by Brian DeChesare Comments (8)

How to Get an Investment Banking Internship

How to Get an Investment Banking Internship

If you want to know how to get an investment banking internship, it’s simple: Start very, very early and have a great “Plan B” if something goes wrong.

The IB internship recruiting timeline is now so insane that even mainstream news sources like the Wall Street Journal are writing about it (“The Race Is On to Hire Interns for 2025. Really.”).

And yes, you read the news correctly: Banks like RBC, DB, Houlihan Lokey, Rothschild, and Guggenheim opened 2025 summer internship applications in calendar year 2023.

Admittedly, not all banks did this, and many bulge bracket firms will start in the normal time frame of January – March.

In practice, this means you must be on top of IB internship recruiting from Year 1 of university if you’re in the U.S.

I’ll cover the following points in this updated article:

How to Get an Investment Banking Internship: The “Ideal” Timeline in the U.S.

By the time internship applications open in Year 2 of university – whether that’s in the middle or beginning (!) of the year – you should have the following elements in place:

  • A good GPA – at least 3.5 and ideally a bit higher.
  • One (1) solid finance internship and one (1) student/leadership activity or two solid finance internships.
  • A decent amount of networking completed with bankers (e.g., 30 – 40 coffee chats or informational interviews).
  • And ~30 hours of interview prep, which you can stretch over 2-3 months or cram into a few weeks (your story, standard behavioral questions, technical questions, etc.).

To accomplish that, I recommend the following timeline:

How to Get an Investment Banking Internship, Step 1: Your First Year in University

You don’t necessarily need to pick your major at this stage, but I would recommend finance/accounting or something that will be useful for a wide range of jobs.

Think: Engineering, math, statistics, or something with elements of all these, such as “management science” or “operations research.”

Avoid options like sociology, art history, gender studies, etc., unless you’re at one of the top ~5 universities in the country (it’s easier to get away with irrelevant majors there).

Next, front-load your schedule with easier classes in your first year, such as language classes or university-wide prerequisites.

Earn a high GPA from these easy classes and save the hard, technical ones for later years.

Join 1-2 student groups that will help you network into finance roles, such as the student investment club or the business frat. You could also consider investing or case competitions.

Most importantly, you NEED to get a finance internship in your first year or in the summer after your first year.

In the past, you could wait until Year 2 for your first internship, but this is riskier today because applications keep opening earlier and earlier.

And yes, some banks will still start later, but you want to keep your options open so you can apply to as many firms as possible.

You probably won’t be able to get a “real” IB internship, but you can find some good alternatives:

There is no set process, so you’ll have to find people on LinkedIn, send them messages or emails, and repeat until you find something.

How to Get an Investment Banking Internship, Step 2: The Summer After Your First Year

Ideally, you’ll complete your first finance internship in this period (see above).

You should also start learning the technical side (accounting, valuation, and basic M&A and LBO concepts) and begin networking with alumni.

It might even be a good idea to start networking before the end of your first year so you have more time to follow up with alumni and set up calls.

This may sound unbelievable, but with recruiting moving up and start dates becoming more random, it is better to start too early than to wait too long.

If your internship has normal hours, you could target ~10 hours per week for networking + technical prep.

A good target might be to complete 20-30 coffee chats or informational interviews by the time your second year starts.

With the technical prep, the most important point is to learn by doing.

Yes, you can read guides, take courses, and watch YouTube videos, but you should also spend a few hours building simple DCF models or 3-statement models to learn the key concepts.

You will retain far more information if you practice with companies you’re interested in than if you passively consume content.

How to Get an Investment Banking Internship, Step 3: Your Second Year in University

This is where it becomes unpredictable because it depends on when banks open their applications, which seems to change each year.

Since you can’t know that beforehand, you should continue networking with alumni and preparing for interviews as your second year begins.

Weekend trips to places like New York or London can certainly help, but you don’t necessarily “need” them if you’ve been able to speak with many alumni already.

You’ll also have to consider your internship plans for the upcoming summer (after your second year) since they will appear on your resume/CV and in interviews.

I would refer to the “pre-internship” list above and focus on the area you’re most interested in.

If you don’t already have a “brand name” on your resume, aim for an internship at a large, brand-name company; if you do have that brand name already, aim for a highly relevant internship, such as one where you work on deals and value companies.

At some point in your second year, applications will open, and the recruiting process will begin – at least if you’re at a target school.

All you can do here is pay close attention to news alerts and job postings and be ready to pounce the moment applications open.

Some people recommend resources like The Pulse, the Adventis newsletter, etc., but I can’t personally speak to how useful or accurate they are for tracking the dates.

