by Brian DeChesare Comments (193)

How to Break into the Finance Industry as an Older Candidate: 6 Paths to Beating the Odds

Too Old for Finance?
Are you too old?

No question generates more insecurity.

And it’s especially bad when it comes to the job market and industries that prefer “younger candidates.”

A long time ago, I wrote an article on Age and Investment Banking and attempted to answer a simple question: How old is too old to break in?

But the answer wasn’t so simple: in the years afterward, hundreds of readers left comments and questions, mostly asking, “So, am I too old?” and “If I am too old, what should I do?”

Consider this article a follow-up feature that answers that second question of what to do if you’re too old to pursue traditional finance roles.

Say What? People Still Want to Make This Move?

I thought interest in this topic would disappear in the aftermath of the financial crisis and the tech/VC boom after that.

What’s the point of fighting an uphill battle to break in when both compensation and prestige are down?

But that hasn’t happened – we’re still getting a ton of questions on this topic.

The bad news is that it’s getting tougher to break in if you’re an older candidate.

There are a few reasons why:

  1. Business schools are encouraging younger and younger candidates to apply each year; programs like Harvard 2+2 also add to this trend. As a result, incoming post-MBA Associates have been getting younger.
  1. Bankers are more likely to tell you, “Go to business school” these days if you have a non-finance-looking background. One coaching client received this advice from bankers even though he completed a part-time IB internship after two years of “less relevant experience.”
  1. Finance firms are looking for candidates with more of a long-term, demonstrated interest in the field. So if you’ve been in audit at a Big 4 firm for 10 years, you better have an incredible story that explains your sudden interest in hedge funds if you want to make a move.

With that said, it’s not impossible to get in if you have 10+ years of work experience, or you’re in your early 30s or beyond.

But you have to be realistic about your options at that stage – here’s the process I recommend:

Step 1: Ask Yourself WHY You Want to Do This

Just like most university students cannot articulate why they want to get into investment banking or private equity, many career changers also struggle with this question.

But you have to ask and answer it honestly, or you could waste a lot of time barking up the wrong tree.

Most reasons I’ve heard from older candidates are horrible:

  • “I want to make more money.”
  • “I want a more exciting, faster-paced job.”
  • “I want to meet high-powered executives and power brokers.”
  • “Didn’t you hear me? I need more money! Really! Like, now!”

For each of these reasons, there is a better strategy that will get you better results:

  • The Desire for More Money – Start a side business, do freelance consulting, do some day trading on the side, or do something that doesn’t entail a 180-degree career change.
  • The Desire for Excitement and a Faster-Paced Job – Um, go skydiving? Bungee jumping? Off-road racing? Volunteer at an ER so you’re surrounded by emergencies?
  • The Desire to Meet Executive and Power Brokers – Join a non-profit or volunteer group with well-known executives on the Board, join a local professional group in your industry, or start going to conferences.

There is only one good reason to enter the finance industry as an older candidate: because you are passionate about deals (or, for buy-side and public markets roles, investing), and you have to be an investment banker to work on deals full-time.

“Passionate about deals” means that you must treat deals like football fans treat football.

If you are not constantly reading about deals, talking about them, reading the filings yourself, and running the numbers for fun, you won’t have much of a chance.

Likewise, you won’t have much of a chance at buy-side or public markets roles unless you’re constantly thinking about investments and trading stocks on your own.

Step 2: Consider Roles Outside of Traditional Investment Banking

Investment banks are extremely reluctant to hire anyone significantly older and more experienced for Analyst or Associate roles.

This fact means that it is very difficult to win Analyst roles past, say, the age of 25 (or ~3 years of full-time work experience), and that it’s also difficult to win Associate roles past the age of 30 (or ~5-7 years of full-time work experience).

Even if you do win an offer, it is tough to follow the traditional IB to PE path because PE firms want young candidates or very senior ones, but not people in the middle.

So I would suggest one of the following six alternatives instead:

1) Aim for Operational Executive Roles at Private Equity Firms or Go for Operationally Focused PE Firms

Plenty of PE firms hire operating executives to help manage and “improve” portfolio companies’ operations, but you can make this type of move only if a few conditions are true:

  • You’re applying to larger funds – small places tend not to hire as many operational experts unless they are strictly focused on turnarounds or operations.
  • You rose to a senior position in your industry – a Director or VP of a division at a mid-sized company, at least, with 7-10 years of experience. And your chances would improve further if you were a C-level executive.
  • You’ve taken the time to learn deals and finance – there’s no way you’ll fit in and thrive without this knowledge.

This strategy works well if you’re not as interested in working on deals directly, but you want to be in a deal-making environment.

2) Move in Through the “Side Door” of Finance / Operating Roles

Another option is to move into the industry “through the side door” by pursuing operational and financial roles at normal companies, and then leveraging that experience to become an executive at an investment firm.

This plan can work well, but there are also some conditions here:

  • You’re usually limited to smaller funds if you follow this path because larger investment funds would hire someone higher-profile or someone in-house for a CFO/COO-type role.
  • You also need to be fairly senior for this move to work – a new PE fund is not going to hire a 2-year FP&A Analyst to be their CFO.
  • You need to get deal-related experience in your operational/financial roles – for example, experience negotiating joint-venture agreements or partnerships.

This path tends to work best if you’re a “late decider” and became interested in deals only after you began working on them directly.

3) Invest Your Own Account, Take the CFA, and Move into Asset Management Roles

While it can be tough to win hedge-fund roles without a pedigree from a top school and experience at a large bank, the same is not necessarily true of asset management firms.

As Mike, one of our contributors, has pointed out before, asset management firms tend to hire from a broader set of schools than large banks do.

Sometimes this also translates into better chances for non-traditional hires and career changers.

One example is a story we published a few years ago from Tim Piechowski, who went from law school into asset management.

Yes, he did have previous finance experience, but he was still an “older candidate” at the time.

To use this strategy, you’ll have to:

  • Demonstrate an insane passion for investing – You need stock pitches galore (or other investment pitches), and a good explanation for why you became interested in investing so late.
  • Potentially go back to school to make the move – you don’t need a top 3 MBA program because of the wider recruitment base for AM firms, but it should still be a relatively good program (top 20?).

I don’t have any firsthand examples of individuals who have followed this path, but it is theoretically possible – though not the easiest option.

4) Move into Equity Research in a Group Where Industry Expertise is Critical

As one of our previous interviewees pointed out, equity research groups sometimes look for more senior hires with deep industry expertise.

This strategy works best in highly technical groups where you need to understand topics that require years of schooling – medicine, physics, or advanced hardware.

I’ve seen people move from academia to equity research in those groups, but I could not find great examples for less technical ER teams like consumer/retail or transportation.

Also, if you want to go this route, you’ll have to make the transition quickly after finishing medical school, your Ph.D. program, etc.

It gets much harder to convince a bank that you want to be in equity research if you graduated then spent the past 10 years working in a hospital.

If you’re a recent graduate, you can more plausibly go to them and say, “I realized that medicine is not the path for me, but I do want to apply my knowledge in other ways.”

5) Work at a Bank, But Not in a Client-Facing or Front-Office Role

“Blasphemy!” you say, “How can you possibly recommend non-front-office roles? Didn’t you explain how bad they were before?”

This option may not be “ideal,” but there are a few reasons to consider it:

  • It’s easier to get into large banks in operational and compliance roles, especially if you’re making a big career change.
  • You may be able to leverage the experience to move around internally in the future.
  • Operational experience at a normal company or starting your own company may translate better to these roles at banks.

You have a better shot if you’ve done supply-chain management, procurement, compliance, or something else that screams “operations.”

6) Join a PE or VC Firm’s Portfolio Company and Leverage That Experience to Move in

One of our previous interviewees, a 17-year senior executive in PE, recommended this one as the best alternative if you don’t get the right experience immediately out of undergraduate.

You could work in finance or operations there, expose yourself to major deals at the firm (e.g., when the PE firm is planning to take the company public), and then position yourself as an industry/operational expert who also has deal experience.

The downside is that this is more likely to work at smaller funds than at large ones, but the upside is that you have better access and an improved ability to network in this situation.

Step 3: And If You Want to Go the Traditional Investment Banking Path…

If you still want to get into investment banking even if it kills you, more power to you.

I have seen a few people get in at the VP level after working for 5-10 years, but several conditions were true in each case:

  • They went to middle-market or boutique banks.
  • They accepted significant pay cuts, and were brought in “below their level” (e.g., a 4th year VP starting out as a 1st year VP in banking).
  • They all found jobs in strong hiring markets – if banks are reducing their headcount instead of ramping up their hiring, well, good luck.

I don’t have much to say about the process because networking is networking is networking: use LinkedIn to reach out to bankers in relevant industry groups at smaller firms, present your story, and ask about open positions.

The interview process for senior candidates is a whole different story and not one we have the space to get into here, but I may cover it in future articles.

Success Stories, Please

So do any of these strategies work?

Is it possible to move into the finance industry, even after you’ve had 10+ years of work experience elsewhere?


To illustrate this point, I’m describing below the stories of a few clients and readers (with personal details removed and changed) who have made the move:

Story #1: Director at Large Tech Company to Middle-Market Bank

This individual majored in engineering at a top 5 university and then went into product management at a technology company (hardware-focused).

She moved over to marketing after about 5-7 years on the job and then moved into business development from there.

She made it to the “Director” level and then completed a part-time / evening MBA while working in business development.

Then she moved into investment banking at a middle-market firm, joining a technology team there (and then ended up not liking it and quitting, but that’s another story).

A few notes on this one:

  • I don’t think it would have happened without the MBA – otherwise, you don’t sound credible when you explain how you suddenly want a change after working at the same company for 10 years.
  • She took a substantial pay cut – 50-60% – because the bank brought her in at a lower level (3rd or 4th year Associate) and agreed to raise her to the appropriate level based on performance.
  • I don’t think it would have worked with lesser-known schools or a non-target MBA program.

Story #2: Treasury and FP&A to Group COO

This story was a good example of moving in “through the side door.”

The candidate here was based in Europe and had almost 10 years of corporate finance experience working at a multinational firm there.

In the corporate finance career path there, he moved from a Treasury role to FP&A, and then switched industries (from energy to transportation) and took a role where he negotiated JV agreements and led entries into new markets.

