Grades

Your GPA is an important screening mechanism used by many firms on Wall Street to filter the thousands of resumes that have to be processed each year. If you have a poor GPA, it won't keep you from getting a job on Wall Street, but certain positions and certain firms will be harder to break into. How much GPA matters not only varies by firm and group, but also by industry, too. Sales and trading jobs, for example, traditionally puts less weight on GPA if the applicant can show passion for the markets and impress in other areas. investment banking jobs, however, usually require 3.5 GPA or higher when going through normal recruiting channels like OCR. However, there are many ways that you can overcome a low GPA if you have strong leadership experience, started a company or are able to network effectively.

Why It's Important

Having a solid GPA shows that you put in the time and effort necessary to achieve a good education. It also shows that you're willing to do the work, no matter what it is and whether or not you like it. Most banks have a "gpa cutoff" of a 3.5. This usually isn't set in stone, but you may have trouble getting an interview with under a 3.5 GPA is you simply apply through normal channels and hope.

For target schools and semi-targets, there is a bit more leeway given to GPA. For a non-target you will probably want to aim for a 3.7+ GPA. You may very well be able to get to an interview with a lower GPA, but a higher one makes it far more likely.

Factors That Can Help You Overcome a Low GPA

There are many factors that could overcome a low GPA, including but not limited to:

  • Overwhelming Personal Circumstances: parent passed away, major surgery (brain surgery or open heart surgery), devastating illness (cancer)
  • Started a business: This doesn't mean you set up a website, worked on it for a month or two and then gave up. This means you worked your ass off for a year or two trying to get a business up and running, and achieved some level of success...or at the very least learned a lot from the experience and can speak intelligently about it.
  • Internships: Relevant internship experience can overcome just about any shortfall in your resume. For example, having a 2.5 GPA and a fall semester PWM internship won't cut it for front office investment banking, but a 3.3 GPA with a solid internship at a boutique bank might get you an interview.

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If you have a low GPA (under a 3.3), it will be an uphill battle getting into a front office Wall Street position. There are always exceptions, however. Don't let anyone tell you it is impossible. The primary way to overcome a low GPA is to start building your network with alumni, friends, family and anyone else that may know someone in the industry or firm you are targeting. Remember, most of the career success in this world is determined by WHO you know. So go meet a lot of people and develop meaningful relationships with them. Use Linked religiously and try to network your way into strong internships during the year or at the very least during the summer during your undergraduate degree to make up for that weak GPA. There are some extenuating circumstances that could help you overcome a low GPA, but they will have to be explained to recruiters:

  • Overwhelming Personal Circumstances: parent passed away, major surgery (brain surgery or open heart surgery), devastating illness (cancer)
  • Started a business: This doesn't mean you set up a website, worked on it for a month or two and then gave up. This means you worked hard for at least a year, experienced some level of success and can speak intelligently about what you learned and the mistakes you made.
  • Internships: Good internship experience can help you overcome just about any shortfall in your resume when coupled with strong networking skills. Sorry, having a 2.5 GPA and a fall semester PWM internship won't cut it for most careers in finance.
  • Networking: If you treat this like your studies, it won't help you. Plan on cold-emailing/calling 500-1,000 people. Minimum.

Don't play with fire, do your best to get good grades in your classes. It's not worth it to waste all that money to come out of school with a mediocre GPA that won't get you started in the career you want.

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Certifications

The simple answer is no. Having the CFA designation on your resume is nice, but it will not make up for poor grades or a lack of extracurricular activities and work experience. If a firm wants you to earn a certain certification, they will usually let you know once you are hired and will usually pick up the cost for you; however, that doesn’t mean you can’t strengthen your value as a candidate by attaining the CFA yourself.

Getting a head start is a nice way to take a little extra load off of yourself once you begin your full-time career, and frankly may be worth the few hundred dollars in the costs you incur. If you're planning a career in asset management, hedge funds, or research, there's a chance that at some point your firm will want you to get your CFA. It never hurts to be ahead of the curve!