If you do well in HireVues and investment banking interviews, you might have something lined up by the middle to end of your second year.

How to Get an Investment Banking Internship, Step 4: The Summer After Your Second Year

You complete your second finance-related internship here.

Also, not all banks finish their summer internship recruiting by this stage, so if you haven’t yet found something, you might still have a shot.

Smaller firms tend to be a bit slower, so you could find some middle-market and boutique openings, even if the bigger banks are done.

Therefore, you can keep applying and networking – but your chances decrease the longer it takes.

How to Get an Investment Banking Internship, Step 5: Your Third Year in University

Some banks will continue recruiting even into your third year, so you might still be able to interview around.

But if you do not win an internship within the first few months, chances are that you won’t be in IB at a large bank for the summer before your final year of university.

What If You Start Late or Miss Application Deadlines?

The best “Plan B” options depend on how far off you are.

If you can plausibly get finance internships in a related area, such as corporate banking or corporate finance, you could potentially aim for a full-time return offer in one of those fields, work for a year, and then go for lateral roles in IB.

Similarly, if you can win an offer at a boutique bank or another smaller firm, you could take a similar approach and work there for a year and then go for lateral roles at larger firms.

But if the best you can do is something like wealth management, it will be much harder to make this move (you want something with more financial or deal analysis – for more, see our article on wealth management vs. investment banking).

You could also think about fields like equity research that are less structured and that might allow you to get in without a previous internship.

On the other hand, if you missed the deadlines because you were on a totally different path – such as engineering, marketing, or pre-med – you will probably need to pivot more aggressively with something like a Master’s in Finance degree.

You could also work for a few years and go the MBA route, but I do not recommend that for your immediate “Plan B” because it’s slower and more expensive.

How to Get an Investment Banking Internship at the MBA Level

At the MBA level, the timing is less frantic because banks cannot recruit until students arrive on campus.

You should still expect a quick start to recruiting and on-campus events once classes begin, but that has always been the case at this level.

We have an article on the MBA investment banking recruiting process, so please refer to that for more details.

In short, you still need to prepare for interviews and do some early networking, but the entire process is very structured at the top programs.

So, your candidacy is more about presentation, consistency, and ensuring you have a good enough background to be competitive.

How the Recruiting Timeline Differs in Other Regions

In places like London and Hong Kong, the process has moved up to earlier start dates, but it’s not as ridiculous as in the U.S.

So, you can afford to take your time a bit more and get internships in Year 2 (assuming it’s a 4-year degree – if it’s a 3-year degree, you need to move more quickly).

Applications usually open ~10-12 months before summer internships begin, so it’s less accelerated than the U.S. timing.

The Big 5 banks in Canada seem to be starting recruiting season earlier as well, but they’re more in-line with the start dates of the U.S. bulge brackets (well, except for RBC).

One difference is that there are more avenues into IB internships in regions like the U.K., such as investment banking spring weeks.

How to Get an Investment Banking Internship: What to AVOID

If you attend a good university, earn good grades, get 1-2 decent internships, and network/prepare in advance, you’ll probably be able to win an IB internship.

But you could also make plenty of mistakes that reduce your chances, so here’s what you should avoid:

First, it’s risky to transfer to a better university – even if you’re moving from an unknown state school to the Ivy League.

This strategy made sense for students at non-target schools a long time ago, but the new recruiting timeline makes it difficult to execute – as you won’t have much time to network with alumni or join student groups.

Second, do NOT take difficult classes in your first year. You cannot afford a lower GPA because banks use grades to weed out candidates.

Third, do not wait too long to start networking. If you wait until the middle of your second year, it might be too late!

Finally, do not focus on activities at the expense of internships. Yes, leadership experience is nice, and clubs can be useful for networking, but you will not make it far without internships.

Additional Reading About Internships

I’ve written a lot about IB internships over the years.

Here are the most relevant articles:

Finally, if you want to speed up your preparation process so that you can succeed in this hyper-accelerated recruiting timeline, our friends at Wall Street Mastermind might be able to help you out.

They can coach you through the process I laid out above step-by-step and remove the trial and error you would have to go through on your own otherwise.

Their team of coaches also includes a former Global Head of Recruiting at three different large banks, so you’ll know exactly what banks are looking for in candidates.

They provide personalized, hands-on guidance through the entire networking and interview process, and they have a great track record of results for their clients.

You can book a free consultation with them to learn more.

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys lifting weights, running, traveling, obsessively watching TV shows, and defeating Sauron.

