbourne recruiting for IB tend to be biased towards University of Melbourne students.
    – Better than staying in Brisbane where masters programs are not as reputable and there is less access for networking opportunities.
    – Have enough time to start networking with IB Melbourne firms if I commit now.
    – All of my current networks are in Sydney.
    – Grad role is located in a suburban area (1.5 hours travel time from uni and 45mins from the city via public transport). With a full time job, this will make networking and going to university events more difficult, but not impossible.
    – Do not know the full demands of the grad job, where it could be very demanding as I will be frequently required onsite (maybe FIFO but not sure yet). This could hurt my grades and networking.

    Other considerations:
    – If I have time, might attempt FMI modeling certifications to demonstrate my technical skills for boutiques and big 4.
    – Not sure about a CFA instead of a masters. They are easier to manage, less time commitment and lower cost. A masters seems more beneficial though.
    – Still eligible to apply for grad roles two years out of an undergraduate (this is if I am not studying post-grad)

    What are your thoughts of my plan? Do you have any additional suggestions or alternatives? I had alarm bells when you mentioned that a Masters of Finance is not beneficial in Australia for breaking into IB. Apologies for the long-winded message, I just wanted to frame my situation as clearly as possible. Thanks for reading.

    1. The flaw in your plan is that banks do not necessarily recruit from MSF programs in Australia. I don’t know this for a fact, but I do know that MBA-level recruiting is nonexistent, which suggests that MSF recruiting may also not be great. Before going through all these scenarios and making a giant pro/con list, you should do some searches on LinkedIn and speak with alumni and see what they say about IB recruiting from the program. Always prioritize real peoples’ profiles and facts on LinkedIn over anonymous online discussion.

      The other flaw in your plan is that you want to stay in Australia, which is a notoriously small/difficult and nepotism-driven hiring market for IB roles. If you really want to get into the industry, you should try to move to a market with more roles (the UK or UK). Yes, it’s difficult, but it may still be easier to do that and find a job in another country than to stay in Australia… based on complaints from almost every reader in Australia over the past decade.

      1. I have family in Italy, so I was considering the University of Bocconi in Milan. Would this be a good option from your knowledge of the European market? Thanks again for reading.

        1. Yes, it’s a well-known university in Europe that sends graduates into banking. And almost anything beats Australia.

    2. Hey Matt, I’m in the same boat. I had numerous BB/boutique IB interviews for intern/grad in 2017/18 but wasn’t able to secure an offer. Unlike your top marks however, I have average Eng/Com marks and currently work in Big 4 CF.

      Did you end up doing masters? Would love to hear your opinion/current situation. I’m thinking of doing masters to prove to banks I’m academically capable since my marks were questioned a lot during interviews (messed around in the first couple of years of undergrad).

      Wouldn’t mind hearing a few words from you too Brian. Thanks

      1. Yes, a Master’s degree could be useful in that situation if one of the key objections was your grades, and you’re confident you can do better in the MSF program.

  28. Hey Brian,
    I have decided quite late to peruse IB, so I have had no prior internships. I have just graduated with a degree in Maths with Finance, and am currently working as an accountant. My finance experience is limited to this. Do you think it would be possible to get an internship, if so how would I go about securing one? Or your thoughts on an approach to getting into an investmant analyst position.
    Many thanks

  29. Avatar

    Hi Brian, long time lurker at this site. First of all, thank you so much for your BIWS and M&I guide, those guides are incredibly helpful for me to get to the position where I am today.

    And spoil alert: sorry for the long post

    About myself: I am a international student from China, study abroad seven years ago, currently a senior at UCLA studying Business-economics with a 3.6 GPA. I got in the recruiting game late. I start thinking about what I want to do in my sophomore year summer. That made me automatically fail for the regular recruiting route because at that point I have a blanket sheet of resume(I involved in non-business student organization in my first two years). After I talked to my friends and went to recruiting events, I I figured out that the traditional IB-PE-MBA-PE path is something I want to pursue.

    Speaking of internship experience, I got a marketing internship in junior fall, and I am lucky enough to secure a VC internship junior spring and a boutique IB internship last summer after roughly 300applications, 50cold calls, 50 cold emails.

    From the last summer until now, I tried my best in FT recruiting. I leveraged both the alumni network and some of my older network. However, it has been an uphill battle for me especially consider the fact that I am an international student with a non-stem degree.

