What to expect from an investment banker degree (and FAQ)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Employers often refer to a candidate's education and qualifications to determine their suitability for a role, particularly in jobs that require industry knowledge or technical skills. Although it's possible to work in the financial industry without a degree related to finance when it comes to specialist roles such as investment banking, a degree can be helpful and many employers expect candidates to have one. If you're interested in a career in investment banking, you might consider a degree in this subject. In this article, we answer a range of investment banker degree FAQs to help you learn more.

What is an investment banker degree?

An investment banker degree is an undergraduate or postgraduate degree related to finance and investment banking. It teaches knowledge and skills that investment bankers use daily. Bachelor's degrees in subjects like banking and finance, or finance, investment and risk take three years to complete or four years for courses that include a year in industry.

Master's degrees in subjects like investments, finance and investment or investment management take one year with full-time study or two years with part-time study. Degrees in banking, finance and investment aren't strictly necessary for a career as an investment banker. Some employers look for candidates with degrees in other relevant subjects, such as mathematics, economics and business administration. Most employers require BSc graduates to have a 2:1 degree at a minimum, but if you have additional relevant experience, such as an internship at an investment bank, you could be an appealing candidate.

Related: What is a finance degree? (Plus degree types and careers)

What qualifications are necessary to enrol in a bachelor's degree in investment banking?

Most undergraduate courses in investment banking require three A-levels or equivalent qualifications in relevant subjects, such as maths, economics, business and accounting. Required grades vary between universities. Candidates also usually require GCSEs in maths and English.

What qualifications are necessary for a master's degree in investment banking?

Most postgraduate courses in investment banking require a 2.2 or higher bachelor's degree in finance, banking, economics, business or another relevant subject. Universities appreciate relevant experiences such as an internship or previous employment. Many universities also ask for at least one academic reference.

Related: A complete guide to an MSc degree (plus definition and FAQs)

Are there other qualifications necessary for a career in investment banking?

The Chartered Financial Analyst Society of the UK (CFA UK) offers a Certificate in Investment Management (CIM) to help finance professionals who demonstrate their skill and knowledge of investment banking. You receive a certificate following the successful completion of an exam. The CIM isn't essential for a career in investment banking, but it's helpful. Some people who sit the CIM exam are already working in front office investment roles and want to progress to roles with greater levels of responsibility. Others have relevant qualifications or experience in finance and want to begin a career specifically in investment.

To further develop your career, you can enrol in the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) programme, which is an internationally recognised qualification. It delivers a more comprehensive assessment of your investment banking skills than the CFA UK. You can self-study or seek out approved training providers. The CFA Institute offers scholarships to those who require financial assistance. Only those with a relevant degree or a total of 4000 hours of work experience acquired over at least three sequential years can enrol in the CFA programme.

Is an internship necessary to work as an investment banker?

Work experience plays an important role in securing permanent employment as an investment banker after graduating. Some investment banks offer full-time positions for recent graduates or those in the penultimate year of university study. Others have part-time internships which students can take on alongside their studies. Internships can turn into permanent job offers or they serve as networking opportunities to help you meet professionals who know of job openings.

Four-year bachelor's degrees that offer a year in the industry are a great way to gain work experience without doing an internship. The year in the industry usually takes place in the third year of study so that you have adequate technical knowledge to embark on work. Industry placements usually involve a salary and additional benefits. Depending on the course, your university might assign you a workplace for the year in the industry or you might apply for positions.

Related: Investment banking Q&A: how do investment banks make money?

How much do qualified investment bankers make?

With an investment banking degree, you can access graduate positions in investment banks with a starting salary in the region of £25,000 to £50,000, with rapid progression of salary as you gain experience. The average salary of an investment banker is £15.77 per hour, but pay varies greatly between different regions. The highest paying cities for investment bankers are:

  • Edinburgh: £30.73 per hour

  • London: £30.14 per hour

  • Leeds: £16.11 per hour

The following senior positions in investment banking offer higher salaries:

  • Investment consultant: £44,169 per year

  • Investment manager: £52,375 per year

  • Investment banking analyst: £62,649 per year

Related: How much does an investment banker make?

Where do investment bankers work?

Investment bankers usually work in investment banks and financial services firms that specialise in helping clients make profitable investments. There are two key types of investment banking roles which are operational and corporate. Operational roles, also often known as front office roles, involve processing and settling financial transactions. These jobs require excellent numeracy and analysis skills.

Operational investment bankers check that money changes hands correctly and in line with legal and regulatory requirements. Corporate roles involve handling investments for businesses and organisations. This includes providing strategic advice to clients about their investments. Corporate bankers often work on mergers, acquisitions, lending, bonds and shares.

Related: What is front office investment banking? Duties and roles.

What do investment bankers do daily?

Although responsibilities vary between roles and employers, most investment bankers fulfil the following duties:

  • facilitate transactions by performing due diligence and overseeing relevant paperwork

  • financial planning to help businesses or individuals forecast finances and develop budgets

  • raise capital for business clients by issuing debt and selling equity

  • assist in mergers and acquisitions by advising on the future growth potential of new ventures

  • recommend investment opportunities to expand and diversify client portfolios

  • conduct industry and company research to identify new opportunities and understand risks

What skills does an investment banker benefit from?

Investment bankers possess the following skills, which relevant degrees can develop and strengthen:

Analytical skills

Investment bankers continuously assess market conditions, company valuations, portfolios and various other financial affairs. Having an analytical mindset can help you pinpoint opportunities and risks and reason through complex problems to find creative solutions. If you're skilled at deducing and interpreting data, you may make a good investment banker.

Interpersonal skills

Since investment bankers work with a wide range of people each day, including clients, business executives and other investment professionals, it's important to be capable of building strong relationships. Being confident and charismatic helps you to connect with others, build trust and develop healthy professional relationships. Since the industry is competitive, having good interpersonal skills may also help you network and progress to higher positions.

Numeracy skills

Being good with numbers helps investment bankers to perform their duties quickly, efficiently and with less risk of errors. Although various computer systems and software help streamline calculations for those who work in the financial industry, being skilled in mental arithmetic and statistics is important for analysing opportunities and risks. Good knowledge of financial-related maths is particularly important.

Calm under pressure

Investment bankers work in busy, high-pressure environments with long working hours, particularly when in corporate roles. The financial market moves quickly, and it's important for investment bankers to keep up. Good investors can rapidly analyse risks and make major decisions with confidence. Those who thrive under pressure and can stay calm when facing complex situations succeed in the industry.

Dedication and commitment

Since investment banking involves long hours and stressful situations, it takes dedication, passion and commitment to succeed. Dedicated graduates can quickly progress their careers if they're willing to put in extra hours, learn quickly and take on new responsibilities with confidence. It's also important for investment bankers to commit themselves to achieve the best outcomes for their clients.

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Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Related:

  • How To Become an Investment Banker

  • FAQ: What are the average investment banker hours?

  • Common Investment Banking Interview Questions (With Answers)

  • How Much Does an Investment Banker Make?

  • What does a corporate investment banker do? (Main duties)


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