Break Into Investment Banking

Free Exclusive Report: 57-page guide with the action plan you need to break into investment banking - how to tell your story, network, craft a winning resume, and dominate your interviews

We respect your privacy. Please refer to our full privacy policy.


Read below or Add a comment

  1. Anthony

    Hi Brian, I love your writings! It’s two in the morning and I’ve got my chem exam tomorrow, but I’ve just fallen into the M&I rabbit hole.

    I’m attending university next year a top British university for Maths and Stats, but I’ve always dreamed of working and living in New York. Do you have any guidance on how to turn a British degree into an American IB job offer? If it comes to it, I’m also waitlisted on a less presitigious US university. Would switching to that help or hurt my odds at breaking into IB?

    1. It is incredibly difficult to win U.S. job offers without being a citizen or green card holder unless you attend university as a student and use the OPT program to work after graduation, or you start working in another country, perform well, and then push for an internal transfer. So if your goal is to work in the U.S. initially, yes, you definitely want to attend the best U.S. university you can.

      In terms of a top U.K. university vs. a lesser-known U.S. one, it just depends on how willing you are to start out in London and then transfer later on vs. start in the U.S. and probably have to put a lot more effort into the initial recruiting process (but not have to worry about changing locations later).

      1. Anthony

        Thanks for your speedy reply. Frankly, I don’t really like London, and couldn’t imagine living there for too long, so I think I might try and go for the US option.

        However, there is one other option I had in mind, and I was wondering how viable you think it would be. What if I went to the UK university, and then used that credential to do a master’s program at a top university in the US? If that is to work, would it be worth pursuing over an undergrad opportunity in the US at a weaker school? For added context, the UK university is Oxford and the US one is NYU Stern. I’m especially concerned about “wasting” the first few years of my life, or at least not spending it optimally, whether it be due to the masters program or the work in London, and I wonder which would be a better use of time.

        1. You could do that, but it seems like extra work for a similar result (if you want to work in the US, just go to university there to start with). And while NYU Stern is technically “worse” than Oxford, I’m not sure it’s any different in terms of winning finance jobs, as there are far more opportunities coming out of Stern as well.

  2. Hi Brian,

    Thank you for writing this article.

    I’m currently studying the basics of Excel and financial accounting. Is it possible to land a real estate (brokerage, appraisal, or lease management) or private equity internship during the academic school year/semester? I am from Boston, and I am looking for an off-cycle internship (in-person or virtual) in either Boston or NYC to help me get into investment banking.

    1. Thanks. Yes, you can win some type of real estate or PE internship at a smaller firm during the school year. But, again, the usefulness really depends on your timing because of how early IB recruiting starts these days. So these are really options you should consider for Year 1 of university and early Year 2.

  3. DB London SA 2024

    Hey Brian, keep up the awesome content as always. I have a question though, do you have any advice regarding which teams to join for Deutsche Bank in London for IBD (Corporate Finance) for a summer internship in 2024? I’m mainly concerned about exit opportunities, and am considering Lev Fin, M&A, and TMT. I’m aware Deutsche is super strong in Lev Fin, but its also generally worse for exit opps compared to M&A.

    TMT seems like a good middle ground between what is considered generally a good team and what Deutsche is good at. However, I’m worried that I won’t get to work on excel models as much (which I’ve enjoyed from past internships). I’m also aware I’ll be doing telco shit within TMT if I were to join according to the director there, but have no interest/familiarity in that.

    I am quite interested in high yield debt stuff as I was originally interested in RX (didn’t get an offer for RX though). I’m worried that lev fin would limit my exit opps to just distressed kinda stuff though.

    Any and all advice would be appreciated. What are some criteria you think I should consider? (exit opps, team culture, interest, etc.) Should I consider the strength of DB’s teams from league tables? Any insights abt DB (London) you can give me? What would you do in my situation and with my preferences? I’m mainly gunning for the best exit opps and don’t really care about WLB or team culture for now.

    1. I think you are probably over-thinking this or not quite thinking about it correctly.

      In London, PE recruiting (and recruiting for HFs and other fields) happens at a slower pace than in the U.S., which means it starts later and doesn’t require everyone to be ready by some arbitrary, hyper-accelerated deadline, such as 1 month after full-time jobs begin. This also means that you get more time to gain real work experience and that recruiters care more about *what you did* on the job rather than the group you were placed into.

      So it is less about the specific group, especially when you’re discussing all “good” groups like LevFin, M&A, and TMT, and more about your actual experiences on the job.

      If you really can’t decide, pick M&A or TMT because either one should give you good deal experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *