How to Become an Investment Banker | BestColleges (2024)

Investment banking is a great job option for analytical students with strong math skills. Discover the path to your career in investment banking.


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Blake Weil is a medical student and freelance writer. Previously, he worked in market research, specializing in the pharmaceutical and hospitality industries. In addition to writing on education, he writes as a theater critic, hoping to help populari...

Updated on September 21, 2023

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Blake WeilRead Full Bio


Blake Weil is a medical student and freelance writer. Previously, he worked in market research, specializing in the pharmaceutical and hospitality industries. In addition to writing on education, he writes as a theater critic, hoping to help populari...

Edited by

Amelia BuckleyRead Full Bio


Amelia Buckley has worked as an editor for BestColleges, focusing on degree resources for prospective students. She holds a BA in global studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara....

Updated on September 21, 2023

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  • Investment bankers work to issue securities and facilitate complex financial transactions.
  • Investment bankers need to study finance, with many earning master's degrees.
  • Investment banking is highly regulated, and bankers need to pass licensing exams.

The issuing, management, and sale of financial securities, such as stocks, is a complicated and highly regulated process. As such, companies hire investment bankers to assist them in this and related processes.

Investment banking is a suitable career for someone skilled in math. Investment bankers should also have a good mind for laws and regulations to navigate the complex legal landscape surrounding investment banking. To become an investment banker, students pursue an education in finance. While you can begin as an investment banker with a bachelor's degree, most eventually pursue a master's degree.

What Does an Investment Banker Do?

Investment bankers typically begin their careers as analysts for an investment bank. After work and further education, they can be promoted to analyst or vice president, where they begin managing and supervising newer investment bankers.

Typically, these upper-level jobs require a master's in finance or an MBA. After work in investment banking, many pursue other jobs in finance, such as hedge fund management, corporate finance, and venture capital.

Investment Banker Responsibilities

  • Advise and facilitate corporate clients in complex and regulated financial events like mergers and acquisitions.
  • Arrange financing for a company, guiding them through the process of issuing stocks and bonds, or through private placement.
  • Help companies raise capital through stock sale (securities investment), often underwriting stock offerings and assuming the risk of their initial purchase.

According to Payscale, the average annual base salary is $101,300 for these professionals, as of June 2022. However, total compensation including bonuses and investment opportunities can lead to high six- to seven-figure total compensation by mid-career.

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What Are the Steps to Become an Investment Banker?

A career in investment banking is a highly structured process. Beginning in college, aspiring investment bankers study finance. They then pursue entry-level positions, before most seek a master's degree. While working as an investment banker, they also obtain necessary licenses to conduct their business.

  • Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Finance

    For those seeking a career in investment banking, a bachelor's degree in finance is a prerequisite. Other potential acceptable majors include bachelors in economics or bachelors in business supplemented with a minor in finance.

    In a bachelor's in finance program, student's learn how to perform financial analyses and forecasts. They also learn the skills to evaluate financial statements, and receive a general overview of financial markets. They also obtain soft skills in business, such as networking skills for financial services sales.

    The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the average bachelor's in finance program carries a tuition of $9,375 at a public four-year school with in-state tuition, and above $35,000 at private nonprofit four-year institutions.

  • Step 2: Get an Entry-Level Investment Banking Job

    Most investment bankers enter the industry as investment analysts. This entry-level job has an average annual salary of $67,860, according to August 2022 Payscale data. High bonuses common to investment banking can raise overall compensation.

    Entry-level jobs in investment banking are competitive. Students should actively network during their studies and complete internships to gain applicable real-world experience. Some financial institutions offer career bridge programs to accelerate students' careers directly out of school.

    Typically, bankers work as analysts for a few years before pursuing an advanced degree or being promoted to a higher position. Applicants should consider total compensation and potential paths to advancement when deciding on a position.

  • Step 3: Earn Your Master's of Finance

    While not necessary for entry-level positions, most higher-level positions in investment banking require a graduate degree. Most commonly, investment bankers obtain either a master's of finance or an MBA with a specialization in finance. An advanced degree can also make you more competitive when applying for jobs in investment banking and raise your earning potential.

    Costs vary by the type of program you attend. According to the College Board, public graduate programs have an average tuition of $9,000 per year. An MBA program can cost significantly more at prestigious institutions.

