What Qualifications Do I Need to Be an Investment Banker?


What Qualifications Do I Need to Be an Investment Banker?

Welcome to the adventurous universe of investment banking. Your Inner GPS has brought you here- to get into action now! 

Like you, many aspiring investment bankers ask me, “What qualifications do I need to be an investment banker?

My direct answer is that it must be in your Inner GPS if you want to become an investment banker. Only when your Inner GPS is tuned to your investment banking career is it worth investing in it? 

You, after that, need the professional qualifications to become an investment banker. You need a relevant academic background, certification and licensing, and relevant experience in the industry. 

  • Your formal education and early work experience greatly shape your journey into the investment banking, corporate finance, and private equity industry.

  • For instance, to become an investment banker, earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in business administration, finance, commerce, economics, or an analytical field or related services like statistics to qualify.

  • Another thing that investment banks look for in recent graduates is previous financial advising, financial management, trading, or general business consulting experience. 

That is why, in this guide, I have put together a complete and easy-to-follow guide for anyone interested in becoming an investment banker.

  • It is a journey that has to be taken; you need the ability to assess investment opportunities, communicate with your corporate clients, and inform them using data to make informed decisions.

You can ask, “Is an investment banking career worth it?” Yes. 

According to IBISWorld, as of 2023, 118,794 people are employed in the US investment banking and securities dealing industry.

It’s a lucrative industry. But there is one thing you need to know. 

“Becoming an investment banker does not happen overnight; you need career guidance to get it right from the beginning”.

Ready to learn? Let’s get started. 

What Qualifications Do I Need to Be an Investment Banker? 

What Qualifications Do I Need to Be an Investment Banker?

You have to follow the following broad steps to qualify as an investment banker:

Step 1. Secure an entry-level position

You can begin your career in investment banking immediately after you finish your undergraduate or graduate program. All you need to do is ask to volunteer or intern at an investment bank. 

Volunteering or internships will introduce you to the industry basics of most investment bankers’ work and allow you to apply some of the analytical skills you learned in college. In other cases, it is possible to find an investment banking analyst job opportunity; do not ignore it.

Step 2. Complete advanced education and training

Let’s be upfront. While your undergraduate degree (in a relevant field) can secure volunteer opportunities, internships, and entry-level jobs, that’s not enough to move the needle. 

It would help if you went for MBA programs that will equip you with in-depth content in financial matters and specific investment areas required to practice financial analysis, raising capital, and investment management.

Step 3. Earn additional certifications

Earning additional certifications is underrated, yet it makes a true difference. While your colleagues might have good grades and gleaming, advanced degree degrees, additional certification offers a competitive advantage. 

It exhibits your commitment, preparedness for financial wisdom, and dynamism for the industry.

For instance, my online course Breaking Into Wall Street (BIWS) is dedicated to using financial models and helping you break into any finance issuing securities-related investment banking career path without “selling your soul.”

Do you find this an interesting professional learning curve for prospective independent investment bankers? I bet you do. 

Let’s look at the detailed practical steps to qualify to become an investment banker.

Practical Steps- Qualifications Needed to Be an Investment Banker

StepsAction Plan Qualifications
Step 1Educational qualificationsObtain a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, economics, or a related field. Consider pursuing a master’s degree like an MBA or Master’s in Finance from a reputable institution for a competitive edge.
Step 2 Relevant skillsDevelop technical skills such as financial analysis, quantitative abilities, decision-making, attention to detail, and soft skills like communication and teamwork.
Step 3Internships and work experienceGain real-world experience through internships, volunteer opportunities, and professional networking to enhance your resume and understanding of the industry.
Step 4Certifications and licensingConsider obtaining certifications like the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) or Series 7 license to bolster your qualifications and career prospects.
Step 5Building a strong resuméCraft a compelling resumé highlighting your qualifications, skills, and experience relevant to investment banking.
Step 6Preparing for interviewsThoroughly prepare for the rigorous interview process, including- researching the hiring firm, showcasing achievements, and enrolling in interview-focused courses, if needed.
Step 7Landing your first jobExplore various recruitment avenues, including internships, full-time, and off-cycle recruiting. Be proactive in building relationships and attending industry events.
Step 8Potential career pathsUnderstand the hierarchical career path in investment banking, from intern to managing director, and set clear goals for advancement.

