CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become an investment banker.

Step 1

Is becoming an investment banker right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do investment bankers do?
Career Satisfaction
Are investment bankers happy with their careers?
What are investment bankers like?

Still unsure if becoming an investment banker is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become an investment banker or another similar career!

Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.

Step 2

Bachelor’s Degree

While investment banks often attract candidates with diverse academic backgrounds, certain bachelor's degrees are commonly considered suitable for aspiring investment bankers due to their emphasis on quantitative skills, financial knowledge, and analytical abilities. Here are some common bachelor's degrees that are relevant for a career in investment banking:

  • Finance: A dedicated finance degree provides a solid foundation in financial theory, analysis, and modeling, making it a natural fit for roles in investment banking.
  • Business Administration with a Finance Concentration: A BBA with a concentration in finance offers a broad business education with a specific focus on finance-related topics, providing a well-rounded skill set for investment banking.
  • Economics: Economics degrees emphasize understanding economic principles, market dynamics, and quantitative analysis, which are valuable skills in investment banking.
  • Accounting: Accounting degrees offer a strong foundation in financial reporting, analysis, and auditing, which can be beneficial for roles involving financial modeling and due diligence.
  • Mathematics: Mathematics degrees provide a strong quantitative background, which is crucial for financial modeling, risk assessment, and other analytical tasks in investment banking.
  • Statistics: Statistics degrees emphasize data analysis, probability, and statistical modeling, which are applicable skills in areas like risk management and market analysis.
  • Computer Science: Computer science degrees, especially when combined with a strong understanding of finance, can be valuable for roles involving algorithmic trading, financial technology (fintech), and quantitative analysis.
  • Actuarial Science: Actuarial science degrees focus on assessing and managing financial risks, making graduates well-suited for roles in risk management within investment banking.
Step 3


Investment banking internships are a great way for students to gain hands-on experience in the industry, develop their skills, and build valuable relationships with professionals in the field. There are several types of internships offered, depending on the firm and the specific area of investment banking the internship is focused on. Here are some common types of investment banking internships:

  • Summer Internship: These internships typically run for 10-12 weeks during the summer months and are designed to give students a broad exposure to the investment banking industry. Summer internships may be available in areas such as mergers and acquisitions (M&A), equity capital markets, debt capital markets, corporate finance, and research.
  • Spring Internship: These internships are typically shorter in duration than summer internships and may focus on a specific area of investment banking, such as equity research, sales and trading, or investment banking operations.
  • Winter Internship: These internships are similar to spring internships but take place during the winter months. They may be available in a variety of areas, including investment banking, sales and trading, research, and operations.
  • Co-op Internship: Co-op internships are longer-term internships that may last six months or longer. They are typically offered to students who are pursuing a degree in a related field, such as finance or accounting, and provide a more immersive experience in the investment banking industry.
Step 4

FINRA Registration

FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) registration is a requirement for individuals who work in the securities industry, including investment bankers. Specifically, investment bankers who engage in certain activities such as underwriting, trading, or selling securities must register with FINRA as a representative of their firm.

To become registered with FINRA, investment bankers must pass the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam and a relevant FINRA representative-level qualification exam (such as the Series 79 exam for investment bankers). Additionally, individuals must be associated with a FINRA member firm and must comply with FINRA's continuing education and regulatory requirements.

FINRA registration helps ensure that investment bankers adhere to ethical and professional standards, and helps protect investors by promoting transparency and fairness in the securities industry.

Step 5

Master's Degree

While a master's degree is not strictly necessary to become an investment banker, it can enhance your qualifications and career prospects in the highly competitive field of investment banking. For example, a financial engineering degree, also known as a Master's in Financial Engineering (MFE) or Master of Quantitative Finance (MQF), is a specialized graduate program that combines principles of finance, mathematics, statistics, and computer science. This degree equips students with the skills necessary for quantitative analysis and risk management in the financial industry.

The decision to pursue a master's degree, however, depends on various factors, including your career goals, educational background, and the specific requirements of the positions you're targeting. Here are some considerations regarding the relevance of a master's degree in investment banking:

Reasons to Pursue a Master's Degree:

  • Competitive Edge: In a field where competition is intense, having a master's degree, especially an MBA (Master of Business Administration), can set you apart from other candidates. Top investment banks often value candidates with advanced degrees.
  • Network Building: Business schools provide excellent opportunities to build a professional network. Networking is crucial in investment banking, and connections made during a master's program can open doors to job opportunities and mentorship.
  • Skill Enhancement: A master's program, particularly an MBA, can help you develop a broader skill set, including leadership, strategic thinking, and decision-making, which are valuable in investment banking.
  • Career Switch: If your undergraduate degree is in a field unrelated to finance, a master's degree in finance or business can help you make a career switch and gain the necessary knowledge and skills.
  • Internship Opportunities: Many master's programs include internships or practical components, providing hands-on experience and exposure to the industry. This can be invaluable when seeking entry-level positions in investment banking.

Considerations Against Pursuing a Master's Degree:

  • Work Experience: Investment banks often value work experience as much as, if not more than, advanced degrees. Relevant internships, work experience, and networking can be significant factors in securing job offers.
  • Cost and Time: Pursuing a master's degree can be expensive, both in terms of tuition and the opportunity cost of not working. Consider whether the investment in education aligns with your career goals and financial situation.
  • Industry Certifications: In addition to or instead of a master's degree, obtaining industry-recognized certifications (such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation) can enhance your qualifications and demonstrate expertise in finance.
  • Varied Educational Backgrounds: Investment banking values diverse educational backgrounds. While finance and business degrees are common, professionals with degrees in engineering, mathematics, computer science, and other fields also find success in the industry.

Ultimately, the decision to pursue a master's degree should be based on a careful evaluation of your individual circumstances and goals. If you already have a strong undergraduate background, relevant work experience, and are successful in networking, you may be well-positioned to enter the investment banking industry without a master's degree. However, if you're looking to enhance your skills, build a network, or make a career switch, a master's degree could be a valuable asset.

Step 6


There are several certifications that investment bankers can pursue to enhance their knowledge and demonstrate their expertise in the field. Here are a few common certifications for investment bankers:

  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA): The CFA certification is a widely recognized credential for investment professionals. It covers a range of topics related to investment analysis, portfolio management, and ethical and professional standards.
  • Certified Investment Banking Professional (CIBP): The CIBP certification is designed specifically for investment bankers and covers topics such as corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, and capital markets.
  • Financial Modeling and Valuation Analyst (FMVA): The FMVA certification focuses on financial modeling and valuation skills, which are essential for investment bankers. It covers topics such as Excel modeling, financial statement analysis, and valuation techniques.
  • Series 79 Investment Banking Representative Exam: This exam is required by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for individuals who engage in investment banking activities. It covers topics such as securities underwriting, mergers and acquisitions, and financial analysis.
  • Series 7 General Securities Representative Exam: This exam is required by FINRA for individuals who want to sell securities in the United States. While it is not specific to investment banking, it is a common certification for professionals in the financial services industry.

Investment bankers may also pursue other certifications, such as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or the Project Management Professional (PMP), depending on their interests and career goals.