    When considering whether to go into debt for graduate school, it is worth noting the high earning potential of upper-level investment bankers, many earning well into the six figures.

  • Step 4: Get a Job as a Investment Banker

    Once you have obtained a master's, most investment banking positions follow a fairly standardized advancement track. As investment bankers gain seniority, they become associates, before becoming vice presidents and overseeing a team of associates and analysts.
  • Step 5: Consider Continuing Education or Specialization

    While it is possible to earn a doctorate in finance, this is not a very common path. A doctorate in the field often sets graduates up for careers in academia and research. An MBA is the typical terminal degree for an investment banker.

    Some investment bankers do choose to continue their education in other ways. Many pursue additional continuing education courses and certifications in banking or certifications in finance to remain competitive in the fast-paced industry landscape.

What to Know Before Becoming an Investment Banker


An accredited degree program ensures that you are receiving an education that meets the standards of an accrediting body licensed by the U.S. Board of Education. This is important as it means you will be getting an educational background that will prepare you for work and will be recognized by a potential employer.

Licensing and Certification

Generally, investment bankers need to get securities licenses to perform their work. They cannot get these licenses until they are working and are sponsored by their employer. However, before employment, a student can take the Securities Industry Essentials Exam, a prerequisite exam to other licensure exams.


The average cost of pursuing a career in investment banking is relatively high compared to other positions. While the bachelor's degree costs the same, the majority of the expense comes from the need to pursue an MBA or master's in finance. However, these costs may largely be defrayed by an investment banker's high earning potential.


Investment bankers make an average base salary of $101,300, according to June 2022 Payscale data. However, total compensation is typically higher, with bonuses. With a master's degree, salaries may go to the high six-figures.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming an Investment Banker

What qualifications do you need to become an investment banker?

To become an investment banker, you need a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Common majors are finance, business, economics, and accounting. You also need to pass licensing exams to work as an investment banker. The initial Securities Industry Essentials Exam can be completed at any time, but securities license exams are taken while employed.

To advance as an investment banker, most employers require an MBA or master's in finance. Connections made during a master's program also provide an important network for relationship-based sales work.

What is the fastest way to become an investment banker?

The fastest way to become an investment banker is to apply for an entry-level position, typically an investment analyst role, after graduating with a four-year bachelor's in finance. Choosing an accelerated degree program can shorten time to graduation and allow you to enter the workforcequicker.

Positions are typically competitive in this industry. Additional education, such as an MBA, can provide an advantage in securing an entry-level position. Some initial work in the banking industry can help you pursue a top MBA program.

What are investment securities?

Investment securities are tradable financial assets that are held as investments. Over time, these assets grow in value, becoming one of the main sources of revenue for a bank.

As part of their job, an investment banker analyzes securities, predicting which will be strong investments, and how the bank can best manage the assets they have. The industry is highly regulated, so investment bankers need to be licensed to trade them.

Can I become an investment banker with an online degree?

You can become an investment banker with an online degree in the most general terms. A bachelor's degree is the only real requirement for entry into the profession.

However, the field is highly competitive, with many employers hiring graduates primarily from top universities. Applicants from any background should make sure their application stands out by supplementing their resume with further education and internship experience.

How much money can I make as an investment banker?

Investment bankers are among the highest-paying jobs. In an entry-level position with a bachelor's degree, Payscale reports an average salary of $101,300, as of June 2022. However, bonuses in investment banking can be close to or equal to salary.

Later in their career, with an MBA or master's in finance, total compensation can increase greatly.

These salaries make it more than worth it to pursue graduate school, balancing the expense of a terminal degree.

How to Become an Investment Banker | BestColleges (2024)


What it takes to become an investment banker? ›

Becoming an investment banker requires several years of higher education in addition to licensure. It also requires strong mathematical and analytical capabilities, which may be challenging for some people. In addition to a bachelor's degree, investment bankers may need a master's in finance or an M.B.A.

How to answer why you want to work in investment banking? ›

Common Answers for “Why Investment Banking”
  1. Learning experience.
  2. Fast-paced environment.
  3. Relevant internship / club experience / personal experience.
  4. Opportunity for lots of responsibility at a young age.
  5. Interface with executives from different companies.
  6. Exposure to different business models and industries.