Step1. Educational Qualifications

Investment banking demands a solid educational foundation to understand the intricacies of finance and economics. In this segment, learn more about the key academic qualifications required for your investment banking career.

Academic path

  • You need a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, business, economics, math, business administration, or another banking-related discipline to enter the investment banking industry.

  • Through these programs, you learn fundamental knowledge in areas crucial to investment banking, such as financial analysis, market dynamics, and business strategy.

  • After completing your undergraduate studies, pursue postgraduate degrees like a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master’s in Finance from a competitive university to provide you a competitive edge in the job market.

Relevance of majors

  1. Finance: A major in finance is the most important degree directly relevant to investment banking. It equips you with a deep understanding of financial markets, valuation techniques, and financial modeling integral to investment banking roles.

  2. Economics: Through an economics major, you learn a valuable perspective on investment banking as they comprehend macroeconomic factors that impact financial markets. Your economics wisdom will reward you in strategic decision-making in investment banking.

  3. Business administration: With a business administration major, you will get a broad foundation in business principles, including management, accounting, and marketing. While less specialized than finance or economics, it can still be a viable path into investment banking, especially if you complement it with relevant coursework.

Academic excellence and GPA

  • Investment banking is highly competitive, and academic excellence can set you apart. Employers often look for candidates with strong GPAs, especially in finance-related courses.

  • GPA is Grade Point Average. It measures your academic performance. It is often considered when applying for internships or entry-level positions in the industry.

  • A high GPA demonstrates your ability to grasp complex financial concepts and commitment to academic rigor.

  • However, GPA is not the sole determinant of success. Your practical skills, internships, and extracurricular activities also hold weight in the eyes of recruiters.

  • So, while maintaining a good GPA is important, take advantage of opportunities to gain real-world experience and build your skill set.

Step 2. Relevant skills

Becoming a successful investment banker requires a diverse skill set encompassing technical and interpersonal abilities. Skills are important in any finance career that you can think of. They are the most sought-after indicators in resumes and CVs by hiring managers. 

Here are the top skills you need in the investment banking industry:

Technical skills

  1. Financial analysis: As a prospective investment banker, you must possess a strong aptitude for financial analysis that involves dissecting financial statements, evaluating company performance, and assessing investment opportunities. You must master financial modeling and valuation techniques. 

  2. Quantitative/ math skills: Your keen grasp of quantitative methods is fundamental in this industry. You will work with complex numerical data regularly, making mathematical proficiency vital. Quantitative skills enable you to make data-driven decisions and assess risk effectively. You need knowledge of economics to break down facts, numbers, and data on behalf of clients and present them in a simple-to-understand format.

  3. Decision-making: As an investment banker, you will make critical decisions for your firm. You must be able to predict and withstand trends that determine client investments.

  4. Attention to detail: As an investment banker, you can not afford to make a mistake; it will cost businesses millions of dollars in investment and profits. That is why hiring managers want guys who can work in a stressful, unpredictable environment that exhibits a lot of change in trends.

Soft skills

There are far more other skills than these, most of which you will be taught in your various graduate degrees. However, the most important skill is the ability to apply the basic skills you learned in college in real life, which will make a difference in your career.

Soft Skills Required to Become an Investment Banker

S. No.Soft SkillWhat Is Expected from You
1.Analytical skillsHow you analyze financial data and market trends.How you evaluate potential investment opportunities.
2.CommunicationHow you effectively create written and verbal communication. How you explain complex financial concepts to clients.
3.NegotiationHow you negotiate deals and terms with clients. How you resolve conflicts and reach agreements.
4. Time managementHow you manage multiple tasks and deadlines. How you prioritize work efficiently.
5.AdaptabilityAdapting to changing market conditions. Flexibility in handling diverse client needs.
6. TeamworkHow you collaborate with colleagues on projects. How you share knowledge and insights within the team.
7. Client relationsHow you build and maintain client relationships. How you understand client goals and needs.
8. Ethical judgmentHow you make morally sound financial decisions. How you adhere to industry regulations and ethics.

Step 3. Internships and work experience

Value of internships

With internships, you learn hands-on introduction to corporate finance and investment banking. Here’s why internships are crucial:

  1. Real-world exposure: Internships provide a glimpse into investment bankers’ day-to-day activities. You will witness how financial transactions are executed, learn about client interactions, and observe the decision-making process. For example, you can work to have real applications of how investment bankers participate in mergers and acquisitions and initial public offerings.

