The 6 Types of Investment Banking Jobs—and How to Break Into the Field

The 6 Types of Investment Banking Jobs—and How to Break Into the Field was originally published on The Muse, a great place to research companies and careers. Click here to search for great jobs and companies near you.

You probably already know a few things about investment banking (IB). That the job often requires long days and late nights. That it’s one of several popular finance jobs out there, with undergrads and business school students alike considering the career path for its potential to be very lucrative. Maybe you’re even familiar with the big names in play: Goldman Sachs, Citibank, J.P. Morgan, Lazard, and Deutsche Bank, among others.

But there’s so much more to be learned about investment banking jobs if it’s a field you’re interested in pursuing. Career experts advise doing your research before taking the leap.

“If you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, you’re going to be in for a very, very rude awakening” in terms of the crazy schedule, high-pressure environment, and competitive nature of the role, says Jena Viviano Dunay, a career and workplace expert who started out in investment banking before going on to coach other finance professionals.

Ready to explore this exciting industry? Below, we’ll outline what types of investment banking jobs are out there, as well as the skills you’ll need and steps to take to break in.

What is investment banking?

Investment bankers “are in the business of providing some sort of financial services for institutional corporate clients,” Viviano Dunay says. They generally deal in large financial transactions, including mergers, acquisitions, capital raises, valuations, and initial public offerings (IPOs), where a private company sells its shares to the public for the first time.

As leadership coach Loren Margolis, who spent nine years advising investment bankers at Columbia Business School, puts it, investment banking is the glue that connects companies, organizations, and even the government sector with investors and financial opportunities. “They are in the thick of how our financial markets across the world either thrive or fail. So they have a lot of control,” Margolis says.

Why should you consider jobs in investment banking?

What draws many people to investment banking is the high payout. Salaries can start in the six figures, even for entry-level folks, Margolis says, with aggressive bonus structures and additional income that can venture into the millions of dollars. Others might find appeal in the prestige and influence that comes from working for a major bank or well-known financial institution.

But the benefits of being an investment banker go beyond the superficial. “Frankly, it can be fulfilling, too, where you’re challenged a lot,” she says. “You have to make really, really high-stakes decisions with a lot of pressure. And when you make them well, the companies that you advise, the bank, and you yourself and the market reap great rewards from it.”

Of course, IB isn’t all fun and games (but what job ever is?). “The hours are not for the faint of heart,” Margolis warns. The industry can also be rigid, hierarchical, and stuck in the old ways, leaving little room for creativity or innovation. “If you want to be an entrepreneur, investment banking is not for you,” she says.

Types of investment banking jobs for beginners

So, what do you do as an investment banker?

The investment banking job description depends on your company, team, and title, along with other factors such as location or focus area. We’ll explain what each role generally means, and the varieties it comes in.

As a beginner or new entry into the field of investment banking, you have several options:

1. Intern

Average annual salary: $79,672 a year

“Investment banking very much runs on internships,” says Anne M. Kelly, a Muse career coach who worked with aspiring investment bankers and IB employers as Director of Professional Development at Emory University. You’re most likely to get a job in IB if you have at least one internship at a bank under your belt—and many employers tap interns first when looking to fill entry-level roles.

Interns typically assist analysts with their tasks, whether financial modeling or creating “pitch books”—sales pitches aimed at convincing clients to hire the bank’s financial services to fulfill their need. By shadowing analysts and their superiors, interns build a base knowledge of how financial transactions work and business relationships are built and maintained.

Many investment banking internships run as rotational programs, where you spend several weeks on one team, then move to another, to get a feel for the various departments and niches,” Kelly says. “There are so many different aspects to investment banking that there’s no way you can know what you want to do or where you want to go until you have that opportunity to be there, feet on the ground, learning more about it.”

Find investment banking internship opportunities on The Muse

2. Analyst

Average annual salary: $117,206 a year

For the most part, analyst roles are the starting point for investment banking if you’re out of college or graduate school. Analysts spend their days helping their team compile research related to their clients’ financial needs, then putting that research into documents and presentations to share with key stakeholders. As a result, they’re whizzes in PowerPoint and Excel, among other financial modeling and analysis tools.

“These are the workhorses of the bank,” Margolis says.

Investment banking analyst jobs tend to specialize, if at all, in one of two ways:

  • By industry: At IB companies where the clientele is broad, analysts could be grouped based on type of organization. For example, you could work solely with healthcare companies, or focus only on transactions in the manufacturing or tech sectors.
  • By financial discipline: Other IB companies prefer to group analysts by the type of need or transaction, such as corporate finance, compliance, M&As, or IPOs.

Because they’re the bottom of the food chain, analysts are usually at the mercy of higher-ups and their schedules.

“There are times that it’s incredibly slow, and there are times that it moves really fast,” Kelly says. “So it’s not uncommon that you’re going to be expected to be there very early in the morning and feel like you don’t have as much to do during the day—but that’s when lots of meetings are happening, deals are being done. And then it’s, ‘OK, now that we know what the client wants, it’s your go time.’

“You have a high amount of responsibility,” she says. But that doesn’t mean you’re left to fend for yourself. “You have teams of people, and you have people to review and to run ideas through.”

Analysts also sometimes get exposed to management opportunities, such as overseeing the work of interns. “You are in many ways looked at as the leader of those people who are coming up behind you, and you have the responsibility to help educate them,” Kelly says.

Find investment banking analysts jobs on The Muse

3. Associate

Average annual salary: $147,184 a year

While not as common, some entry-level professionals can start in investment banking at the associate level, often thanks to a graduate degree or MBA.

The role differs only slightly from analyst in that, on top of building spreadsheets and presentations, you might also be responsible for checking the work of analysts and getting in front of clients. You might also work fewer hours.

“You’re largely doing a lot of the grunt work still, but you have maybe an analyst to help you with some of that grunt work,” Viviano Dunay says.

Investment banking jobs for moving up the ladder

The following roles require several years of experience at an established bank or financial institution:

4. Vice president

Average annual salary: $192,453 a year

Vice presidents in investment banking aren’t actually the top level, as the name suggests. Rather, they’re the project managers overseeing the work of analysts and associates, and the translators for directors above them.

They also manage relationships with clients, investors, and other relevant parties to ensure deals go through smoothly—the downside being that when things go haywire, they’re responsible for getting everyone back on course, and for whatever downfall may come as a result.

“When you get to the VP level, you have a little bit more ownership, and you’re more client-facing,” Viviano Dunay says.

Find investment banking vice presidents jobs on The Muse

5. Director

Average annual salary: $205,451 a year

Directors, also sometimes referred to as senior VPs, balance the work of managing directors and VPs, depending on the organization. This means they’re either the face for the client, or the project manager behind the scenes—or a bit of both.

Find investment banking directors jobs on The Muse

6. Managing director

Average annual salary: $192,296

Managing directors are responsible for closing deals. This means they spend their days negotiating and winning over clients, with support from their team and the research they provide, as well as spotting new opportunities for business. Overall, the job entails a lot of meetings, travel, and people management.

If you’re wondering, “What is the best job in investment banking?” this might be considered the one, if only because it’s the highest level—and thus the highest pay bracket—and because it requires fewer hours than lower-level roles. That said, like many great jobs, you’ll likely have to work hard, and for a long time, to reach managing director status.

Tips for landing an investment banking job

Entry-level investment banking jobs aren’t completely out of reach for anyone. However, there are several steps you should take as early as possible in your career to set yourself up for success.

In additions to the tips above, this might also help: How to Become an Investment Banker, According to a Career Coach and Former Banker

Understand how feeder schools work—and try to attend one

Recruitment in investment banking can start as early as sophomore year of college. So the best way to get in front of hiring managers is to put yourself on the path starting in high school or undergrad.

“Make sure that you are going to a good school that feeds people onto Wall Street,” Viviano Dunay says. “It’s really hard to break into without having that brand basically on your resume.”

For the top schools for investment bankers, check out this list or this one, or be sure to ask during university tours or info sessions about placement at or networking opportunities with major banks. Also, consider a major that will teach you the nuances of and skills required for banking, such as math, business, or economics.

Show a knack and passion for finance

If you have a background in finance via your major or a past job, great! But you don’t necessarily have to be an expert to land an IB job. Instead, it’s important to show your passion for financial markets and trends.

Hiring managers “want to know that you dabble in finance,” Kelly says. For example, were you a member of a finance-focused club or did you serve as a treasurer in school? Do you subscribe to and read about financial news? Do you participate in the market through apps or tools?

Make sure to note all of those on your resume, in a cover letter, or while interviewing, and come to the table with stories that exemplify your knowledge. And when you walk into your interview, “know what’s going on in the markets for the day,” Viviano Dunay says.

Finally, be ready to explain or answer questions around financial topics and jargon. “Really studying up on the technical aspect is important for these types of interviews,” she says.

Emphasize key soft skills

A lot of IB can be learned and honed on the job. So what recruiters really care about are the hard-to-teach soft skills that make investment bankers excel in client management, leadership, and time management. “They look for people who are go-getters and self-starters,” Margolis says.

Curiosity is also valued by those in charge of hiring. “You are asked your opinion, and you have to use your opinion in your work,” Kelly says. (Need help shedding a light on those strengths? Here’s the non-boring way to show off your soft skills during your job hunt.)

Network and attend IB-related events

Networking events, whether through your school or via a connection, aren’t just great for meeting the right people who can refer you for IB jobs. They’re also opportunities to showcase those highly-marketable people skills that investment banking companies love.

Cold emailing or sending a LinkedIn request to a stranger to learn more about their journey can also pay off in the world of investment banking. “The fact that you attempt to reach out shows, ‘Hey, I have more interest than those other people that applied,’” Kelly says. “And that’s what you’re trying to do—show your interest.”

Prep for case studies and group interviews

Kelly says it’s common for investment banking interviews to be conducted in person, and in a group setting with other candidates. “Superdays,” or all-day interviews, are also a frequent practice. Prepare yourself mentally by doing your research on the company and team, and physically by packing water and other essentials. (Here are our 30+ best tips on how to prepare for a job interview.)

“They like to really get a sense of, ‘Look, we just put you in a room with a group of people you don’t know. Did you hide in the back? Did you disagree with someone? Did you get your point across? Did you take a lead in it?’” Kelly says. “They’re less concerned that the group got the answer right—they want to see you talk through your process.”

Investment banking isn’t just a lucrative career option—it’s brimming with potential for personal and professional growth. And once you’re in IB, opportunities abound. “People know that you are a hard worker if you’ve been in investment banking, and they know that you’re smart if you’ve been in investment banking,” Viviano Dunay says.

“You get such a well-rounded skill set from just a couple years in the industry,” Kelly adds. “It really can help you for the rest of your career.”