Is it hard to be hired as an investment banker? ›

Investment banking recruiting is an extremely competitive process, so you'll want to do whatever you can to stand out during the recruitment process. Banks value the quality of your job experience, and the quality of your schools attended, and how hard you network or “hustle” for the role.

How do I know if I want to be an investment banker? ›

What Skills and Traits Make a Good Fit?
  1. Willingness to work extremely long hours (80+ per week)
  2. High attention to detail.
  3. Ability to take direction well.
  4. Team player.
  5. Great at Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.
  6. Strong accounting and finance knowledge.
  7. Excellent financial modeling skills.

What GPA do I need for investment banking? ›

The typical investment banker has a graduate degree in business from an Ivy League school or other top-tier university and superior educational credentials [i.e., excellent grades (minimum 3.50 GPA), active participation in business and investment clubs, and participation in at least one internship or summer program at ...

Do you need a series 7 for investment banking? ›

If an investment banking representative participates in activities such as road shows, this person also needs to be registered as a General Securities Representative (Series 7), a Corporate Securities Representative (Series 62 which is no longer available to be taken) or a Private Securities Representative (Series 82).

What exactly do investment bankers do? ›

Investment bankers are financial advisors to corporations and, in some cases, to governments. They help their clients raise money. That may mean issuing stock shares, floating a bond issue, negotiating the acquisition of a rival company, or arranging the sale of the company itself.

How do you stand out in an investment banking interview? ›

Demonstrating your Interest and Knowledge of the Industry

Investment banks want to hire candidates who have a genuine interest in the industry and keep up with industry trends. Therefore, demonstrate your knowledge by reading industry publications, attending seminars, and following relevant social media accounts.

How to introduce yourself in an investment banking interview? ›

Give the interviewer a story that shows your achievements and how everything fits together for you to be a successful investment banker. Make sure to point out how each job has let you take on more responsibility, or required you to acquire more finance/business knowledge than the one before it.

What is the hardest bank to get into? ›

Goldman Sachs is often cited as the hardest investment bank to get into, due to its prestigious reputation, highly competitive hiring process, and rigorous standards for candidates in terms of experience, education, and skills.

How to get into investment banking with no experience? ›

7 Steps To Breaking into Investment Banking
  1. Step 1: Win “Steppingstone” Internships or Jobs. ...
  2. Step 2: Craft Your Story. ...
  3. Step 3: Bankify Your Resume/CV. ...
  4. Step 4: Network Your Way into Interviews and Offers. ...
  5. Step 5: Prepare for Investment Banking Interviews.

What jobs make the most money? ›

Highest-Paying Occupations
General Internal Medicine Physicians$214,460363.10%
Dentists, All Other Specialists$212,740359.40%
Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers$211,790357.30%
Family Medicine Physicians$211,300356.30%
16 more rows

What colleges do investment banks recruit from? ›

Three of the top schools that investment banks consistently interview and hire from include the University of Pennsylvania, New York University, and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Beyond the top schools, the Ivy League schools, such as Harvard, are also key spots that investment banks look to hire from.

How many years does it take to become an investment banker? ›

It can take 4-6 years to become an investment banker. If you are currently pursuing a relevant undergraduate or graduate degree from a prestigious university you may be able to become an investment banker after graduation by being recruited.

How many hours do investment bankers work? ›

How Many Hours do Investment Bankers Work? Investment bankers work notoriously long hours, with the typical work week filling in 60-80 hours per week, and the occasional high-intensity work week that can push a banker to 100+ hours.

How long does it take to become an investment banker? ›

The path to starting a career in investment banking can be as short as just 4 years — the typical length of a bachelor's degree program. Depending on the specific job you want, more time may be needed to complete a master's degree program or professional registration exams.

Do investment bankers get paid a lot? ›

Can you become a millionaire as an investment banker? It is possible to become a millionaire as an investment banker, but it is not easy. Investment bankers typically earn salaries in the $200,000 to $700,000 range, with bonuses that can bring their total income up to several million dollars per year.

Do investment bankers have a salary? ›

As of October 2023, according to Glassdoor, the average annual investment banking salary in the U.S. is $131,021. In New York City, where the cost of living tends to be the highest in the country, the average salary is $316,432.

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