    Speaking of FT recruiting status, I had seven interviews, four phone screen, 3 hirevue. Firms range from bulge bracket to MM to boutique. I have connection who offer me to go work at local boutique that sponsor visa. However, it will be a huge gamble since the lottery chance is incredibly low for non-stem. And more importantly, I think technically the next step for me should be big banks because it is completely doable for people at my school who spent their sophomore summer in boutique. I thought I was just a year late so I hustled and was hoping to utilize the FT recruiting season for an offer.

    Then things went out of my control – I think I did well after I studying your guide. All my interview coaches said I should be ready, but I did not move forward in two of the phone interview, which I thought I did okay. I am undecided between if I should continue FT recruiting or delay graduation for one quarter to be eligible for summer internship or a stem degree master program.

    This year will be my eighth year studying abroad so I think I am more fit in American business culture. That’s part of the reason that I really want to stay and work here for long term. Therefore, I want to pick the choice that maximize my career prospect, which is the IB-PE path. I know it will be more difficult as I became older, so now it is a crucial moment for me to make the decision.

    1. logistics about this approach – I spent my whole junior year on recruiting, so I am very inexperienced in grad school recruiting and I do not have a GRE score while it is already October, which definitely hold me back. Given my existing background and skillset, which are some of the school/program out of your mind that would give me the career prospect while not of my league?

    2. Business Analytics/Master of financial engineering program are both stem degree that are popular for international students. However, they are relatively hard for me to get in as I have zero coding/maths/statistics background. Would you think I have a shot at those? Or should I? The technical skills I developed from those program is not what I am aiming for. I think a program with good location, network and platform will be most useful for investment banking recruiting.

    3.Would you think have a non-finance stem degree will hurt my chances, such as civil engineering? Will that look bad on resume? How bad is a master degree look on an investment banking resume in general, as the majority of IBD analyst are undergrad.

    3. I know you do not do grad school counseling. But do you know any resource that can help me through this process(Like your website and WSO for IB)?

    I know it is my job to do the research and reach out to people.But I am running out of time since it is already October. I would really appreciate if you can share two cents.

    Thanks in advance!!!

    1. Honestly, I don’t know if I can answer your questions because you’re asking about things that we don’t specialize in. I would recommend this site if you want more about MSF degrees and coaching:

      I just do not know enough about MSF options and different degree choices at that level to say anything definitive. I think the schools mentioned in this article could work, and I don’t think you necessarily need a coding/math/stats background to get into these programs (for any degree). A non-finance STEM degree might hurt your chances a bit, but if that’s your best option, take it and then spin a story (e.g., civil engineering could be spun into sounding relevant to infrastructure banking or investing).

      1. Avatar

        Thanks! I definitely did take a look at both school mentioned. What is the odds for someone with my background to break into IB with a master degree, since it is the unconventional way. Have you seen anyone made it that way? Is a first year master degree student eligible for summer internship program in big banks or it is an automatic fail because i am “overqualified”? Or it is mostly depends on networking.

        Thanks for the website you recommended and sorry for another set of questions!

        1. You can do it, it just depends on how much time/effort/money you are willing to spend. There is a good example here:

          I don’t think you are over-qualified. That only happens if you have multiple years of full-time work experience.

  30. Hey Brian,

    I really want to break into banking, but unfortunately finished with a 3.0 in finance from a semi-target. I completed an internship in wealth management and currently work with loans at one of America’s largest banks.It’s been really disheartening seeing my friends working in IB. I’ve always had trouble focusing and wasn’t treated for ADD until after graduation and I had to work part time at school I’m hoping admissions counselors will recognize these as a reason for low grades.

    Do you think an MSF would be a good 2nd chance for me? I’ve been studying for the GMAT and it seems I’ll get around 700

    I think Vandy is out of reach but I’ve been leaning towards SMU or Villanova

    1. Yes, an MSF might work if you can get into a top program. But I think you’ll need a better explanation for your grades because the “medical problem” angle tends not to work well for various reasons…

      1. If I was able to get into a top program would my poor undergrad grades still be an issue?

        Since most recruiting happens in the Fall and I won’t have any MSF grades to report would that undergrad gpa keep holding me back ?

        1. Yes, it could. But a high GMAT score might offset it a bit.

  31. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the useful article. I graduated from a top 20 US college with BA in Econ and GPA 3.8/4.0. I have roughly two year experience, one and half year in US Big 4 advisory and currently working as a credit analyst in a local bank in Singapore. I have a GRE of 323 and I really want to switch to a top-tier IB through the MSF program. Will the MSF help me in this sense? What do you think I should highlight when I apply for the MSF?

