After wrapping up an undergraduate degree, most students are eager to get out into the real working world and start making money and putting their hard-earned skills to use. But that entry level position is just the beginning of a long career likely full of twists and turns. As with many career fields, the investment banking career ladder is long — and how many rungs you climb depends on your talent, your ambition, and a dose of luck.
The grunt work
Financial analysts are largely considered the grunt workers of the banking world. Analysts spend a great deal of time doing work like formatting PowerPoints, collecting company data and performing financial statement modeling (the “analyzing” side of being an analyst). Administrative tasks fill the rest of the young analyst’s workday: scheduling meetings and conference calls, and making travel arrangements for the higher-ups.
For many, the tedious workload of the entry-level financial analyst means a quick path to burnout. But you don’t need to spend too long in this stage of your career. After two years as an analyst, most young professionals go back to school to pursue their Master’s degree and move along the banking career path. If they stay on for a third year, it’ll be with the understanding that they’ll be promoted directly to associate within their firm without going back to school.
Moving up the ladder
If you haven’t stayed with the same company and been hired on directly as an associate from the analyst level, you likely were recruited directly from your MBA program to work for the bank. Though many aspects of associate work are the same as an analyst’s, this role comes with additional responsibilities and more interaction, sometimes working directly with clients. Associates will also supervise analysts and check their work — so even if you’re still occupied with the same mundane tasks, you’re at least not doing all the busywork.
After about three years, associates have the potential to be named vice president. As a VP, you’ll finally have reached the level of senior banker. Senior investment bankers must maintain their relationships with clients and anticipate their needs to stay in demand. This role requires expert knowledge of the industry field’s financial landscape.
From here, if you’re ambitious enough to keep climbing the ladder, you can advance to senior vice president and eventually managing director or partner.
Transitioning from the bank
But many choose to move on from the investment banking world at some phase in their Wall Street careers. From the level of associate, vice president or higher, it’s easy enough to make a lateral move into the world of corporate finance as your career after investment banking, or work as a consultant.
If you’re done with the world of finance completely, you’ll have still had years of raking in an investment banker salary, meaning that you’ll likely have enough savings tucked away to pursue whatever your passion is. If you’re smart with your money, you’ll have the capital to open your own small business. While the life of an investment banker isn’t for everyone, it’s tough to beat the salary — and the money can potentially open doors to whatever else you want to do with your career.