Since he had both operational and financial experience, he spun that into sounding relevant for a private equity firm that was raising a new fund and looking for a new COO, and won an offer there.

He was in an operations role at the firm, so this was not the traditional “IB Analyst to PE Associate” path.

However, since the firm was relatively small and was expanding rapidly at the time, he did get to participate in various acquisitions and exits.

  • I’m surprised this one worked without an MBA – maybe because it’s easier to get into PE from non-banking backgrounds in Europe (???).
  • It would not have worked as well if he had stayed in a Treasury role instead of moving into FP&A and advancing up the ranks there.
  • And the move to PE worked since the fund was new and expanding; it would have been much tougher at an existing mega-fund.

Story #3: From Entrepreneur to Operations/Compliance at a Bulge-Bracket Bank

A few years ago, we had a client who had worked in strategy roles at both “normal companies” and Big 4 / other professional services firms.

She then quit to acquire an underperforming business and turn it around (think: a small business providing localized services).

It worked remarkably well, but she wanted to move on after a few years of doing it and work at a large bank instead.

She spun the experience to sound very “financial” and then said she wanted to combine that finance and operational experience with the scale of large banks, which led to a role in operations/compliance.

No, this wasn’t a traditional investment banking, equity research, or investment analyst role, but it was more in-line with what she was looking for: a chance to apply operational knowledge at a greater scale.

  • The strategy experience at other large firms made this one a lot more feasible – otherwise, it’s quite tough to go from your own company to a large bank.
  • Spinning the entrepreneurial experience to make it sound “financial” (e.g., by writing mostly about forecasts, managing budgets, and optimizing profits) was also essential.

Story #4: From M.D. or Ph.D. to Equity Research

Look carefully at a set of biotech or pharmaceutical equity research reports, and you’ll likely see “M.D.” or “Ph.D.” after a few of the names.

I don’t have any stories from clients, but I found a few via my research, including:

  • Marko Kozul, M.D. – Completed med school, worked as a consultant and research director for medical groups, then got into healthcare equity research at a few firms before taking a strategy role at a pharmaceutical company.
  • Howard Liang, Ph.D. – Finished an MBA and a Ph.D., worked as a senior scientist at Abbott, and then worked in equity research at various firms before taking a CFO / Chief Strategy Role at a pharmaceutical company.

With some exceptions, such as the second person above, moving in early seems to be essential.

Other examples I found included people who worked in clinical research for a year or two, but then quickly moved into business strategy or consulting roles and then equity research.

Are You Too Old?

To answer this question, you need to clarify it first: “Are you too old… for what?”

You won’t win an entry-level investment banking analyst role at age 35 or 40, nor can you follow the traditional IB to PE path at that stage.

But there are still ways to get into the finance industry if you’re willing to think creatively, give up some seniority and pay, and accept a role that may not be exactly what you’re seeking.

And you’re never too old for that.

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. Very informative article!! Brian if you could help me i would really appreciate it! I am from Greece i just got my Bachelors Degree in Oil and Gas engineering. The thing is I really don’t like doing that so i want to pursue a second bachelor at economics and finances because it really is my passion. The thing is i will be 28 by the time i finish it and i have two options.1st–> After my second bachelor go and do a masters in management (or Banking Finance) as it requires no work experience but then i am applying for entry level jobs(analyst). So i wonder even if with great gpa and gmat will the bank say well i could just hire someone at 24 rather than 29 for an analyst role. 2nd Option–> while i study my second bachelor degree I work at some oil and gas company for 2-3 years so i can accumulate more work experience and then apply for an MBA program(probably Europe London business school but i would consider USA) then i know i can become an associate BUT i will not have experience in IB. Before you ask, the reason i want a second degree is because i did not get a great gpa at my first bachelor not because i was incompetent but because i did not have a passion about that industry. So what do you suggest?? Should i look for another industry ? Try the MBA path or just go for an analyst role at age 29? Thanks in advance !

    1. I don’t think there is a clearly correct choice here, it just depends on how long you want to be in school vs. how long you want to work. If you want to stay in Europe, option #1 is probably better because MBA-level recruiting is more limited there. Yes, you’ll be older than other analysts, but it doesn’t really matter if you haven’t had full-time work experience yet and you get the proper internships.

  2. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for covering this topic and answering so many questions as well!

    I am 34, and an econ major at Cal. Ive been receiving recruiting messages from BB such as Deutsche and GS because I am also a Veteran. Ive been out of the service for about 10 years, and during that time ive been working as a project manager in a few different industries, but nothing even close to finance.

    How should I approach getting into IB? Should I try to spin my previous experience as experience in project management/team building?


    1. If banks are specifically trying to recruit you, yes, you can just spin your previous experience as being related to project management / client work / team-building. You do still have to learn the basic technical concepts for accounting and valuation, but it shouldn’t be that hard if you go through veteran recruiting programs. Finance internships would also help, but I’m not sure where you are in undergrad currently.

  3. Thank you, Brian, for such an informative article. I am an immigrant, a female who lives in NYC and am 35, in the process of getting JD from 3d tier law school. I do not have much of legitimate works experience ( except administrative and personal assistant roles ) as have been involved in the immigration process that takes years and not much space for career there. My undergrad is in English from European school. I am passionate about investments and have been investing on my own. I would like to work in an investment management role, IB, trading or a role that deals with money management.
    Are there any chances for someone like me? With age in mind, I do, however have a life story that fits DAI (diversity and inclusions) hiring policies.
    What is the recommended path for someone like me?
    Thank you in advance.

    1. I think it’s going to be very difficult if you have been out of university for that long but do not have much “real” work experience. Also, the JD from a 3rd tier law school will not help much because most finance firms want to see better-known institutions. Your best bet might be to try to get into corporate law (not sure how feasible this is from your current law school) and then move into IB or a related finance role like that. Diversity hiring may help in some cases, but I think it’s too much of a leap here to go from your current background directly into a finance role.

  4. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for sharing your insight. I have been working in business valuation and then private equity valuation for ~8 years, both in independent valuation company and PE fund in NYC. I would like to move to the investment side but understand it would be difficult to make a move to IB or PE. I have a CFA and a master degree in Finance so I’m not considering to do the MBA at this point but let me know if you think that would be the only option. It would be much appreciated if you could provide some advice on my questions:

    1. Do you think it’s realistic to try secondary/co-investment opportunity? It seems that these types of roles are asking for deal experience as well.
    2. Is Asset Management in PE fund where deal team and AM team are separate a potential opportunity in my case?
    3. Anything else you think would be worth trying? Thank you very much.

    1. I think an MBA is probably your best bet at this point. At least it would let you move into IB more easily. For secondaries, they usually want actual deal experience, so I’m not sure that’s the best option. AM within PE may work, but I do not know much about it personally. Another idea besides an MBA might be to work in corporate development at a large company and then move into IB from there.

      1. Thanks for your advice! If I start to prepare for MBA application now, I will have around 10 years working experience at the time of matriculation. Do you think it would be a big disadvantage for me to move into IB or PE post MBA or find relevant summer internship? Or work experience would be less of an issue after MBA.

        1. It won’t matter as much if you do an MBA degree.

  5. Hi Brian,
    Thank you for the article. Very informative.
    I am an oil and gas drilling professional with 12 years of experience in drilling engineering, operations and project management. I am currently pursuing 1 year full time MBA from Stanford and have developed considerable interest in finance during the program. Is there a way to leverage my industry eperience to get into a Finance role? Oil and Gas / Renewable Project Finance roles come to mingd immediately but curious to know your thoughts on my specific case.

    1. Yes, you can probably do that. See: (Older article, but banks still hire people with industry backgrounds for their A&D teams)

  6. Hi Brian ,

    Great article. I’m 25 and about to start work in the healthcare sector (six year degree). I am unsure if I should pursue a masters in a year or an mba in 3-5 years time.

    The masters I want to pursue is at HEC (a management and finance masters done over 2-3 years). I will however be 29 when I start as an analyst and I would have had 1 year work experience (from 25-26).

    Would the age (29) and the 1 year work experience in healthcare count against me? Would my odds be better if I was to apply to a top MBA when I am 29 and try and get in as an associate at 31-32?

    Ideally I’d want to do the masters but I am worried about the age issue as well as that one year of work experience .

    Thanks Brian

    1. Again, age matters less than the # of years of full-time work experience you’ve had. It’s better to get into IB earlier, if possible, so 1 year of work experience and the Master’s degree is a better idea here. The problem with waiting for an MBA is that you’re going to need more than 1 year of experience to be competitive in most cases, and if you don’t manage to get an IB offer out of the program, you can’t really “retry” and go for IB roles again.

  7. Avatar
    Tushar Sachdeva

    Hi Brian,
    I graduated in July 2019 in chemical engineering with a minor in finance. I have been working in retail banking since then in reporting and automation team. I gave my CFA level 1 in Feb’21 (delayed because of covid ) but couldn’t pass by a very small margin. I am again planning to give it again in Nov’21 as i am really interested and inclined towards a career in asset management. I cannot go for an MBA for at least next 2 years. I am applying for roles in AM industry but everywhere they need relevant experience and failing my level 1 in feb kind of extended my timeline for credibility. Could you please guide me to an appropriate route to get into this industry.

    1. So, getting into AM will be very challenging because there aren’t that many entry-level roles (due to low turnover, small teams, etc.). See:

      You might actually have a better shot at hedge fund roles just because there are more of them, and your technical background may help more there, depending on the fund type.

      But the key problem is that your current work experience is not that relevant to either one. You might want to aim for something more closely related, such as equity research in chemicals or biotech, first, since your degree will actually matter there, and then use the experience to apply to AM/HF roles.

  8. Hi Brian. Thank you very much for the work you do.

    I am a 26 year old, non-EU national with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and 3.5 years of IB experience only building transaction collateral (valuations, CIMs etc.). I do not have any transaction experience so far. In addition to this, I have 0.5 year of engineering experience and a career gap of 0.5 years between my engineering job and my current finance job. I have an admit from a top tier 2-year MSc. Finance program in Frankfurt and expect to graduate when I am 28 if I pursue it. I have also cleared Level-1 of the CFA so far and have built strong modelling skills on account of my work. Due to my personal circumstances, I cannot afford an MBA. I intend to eventually break into PE/AM after a few years in European IB preferably in Germany/London. If I pursue the masters, I would effectively have 4 years of total work experience (3.5 in finance and 0.5 in engineering), about 12 months of not being employed and 2 years invested into the masters.

