It's not as easy to 'leverage' an MBA and end up with a job in an investment bank as it was. These days, banks hire fewer MBAs than they used to, particularly into sales and trading roles. They also seem to be a lot more fussy about who they hire.
Having said that, banks are still recruiting MBAs: the 2015 associate class is now in place at most leading US investment banks. Based upon the profiles of those who were hired this year, this is what it takes to convert your Masters in Business Administration into a job at a leading US investment bank now.
1. You'll need to go to a top school
There are plenty of rankings of top MBA courses for banking jobs, so it's no surprise that the world's top investment banks like to hire the world's top MBAs. Rami Rankoussi, a new associate at Goldman Sachs, came from the London Business School. Zachary Upcheshaw, another associate at Goldman, came from Darden. Nancy Jiang, an investment banking associate in the TMT team at J.P. Morgan came from Kellogg. Zichao Du, an investment banking associate at J.P. Morgan in Hong Kong, came from MIT Sloan...
2. You'll probably need past exposure to finance
An MBA is supposed to be a vehicle for a change of career, and you can use the course to re-orientate your role, but most of the associates in our sample had some prior finance experience.
Take Kate Lee, a Morgan Stanley associate who took an MBA at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and previously spent five years working as an associate in at Woori Securities and Daiwa Capital Markets. Or take Rankoussi, who was a financial services consultant at Booz & Co before he took his MBA and joined Goldman. Or Landon Mizuguchi, an associate in Goldman Sachs' San Francisco office who previously worked in transaction services for EY.
Or course, there are always exceptions. Before his MBA, Du was an electrical engineer at Exxon Mobil.
3. You might want to get involved in a load of finance clubs at business school
It's not enough just to be studying an MBA at a top school, you also need to demonstrate your passion for finance through your extracurricular activities there. Hence, Rankoussi was part of the 'Peer Leadership Program (providing career coaching to Consulting and Investment Banking candidates)' at London Business School. Jiang was Co-President of Investment Banking Capital Markets Club at Kellogg. And Du was co-chair of the MIT Asia Business Conference.
4. Take as many finance courses as you can
Most MBA courses will give you an opportunity to specialize. If you want to work in finance, you must (self-evidently) specialize in finance. Look at Rankoussi, whose MBA included a, 'Double Concentration in Economics and Finance,' or Du - who took the 'Finance Track' at MIT.
5. Try taking some CFA exams
It's no longer a question of CFA or MBA, it's a question of CFA and MBA. Upcheshaw started the CFA program in 2012. Dobson sat the CFA Level III last June. Du is a level II candidate...As if studying an elite MBA course isn't hard enough.
6. Ensure you intern in the firm you want to join during the first year of your MBA course
Every single associate we looked at at, at every single top bank, had interned at that bank the previous summer.
7. Have a good undergraduate university on your CV
Banks like brands. While it helps to have a top business school and a CFA qualification on your CV, it therefore also helps to have a big brand undergraduate qualification too. Jiang read economics at Berkeley, for example.
In some cases, however, an MBA will eclipse a bachelors qualification. Upcheshaw studied Spanish language and literature at Southern Methodist University, but that hasn't stopped him landing the associate role at Goldman Sachs...