In your role as an investment banker, you'll be expected to help clients raise capital to fund their activities and expand their businesses while acting as a corporate financial adviser
1. Be sure this is the right job for you
Unlike many other finance careers, investment bankers often come from a range of backgrounds, and may use their transferable skills to join other related professions further down the line, possibly moving into a research, trading or structuring post.
However, those interested in investment banking and investment as a career often fit a certain person profile - particularly graduates on the lookout for a demanding, and potentially stressful, job.
Although working for one of the top investment banks can be challenging, the financial rewards are worth it for many. For example, you can earn around £30,000 to £40,000 starting out as a corporate investment banker, and £25,000 to £50,000 as an operational investment banker, with rapid salary progression the norm in this industry.
Understanding what's expected from the outset can help you to remain focused on taking advantage of any investment banking work experience or job opportunities that come your way.
2. Choose your investment banking career
As well as different career options, there are also various roles for those working in investment banking - and while there are similarities, they require different skillsets and personal attributes.
If you're working on the operational side, your team will be responsible for the processing and settlement of transactions. You'll need to be hard-working, with excellent numerical and analytical skills.
Corporate investment bankers provide financial services to other companies and organisations. You could be working on mergers and acquisitions, lending or bonds and shares. As you'll be providing strategic advice to your clients and working under extreme pressure, you'll need to be good at negotiation and have strong interpersonal skills.
Working as an investment analyst is a common entry-level graduate role.
3. Study for an investment banking degree
Employers dedicate sizeable resources to training their staff in this area, but a Bachelors degree is normally expected for most investment banking graduate jobs. While this doesn't necessarily have to be in a finance-related subject, it should have a strong maths focus - in a subject such as economics or business/management. A grade of 2:1 or above is typically required by the top investment banks.
If you're contemplating applying for university and are already set on a career in the financial markets, there are a number of options when it comes to specialist investment banker qualifications.
Firstly, there's the three-year full-time BSc Finance (Investments) at the University of Reading, which is an affiliated Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) programme. The London Institute of Banking & Finance offers the industry-recognised BSc Finance, Investment and Risk, as well as the BSc Banking and Finance, which includes an optional one-year industry placement.
The CFA Society of the UK (CFA UK) offers the entry-level Certificate in Investment Management (IMC) award, delivering the threshold competency knowledge in research analysis, portfolio management and other key investment activities. You can either do this Level 4 qualification through self-study and by registering for the IMC exam yourself, or through a training provider such as Kaplan.
As you consider continuing professional development (CPD) and studying for further finance qualifications, you can enrol on to the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) - an internationally-renowned investment management qualification (equivalent to a Masters). To be eligible, you'll need a degree, four years of professional work experience or a combination of work and study totalling four years.
The London School of Economics, Cass Business School and Warwick Business School are just a selection of institutions that run postgraduate courses in finance. If this is something you'd like to explore, search postgraduate courses in investment banking.
4. Do an investment banking internship
Many of the top banking institutions, including Barclays, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and the RBS Group, offer summer internships in investment banking.
For instance, J.P. Morgan offers a nine-week investment banking analyst programme for penultimate-year university students, where you'll learn key technical skills by working on deals and transactions for the company's clients.
On-the-job-experience and practical skills training give you the perfect grounding in investment banking. The best-performing students may receive full-time job offers upon completion.
However, it's important to get the facts you need before you apply so you can make an informed decision. To do this, first learn about the different work experience opportunities and choose one that best suits your interests. By watching short videos of employees sharing their career stories, you'll get an idea as to whether investment banking is for you.
When preparing your application, it's worth finding out what's required in the selection process. In addition to ensuring your CV stands out and is a true reflection of your skills and abilities (such as collaboration, self-discipline and perseverance), you may also have to write an essay. Make sure that your CV is tailored to the job description and specific internship you're applying for, and show there's a clear match.
This advice is also applicable to those looking at finance graduate schemes while still at university, as you'll be prepared for making applications once you're about to graduate.
As investment banks place such strong importance on work experience, to progress to a graduate scheme your chances of success will be greater if you've already undertaken an internship or work placement with them.
Explore the range of J.P. Morgan careers for students and graduates at J.P. Morgan - Student Programs, including its investment banking internship. You can also search for banking and finance internships.
If you're interested in working as an apprentice for a major investment bank, see the top UK banking apprenticeships.
5. Attend events and network
You can sign up for information sessions through your careers service, and you'll find opportunities to speak to employers at recruitment events. Virtual talks held online can also provide a taster of what your day-to-day work as an investment banker may involve.
Meanwhile, there's no excuse not to be well-connected with employers on networks such as LinkedIn - many people end up finding a job with help from social media.
When you land your first role, whether this is a full-time position or internship, you should always keep in touch with your peers. Not only can they provide valuable careers guidance, they may even aid your career progression further down the line.