    1. If you can get into a top MSF program, yes, potentially it will help you. We don’t focus on admissions to these programs on this site, but point out the client-facing work you did and how it translates into other front-office roles and try to come across as a human with interests and some unique points that others won’t have.

  32. Avatar
    Shubhashish Sharma

    Brief About myself:

    My name is shubhashish sharma and I am a CFA Charterholder, Ive done my 3 year bachelors wih a 3 GPA and have about 4.5 years of work experience in asset management and tax litigation. My gmat score is 640 and I want to pursue a MSF from a good university , what are my odds?

    1. You would probably need a better GMAT or GRE test score to have a shot at a top MSF program (GPA will be an issue as well), but we don’t specialize in MSF admissions, so I can’t really say.

  33. Avatar
    Suraj Bobade

    Hi Brian,

    Here is a brief of my profile before I post my question:
    1) Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from a Top 100 Engineering college in India, GPA = 7.1/10, 2009-2013
    2) Worked in steel manufacturing and power service sector as an Electrical Engineer, 2013-2016
    3) Did PGDM (equivalent to an MBA but not MBA as such) from IIM Kozhikode (a Top 10 MBA institute in India), GPA = 3.0/4.33, 2016-2018
    4) Working as an Analyst in IB Pitchbook (Industrials sector) backoffice in Bank of America Continuum in India, 2018-Present

    I am planning to keep working in my current profile till 2020, so that makes a 2 years of finance experience and 3 years of non-finance experience.

    My question: I am really confused in choosing between an MBA (maybe my second MBA) or a MFin course?

    Also, I am interested in applying to the Top 10 universities in Finance for both the cases/degrees above.

    If I do an MBA, I can have a wide variety of choices in terms of colleges and a life time opportunity to study in colleges like HBS or Stanford, if at all I get in.

    If I choose MFin, I go into a specailized Finance course and complete my degree in less time and also spend less. Further, I will be eligible for an OPT of 1+2 years (considering I want to work in US for some years, this is very important to me) since MFin is a STEM course. However, MFin is a course mostly for freshers or with little work experience candidates.

    Thus, considering that I have a 2+3 years of work ex and a PGDM degree already should I go for MFin or MBA?

    Thank you in advance.

    Note: I am determined to work in the finance industry, mostly IB but also open to work in other roles like Portfolio Manager or Equity Analyst or Corporate Finance, etc. or even a consultant in the finance sector. However, I wish to work in the US or UK market only right after I graduate.

    1. A Master’s degree is not a good option for you at this stage if you already have that much work experience. The MSF is more for recent grads and people with less than 1-2 years of work experience. Otherwise, you’re over-qualified for entry-level IB roles. So… the short answer is that you should go for a top MBA.

      1. Avatar
        Suraj Bobade

        Thank you Brian for your valuable guidance.

  34. Hi Brian,

    I just started MSc in Finance after working for the last 3 years. For my undergrad I did BA in Accounting, then completed 1 year internship in the finance dept of Microsoft, following that I worked in one of the Big 4 (In their Data analytics team) firms for 2 years, where I also completed my professional accounting exams. As I came from a non target school, I felt that a MSF will boost my prestige as mentioned in your article and help me to get into IB. Given that I don’t have any prior IB experience, would you recommend that I first try to win a summer or off-cycle internship to get my foot in the door or should focus on full time analyst roles. I am based in Europe and am primarily looking at London.

    Thank you in advance!

    1. You should probably start with a summer or off-cycle internship because you won’t be that competitive for full-time roles without one of those first. And London tends to be a good place to win off-cycle internships, especially if you find smaller firms that are open to it.

  35. Avatar
    Eden Tran

    Hi Brian. Thanks a lot for doing this site and the article. I graduated university from a local school in a developing country, with low GPA (2.5), and I have one year of work experience as an Equity Analyst in an insurance company.

    I’m planning to go for a fairly well-known Master in Finance program in Canada to re-brand my profile, in terms of school and GPA and leverage that for a chance to break into investment banking in Canada. Could you comment on what are the odds like in my situation?

    1. If you want to stay and work in Canada, not great because the market is small and very competitive. If you can use the experience to move to a larger market such as the U.S. or U.K., you have a better shot.

      1. Avatar
        Eden Tran

        Thanks a lot for the advice. I always thought U.S and U.K market would be more competitive.