The CFA can also be beneficial if you are attending a non-target or aren't working towards a business-related degree. It will show your interest in finance and help round out your story.

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For most accounting positions, obviously attaining a CPA is seen as a big plus to potential employers. Much like the CFA, the CPA designation will not land you a job, but it could make you more competitive.

If you do earn the CPA, employers can be confident that your knowledge of accounting will be sound. The value of attaining a CPA outside of accounting, however, is often called into question for other careers in finance.

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An overview and explanation of the FINRA / NASD certifications was created by WSO super-user Frieds to help out those who are curious.

Seeing as there have been a few recent posts about the NASD/FINRA Licensing exams, I thought it would be prudent to discuss them with you guys, since most of you monkeys looking for full-time employment on the street will need to take them in some way, shape or form.

Very simply, the licensing exams are a necessity across the board for almost everything you do on the Sell-Side. If you work for a broker/dealer or for a firm that inventories their own assets you might need a license. If you’re in sales and trading or do equity research, you will need it. If you’re doing any sort of client interaction, you need it. If you’re in banking, you’ll need it.

While you won’t need most of the exams offered, I’m going to cover the basics of what you will and will not need to know about these before you sit down to take them.

The Essentials: FINRA AND YOU!

FINRA, or The Financial INdustry Regulatory Authority, is the governing body behind all of these exams. They are the successor to the NASD (National Association of Securities Dealers) and are one of the biggest SROs on Wall Street. An SRO, for those that don’t know, is a Self-Regulatory Organization. An SRO acts as a regulating body over an industry; however they do not necessarily derive any of their power from the government or any federal body. They make the rules we follow that are not mandated by the SEC. They also enforce government regulation like Blue Sky Laws, or state registration as it is also known as, and the Investment Advisor Act of 1940. In addition to acting like a regulator, they are also in charge of all of these licensing exams that you might need to take if you work on the sell side. Not all people will be required to take sell side exams, but most will be expected to upon full time employment. Everyone from Investment Bankers, S&T Folk, Portfolio Managers, Equity Research to the Wealth Management guys that most of you monkeys talk down on and even the guys in the Back Office are required to take these exams. I am going to stick with the absolute basics and avoid discussing the “Limited Rep” and Management exams that are required if you plan on only hawking one product or are considered to be a principal or a manager for a desk.

IF YOU ARE AN INTERN, YOU WILL NOT BE REQUIRED TO TAKE THESE EXAMS. Look back a sentence and reread that statement. It’s highlighted for a reason. Again, if you’re an intern, you’re not required to have your licenses. There are a few reasons. First, there is cost and nomination. The exam requires the firm to pay for your costs of registration and the costs to take the exam, as well as the need to sponsor you for most of the exams. Simply put, taking an exam is a commitment by your firm in you for at least 2 years of your life. Plus there are the carrying costs for registration. It’s not just a one and done deal or a onetime fee, as your firm pays to carry your registration on their books. Second, there is the simple fact that unless you are employed by the firm, if you’re an intern and you end up not getting invited back, you walk away ahead and the firm is left with being out money because of you. Finally, as an intern, you will not be doing anything that would require you, by law, to need these licenses. You will not be executing trades. You will not be discussing “things” with clients. You will not have any responsibilities that require the use of these licenses.

Now, on to the important stuff.…

The Series 3: Commodities, Futures and Forex

The Series 3 is the exam required for anyone who wants to trade Commodities, Futures and Forex as an “Associated Person”, “Commodity Trading Adviser”, “Commodity Pool Operator”, “Commodities Broker”, “Futures Trader on a Commission Basis”, or a Forex trader under the jurisdiction of the NFA (National Futures Association). Basically, this is the exam required to trade commodities and futures. You don’t need a firm to sponsor you (Meaning you don’t need to be in their employment in order to take this exam) nor do you need any other exam if this is your sole job. The Series 3 covers material that is exempt from Blue Sky regulation, as both commodities and futures do not fall under this particular type of jurisdiction, however you are still bound by CFTC and NFA Guidelines. The exam has 120 questions and has a two and a half hour time limit.

