Learn Investment Banking: Education and Career Roadmap

Investment bankers buy and sell stocks, as well as brokering mergers and acquisitions. Investment firms also require investment bankers to manage financial assets, assist companies with issuing securities, assist investors with purchasing securities and provide financial guidance. It takes years of formal and informal education to learn the ropes of a career in investment banking.

Should I Become an Investment Banker?

Investment bankers who work at a financial firm give advice to clients about managing, investing, and growing wealth. To do this, they make financial predictions by analyzing the performance of assets, including stocks and bonds, creating asset management plans and assessing risk associated with financial growth.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; Master degree preferred
Degree Field Finance, Business Administration
Experience 1-2 years of experience for associate positions
Licensure and Certification Registration and qualifying exam required
Key Skills Analytical, math, problem-solving, ethical, computer literate
Salary $92,250 per year (Mean income for all financial analysts in 2014)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority

Step 1: Earn a Degree

Students interested in a career in investment banking should begin their education by earning a bachelor's degree in finance or business from an accredited college or university. While earning the bachelor's degree, students typically undertake internships or participate in rotational programs as a para-professional to root their academic knowledge in common business practices and network with professionals.

After earning an undergraduate degree, aspiring investment bankers may go on to graduate school to further their education and expand their career options. Though it is possible to secure an entry-level position without a graduate degree, a Master in Business Administration (MBA) is helpful for those wishing to excel to the top level in the field. Students will learn about asset classes including stocks and bonds, mergers and acquisitions, brokering and securing investments.

Success Tip:

  • Connect with recruiters. Find out which potential employers recruit through your college or university, and attend the periodic recruiting events that investment banks use to interview candidates at the bank's offices.

Step 2: Obtain an Entry-Level Position

Securing an entry-level or junior investment banker position is competitive at top companies and requires a lot of networking and research on your end. Learn all you can about the investment firms in your area along with specialties within the field. These positions may not be advertised, so it's important to schedule as many informational interviews as you can. The more people you meet, the better your chances are of securing an investment banking job.

In the field of investment banking, entry-level jobs are referred to as analyst or financial analyst positions. This career step requires analytical skills, math skills, spreadsheet skills and dedication. You should anticipate working as an analyst for 2-3 years before either being promoted or being let go. Those who have a bachelor's degree may decide to further their education at this point and pursue a master's degree.

Step 3: Gain On-The-Job Training and Become Registered

Analysts have very little contact with clients. Instead, they learn how to write informational documents - called pitchbooks - used to sell financial products, such as industry reports, research, risk assessments, and future financial projections. Even an entry-level career in investment banking requires long hours and perseverance due to the competitive nature of the field. Investment banks typically provide on-the-job training to familiarize newcomers with the firm's policies and products. Trainees may also be educated in salesmanship, securities analysis and communication techniques.

Investment advisors and broker-dealers are required to register as representatives of a firm through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). To register, the person must pass the General Securities Registered Representative Examination, also known as the Series 7 Exam. Some states may require additional exams. Many firms offer training to prepare for these exams. Independent investment advisors or broker-dealers not employed by a firm must also undertake periodic continuing education in addition to passing FINRA qualifying exams.

Step 4: Obtain an Associate Position

Once you are promoted to associate, you can expect to work at this level for about 4-5 years. This position usually requires a graduate-level education; an associate typically has an MBA. Some individuals with a master's degree bypass the analyst position and begin their career as an associate. Associates perform many of the same tasks as an analyst, but they have greater responsibility. They may supervise a team of analysts, and they deal directly with clients to sell the company's services and advise on financial decisions. Clients can range from individuals, to corporations, to financial institutions, and are varied depending on the specialty of the investment banking firm.

Step 5: Secure a Leadership Position

After working as an associate for several years, you can expect to be promoted or let go. Top associates are promoted to vice presidents, executive directors or directors. In addition to industry-related knowledge, executives are expected to have strategic decision making skills, leadership skills, and management skills. Extensive travel is typically required because of the global nature of investment banking. At this level, bonuses typically exceed an investment banker's base salary.

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