    Given this background, in your opinion, what can I do to improve my odds of securing FT roles in IB? Are there any alternative routes to consider or things I can do to mitigate the risk of unemployment if I am not successful in finding a job in IB?

    1. Your main options are to recruit for lateral roles directly, complete this MSF program, or do an MBA. If you cannot afford an MBA, then your options are to recruit directly for lateral roles or do the MSF. And I don’t think an “IB-related job” would help much in your case because you already have some related experience even if it’s not exactly deal experience. I would focus on the degree and networking as much as possible. If you want to work in Germany, you should also familiarize yourself with the recruiting environment there because it is somewhat different… see:

  9. hi brian, it is a great article. I am now 19 years old in Malaysia and there is a fintech degree in university.. In your opinion, should i get a fintech degree instead of finance degree?

    1. Impossible to say because I don’t know your short-term or long-term goals

  10. Avatar
    Nitish Kumar

    Hey Brian,
    I am 33 and a simple graduate from India having experience in teaching I just want to break into finance it’s something that lures me a lot can you suggest me some ways to do it.
    It shall be really helpful.

    1. I would recommend searching this site for our coverage of India to get a sense of the industry there and the most common paths in.

  11. Avatar
    Tom Hernandez

    Hey Brian,

    Great article! I was wondering if you can get into IB by getting a Masters in Finance from a top school in NYC. I graduated in 2011 and I’ve been working in tech sales for the last 8 years but I would like to switch careers to investment banking. Is it possible or do you still recommend an MBA?

    1. You would almost certainly need an MBA at this point because 8 years is too much experience to join as an Analyst.

  12. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for your expertise on this area. I have an undergrad and graduate degree in Mechanical Engineering. I’m 33 years old and I have 8 years of working experience in Automotive Engineering. Worked my way up to my current position as a Program Manager at a multinational tier 1 supplier. I’m located in the Metro Detroit area – 4 hrs from Chicago and 4 hrs from Toronto. I got accepted to a safety school non-target (but still decent) for EMBA but I’m also attempting a target for enrolling this fall.

    Anyway, in terms of my career prospects, I want to move back to East Africa where I’m from and also have a strong grasp of the culture and language. Energy, Mining and Banking are among the hottest developing markets there (automotive not quite yet..but I want to get out of it anyway). I want to see how I can leverage my technical background and MBA to be part of the action.

    I don’t want to get into IB because I know I’m out of the age range and too experienced in another field, but I did like the idea of joining an Operations Team of an IB. Please advise given my current career path and prospects, if it is possible and what other possibilities you recommend. After my MBA program, I plan on moving a few positions up the latter in US (or Canada) through the corporate development route. Ending as a Director or Senior Manager before moving back and taking up more senior roles in corporations and finally, working for banks in operations.

    Please let me know your thoughts!

    1. I’m not sure what you mean by “Operations Team of an IB.” Operations at a large bank usually refers to middle and back-office work such as trade settlement, IT, and supporting the bankers. If you want to get into corporate development in one of those fields, your best bet is a top MBA program combined with a pre-MBA internship that’s related to deals or corporate finance in some way.

  13. Hi Brian,
    Thanks for your article and I enjoyed reading it. My situation is a bit different: –
    7 years audit experience from big4 accounting firm + 7 years in boutique investment banks focusing in IPO execution. I had already made up to senior role in the firm as SVP as my last position. However, all of my experiences were gained in Hong Kong, not in the States or Canada. And the ibanks I worked are active in the Hong Kong market but they are not international firms. I just moved to Vancouver in Canada and knowing that the market mainly focusing in M&A instead of IPOs.

    I am wondering, in your opinion, is it still very difficult for me to enter the market as an associate for M&A given I am obviously too old for this position, yet I may not be qualified as a VP or AD grade as i don’t have M&A experience from North America? Possible that I may have higher chances in other careers in finance? As sadly not even getting responses from due diligence teams or deal advisory teams in big4 accounting firms.

    I am a CPA but don’t have CFA designation as I wasn’t in top tier ibanks and CFA was not required. I am planning to take the CFA exam this year. And at this age (mid-30’s), with my background, I am not sure if an MBA will help much for me to enter the market in Canada….

    1. Yes, it can be difficult to switch if you have only worked on IPOs before. I don’t know, maybe try to downplay your experience or use a lower-sounding title or something like that. Or maybe try to do it at a Big 4 firm or independent valuation firm first and then move over. MBAs don’t help much in Canada in most cases.

      1. Thanks Brian. I will keep on trying Big4 firms for associate/senior consultant roles and maybe I should downplay my experience.

        It is a good thing I have recently found out here, HR or employers usually don’t look at employment records! As every company in Hong Kong issues a “reference letter” and it would be very difficult for me to use a lower-sounding title. This “reference letter” is an employment record that shows the dates of joining the firm and promotions, as well as the last title in the firm. It would not be good when my resume said I was just a senior associate but my “reference letter” said I was a SVP if HR looked at the record — and luckily this is not a norm here apparently.

        1. OK. Yes, if the reference letter is required, your title needs to match what’s on it.

  14. Hello,

    I have a bachelor degree in commerce and an MBA in Finance. I have worked in Financial Operations (1 year), Financial & Market Research – I prepared sector and industry reports, simple consensus models (have forgotten most of it (Approx 2 years). Then, I got married and very soon started my family. Now, after a gap of 7 years, I want to start my career again. What should I do? How should I “recall” all my skills as I feel, I don’t remember a thing, have NO confidence that I would fit in and basically do not know where should I start. So much have changed in the industry and so many ‘Financial tools’ have come up. I am so much scared even to think where to even START and feel overwhelmed even to pick up a finance course book. Please guide.

    1. I would recommend starting with simple models for companies you know. Read through their filings, take notes, and start with very simple revenue and expense projections.

  15. Hey Brian,

    Great article and love that you are replying to all the posts on this thread, this is commitment!!

    I’m 35, CPA in Canada, and I have ~8 years of experience: 3 years in financial reporting/tax at an E&P Oil & Gas company, 1 year stint in corporate development at a very small art start-up, and last 4 years in two different energy infrastructure companies (2 years in each, 2nd is a start-up) where I have worked my way to a manager and do financial and management reporting, and some add hoc finance projects, e.g. some budgeting. In addition, I had exposure to multiple debt agreements through covenant reporting, many performance metrics, KPI’s, as well experience in two start-ups (think building financial statement and management reporting models and schedules from scratch) – one being an energy infrastructure PE portfolio company, and a bit of deal/valuation exposure through purchase price allocation for accounting and year end impairment testing. I’m absolutely passionate about finance and I spend most of my free time researching companies to invest for my personal portfolio and would like to move into a role where I can do this full-time. I have hopes to find a role in private equity, mainly targeting infrastructure or energy PE firms, given they may like my infrastructure/energy experience, but I’m not sure how it will be viewed as it’s in accounting, not say engineering or finance roles, and having 8 years of experience already.

    1) Do you think it’s realistic to get hired by an infrastructure/energy PE firm directly given my experience? I would also be very happy with a pension fund, sovereign wealth fund or an insurance company as well, if this would be any easier. I realize I might not be a favorite candidate for some, but hope that others will like the mix of infrastructure and accounting experience, if this is the focus of the PE fund, perhaps some smaller/MM funds.
    2) Do you think I can do things that improve my changes? E.g. starting a CFA or taking a “bridge” role in FP&A where I would do more modelling, and trying for a PE role after. Any other recommendations are appreciated.

    Big thank you!!

    1. 1) No, probably not. They really want people with IB or other direct transaction experience. Yes, you know the industry, but these jobs are ridiculously competitive and demand far exceeds supply. You might be able to win some type of infrastructure/energy offer at another firm type, such as a SWF or pension fund.

      2) Your best bet would be to do something like corporate development at a larger company and then use that to become more competitive for PE roles. Another issue is that the Canadian market is small, so it’s more difficult to find random opportunities in PE that just open up… meaning, expect a lot of networking.

  16. Hi Brian!
    Many thanks for your article. I wish I could have read these ten years ago.

    As an “old” guy already in the finance industry, my case may be typical in some sense.
    I am exactly what you described “Even if you do win an offer, it is tough to follow the traditional IB to PE path because PE firms want young candidates or very senior ones, but not people in the middle.”

    With 5 years of equity research (2-tier) and 2 years of IBD (BB) experience, I believe that I can provide more value to PE funds (market knowledge, etc.) than the candidates with 2-3 years of IBD experience. But the market has taught me a huge lesson. PE funds prefer younger candidates or candidates with previous buy-side experience.

    I feel stuck.

    What strategies, in your opinion, are best for me? Some small PE funds (start-up PE funds before fundraising may have openings but are quite risky) or REPE (at least break into buy-side first but the switch is uncertain).
    I appreciate it if you could provide some advice.

    1. I think you’ll have to target smaller/startup PE funds and take the risk if you want to make this type of move. Not sure REPE really makes sense unless you’ve worked with RE in your ER or IB roles.

  17. Thanks Brian. I am 30++ and a career changer. Is there position title suggestion for the 1st option, PE firms hire operating executives to help manage and “improve” portfolio companies’ operations? I find this could be interesting but did not manage to find the correct division or position to such a function.
    Besides, the experience for option 6 and 1 is similar? but the desired function in IB are different?

    1. Usually “Operating Executive” or something similar or maybe “Operations Team.” Option #6 is different because it means working *at* a portfolio company of the PE firm, not at the PE firm directly.

  18. Hi Brian,

    Is it too old to join the PE or be a trader at age 39 after graduating with a master in quantitative finance with no financial working experience? I completed college at 30 and was working in unrelated industries before deciding to do my masters.

    1. Yes, that’s probably a stretch. You may be able to do it at certain prop trading firms or quant funds if you are very, very good with math/programming and have clear evidence of your passion for trading, but you’re going to get *a lot* of questions about why you spent so long in other industries.

