Many aspiring investment bankers wonder if an MBA or Master’s Degree would be useful for breaking into the industry and advancing within it.
The right type of advanced degree from the right school at the right time may boost your career… but the wrong degree could turn out to be a massive waste of time and money.
This page will explain the difference and point you to some example interviews, case studies, and articles on this topic.
At a high level, these degrees are best if you are making a significant career change (the MBA degree) or you have some relevant experience but didn’t have quite enough to get into IB the first time around (the Master’s degree).
Also, they are worthwhile only if you can win admission to the top schools because banks focus on recruiting from these so-called “target” schools.
An MBA degree from a top school can sometimes be used as a link between non-finance industry experience (e.g. technology, consumer/retail, healthcare or energy) and investment banking.
Check out our overview of the MBA investment banking recruiting process here.
And for a broader picture of the paths available, see our article on how to get into investment banking.
At a high level, the MBA option into investment banking is best if:
The most common mistakes with MBA programs are applying with too much or too little experience (e.g., 10+ years or only 1 year) and enrolling in a lesser-ranked school with little finance recruiting.
If you can avoid these problems and fulfill the criteria above, you should be in a good position to use the MBA investment banking recruiting process to break in.
Another potential inroad into finance is a Master’s In Finance (MSF) program. While an MSF degree is by no means a “silver bullet” for entering investment banking, it may help you with:
Unlike the MBA, the Master’s in Finance degree is better for candidates with less full-time experience or no full-time experience at all.
It’s best if you had some of the right experience to get into investment banking in university, but didn’t quite make it for various reasons (e.g., you started too late, had a GPA that was too low, didn’t network enough, or changed your career plans several times).
For example, if you completed a few corporate finance internships, accepted a full-time corporate finance role at a Big 4 firm, and you went to a university ranked #20 in your country, but you acted too late to jump into the IB recruiting process, a Master’s in Finance degree from a top school might be useful for you.
With this type of experience, it’s a bit of a waste to work for a few more years and then do an MBA; you could probably win an investment banking role without it if you can rebrand yourself with a normal Master’s degree and do an additional internship (combined with networking).
Here are a few stories and interviews with readers who used Master’s in Finance and MBA degrees to win investment banking roles (and related finance jobs):
In a normal Master’s in Finance program, you still recruit for Analyst-level roles at investment banks, so the recruiting process and interviews are largely the same.
At the MBA level, you recruit for Associate-level roles, which changes a few things – for example, you really need an “industry of expertise” at this level, and you’re more likely to get case studies and extended discussions about deals rather than simple technical questions.
That said, regardless of your level, you still need to know the core qualities that banks look for in junior bankers: technical proficiency, solid answers to “fit” and behavioral questions, a few recent deals you can discuss, and some experience with Excel and financial modeling.
Therefore, we recommend similar courses from Breaking Into Wall Street (BIWS) for Master’s and MBA-level candidates:
Completing these courses will help you win interviews and job offers for roles that pay $150K+ (or even $200K+ at the MBA level) and position you for top-tier exit opportunities such as private equity.