  2. Skill development: During internships, you can apply and refine the skills acquired in your academic studies, which include financial analysis, modeling, and working with financial software.

  3. Resume enhancement: Having internships on your resume demonstrates your commitment to the field and gives you a competitive edge when applying for entry-level positions.

Relevant work experience 

There is no shortcut to becoming an investment banker. Experience in the investment banking industry is necessary for entry-level investment bankers. I can recommend the following avenues if you want to gain work experience as a potential investment banking analyst:

  • Get the right education.

  • Get a volunteer opportunity in an investment bank.

  • Complete two or three internships.

  • Join professional bodies relevant to the investment. 

  • Always do networking.

  • Build an aligned, banking-specific online presence (e.g., starting a blog or consultancy)

It would be best if you got it right to break into the entry-level investment bankers and banking. Implementing the key areas highlighted above will be a new dawn for a potential entry-level investment banker to advise companies, investment bankers advise companies, and banking careers for you. You can learn how investment bankers provide financial services to help companies and governments raise capital by issuing stock or borrowing money.

Gaining practical experience through internships and entry-level positions in finance-related roles is a pivotal step toward building a successful career in investment banking. 

Step 4. Certifications and licensing

In the investment banking field, certifications and licenses can enhance your qualifications and open doors to various career opportunities. Let’s explore the role of two significant certificates for many investment bankers now, the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Series 7, and clarify potential licensing requirements depending on the industry coverage your location.

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation is globally recognized and highly regarded in finance and financial institutions. Here’s why it is essential for you – the aspiring investment banker:

  1. In-depth knowledge: You may find the CFA program rigorous and comprehensive; that covers various financial topics, including ethics, portfolio management, and equity analysis. It equips you with a deep understanding of financial markets.

  2. Credibility: Holding a CFA charter demonstrates your commitment to ethical and professional standards, which is crucial in a field where trust and integrity are paramount.

  3. Career advancement: Many investment banking firms value CFAs, and having this certification can lead to enhanced career prospects and continuing education, including roles in portfolio management and research.

Series 7 License

Suppose you want to be a professional selling securities. In that case, the Series 7 license, administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), is worth considering. While it is not mandatory for all investment banking roles, you can benefit from it in certain areas, such as private wealth management or securities trading. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Securities brokerage: You will require the Series 7 license to become a professional securities broker or registered representative. It allows you to sell various securities, including stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.

  2. Exam and sponsorship: You must pass a comprehensive exam to obtain the Series 7 license. They usually must be sponsored by a FINRA-registered firm, such as an investment bank.

  3. Licensing requirements by location: Your licensing requirements can vary by location and may include state-specific securities licenses. I suggest you research the regulations in your area to determine if any additional licenses or registrations are necessary. 

For example, in the United States, individual states may have varying licensing requirements for professionals selling securities. To become a licensed securities broker in New York, you must pass the Series 63 and Series 7 exams. At the same time, California has its own set of prerequisites.

Step 5.Building a strong resume

Your resume is your first impression in investment banking, so crafting a document that effectively showcases your qualifications and experiences is crucial. 

Suppose you aim to become an investment banker with an added advantage over other candidates. Create a great resume to qualify as an investment banker.

Step 6. Preparing for interviews

Investment Banker Interview

Normally, entry-level investment bankers and junior bankers in the investment banking firms are the most rigorous exercise in the market. Employers seek prospective investment bankers, with the right skills and individuals to advance their agenda in the capital-raising industry.

  • A background study of the investment bank that wants to hire you is the first step in the right direction. 

  • Secondly, ensure that your resume or CV highlights your key achievements. 

  • It should also reflect on how you can leverage your experience to help them achieve their targets. 

  • Finally, the hard truth about investment banking is the interview process—it’s a rigorous one. I recommend that you follow my guide on investment banking interview questions.

Whether you want to break into investment banking or have booked an interview with the hiring panel, you must enroll in the Breaking Into Wall Street (BIWS) course. 

The course uses real-life modeling tests and interview case studies to give you an unfair advantage in investment banking interviews—and a leg up once you win your offer and start working.

Step 7. Landing your first job in investment banking

Securing your first job in investment banking is an exciting yet challenging endeavor. This section provides:

  • Valuable strategies for your job hunt.

  • Insights into the recruitment process.

  • An understanding of the timelines involved in on-the-job training.