  19. Hi Brian,
    I’m EU citizen (think Eastern Europe) and have an offer for master on target in the UK. Currently, I have 2 gap years after my Bachelor (EU non-target). Unfortunately, due to personal reasons I have to defer my master for the next year. Then I will have nearly 3 years of experience – nearly 2 years of internships in decent brands (M&A, ER, Management Consulting) and nearly 1 year of experience as an IB analyst or Business Analyst in MBB in EU (think Eastern Europe). Do you think it will be too late to apply for SA then, that is I will be too old? And before you ask why not FT Analyst after Master I think it will be hard to get an offer for FT without SA in London.

    1. I think you can still apply for internship roles, even with that much experience, if you’re in a Master’s program.

      1. Thanks for your reply.

        But do you think for BBs and maybe less for elite boutiques my substantial experience could make a difference and be obstacle / drawback in the context of recruitment processes?

        1. If you’re graduating out of a Master’s program (not an MBA), they will still consider you for Analyst roles. I don’t think all that experience will hurt you as long as you’re clear that most of it consisted of internships.

  20. Hi Brian, thanks for creating this org/website. It’s incredibly helpful and I really love the transparency you’re creating around the various professions as well as your no-nonsense info/communication style.
    I’m 42 and considering an MBA as I want to work in Venture Capital initially as an Associate and move up the ladder within the VC world,
    After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant for a UK Top 10 Accounting firm in 2007 (as an Auditor) I spent the next 9 yrs working in private industry in various sectors as an Accountant/Finance Manager/Controller helping medium sized businesses grow, streamline, exit). Feeling lost career wise I spent the last 4 years completing a Masters in Management at a top London business school and exploring the Tech sector working in Business Development working for a NASDAQ listed large US corporate which I left to try my hand starting a Tech co but unfortunately this didn’t work out.
    I love the Startup world and discovering VC want to use my experience to date (including Finance/Ops) and just wondered if I could get your thoughts? Do you think the MBA necessary? What else should I focus on / do / learn if anything? How feasible do you feel it is as a career transition?

    1. I think it’s going to be very difficult to win a VC Associate role at this point because they normally want people with 2-3 years of work experience, not 15+ years. See:

      There’s an outside chance you might be able to win a role as a post-MBA Associate, but you’d probably need to hide or downplay your work experience. You would have a better chance advancing in finance or operational roles at startups or other companies. The fact that the VC industry is also much smaller in Europe also makes things more difficult (this transition would be more feasible in Asia or the US).

  21. Hi Brian: Extremely helpful post – thanks for doing this! I am an MBB consultant with 4 years of post-MBA experience (Associate Partner / Principal role) with focus on Financial Institutions (incl cap markets) and Private Equity. I did my MBA at a top business school in the US where I figured my passion for Finance. However, for visa reasons I decided to go back to consulting for a few years. Is it too late to apply for IB roles in BB firms? Are there ways to accelerate the career if the entry level is Associate and you join with significant MBB experience? Thanks!

    1. You could apply to BB firms, but your chances aren’t great if you already have 4 years of post-MBA experience. However, you might have a decent shot at FIG and FSG groups because of your experience, so maybe focus on those groups, including at smaller banks with strong presences. They’ll probably still have you join as a 2nd year Associate or something similar.

  22. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for providing the informative article! I have a question. I am 31 years old and currently a contractor within operations in a wealth management firm. I do not have any prior finance experience prior to this contract role nor an MBA. I spent my 20s in unrelated fields. Would you recommend I seek a Corporate Treasury or Corporate Development role for the future? What would be the best finance path and highest position I could reach with my current background? Or do you think I would need grad school to smooth things over.


    1. You would probably need an MBA at this point to have the best chance at moving into a front-office role. Corporate finance roles are realistic, but they’re also not exactly “front office” because they’re considered more of a support function. For client/investment-facing roles, an MBA is probably the best bet.

  23. Thanks Brian. I am 29 and have a Masters in Engineering and do not necessarily want to move into IB. I guess that ship has sailed already for me. However I have been strongly developing a passion for finance since the past 2 years. I have currently a 3.5 years experience in Engineering.

    I work with one of the largest fmcgs in Europe and have potentially an opportunity to move from my current role into a Finance role. I have been contemplating cfa level 1 to get my basics before moving into the finance role within my organization. And maybe couple of years down the line get an MSc in Finance in the EU.

    Would you say moving into an F,P&A role would be a good choice? What would you say about having a finance role in an fmcg? Would that be a nice gateway into banking?

    1. Moving into a finance or FP&A role will take you closer to finance, but those are typically not good pathways into IB. Realistically, you would probably need an MBA to make the transition at this point. FP&A roles are “fine,” but can be kind of boring and have limited pay, depending on the company. They’re more of a slow grind than IB, where you stay for decades and try to advance to the top.

  24. Hi, great article on people who want to pursue this discipline and how to build-up on the same. I am a 36 year old man, with 2 bachelors (Commerce & Economics and Electrical & Electronics Engineering). I used to be a trader in public market for 8 years before I decided to pursue engineering and the reason to do so is because I wanted to break into PE or Quant Hedge Fund. I’m more interested in PE, as I read through your previous articles, where PE skills allows you to add value to the company you are working on throughout and the process is more visible. I’m from India and does this age factor also spills over to PE? I’m currently working in a tech company but want to end up dealing and building companies (tech companies). Any Advice. I do not mind going back to grad school for MBA or MS Finance, which paves for this role.
    Thank you

    1. If your goal is to work in PE *in* India, it’s going to be incredibly difficult because there are very few positions there and they mostly want bankers and Big 4 professionals. If your goal is to build tech companies, you should probably stick to that and work in management roles at tech companies. An MBA in another country might help you marginally, but it would still be challenging to get into IB/PE with the amount of experience you already have. I think you’re better off staying at normal companies and moving up there.

  25. Hey Brian. Lovely work here.
    Please am conflicted on how to move forward and make the very best option that will help me grow big with huge pockets of course. Am a graduate of Accounting and Am very passionate about finance (investment banking, corporate finance, investment firms) etc i hope to own a hedge fund or investment firm. Please what next do i do. What path do i Take and what courses do i do? Am 21years old. Thank you

    1. Am also very passionate about programming php, JavaScript, larvel etc.

      Can i merge Accounting/ Finance and Programming In any way? Thanks for your reply in anticipation sir!

      1. One option is to work for a quant fund or do accounting/finance/programming work at a fintech. I don’t think PHP or JavaScript are too relevant for most accounting/finance roles because those are more for web development, while roles in finance that use programming skills, such as quant funds and trading, tend to use other languages that are more geared toward data analysis (or older languages like C and C++ for added efficiency when trade execution speed matters).

      1. Thanks brian. I appreciate !!!

  26. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the post here. Very insightful! Would love to hear your opinion on my plan to get in at the Associate level at a mid- to small-cap bank

    I have 10 years of experience after graduating from Econ undergrad @ CAL
    – 1 year at a boutique called ROTH Capital doing PIPEs / Follow-ons
    – 2.5 years of muni financing at CITI’s municipal investment banking division
    – 4.5 years at a B2B SaaS startup (Emergence backed) doing Business Ops, Corp FP&A, and Sales Finance
    – 3 years as Sales Finance leader at Mulesoft then VMware

    Appreciate your thoughts.


    1. I don’t know, I think you might have too much experience to start at the Associate level. You’ve already worked as an Analyst, then switched to tech for ~7 years, and now you want to move back to IB… maybe? I think it could potentially work at a tech-focused boutique or something else that matches your story, but you’re still probably going to get objections over having too much experience. It seems like it would be easier to move up in corporate development at a tech company.

  27. Hi Brian,

    I am a soon to be 34 year old, leaving the US Army joining after I obtained my MBA from a non-target school. I am looking to work in M&A deals either on the IB, PE or corporate side; alternatively in asset or HF management. However, I do not have any direct prior experience. Previously, I was helping my small family business in healthcare (less than 10 employees) and then a 2 year MBA internship with a venture capital advisory covering TMT out in Texas before having to return to support my parents’ struggling health business. I eventually joined the army out of interest in serving and to help with my large student debt load but now I will be leaving this summer after 2 years working as an Infantry officer. I am very capable from sales to analysis and work ethic but I am wondering if I might have missed the boat to work in finance due to my age?

    I am thinking my situation would be better suited trying apply for associate level position in healthcare and TMT coverage at:

    1) Boutique & Middle Market IB;
    2) Small Asset Management Firm;
    3) Small PE Firm;
    4) Corporate Development;

    My minimum goal is to provide for my family through this once in a lifetime downturn but my aspirational goal is to establish a career that can lead me to be a professional c-suite executive (CFO/CEO) at a Fortune 500 or establish my own successful PE or asset management shop.

    What are your thoughts and any suggestions or comments? It would be much appreciated, thank you!

    1. I think it will be somewhat challenging due to your age, but it depends on how well you can “hide” your full work experience. If you can make it look like you only have 3-5 years of real work experience outside the army, you might be able to do it. If anything, AM and PE will be more difficult, so you should focus on IB at first and then CD as a Plan B. There are some tips on getting in from a non-target MBA after the military here:

      1. Thank you Brian, this was helpful.

  28. Hello. Is there a website where I can read about all available deals at any given moment? I love reading about deals, but I have only had the opportunity to do so as a part of my work. How can I read more about deals independent of my employment situation?

    1. There is no single site that lists all M&A or other deals. The best source is Capital IQ if you have a subscription. Otherwise, the NYT DealBook covers large/significant deals, and some industry-specific publications do as well (see the articles on different industry groups here for recommendations).

  29. Hi Brian! Been reading you for years – since I started my Finance career and since before we knew the man behind the internet-famous M&I :) Thanks for the decade of advice! I am 30 now and still in a junior Sales support role at a Bulge-Bracket, which I’ve decided to leave.I got into a Top-Tier school to study developing economies. CV-wise, I have zero transaction/deal experience and am not strong in Math/Quant. I feel that I have great potential, but can’t seem to land in the right role in Finance where I feel I’m part of the action. Do you think with my background I have a solid chance at breaking into Impact Investing? What is the most lucrative position I can shoot for where my talents in relationship management, languages, and ability to execute would be best placed? And how can I best spend the six months lead-up to school to pursue this?

    1. Well, what is your goal? Just impact investing? If so, it’s going to be very difficult without some type of transaction/deal experience. If by “top-tier school” you mean an MBA program, then you should read:

      See also:

      One path is to complete a pre-MBA internship, work at a large bank in IB, and then move on.