  36. Avatar
    MSF Prospect

    Hi Brian,

    Given how early recruiting happens now, is it practical for an undergraduate senior to apply for summer internships if he is planning to do a one-year MSF afterwards? MSF acceptances happen later throughout the school year so I’m not sure what I can put on my resume or “eduation” section of online applications to communicate to HR that I intend to have one more schooling. If they see that I am a senior in college, would they just automatically ding me?

    1. I think you could do that, yes, though the later acceptance date for MSF programs makes it a bit tricky. Maybe you can just list the MSF program under your current undergrad institution and say that your graduation date is one year later, but you haven’t committed to a specific program yet, though you will soon. I think as long as your real graduation date is clear, you should be fine.

  37. Avatar
    Larry Hertz

    Hi Brian,

    I am a huge fan of your website. I’m a 2018 summer graduate from a large university in Texas majoring in mechanical engineering. I’ve had two BB internships in NYC and didn’t receive a return offer in banking last summer (2017). I’ve interviewed at several banks over the past year and can’t land an offer anywhere. I’m debating whether to enroll in an MSF program or getting a CFA Level 1 certification. Any advice on what I should do next?

    1. It’s hard to say because I’m not sure why you didn’t receive a return offer or why you haven’t won offers elsewhere. But in general, the CFA is not that useful if you have already had multiple IB internships. An MSF could be useful if something specific, like low grades, is preventing you from winning offers, and you need to improve your profile.

  38. Hi Brian,

    What is your opinion on one getting a second bachelors in Finance?

    1. Second bachelor’s degrees are generally not worth it unless you need one to delay graduation for some reason (which also generally isn’t worth it).

  39. Hi, Brian
    Thanks for the article. I am 30 year old girl, having 7 years of experiance in banking industry mainly in corporate credit. Planning to get in MBA school or Masters in Finance, so that can get entry in Investment banking. How do you suggest ? Is it too late to go to bussiness school or for MSF at this age? i dont have finance related degree / certification. I did my graduation in agriculture science but fortunately got chance to work in bank.


    1. Yes, it’s too late for an MSF. An MBA could still work but only if you get into one of the top schools.

  40. Hey Brian,

    I just finished my Australian undergrad in finance, non-target school with a 2.9 GPA (improved towards the end but anchored by earlier struggles). I’m looking to get into an analyst position at a hedge fund as a long term goal. Would a Masters in a target school still be useless in this case? I really feel like i need something to boost my competitiveness on paper.


    1. I wouldn’t say it’s “useless,” but you probably need more than that to have a good shot at HF roles, especially since the HF industry is quite small in Australia. You’ll probably have to go to North America or Europe, get some solid public markets experience, and complete the CFA or a top Master’s program to have a good shot.

  41. Hi Brian

    I am an IT project manager with 14 years of experience and now i want to switch to the world of Investment banking. I know it sounds crazy but so is life. I was wondering if you could give few pointers on how to get started, at one point i was contemplating of taking on a master program in finance, however given their qualification requirement, I literally don’t stand a chance, given that i don’t have a degree or any work experience in Finance. So i was wondering how can i self teach myself in getting the basics and foundation in financial modeling, derivative, M&A etc. To know how capable i am with the whole thing and from there on in if feel i have the talent for it then i am pretty confident that i will manage to break in to this industry somehow. Let me know if you could guide me to some foundation books or any other medium.


    1. I don’t think that’s a great idea, as it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll get into the industry with that much work experience.

      Your smartest move would be to consider other fields in finance where it’s easier to win offers as a non-traditional candidate. See:

  42. Hi Brian,

    I just got accepted into a target Masters in Management program in the US. I work as a Fortune 75 Financial Advisor. I have no IB internship so probably can’t get an IB job out of the gate. What jobs should I go for that I can use to lateral to IB after a couple years?

    1. Independent valuation firm, Big 4 firm, maybe corporate development or corporate finance.

      1. At the Big 4, I should go for valuation roles?

          1. Thanks for the advice Brian. What is the job title for valuation roles?

          2. Analyst? Try searching on LinkedIn to get ideas.

  43. Hi Brian, I am a 1st year student at a non-target UK university. I got grades BBC at A level, but I have a Corp Fin internship lined up this summer at a small, local firm. Should I try to leverage my internship and apply for BB summer 2019 internships with such low grades/non-target university, or just focus on getting into a top MSF and breaking into IB that way?

