Investment Banking Careers

An Overview of What A Career In Investment Banking Is Like, Including Career Path, Salaries, Lifestyle and Work Product

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Why A Career In Investment Banking?

Investment banking is a consistently popular career choice for university graduates and career changers. 

Although the hours, stress (and even the boredom) can be famously grueling, investment banking does offer the benefit of extremely high salaries, bonuses and compensation and therefore status and prestige – especially as you advance up the career ladder. 

In this article we’ll explore what it’s really like in a career as an investment banker. 

Investment Banking Internships

Many investment banks favor internships as a recruiting technique because it is like an extended job interview

And aspiring investment bankers can use internships to accomplish three main things:

  1. Win a full-time offer.
  2. Decide whether or not investment banking is for you.
  3. (For early-stage internships) Start to build a sequence of work experience you can use to answer the “walk me through your resume” question you’re likely to get in investment banking interviews

For more information on internships, check out our full Investment Banking Internship Guide.

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The Investment Banking Career Path

So you make it through an internship and you’re now an investment banker.  What comes next? The Investment Banking Career Path is somewhat defined across the industry.  Here’s the typical career progression:

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Salaries and Promotion Timeframes For Investment Bankers

Investment bankers earn well – especially at the upper echelons.  If you love detail and league tables, see our full article on Investment Banking Salaries.

For now, here’s a summary of what to expect at each level in a front-office role at a big firm in New York (pay will be lower in other regions):

Position TitleTypical Age RangeBase Salary (USD)Total Compensation (USD)Timeframe for Promotion
Analyst22-27$85-$95K$150-$200K2-3 years
Associate25-35$140-$180K$250-$400K3-4 years
Vice President (VP)28-40$200-$300K$450-$700K3-4 years
Director / Senior Vice President (SVP) / Principal32-45$250-$350K$500-$1,000K2-3 years
Managing Director (MD)35-50$400-$600K$1,000K+N/A
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What Do You Actually Do As An Investment Banker?

As all entry-level investment bankers will start as an analyst, it’s worth looking at what you’ll actually do on the job when you start. 

As an Analyst, your job is to do whatever it takes to support senior bankers in winning and closing deals, even if that means doing ridiculous tasks that have nothing to do with accounting or finance.

The “average case” for your time on the job might look like this:

If this looks mundane, that’s because it is.  Also, the work hours are long, typically 70-85 hours per week.  

If all this doesn’t sound very attractive, rest assured that the Analyst role has at least 3 upsides:

  1. It’s not a long-term position.  This is a stepping stone to more senior roles in investment banking, private equity or hedge funds, where the work is more stimulating. 
  2. You earn a lot – more than just about any other job out of university.
  3. You gain access to great Exit Opportunities in a wide variety of sought-after fields.
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How to Get a Job in Investment Banking

There are 4 main pathways to getting a job in investment banking:

  1. As an undergraduate, ideally at a top university.
  2. As a recent graduate.
  3. At the MBA level.
  4. Beyond the MBA level.

The most viable pathways are the first 3 listed here: at the undergraduate level, within 1-2 years of university graduation, or at the MBA level.

Regardless of your pathway, you will need a sequence of academic, work, and leadership experience that demonstrates your interest and commitment in order to break in.

We cover this process in-depth in our article on How To Get Into Investment Banking.

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Investment Banking Career Training

Investment banking is a highly-competitive and sought-after field.

Banks have shifted from “hiring raw graduates and training them on the job” to expecting new hires to be able to hit the ground running and add value from day one. 

For this reason, you have to prepare for a career in investment banking well before every setting foot in the interview room. 

Some of the courses offered by Mergers & Inquisitions and our sister site Breaking Into Wall Street include:

Completing these courses will help you win interviews and job offers for roles that pay $150K+, and position you for top-tier exit opportunities such as private equity.