      If you don’t want to do that, another option is to go for roles like investor relations, the private placement groups, or capital markets that are “softer” than some roles and require fewer technical skills but higher communication/relationship skills.

      1. Thanks so much Brian for the speedy response! My goal is definitely impact investing but I’m also open to working on infrastructure/agriculture deals in emerging/frontier markets as well. I’m close to landing a private equity/investment banking pre-MBA internship in China which would give me hopefully some deal experience in an emerging economy; but I am also considering volunteering in South Africa to network and prove my interest in impact investing. Which one would you recommend that would get me closer to where I want to be?

        1. Do the PE/IB pre-MBA internship because that will help more than volunteer work. They still want people who understand deals and have deal experience even in impact investing.

          1. Thanks so much for the pointers Brian! Looking forward to more personal writing from you as well :)

  30. Hi Brian, I have an undergrad degree in electrical engineering. I worked for several years at different organizations where I became the top sales person at each one. However, it was apparent that I was not passionate about the path I was on, so I went back to school and obtained a second undergrad degree in finance and graduated with a 4.0. Upon graduation, I was accepted into a top 25 MBA program. I participated in the investment banking academy at the school and unfortunately the market had been hit hard by the mortgage-backed security crisis, so I took an internship in corporate development in Atlanta, where I participated in several deals. From there, I navigated my way into a startup and became the CFO of a tech startup. However, despite the fact that several deals we looked at made sense, we could never pull the trigger and it became apparent that we were spinning our wheels. That said, I am 40 years old and passionate about deals. All I do is read about deals, model for fun, follow the stock market, etc., and that will never change. I hate that I have taken this path b/c all I want to do is investment banking and run deals. Any suggestions here? Should I pursue corporate development in another company, or is there any shot at getting into an investment bank at this point?

    1. I think it will be very difficult to get into IB at this point because they wouldn’t know where to put you. Not impossible, but probably not worth the time and effort unless you really want to go back to long hours at this stage of your life. Your two best options are:

      1) Stay in corporate development and try to move to a more active company that does more deals. Fortune 100 firms are almost always a better bet than startups when it comes to corp dev.

      2) Maybe aim for boutique investment banks that want people who know deals and care less about how old you are or how much experience you have. There are some definite disadvantages (see:, but you can win offers there without having followed a specific path.

  31. Hi Brian, I’m currently 3rd yr Ivy HBA at Western in London Ont. Have been focused on finance since gr 10. Ideal career wud be M&A or IB. Location most likely Toronto. Competition is top tier of course and landing those key summer intern opportunities have small odds. Cud u suggest a best path in to a career in that area.
    Also, I have always planned to come back for an MBA at Ivey within 5 yrs as a big picture career strategy. Does that still have value in M&A and IB?

    1. Given the small size of the IB market in Canada, your best option is to recruit for roles in the US or UK/Europe because there are so many more openings there. Otherwise, it’s the same as always: win internships early on, earn high grades, network, etc. If you don’t get into IB at first, go for related roles like corporate finance, corporate banking, or the Big 4 firms.

      MBAs generally don’t help much in Canada because there’s less Associate recruiting at that level. An MSF may help if you use it to recruit in other countries.

  32. Avatar
    Stanley Oakes

    Hi Brian

    Thanks for your article. I was wondering if you could tell me if I have a chance or not of breaking into IB given my current situation and if so, how.

    24 y/o, Chemistry BSc (semi target), place for Econ MSc (semi target), unrelated work + volunteering experience abroad, can speak English and Mandarin. I have no internships and feel as though I’m too old to even get on one (though maybe I’m not). I’ve not applied to anything yet but I’m pretty keen to do this MSc for my own interest and it’s a 2 year course as my previous field is unrelated, so I would be 26 by the time I’m done.

    1. If you can get into a top Master’s program and do something like Finance instead, and you can win internships before/during the program, you might have a shot. But without one or both of those, your chances aren’t great currently. It is plausible to win off-cycle internships after you’ve already graduated:

      But it depends on how much time and effort you want to put in. You could potentially win non-IB finance roles such as corporate finance at normal companies with much less effort.

      1. Avatar
        Stanley Oakes

        Okay thanks for getting back to me. What about Computer Science MSc, would that make much difference + internship whilst studying? Was thinking this would give me more options should this fall through + I’d stand a better chance of hitting distinction level.

        1. I don’t think a Master’s in CS is a great if you want to pursue pure IB roles because the first question in any interview will be: “Are you sure you don’t want to be a quant or work at a tech company?” The specific field matters more at the Master’s level than at the undergrad level.

          I would do this only if you actually want to do something more quantitative or consider non-finance roles like programming/project management.

      2. Avatar
        Stanley Oakes

        Hi Brian. Thanks for your response. Grateful to get more of an insight into networking. What about computer science MSc + internship whilst studying? Would that make much difference. I’d probably rather do this as I think it leaves me with more options if IB doesn’t work out.

  33. Hi brian,
    I am a 25 year old with a BEd in Early Childhood and primary education. I took a liking to the course but it wasn’t the path I wanted for myself. I’ve always wanted to study Finance and now that I have absolute control over my life I would like to change my career path and work on becoming a financial planner. Where should I start? How should I start? What are the things I need to know? What short courses do you recommend?
    I look forward to your response.

  34. Hi Brian,

    I am a 32 year old commercial banker, I’ve worked in credit and credit risk management for 9 years and I am currently pursuing my EMBA at one of the Ivys. I am hoping to break into PE or even Private Debt investing. Not sure if i’m too old or if it’s even possible. Would I be better off looking to try to break into Corp.Development? Or should I be looking to try and land an associate role at one of these firms?


    1. I think it will be extremely difficult to get into PE from commercial banking, even with a top MBA in between. You might have a somewhat better shot at private debt, but even there it’s challenging because you’ll be up against people with deal experience in IB/PE. I’m not sure corporate development would be much easier.

      Your best bet is probably to use the MBA to win a DCM or LevFin role at a large bank and then go from there.

  35. Avatar
    Post MBA guy

    Hi Brian, I finished my MBA last year in one of top schools and am working in a boutique M&A consulting firm. The work scope in the this firm is too wide. It includes all the pre-M&A preparation, transaction advising and post-close integration works. I would like to narrow down my work scope to transaction advisory so I want to get into IB as an associate. Would it be too hard?

    1. In general, it’s quite difficult to move into an IB Associate role as a post-MBA lateral hire no matter how close your work experience is. So… yes, maybe you could do it, but I think it would still be quite difficult at the largest banks. You might be able to target smaller firms that are in need of Associates and that care less about pedigree and more about skills.

  36. Brian,

    Thanks for this article.

    I’m 31yrs old. Spent my 20s in an unrelated field.

    I’m in my last two semesters of undergrad with a business minor and am looking to start a finance MBA next summer in Kansas City where I’m currently located. Originally a New Yorker and I’m interested in breaking into FP&A (or whichever field like it will have me) in an institution like Goldman. Do I even have a shot at a summer associate internship? Should I be looking to try to get into a top tier B-school instead?

    1. I think you need to clarify/narrow down what you want to do first. “FP&A” is a role within corporate finance at normal, non-finance companies, where you make budgets, projections, and manage the company’s internal finances. Working at Goldman Sachs is completely different and involves advising external clients and charging them fees instead. Please see:

  37. Hi Brian,

    Great write up and apt responses from you.

    Am 42 years and have 18 years of commercial banking experience. I spent the last 12 years doing international funding where i have closed deals of over $5bn for the bank. I am also fully involved with Investor Relations. I have a degree in Engineering, an MBA and MSc in Financial Management from Edinburgh Business School. I became a CFA charter holder last year.

    Am really interested in switching to IB with particular interest in corporate finance. I have tried various applications but not got any serious interview. Am based in Lagos but wouldn’t mind getting my desired job outside my location.

    Your advice will be appreciated.

    1. I think it will be exceptionally difficult to move into a pure IB role if you have 18 years of experience in a different field. Your best bet might be to aim for corporate banking roles instead, since they’re much closer to commercial banking, and then maybe find a bank with combined IB and CB divisions and see if you can move into a position there.

  38. Hi Brian,

    Just found your website earlier today and I’m impressed with how transparent and extensive all of this information is. I graduated from a top-tier liberal arts institution in 2014, currently 27 years old. As for my work experience, I have ~2 years in PR (couple different firms) and 2 years in sales at a startup. I’ll be honest, my primary interest in any sort of finance role would definitely be tied to the potential upside with income. Still trying to figure out where my skill set would be best suited within the industry, but interested to hear your opinion on what navigating that career shift might be like. I’ve done some networking through alumni connections with people in the industry who seem perfectly willing to help me get in front of people, but they can of course only do so much. Any insight here is appreciated.

    1. To have a realistic shot at investment banking at this stage, you will probably need a top MBA. Four years of experience in unrelated fields is too much to just make a lateral move into the industry. Outside of IB, your next-best option might be to do sales at a VC-backed or PE-backed company and then use that to move into more of a strategy/finance role and then eventually join the firm in an investing role.

      You could also apply to banks for non-IB roles, especially ones that are relevant to sales, such as wealth management, but I’m not sure you want to do that.

  39. Hi Brian,
    I am 31 years old with close to 8 years work experience in Finance in London – Worked my way up from Back office – read Ops and Technology to joining the investments desk of the Bank’s Pension Fund (courtesy CFA, whilst navigating the visa hurdle alongside)
    Moving to the US this summer to pursue a full time MBA from a Top School (One of the Ivy’s) with an aim to break into Investment Banking – interested in restructuring and distressed investments.
    Would I be considered too old / over qualified ? How would you suggest the best way to go about this?

    Thank you very much.

    1. No, I don’t think you would be considered too old, especially since you already have finance experience and are not making a career change in from a completely unrelated field. See all our coverage of the MBA-level recruiting process in investment banking – you need to start networking months before the program begins, contact alumni, and also start the interview preparation process early. A pre-MBA internship might also help if you can find one at this stage.

      1. Thank you very much Brian. Have started networking and working on my technicals – will be getting the BIWS modelling package soon. Having worked in a big bank – operations, tech, risk and investments, I feel I am best suited to target the FIGS group. I have read your post re FIGS being super specialized and hard to break out ( I haven’t made up my mind re PE). Nonetheless, I don’t feel I am suited/interested in other areas such as Mining, Oil & Gas, Tech etc. I have an interest in restructuring (distressed etc) but I believe the recruitment is relatively low compared to other areas. So playing the odds, it appears FIGS is my best bet and I believe it’s best to have a targeted approach rather than being sector/product agnostic which may make one look ambivalent in the eyes of the bankers. Just wanted to get your thoughts on my approach – am I missing something here or just looking at this completely the wrong way ?