    1. If you’re still a 1st year student, you still have plenty of time, so you should not give up on IB yet. Also, you’d be applying for summer 2020 internships likely next year. You should at least try that and see what happens before committing to a top MSF and spending even more time/money on it.

      1. Thing is, because I’m at a UK university doing a 3 year degree, my penultimate internship would be in 2019. Does this change your advice?

        1. No. Low A-Levels will hurt you, but if you have at least a 2:1 in university, you should still apply for internships. An MSF is only worth it if you got started very late (which is not you since you have the corporate finance internship this year) or if nothing else has worked out.

  44. Thank you very much the article, it definitely relates to my current situation. I’m currently enrolled in an online MSF program, and was wondering if there is any stigma in the industry about web based degrees?

    1. Some, but the bigger issue is whether or not an online MSF program will give you access to recruiters and companies. That’s the main benefit of any degree, including an MSF.

  45. Hey! Great Article and information. What would you suggest to a Swiss citizen student studying Computer Science and Business at a semi-target in England? I have had a spring week insight at a BB and am in line for a summer internship at the same BB. I want to do a Masters in the US to help me break into that region and also want to complete my education.

    Thanks for your help

    1. I’m not sure I understand your question. Your plan is reasonable, and it sounds like you’re already in good shape to work in banking. For international students in the U.S., please see this article for more:

  46. Hi Brian,

    Great article as always. Unfortunately, I’m in the “pre-med biology degree” category that you mentioned. Graduated in 2015 and I’ve been working as a medical scribe. Long story short, I’ve found the medicine isn’t the right path for me. Since you don’t recommend going into a MSF at least straight away, what would be the most reasonable path for me to break into finance? I was thinking finding any sort of Finance internship. Thoughts?

    1. At this point, you would probably need an MBA to have a realistic shot of getting into investment banking because you’ve been out of school for several years already. You might be able to win other finance-related roles if you can learn the basics on your own and network aggressively. See:

  47. I’m thinking of getting a Master’s in finance in Canada.. I have a degree in engineering with 2.9/5 gpa in Nigeria. How do you suggest that I go about it? Thanks

    1. ??? I’m not sure what you’re asking. Apply to various programs, complete the requirements, and… get in.

  48. Avatar
    jake smith


    Thanks for the article. Very useful as I decide whether this degree makes sense. I’d love your thoughts on whether this degree makes sense for me. I gradated with finance degree, 3.1 gpa, from a top 40 semi-target (many of those with 3.5+ and networking are now working at top investment banks). I had a boutique IB internship as a junior, however, I didn’t network in school and ended up nowhere in the recruiting period. I am now almost 2 years out of school working as an analyst at a commercial bank and feel like I am not gaining any skills that I could sell in an interview as to why I’m a good fit for an IB analyst. I am wondering if you think the MSF program could benefit me, assuming a finish with a 3.5+ GPA and network throughout my time? My thinking is that it could give me a chance to somewhat reset on grades and gain the modeling/excel skills that I can sell for an analyst position. I also was wondering if you knew anything about the reputation of the program at the University of Maryland?

    1. Yes, an MSF program could help you, but you need to move quickly because once you go beyond 2-3 years of experience, it’s difficult to win Analyst-level offers. I don’t know much about the program at Maryland, but you should check sites that do rankings and reviews.

  49. Avatar
    Aaron Isakov

    Hi Brian,

    I’m a long time lurker here and your site has definitely helped me out, but I’d like your advice for my situation. I’m currently a graduating senior at a semi target undergrad school, economics major, with only one current internship as a private equity intern at a small search fund. I got into the investment banking game super late because I was shooting for law since I was 15 and realized this December in the middle of my LSAT that I didn’t want to do law, i just wanted to do M&A. Realizing this I was super late to the game and wasted all 4 years working not networking or really applying to IB internships or roles. My background in terms of work experience is that I have a Research position from a FX firm, and a PE internship rn. No job opportunities lined up after graduation this may. I’m looking at MIT, NYU, Columbia, and my current school Baruch for MSF programs but don’t what my next step should be. Any insight into my journey would be much appreciated!

    1. You should apply to those programs, get in, and then complete another internship before it begins or during the program. And then start networking with alumni at banks to win internships. I’m not sure about the timing for 1-year programs because summer internship recruiting for undergrads now takes place over a year in advance… but I assume they can’t possibly do that for 1-year programs.

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