The recruitment process for investment banking jobs:

Is investment banking worth it? If yes, I’ll take you through the successful investment banking role of banker banking analyst and the successful investment banker recruitment process in this section. Let’s get right into it.

First, let me start with the truth. The recruitment process in the investment banking industry is among the most competitive in the world. Therefore, you need to start preparing early for the rare opportunities as they arise.

Here are the three recruitment avenues:

  1. Internships: Internships offer on-the-job experience and practical skills training that many banks need for their employees. The hiring managers retain the best-performing interns and offer them full-time jobs after graduation.

  2. Full-time: If you impress the recruiting banks through direct job applications or internships, you can be guaranteed a spot as a full-time employee of the investment banks.

  3. Off-cycle recruiting: If you have graduated from university, graduate school, or business school, the best way to get into investment banking is by targeting small and mid-market investment banks that hire on demand.

Step 8: Potential Career Paths for Investment Bankers

Career Paths for Investment Bankers

Like any finance career, if you want to break into investment banking, you will start in junior roles and advance to senior ones. In a typical hierarchy of roles, here is the career path you can expect as potential investment bankers:

  1. Intern or summer intern: Interns are typically college students seeking to gain experience in the industry. They may be responsible for helping analysts and associates in research, report writing, and data presentation.

  2. Analysts: Analysts are entry-level professionals who perform financial analysis and modeling for transactions on behalf of clients or their firms.
  3. Associate: Associates manage the analyst team and are responsible for leading deal execution on behalf of the companies. 

  4. Vice President (VP): Vice Presidents oversee multiple transactions and play a critical role in business development.   

  5. Director or Senior VP (SVP): Directors or Senior VPs have a leadership role in managing teams and generating revenue.  

  6. Managing Director (MD): Managing Directors are the highest-ranking professionals in investment banking, responsible for setting the overall strategy and leading the most complex and high-profile deals.

Each role in the investment banking career path above has its own set of responsibilities and requirements for advancement.

  • To start on this path, you can apply for internships or entry-level analyst positions and develop the necessary skills and experience to progress to more senior roles.

  • You can apply for internships or entry-level positions through job boards, career fairs, or directly on investment banks’ websites.

  • To make it quickly into the industry, you should strive to build relationships with professionals in the field and attend relevant events to increase your chances of being noticed by potential employers.

Here we come to the end of this guide that has clarified your confusion on- what qualifications you need to become an investment banker. When you apply the knowledge in implementation in your professional career, you will get the results progressively. Let me answer some of the “Frequently Asked Questions and Answers” you may still have. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the differences between the Series 7 license and the CFA certification?

    The Series 7 license is focused on securities sales and trading, primarily relevant to professionals in those areas. In contrast, the CFA certification provides a more comprehensive understanding of finance, making it valuable for various roles within investment banking, especially those involving financial analysis and research.

  2. Do I need to be good at math to become an investment banker?

    You will benefit from strong math skills as an investment banker. Math skills are essential for financial modeling, risk analysis, and valuing securities. While a math degree is not mandatory, proficiency in mathematics and the ability to use financial software for complex calculations are valuable. Being adept at numbers and analysis will help you:

    – Build a successful career in investment banking
    – Enable you to perform calculations
    – Analyze financial models
    – Develop effective strategies

  3. How can I, with a non-traditional background (engineering or computer science), transition into a career in investment banking?

    Suppose you come from a non-traditional background like engineering or computer science. In that case, you can transition into an investment banking career by actively pursuing relevant education, acquiring practical experience through internships, highlighting your transferable skills, and proactively networking within the finance industry. Your persistence and thorough interview preparation will be crucial in achieving a successful career change.

My Exclusive Insights for You- What’s the Way Forward?

Becoming an investment banker is possible, provided you are determined to pursue the career. 

You can make money and get started best by using financial knowledge, pursuing relevant academic backgrounds in finance, getting the best certifications, and building a wealth of experience providing financial services.

You also need to have relevant skills and network your way into your dream company or job. And since it’s a rewarding career, remember to put your best foot forward.

Suppose you want to know more about: Is an Investment Banking Career right for you before moving in this direction? 

You should sign up for our Inner GPS Career Coaching, where IGG Sanju Coach will help you diagnose your Inner GPS. She will guide you about your career pathway and practically handhold you to create the career of your vision. 

By following the guide above, I hope you can become whatever you want to be. It’s possible. Go for it.


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