        1. At the MBA level, you almost always need an industry specialization, so I think focusing on FIG is a good bet for your background. The only issue is that it’s more difficult to move into non-FIG areas afterward, and there aren’t too many PE firms focused on the sector because of technical/regulatory issues. But at the post-MBA level, it tends to be very difficult to move into PE anyway, so I’m not sure this point matters too much. If you get tired of it, you can always go into corporate development or corporate finance at a financial institution or go to a fintech startup or something like that.

  40. Hi

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

    1. As I said in response to your other comment: I need more information. What is your work experience? Academic background? Location?

  41. Hi Brian,

    Thank you for the article. I am 30year old with an MBA and BS in Econ and Math. I have about 4 years of work experience. Started out in entrepreneurship out of undergrad then moved to work in financial regulations, development finance and now work as a management consultant with the strategy group at a big 4 for over a year now

    Got my first deal experience while interning at a top development finance institution and loved the type of work. I decided to do management consulting early because I wanted to get the training and operations/Strategy experience from a top consulting firm then pivot into PE/VC. Do you think I have any chance of breaking into IB or PE/VC? My long term goal is to get into PE or VC


    1. I think you might have a chance at IB. The others would be tougher because you normally need to do IB first for PE, and for VC, you need some kind of background in tech, biotech, energy, or other industries that VCs usually invest in.

      1. Hi Brian thank you for your response. Are there any particular Investment Banks I should be targeting giving my background? Also what are your thoughts on going the Corporate Development route with a large company firm. I already read your article on this topic. A recruiter reached out to me via LinkedIn for corporate development role at Microsoft. Just did my phone screen last week and awaiting next steps. Should I focus more on going the IB route?

        1. Try to find banks that focus on industries aligned with your work experience (so, maybe financial institutions-focused firms or groups or business services/consulting-focused ones).

          As far as corporate development, it can be a good option if you simply want to work on deals and earn more money. But if your long-term goal is PE, corporate development is not the best option because it’s already insanely hard to get into PE coming from IB at a top bank, let alone coming from corporate development. So if you are 100% set on PE, you should probably hold out for an actual IB role instead of aiming for corporate development.

  42. Hi Brian,
    I am an MBA finance, 35+ yrs of age, with 7 years of experience in a BPO updating the data base with financial information and CRM for 2 years. What would you advise me to do now as I have had a gap of 8 years off work , but doing some freelance work (nothing finance related) and still optimistically looking for a job in a city which is mainly oil and gas, logistics, and finance Roles in which I can’t fit . Thanks

    1. I don’t know, I would need more information to give you advice. What is your goal? Which region/city are you in? What does your past education/work experience look like? Not sure I understand what you mean by 7 years of experience but also a gap of 8 years.

  43. Hi Brian

    I am a VP at a BB investment bank based in the middle east (spent several years in London).

    Is it too late to break into PE / growth equity back in London? I’m looking for something smaller rather than traditional large cap PE.

    What should my next move be ?

    1. You can potentially do it, but it’s going to be an uphill battle because you’re already at the VP level, and your experience in the Middle East will be “discounted” if you move back to London or NYC or another major financial center and try to recruit there. I would recommend following the steps outlined here – it’s targeted at Associates but applies to VPs as well:

      1. Thanks Brian.

        If I am interested in distressed control / turnaround PE would you recommend a lateral to a restrucing shop or restructuring consultant to help my chances, given my level?

        If so, which would be preferable?

        1. If you have no previous restructuring experience, yes, moving to a restructuring group or bank or turnaround consulting firm would help your chances.

          1. Hi Brian –

            I’m a 36 year old transactional lawyer who works at a top 10 firm in NYC. Prior to law school I worked at a private family office in acquisitions for 4 years and got a CFA. I am interested in transitioning to PE. Do I have a shot?


          2. Maybe? Probably not at the mega-funds, but maybe at smaller/newer firms, especially ones that use strategies where legal knowledge is more important (such as distressed).

  44. Hi Brian,

    I’m 38, have an undergraduate degree in Engineering and used to work in corporate finance / investment banking in the middle east for the past 10 years. I recently moved to the states and was looking to do the MBA at tier 2 university in order to get into the IB field and build network. what are my chances?

    1. If you complete it at a tier 2 university, not great, because MBA-level recruiting is even more biased toward target schools. If you do it at a top school, you have a decent chance if you can somehow downplay your age/level of experience a bit.

  45. Hi Brian,

    Great Article. Hope you can give me some advice.

    I am 31 years old with an engineering degree from a top-3 US engineering university, and an MBA from a top-10 Indian B-School (which I got with no work-ex). Post my MBA I have been working in corporate strategy in life insurance in India at a Fortune Global 100 company, and have in the process accumulated 7 years of work-ex. I am now looking to shift to North America and break into a IB role.

    Firstly is that an achievable target for me. And secondly with the H1B problems, would it be better for me to do a second MBA from a school like Rotman to shift to Canada, or still pursue a US degree.


    1. I think it will be extremely difficult to move to North America and also move into investment banking if you already have an MBA and significant work experience. You should try tackle one of those at a time… so focus on a move to North America first (which shouldn’t be that difficult if it’s a global Fortune 100 company) and then think about the transition into IB.

      A second MBA in the US or Canada might help if it lets you take advantage of the OPT program to stay without applying for an H1B, but I’m not 100% certain how well works or if it works at all at the MBA level. But you may also get strange reactions from banks if you present yourself as having multiple MBAs.

      Overall, you should focus on the switch to North America first and then think about finance roles once you’re there. A second MBA would be expensive and might not pay off.

  46. Hello Brian, thanks for your excellent blog and your research done, I am 38 years old, 10+ years off experience around finance in Latam and Spain, first in banking (Treasury analyst roles), then in a butique on Equity Research and now in a Financial consultancy (Treasury and market risks), I got a master in Industrial Engineering and now I am at the end off a Corporate Finance master top ranked here in Madrid but no really known in the international arena, so first I want to ask you for my exit opportunities to PE, IB or M&A you will consider in my case, and finally I want to ask you for some advices about the best way here in Europe to find recruiters or to find job opportunities to apply, I am using linkedin but not really sure how to improve my search for it.

    1. I think it will be tough to move directly into IB/PE with that much experience. Probably your best move is to join the corporate finance or corporate development team of a PE-owned portfolio company and then try to move over to PE from there. You can use LinkedIn to find these types of companies and search for individuals at them, but always use email to contact them because no one checks their LinkedIn messages. It’s useful for finding names and companies, but not for actually contacting people.

      1. Hello M&I,
        with almost similar profile as that of Will, how difficult will it to break into risk related roles like credit, market or finiacial risk. Or will I have a better shot at consulting or asset management. I have 10+ As reinsurance Analyst for a top reinsurer, treasury for top 4 French IB, and a FP&A in start up reinsurer. I have worked both India and HK.
        Thank you

        1. Those are all completely different fields, so you should narrow down what you want to do first. You probably have a better chance at risk roles than the others because it’s difficult to enter consulting or asset management past a certain experience level.

          1. Thank you this is spefically what I was looking for. My first priority of get into risk roles. So I ll focus on stats and econometrics related subjects in my masters.

  47. Hi Brian,

    Thanks so much for the informative articles. I know you have answered lots of inquiries but I was hoping you’d answer one more. I’m 29 and have an undergraduate degree in Law (Hons) and five years experience as a university lecturer in law. I’m tired of academia and won’t progress without completing a PhD. As such, I’m considering a career change. I was thinking of undertaking a Masters of Commerce with a major in quantitative finance with the University of Sydney. I’ll be 31 on graduation. With this profile do you think I could secure an associate role at a top IB in Asia?

    1. It would be tough unless you also get closely related work experience and apply for roles outside of Australia. The AU market is too small and nepotistic and has little tradition of hiring from Master’s/MBA programs. So, go overseas (ideally the US or UK for much bigger markets), apply for a top Master’s program, and get work experience beforehand. At this point you will probably need an MBA instead of a Master’s because you have 5 years of work experience.

  48. Hi. Great article
    I’ve turned 31 now and have around 9 years experience in industry as an international salesman.
    I completed my mba and also recently did a CISI qualification entry level in derivatives

    Despite that i can’t seem to get even an interview for roles across commodities or equities or operations in front or back office at any IB.

    I’m keen to break into a career in IB especially as I’m still relatively young.
    What would you suggest i do?

    1. I would recommend one of the alternatives presented in this article instead of going for IB roles. 9 years of experience makes you over-qualified for entry-level roles in IB, so it will be difficult to move in.

      If you have international sales experience, find a PE or VC portfolio company that needs salespeople, work there, try to do more finance-related work, and then ask about a role at the PE/VC firm eventually.

  49. Brian,

    I graduated college after my fall semester of 2016 and I began working for an AI tech startup in their business analytics and business development team. I did it because they offered me a great options package, decent salary, it’s soon to go public and AI is soon to be dominant. I graduated from a top 5 business school, majored in Finance/Accounting, and I interned at a boutique IB firm during my summer after junior year.

    My question is this. Would I be able to apply for a IB job in a tech group? Is it too early for me to do this after I’ve only worked here for 6 months? Truth is, I enjoy the work I am doing here, but I would rather do the classic finance/valuation work that I studied during my time at business school. Apologies for the long question.

    1. I think it would be very difficult to do that unless you apply to smaller firms (tech boutiques) and come up with a great story for why you did not go into IB right out of school after completing an IB internship. And I don’t know what that story would be.

      1. Would it be better to not even mention it me working here? Truthfully, I wanted to take a risk in an upcoming field I knew little about, but after months of working I feel like my strengths lie in finance and it would be a better suited culture for me.

        1. You have to mention something about it, as it would look even worse to say that you graduated months ago and haven’t been working.

