The 11 ways to get your first job in an investment bank

Getting a job at an investment bank is easier said than done. A lot easier.

To start with, you might not even find any job postings to begin with. That’ll be the case if you’re applying to Morgan Stanley, which only hires entry level bankers from its own internship classes. Or you might find that you’re one of 300 applicants. That’ll be the case if you’re applying to Goldman Sachs.

There are ways to get into the hallowed halls of high finance, but it’s tough. We’ve made a list of your best options – but be warned, it is difficult.

1. Get an internship during your bachelor’s degree

This is the standard way of getting into investment banking. Secure an internship in your second year, do it in the summer, and start full-time after you graduate. Seems easy, right?

Wrong. It’s a pain. And you might actually have to start earlier than your second year – banks are putting more emphasis on “spring weeks”, week-long mini-internships during a student’s first year of study.

Luckily, we’ve mapped out the entire process (from diapers to dealmaking) here.

2. Get an internship during your master’s degree

It’s also worth mentioning that banks hire students studying for a master’s in finance, although it is more common in Europe than in the US.

Your best bet is to apply for the same internships targeted at bachelor’s students, just do it a year later. It’s not the best way to go about things, but it’s better than missing out on the window for an internship (seriously, we can’t stress how important internships are).

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“What? So I pay [potentially] tens of thousands of (local currency) to study for a master’s and it only buys me a year?”

Yeah, it does. Should have applied earlier, bro.

3. Get an internship after graduation

More internships (are you getting the hint about their importance yet?), this time targeted at people who have more than a ten-week window in which to work at a bank and show off their skills.

These are off-cycle internships, and they can last, really, for as long as you want them to. Expect a few months – assume six, but prepare for 12. These are basically your only option if you’re a recent graduate, except…

4. Do a top MBA

Banks employ less MBA students than they were previously known to, but they still do hire a lot of them. The big benefit of being hired as an MBA student is that you’re hired as an associate, not an analyst, and so you get to leapfrog part of the work ladder.

The majority of people that do MBAs, however, have a few years of work experience under their belt. So don’t see it as jumping ahead of anyone career wise. See it as avoiding some of the worst of banking’s infamous working hours.

Oh, and just for posterity – if you’re an MBA, you’re not going straight into a banking role. First you must do an internship.

5. Do a PhD

More studying. That’s fine, right? You’ve studied long enough, you say? Well, you’re the one who wants to work in banking. Study a bit more.

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PhDs are valuable to banks because so much of a bank’s activities these days are being automated and computerized. Traders with trigger finger instincts are being replaced by algorithms which don’t even have fingers.

Someone with fingers still needs to program those computers, however, and tell them what exactly to do. That could be you, especially if your PhD is in a hard science such as physics or chemistry.

6. Join the army

Probably not the route into investment banking that your mom approves of, but banks including JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs are known to hire military veterans through special programs. These opportunities seem to be mostly in the US, however.

7. Become an accountant

This is more common in Europe than the US, but it’s a viable option. Studying for the ACA qualifications (which make you an accountant legally) isn’t fun, and takes a long time.

You might also need a bit of luck. Banks are known to hire accountants into investment banking roles – but with the caveat that these hires tend to be when dealmaking opportunities are booming. Given current market sentiments (not great), it might be harder to make the transition.

8. Become a lawyer

Goldman Sachs’ former CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, was a lawyer before joining the bank and becoming a trader. The reasons are the same as for veterans and accountants – it shows a willingness to commit to long hours and high-powered intellectual processing.

It’s also a bit easier to justify to your family than joining the armed forces.

9. Become a consultant

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Although a bit of a rivalry exists between bankers and consultants, very much the same people go into both career paths, much like lawyers and accountants.

What you consulted on might make a difference to your IBD role. Strategy consultants will be more likely to get internal strategy roles at a bank. If you’ve worked with regulatory implementation, it should be pretty straightforward to get a compliance role, and so on.

10. Nepotism

We don’t endorse this. And if you can benefit from nepotism, you don’t need our advice on how to do it.

11. Write a cold email

Much like a Hail Mary in American Football, cold emails rarely work – but when they do, it’s a feeling like no other. Some people are favoured by the Gods – why not roll the dice and see if you’re one?

We wrote a great guide to cold emailing for a banking job here.

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