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How to get an entry-level job as an investment banker

    When you think of an investment banker, chances are you think of someone feverishly working on Wall Street, and although you’re not wrong, there might be more to being an investment banker (and also getting this specific job) than you might think.

    In this article, we’ll dive into what an investment banker does and how you might pursue an entry-level job as an investment banker if this is a career path you’re considering.

    What does an investment banker do?

    An investment banker works in the financial sector and often focuses on raising capital for corporations, governments, and other entities. They assist clients in various financial transactions, including issuing stocks and bonds, facilitating mergers and acquisitions, arranging for the sale of a company, and providing strategic advice for financial growth.

    Investment bankers evaluate clients’ financial needs, structure deals to enhance capital efficiency, and navigate regulatory environments.

    It’s often expected that they have a strong understanding of financial markets. This is because their work often plays a part in the functioning of the financial markets as they link investors with opportunities and contribute to economic development.

    Specific entry-level jobs in investment banking

    Aspiring investment bankers often start their careers in entry-level positions that provide foundational experiences in finance and business. Some of the specific entry-level opportunities aspiring investment bankers pursue include:

    • Analyst: This is a typical entry-level position in the investment banking sphere. Analysts may be responsible for conducting financial analysis, preparing presentations, and assisting with executing transactions. Someone might work on financial modeling, valuation, and transaction structuring in this role. Some analyst roles might be specific to risk management, compliance, sales and trading, operations, mergers and acquisitions, or other focuses.
    • Associate: In some financial companies, this is considered an entry-level role. Associates oversee the work of analysts, coordinate with clients, and help develop financial models and transaction strategies, among other responsibilities.
    • Research assistant: These individuals assist in gathering market data, compiling industry reports, and analyzing financial trends. In this role, someone might maintain databases and information resources.
    • Rotational analyst programs: Many large banks and other financial companies offer rotational programs for new graduates where they spend time in different departments, such as mergers and acquisitions, sales, and trading, to gain experience.

    What’s an entry-level investment banker’s salary?

    While there’s a range of entry-level positions aspiring investment bankers pursue, one of the most common is that of financial analyst. Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2022 yearly median pay for a financial analyst was $96,220. It’s important to keep in mind that this figure is for all financial analysts and not just entry-level analysts, but it at least provides some context as far as what to expect salary-wise from this position.

    How to secure an entry-level investment banking job

    Education requirements

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical education level for a financial analyst is a bachelor’s degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that an MBA may be useful for advancement in this field.

    On top of the education requirements employers may look for, investment bankers must register with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Professionals working in securities must pass the Series 7 exam. Investment bankers must also pass the Series 79 exam to register with FINRA. Depending on an individual's role, other exams, like the Series 9, 10, and 63, may be required.

    These exams may not be a requirement for entry-level roles, and some aspiring investment bankers study and take these exams while employed in an entry-level position.

    Skill employers may look for

    Employers look for a range of skills when hiring in this field. Some of these skills include:

    • Financial modeling and analysis: The ability to create and interpret complex financial models to evaluate investment opportunities and make forecasts.
    • Market knowledge: An understanding of financial markets, trends, and instruments.
    • Deal structuring and negotiation: Skills in structuring deals, negotiation terms, and managing transaction processes.
    • Regulatory compliance: Knowledge of relevant financial regulations and the ability to ensure compliance in all transactions.
    • Client relations: Given people in these roles often liaise with clients, client relations skills might be valuable to potential employers hiring for these roles.
    • Math skills: Because investment banking often requires the ability to crunch numbers, math skills are sometimes needed for investment banking roles.
    • Analytical skills: Because investment bankers are often required to analyze data and make conclusions, employers often look for people with strong analytical skills when hiring.
    • Decision-making skills: Investment bankers may analyze forecasts and other data sets to make critical decisions on behalf of clients. This requires investment bankers to have strong decision-making skills.
    • Detail-oriented: Investment bankers often work on a range of tasks that require strong attention to detail, which is why this is a skill employers may look for.
    • Strong communication skills: Investment bankers often interact with stakeholders, coworkers, and clients daily. Being able to communicate clearly to multiple audiences is often crucial.

    Potential steps to take to secure an entry-level investment banking job

    • Acquire an education: Obtaining a bachelor's degree in finance, economics, or a related field might be a good first step as it will provide the necessary academic foundation.
    • Consider internships: Gaining experience through internships in finance or banking can be valuable. This will help you acquire practical skills and industry insights.
    • Network in the industry: Building a professional network by attending industry events and connecting with professionals can open doors to job opportunities.
    • Consider certifications: Consider obtaining relevant certifications or completing exams, which can enhance your profile.
    • Apply for jobs: Applying for entry-level positions such as analyst roles in investment banks is often important if you’re pursuing this career path. Tailor your resume and cover letter for each application.
    • Stay informed on the industry: Keeping up to date with financial markets and current economic trends can be helpful.
    • Consider furthering your education: Pursuing an MBA or a master’s in finance can provide advanced knowledge and may make you more competitive in the job market.

    What to include on your resume if you’re applying for entry-level investment banking jobs

    As you apply for investment banking entry-level roles (like financial analyst), consider demonstrating your work ethic and leadership skills to demonstrate to employers that you’d be a good fit. On your resume:

    • List your academic achievement, including your GPA, major, and relevant courses you took during college.
    • Showcase any experience in finance you’ve had prominently, like internships or part-time jobs.
    • If you don’t have relevant work experience, add extracurriculars that involve relevant skills like financial modeling, investing, trading, or case competitions.

    Final thoughts

    The path to becoming an investment banker may be competitive, however, with hard work and determination, you’ll set yourself up for success as you grow your career and reach towards your goals.