          1. Thank you for answering and I feel as if I have a great story. I’ll make it happen.

  50. Brian, is it possible to get straight into PE (skipping IB at BB stage)? I am pre-penultimate non target uni student with a small PE internship for the upcoming summer lined up. Do you reckon I can secure PE internship at one of the top PE firms when I am penultimate student and go straight into PE after graduation? Thanks

    1. Please see my response in the other place where you asked this same question

  51. Hi Brian,

    I am 51 with a Liberal Arts degree (Social Sciences) and I work in Special Education. I want to transition into regulatory compliance with a global bank. I am all set to take ACAMS exam. Although I have no banking or finance experience, I’ve been brought in for interviews. Am I too old and too late for this space?

    1. For regulatory compliance, you might be able to do it. But probably not for traditional client-facing roles.

  52. Avatar
    Callam bell

    Hi Brian,

    I am currently in a degree apprenticeship in the IT industry but have discovered the finance industry is where I want to work long term. I previously studied Law at university but it didn’t work out for numerous reasons. I have spoken to various universities about post graduate courses but due to my degree being tailored to my programme no school can give me a definitive answer whether I am eligible. Do you believe it is worth leaving my apprenticeship to start a banking and finance degree? I am slightly worried if I do this and I fail my degree I am left with no career options. Also do you know whether if I was to do qualifications such as CISI or CFA level 1 that would add weight to my application ? I will finish my current programme when I am about to become 23. Is that then too old to start a finance related degree part time to then get into banking and by this time I will have a a professional qualification such as PRINCE2 and would this count against me? Thanks.

    1. If you don’t yet have full-time work experience, you can do this. I can’t say whether you’re eligible for that specific program or whether it’s worth it to leave the apprenticeship, but you can get into banking if you have not yet worked full-time anywhere.

  53. Hi Brian,
    Very interesting read.
    I hold a BSc and a MSc in Energy Engineering at a top European University. Did a 6-months internship before returning to uni for the Master. After graduating in 2013 I started to work as Energy analyst for the European Union (Brussels/Beijing -1.5 years) and after that I got my first finance-related job, a Market analyst position with a research/advisory firm focused on the oil markets (Geneva, less than 2 years). I loved working in this field because it merges my field of study (Energy) with my biggest passion (Finance). I am now aiming to work on a larger scale and break into Sales&Trading (commodities desk) at some IB in London. In September I returned to study and started a Master in Finance at a top European business school. I got few offers for internships in Sales&Trading at BB banks (through campus recruitment), and I will soon have an interview for an Associate role in a MM bank (through careers website). I will soon be finished with the Master (I will be almost 30 by then) and would like to start in a full-time role.
    So, I have a few doubts/questions: should I target an Internship and (hopefully) turns it into a FT analyst role and pursue my career goals from there, or should I start as an Associate at a smaller IB? If I start as an analyst level, this will translate in a pay-cut from my current level (swiss salary)? Do I have some possibility to start as an Associate in Sales&Trading for a BB or other bank and would networking help in this case?
    I know that my age and previous experience don’t help, and at the same time starting again as an analyst feels like a step backward in my professional growth.
    If you have some tips/ideas they would be much appreciated. Thank you very much in advance for your time!

    1. 1) It’s better to target an internship at a large bank and turn it into a FT role.

      2) Yes, you will probably take a pay cut if you start out at the Analyst level instead.

      3) You probably won’t start as an Associate unless you have an MBA degree.

      1. Thank you very much for your reply.
        Everything pretty clear. Just one thing, is an MBA necessary even for Sales&Trading?
        When I decided to go back to school a year ago I initially considered an MBA program, but then I was advised by a Director working in the Trading division (for a BB bank in Zurich) to do an advanced Master of Finance instead. This was because they have no MBAs in their division, and in my case studying finance would have been a better choice. He didn’t mention the level (Analyst/associate) at which I would have been able to start, just that an MBA would have not made any difference.
        After your reply I am wondering if I took a wrong choice back then, and if doing so limited my possibilities to get into IB. Thank you

        1. No, an MBA is not required for sales & trading. Something more technical is a better choice, so the Director was right. Yes, you did limit yourself for IB roles a bit since they normally only take experienced candidates if they are completing an MBA.

          1. Thanks a lot Brian. I should have asked this question here a long ago..
            Keep doing the great job, I love this website and all of your articles.

  54. Hello Brian,

    I am currently in off-shore medical school and i am not happy with pursuing medicine in general. I want to break into Finance (IB/PE/VC) because i know my true passion lies in it. I wanted to ask your advice on how would that be possible for me? I dont have a bachelors degree – the medical school i was accepted in only needed a diploma in science. I cant pursue MBA because (again), i dont have a Bachelors. I wasted a few years before i got on to the med school path. So I am currently 25 years old and want to break into Finance. What would you advice?

    1. Not sure about that one. Maybe look into fields like real estate or something sales-related where the lack of a formal degree doesn’t matter. It would be tough to get into finance without a BS (not sure I have seen an example of it before).

  55. Hello Brian

    Currently I am a relationship banker at chase bank with 5 years of experience. I recently started school at a decent university in the Chicagoland area. when I am done with my BA in business administration I will be 30 years old with 10 years of retail banking experience. I also have my series 6,63, and life and health. My question would be how hard is it to get a investment banking position with this background? And would it be hard to transfer within my company and go from the chase retail side to the JPMorgan side? Also since I am not going to a top university would that effect me negatively?


    1. You’re not likely to get into IB with that background because you have too much work experience (and you are not going to a top university). You would have to get an MBA to have a realistic shot, or you would have to go for some other type of role such as the ones described above.

      1. Thank you for the feedback!

        I do have some additional questions. What if I transfer to a top school and received my BA with them? Would that help my situation enough to have a shot? And what if I had a masters from a top school as well? Would investment banks look past my work history even if I am 32 at the time?

        What would be your recommendation for me to go into investment banking?

        Thank you for your time and advice!

        1. None of that matters if you have 10-15 years of work experience. An MBA is your only shot at that point, and even then, it’s tough. My advice is to not worry so much about IB – if you are ambitious and hard-working enough to get in, you can earn a lot in plenty of other ways (real estate, your own business, sales, go to a tech company, etc.).

  56. Avatar
    Daniel Oluwole


    I wanted to say your videos are fantastic and you have helped me a lot in improving my knowledge and application in investment banking! I was even fortunate to gain a investment course through your CV template! I’m going to start university this October in a non-target school. I will be 22 when I start and will graduate around 25/26. I have had around 2 years of experience in consulting and finance roles.

    After reading
    Do you think it is too late to break into investment banking in an analyst role?

    Thanks once again,

    Daniel Oluwole

    1. Thanks, glad to hear it. You’re not too old for an IB analyst role as long as you go into it directly upon graduation.

  57. What qualifications do I need to take the series 63 exam?
    Will taking the exam and passing it give me a better shot at investment banking? His long is the 63 license active for if you remain unemployed?

  58. Hi Brian. I have about 7 years commercial banking experience-back office. Managed a branch in the process. I have also worked in an audit firm and in the budgeting unit of a manufacturing firm. I am a CPA and have 2 graduate degrees-one in Economics, the other in International Trade. (Both non-targets, the former in US and the other in the UK). I am 38. How do I break into the US Financial space?

  59. Avatar
    Tyrone Thorpe

    Guess that means with my struggle to get expeirence and my age, even with the degrees (B.S. Finance and MBA) I’m pretty much done. That’s hella crazy, as I can’t see myself doing anything not related to finance or supply chain (not counting Accounting because accounting is mind-numbingly boring).

    So what’s left for a man in my position? I love financial analysis and supply chain analysis.

    1. Maybe try to move into corporate development or join a startup where supply chain analysis is essential, move into the finance department, and advance up the ranks there.

  60. Dear Brian,
    Thank you for the insights and advices. I graduated with a high 2:2 in an economics related degree from Oxbridge few years ago. Have since worked as a management trainee in a financial regulator role. Turning 25 this year and am going for an IB analyst role in a BB. I had always considered S&T instead of IB until early 2016 when I realised valuation was my thing- I got very excited learning how tech companies are valued in the US and in China. I took action by immediately taking an intensive IB course last month and have since been thinking about it. I perform well in my current role but this is not what I want.

    Will you shed some light on the 2 questions that always bother me please? I speak fluent English and Mandarin and have good people skills.

    1. I applied to S&T roles (online apps) without networking 2 years ago and that did not work. Given the financial downturn and that IB roles are getting laid these days, will contacting alumni and networking still work? Shall I focus on networking through alum BB analysts or shooting for the alum MDs directly through linkedin to score an interview? What is worse is there is no opening positions on all the BB websites now.

    2. In my case where most alums are in BBs and many boutiques in HK would not hire analysts with no experience, is going for BBs easier than boutiques?

    Thank you very much in advance.

    1. 1) Yes, networking can still work, but as you said it is always tougher to get in during a downturn when banks are cutting jobs. I would go for MDs directly to get the fastest results. The thing is, people still quit randomly all the time even with a horrible economy, so you can’t necessarily assume that no groups/firms are hiring even if the positions are not openly advertised.

      2) Yes, most likely. I also think there’s limited deal activity at boutiques in HK because it is more capital markets-focused there.

      1. Thanks Brian. Linkedined an alumus few days ago never thought he would reply asking for my cv so he can check with his team! No guarantee I understand. Thanks for letting us know that developing a thick skin is the key.

        On a side note, if they have people quitting randomly they will need someone with prior experiences, which I don’t, so the new hire can start right way. Is it a good idea to tell them at this point that “Although I do not have the exact experience I have blah blah” or assume they will know by reading my cv? If I leave it till they ask about it that might happen when I cannot answer one of their technical questions. Don’t want to screw up!

        Thanks again.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          I wouldn’t bring it up unless they ask.

          1. Got it. Thanks Nicole!

  61. Hmm.. I thought at least in Asia(including Japan & HK), lot of associate-level hires were between 30~35 y.o. Am I wrong?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Not necessarily, probably around 26-30

  62. I’m a mid-thirties associate with one year ib and two years corporate finance experience, currently in a small NY office of a mid tier European bank. Will I be too ods for a buy side switch in a few years? I’ll have a cfa and plan on networking at NYSSA targeting small HF or LO AM shops focusing on my industry.

    1. No, I don’t think buy-side firms care as much about your specific age as they do about your level of work experience. I think anything up to 4-5 years of work experience is probably fine, but beyond that it might get more difficult, especially if you’re at the VP level or beyond in banking.

