How to Become a Mergers and Acquisitions Expert

Mar 10, 2020

Learn how to become a mergers and acquisitions expert. Research the education, training and licensure information, and experience required for starting a career in investment banking.

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Mergers and Acquisitions Expert

So you think you want to be a mergers and acquisitions expert. Also known as investment bankers, mergers and acquisitions experts act as financial consultants when one company acquires another company, or when two or more companies merge into one. As financial consultants, these experts provide advice to clients on how to handle the merger and acquisition process. This fast-paced career may be stressful, and significant travel may be required.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Accounting, finance, economics, or business
Licensure and Certification FINRA licensure (mandatory), industry certification (voluntary)
Key Skills Advanced knowledge of mathematics, strong communications skills, capable of negotiating financial deals, able to make wise decisions and possess a strong eye for detail; familiar with electronic market trading and market forecasting software programs; extensive understanding of financial business law, company acquisitions strategies, and the merger process; willing to travel for client meetings, comfortable living near metropolitan areas, and able to work in high-stress work environments
Salary $64,120 (median for securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

So what are the career requirements to become a mergers and acquisitions expert? A bachelor's degree in accounting, finance, economics, or business is required for entry-level positions. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is required for advancement. There is a mandatory licensing exam through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, also called FINRA. There are a number of other certificates you can earn voluntarily to advance in the industry.

The key skills needed include advanced knowledge of mathematics, strong communications skills, negotiation skills, sound judgment, decision-making abilities, attention to detail, electronic market trading, market forecasting software programs, financial business law, and knowledge of company acquisitions strategies and the merger process. Most positions require extensive travel, and you may need to live close to a metropolitan area in order to meet the travel demands. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a securities, commodities, and financial services sales agent is $64,120.

So how do you become a mergers and acquisitions expert? Here are the steps to follow.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Several bachelor's degree programs prepare individuals for careers in mergers and acquisitions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, some potential majors may include finance, economics, business, and accounting. Bachelor's degree programs in finance often discuss such topics as financial information technology, investments, financial markets, accounting, mathematics, business statistics, and managerial finances. Completion of a Master of Business Administration is often required for career advancement.

Here's a tip for success: Get internship experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that students who want to become mergers and acquisitions experts need as much employment experience as possible, and many students build experience through internships with financial institutions. Interns who manage to impress their supervisors may be offered more permanent positions after graduation.

Step 2: Become Licensed

As investment bankers, mergers and acquisitions experts must be licensed and registered through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the licensing process involves passing exams, and there are many different classifications of financial and banking professionals. Different licensing exams are required for each of these classifications. Mergers and acquisitions experts are classified as limited representatives in the field of investment banking, and they are required to take the Series 79 licensing exams.

License applicants must be sponsored by a registered FINRA financial firm or individual. Sponsorship often takes place after initial employment. The Series 79 licensing exam takes five hours to complete and includes 175 multiple-choice questions. Question topics may include mergers and acquisitions, underwriting, data collection, business conduct, Securities and Exchange Commission rules, principal trading markets, and due diligence activities.

Step 3: Get Certification

Certification is usually a voluntary process, but many banking investment professionals choose to become certified to prove they are highly skilled workers. One common credential that many professionals earn is the Chartered Financial Analyst certification, offered by the CFA Institute. Eligibility requirements for CFA certification include having at least four years' experience in the financial industry and holding the minimum of a bachelor's degree.

The CFA certification process involves completing coursework and passing exams. Three different levels of exams exist, and individuals must complete a group of related training modules prior to each exam. The three exam areas include asset valuation, investment tools, and portfolio management. Individuals have to complete the training modules for each level sequentially and pass the exam before moving on to the next level. After passing all three levels of exams, individuals become certified.

Step 4: Maintain Licensure and Certifications

Mergers and acquisitions experts must maintain their licensing through the FINRA. License renewal requirements for the FINRA include completing a 2-part continuing education program every three years. However, newly licensed workers have to complete their first CE program within two years of being licensed.

Professionals who voluntarily become certified through such organizations as the CFA Institute may also have to meet recertification requirements. The CFA Institute does not require members to complete CE coursework, but the organization highly recommends that professionals keep up to date on current industry trends by completing at least 20 CE hours every year.

Obtain a bachelor's degree, become licensed, get certified, and maintain licenses and certifications are the steps involved in becoming a mergers and acquisitions expert.

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