  63. Avatar
    Kevin Swistowicz


    I am 29 currently work for a natural gas marketing company in the front office as a natural gas scheduler. I have a masters in energy trading and finance from Tulane, i have been out of grad school for almost four years. I have always been and now am growing more interested in moving to a position doing energy investment banking. So you do not think it is possible for someone of my age to land an analyst role at an energy investment bank.

    1. I think it would be tough without an MBA if you’ve already been working for 4 years, but you might be able to win an offer at an energy-focused boutique bank if you’re interested in that path. A lot of those places focus on private placements for E&P companies, though I’m not sure how active they are in the current environment.

  64. Hi Brian, thank you so much for this post. Do you think sending a relatively long cover letter (say close to 1 page) would be useful to explain why someone is looking to make a big jump at a late age?

    Many thanks

    PS: My background: MS Finance & CFA, equity research internship, then 4 years real estate investing in France — trying to get into equity AM or HF in UK).

    PPS: short stock pitches in your cover letter if you don’t have a trading account?

    1. Potentially, yes, but you still need to do a fair amount of networking before sending a cover letter like that. If you send it someone you don’t already know, it may not work well. It would also work better at small firms where they actually read cover letters. I wouldn’t list an entire stock pitch in your cover letter, but you can mention specific ideas you’ve had and offer to explain them in-person or over the phone.

  65. Dear Brian,
    This is a fantastic post and it will be great if you could share with me your thoughts on my experience.
    I graduated from a top master program in China, majoring in Quantitative Finance. I have worked in a small Hong Kong firm for almost 1.5yrs, focusing on pre-IPO advisory and has completed 2 IPO deals (one for a construction company and the other for a securities company). My responsibilities include performing an overall assessment on our client’s business prospects, strategic plans, financial position, funding requirements, following up with investors and helping to facilitate the investor diligence process and selecting banks for underwriting syndicates and assisting with allocation of deal economics.
    As I am approaching 30, will I still have a chance to break into IBD/PE/HF as analyst or associate given my experience? If yes, which of the above will be the most effective way for me to do so?
    Thank you very much for your kind advice.

    1. Thanks! I think if you’ve had only 1.5 years of work experience, yes, you can still get into IB as an analyst (the others would be tougher at this stage). I’m not sure they would hire you as an associate. To move over, you should start networking with bankers in ECM and other capital markets groups at banks and maybe consider syndicate teams at banks as well. I think it will be easier to win an offer in one of those groups, and then to move over to something else like M&A or an industry group. And if you’re already in HK, it should be easier to meet bankers in capital markets teams there.

  66. I don’t understand about the part accepting a reduction in pay. IBD/Banking in general pays at a level obscenely superior to other industries – at least in my country a first year analyst is earning the same as a manager (7-10 years experience) in Big 4, and earning triple the amount of a first-year at a normal graduate role in other industries, and that’s excluding the obscene bonus they get. Even if one were to accept a reduction in “rank” when moving in from other industries, there should generally still be a pay rise regardless.

    1. To clarify, that point mostly applies to people leaving VP-level jobs at companies, or Director-level jobs at large companies.

      Yes, investment banks pay a lot more than Big 4 firms and “Directors” there aren’t anywhere close in compensation.

      However, it’s a different story when it comes to big companies outside of professional services. A VP there could make millions or tens of millions when stock options are factored in. See:

      That’s admittedly an extreme example because of Facebook’s performance, but even at a more “normal” company, stock awards could be in the multiple hundreds of thousands per year, which is more than what Associates earn.

  67. Hi Brian if I do a masters a top target university in the UK and get a merit/distinction, will having a 2:2 in my undergraduate still hurt me?

    1. Banks greatly prefer at least a 2:1. A top Master’s program will help, but probably won’t completely offset that.

    2. Those top targets tend to ask for at least a 2:1 with universities like Oxbridge usually asking for a first.

      IMO (correct me if I’m wrong) getting into a finance masters programme at LSE or Oxbridge offsets a lot dramatically. At MBA level, that’s more London Business School.

      1. To add to this, bear in mind that getting into a target is no easy task. On top of academics, you need a good personal statement and more times than not a high GMAT score: at least a score in the 700s to guarantee that your application will be looked at more.

        Failing at that part time study at a target can help but bare in mind not all targets offer their finance programmes as a part time option.

        Just remember, your chances will improve with a target, but it won’t be a sure in.

        You get applicants who went to targets at undergraduate level with great A-levels who get rejected quite a lot.

        The credentials from a target you’ll get only help make you seem capable while networking.

  68. Morning Brian,

    Thanks for the awesome article, very well-written and informative. I currently work in the entertainment industry, broadcast media, as a Senior Financial Analyst FP&A role with a reputable company. I graduated in 2013 with a degree in economics, and have been thinking about making the switch from corporate FP&A to I Banking. The reason? I want to work on deals, mergers & acquisitions specifically, and my current profession doesn’t really offer that (it’s mostly cash flow forecasting, net working capital forecasting/analysis, etc).

    What is the best way to break into I banking/M&A WITHOUT doing a full-time MBA (can’t afford to rack up debt without having an income right now)?

    Other careers that interest me in finance:

    -Internal Corporate M&A


    1. At this stage, you would have to do some hardcore networking and aim for boutique banks to have a good shot at IBD roles. Another approach might be to join a valuation firm or Big 4 firm in the TAS or other group, and then use that experience to move to a bank. But it is still tough without an MBA, even though FP&A is more relevant than a lot of other careers. You could potentially go for large banks as well, but your chances would be higher at smaller places unless you have great connections there.

      I would also narrow down your future career options a bit because it will be tough to recruit for all of those at once. Focus on either IB or PE or ER, but not everything at once. And if one doesn’t work out, try one of the other options.

  69. Hi Brian,

    I started an undergraduate degree at the age of 27 at a target university in 2014 majoring in finance and accounting. Previously, I have been working in the service industry, which is completely unrelated to anything finance let alone investment banking.

    However, since attending university, I have participated in many national finance competitions centered around M&A and equity research, and have placed if not won these competitions in my country. I also have the required GPA/WAM for IB and recently completed a corporate finance internship overseas.

    While I returned to study in order to break into IB, I am realistic and pragmatic about my situation. So here is my question. Given that I am over the age of 25 with very little finance related experience relative to people of a similar age, should I even consider investment banking as even a possibility? Alternatively, would you recommend me to focus on other roles such operations/compliance rather than the traditional IB role?

    Mindful that you probably get thousands but any thoughts, comments and/or would be greatly appreciated! Thank you in advance.

    1. I think you can still pursue IB roles as long as you position yourself as a current undergraduate student. This issue of age is more about how many years it has been since you left school rather than how many years of work experience you have. But you’ll need to come up with some really good explanation of what you did before university and maybe find a way to “minimize” it on your resume/CV so that you look like any other student who began university in 2014.

      1. Thanks for the question Lee.M because that is essentially me. I graduate in November (Australia) and will be 30 at the time. I am currently going through the process of IB applications. Brian, I will let you know how it goes for future reference. If you don’t here from me it probably hasn’t been successful haha. Not for the lack of trying and certainly not due to the excellent interview guide.

        1. Sure, good luck with your applications! A new version of the interview guide is coming this year…

        2. Hey Rob. So may I ask what you do now, 4 years later? Not sure if you’ll get this message, but maybe it will notify your email or something? Cheers.

  70. How would the same age issue apply to trading/pm type roles at banks/hedge funds/prop firms?

    Say someone is in their mid 30s, with very good reasons why they did not go into a finance role when they were younger?

    Would a brand-name MBA help them assuming they could even get accepted into one?

    1. Yes, a brand-name MBA would help if you can get accepted to such a program. I still think it would be tough to explain why you didn’t get into trading earlier on, but you would probably have a better shot doing so at prop trading firms or at small/startup hedge funds. Banks do some recruiting out of MBA programs for trading roles, but they generally want either brand new graduates or experienced traders.

      1. Regarding getting into trading earlier on, does trading on the side count or do they prefer corporate experience in trading?

        1. Most places prefer corporate experience in trading, but your own trading account might work for some roles such as prop trading… the key is to get it substantiated and to be able to show audited results or they may not believe you.

          1. Thanks for the reply.

            Would it be correct to assume experience you get at a prop firm could help you move in more corporate roles, or would you be more or less constrained in a prop house?

          2. It would be more difficult to transfer into corporate roles. Possible, maybe, but a lot harder than staying in prop trading. You might still be able to do some S&T and hedge fund roles depending on the type of trading.

  71. Yes in Europe going into PE can be attainable with e technical scientific background (i.e. Hons in Physics from a top uni or a Ph.D in Chemistry/Medicine also from a top uni). However in all the cases I know they either did the CFA level 1, some free consulting whilst still studying and/or relevant internships.

    1. Thanks for adding that, interesting to hear.

  72. Hi Brian: Very Informative Article

    I have a question. I have been working in the commercial real estate finance sector for the past year five years since I graduated college in 2010. I have significant transaction experience with acquisition financing, refinances, new construction, and mezz debt placements on commercial real estate. I have worked with a large CMBS lender and one other specialized commercial real estate finance company. While I love this field, I also worry about the cyclical nature of commercial real estate. Therefore, I always want to have a backup plan in case of a downturn. Do you think this experience is relevant for more traditional investment banking roles? Or would have to go to grad school in order to make the change.

    1. Thanks! I don’t think it would help much with a traditional investment banking role because real estate is so specialized. It might potentially help with real estate private equity if you decide to go there in the future, but again, the industry would still be cyclical. If you want to make a big change outside of real estate, you would likely need grad school at this stage, at least if you want to stay in finance but do something non-RE-related. You could probably go to a real estate-related tech startup (for example) without that since they mostly just want industry experts.

      1. Thanks Brian. I guess I might consider Grad School here in the near future. I thought my lending, credit, underwriting, and analytical skills stemming from a wide range of deals would be sufficient to make the jump. But I definitely understand that working primarily on the real estate finance side is more specialized.

        1. In theory, they are, and they might work if you focus strictly on real estate investment banking groups… but I hesitate to say “Yes, definitely” because I can’t recall an example of someone actually moving out of real estate into IB after 5 years in it (at least not without an MBA first). So you probably do have some shot at RE / Lodging groups at banks, but it would still be tougher than moving into REPE.

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