The Series 7: General Representation

The Series 7 was the de rigueur standard of the day up until the introduction of the Investment Banking exam a few years ago, because almost everyone on the sell side had the Series 7 if they were on the sell-side. This exam is the “General Securities Rep” exam, meaning that once you pass it, you are able to sell all types of financial products. Unless you are required to have the Series 79 or work in an area that does not require the Series 7, you will have to take it. If you pass, it serves as your general registration with FINRA and as a General Securities Rep on the federal level. It effectively allows you to actually interact with clients and sell any security except for life insurance, real estate, commodities and futures. It is important to note that you cannot trade with the Series 7 alone, as you need to have your state registrations as well. The state registrations will be discussed in detail a little further on.

In order to take the Series 7, your firm needs to sponsor you. Traditionally, it’s taken within the first three months of employment, as that is the period, as defined by FINRA, of apprenticeship where you are supposed to learn and take your exams. The exam itself is a 6 hour long exam, comprising of two sections, each 3 hours in length and a break of between 30 minutes and an hour between the two halves. The exam has 250 questions. The two largest portions, Municipal Securities and Options, comprise about 100 questions on the exam. Knowing and acing those questions will only get you so far though. The Series 7 also covers basic regulation, analysis, the markets, KYC/Account and Ops related information and a few other topics. You need a score of 70% or higher to pass this exam.

The Series 7 is still the standard prerequisite exam for just about every major FINRA/NASD exam you will take outside of the Series 3. All of the principal exams, with the exception of the Commodities and Futures Principal – it requires the Series 3 – that you might take further down the line will require you to have the Series 7 license.

The Series 6X: You’re my Blue Sky, You’re my RIA

The Series 6X is an exam with 3 different flavors, the Series 63, the Series 65 and the Series 66. The Series 7 serves as a prerequisite for both the Series 63 and the Series 66. The Series 65, I wouldn’t worry about, but will discuss briefly for completion sake.
The Series 63 is the Blue Sky Laws exam. Passing this exam allows you to be registered at the state level per Blue Sky regulation and enables you to sell securities in whichever state you or your firm, as the case may be, choose to register in. The name of the law comes from the following quote:

Quote:
The name that is given to the law indicates the evil at which it is aimed, that is, to use the language of a cited case, "speculative schemes which have no more basis than so many feet of 'blue sky'"; or, as stated by counsel in another case, "to stop the sale of stock in fly-by-night concerns, visionary oil wells, distant gold mines and other like fraudulent exploitations." Even if the descriptions be regarded as rhetorical, the existence of evil is indicated, and a belief of its detriment; and we shall not pause to do more than state that the prevention of deception is within the competency of government and that the appreciation of the consequences of it is not open for our review.

This quote is attributed to US Supreme Court Justice Joseph McKenna as part of his opinion on Hall vs. Geiger-Jones Co. (242 U.S. 539 [1917]) despite the fact that he was not the first to use this quote.

As to the exam itself, this exam covers state securities regulation, laws and ethics. It has 60 questions and is 75 minutes long. You need a score of 72% or higher to pass.
The Series 65 is the Registered Investment Advisor exam. This exam is required for money managers, investment advisors and anyone that manages funds on a non-commission basis. While this exam is still around, most of you will not be taking this exam, as your firm will require that you have either the 7/63 or 7/66 if you are in a position that requires those exams. The only exception is if you plan to market yourself as a Registered Investment Advisor, but that’s another post for another day.

The Series 66 combines both the Series 63 and the Series 65. It combines the Blue Sky Laws and Registered Investment Advisor exam into a smaller, 100-question test that allows the candidate who passes to both manage money on a discretionary basis and receive their state registration. This covers everything from the Series 63 as well as Investment Strategy, Investment types and an in-depth look at knowing your client. There is no overlap from the Series 7 material that you would find on the other two exams. In general, all three of the 6X exams are known to be trickier, as it tests how well you know the rules you are being tested on and their uses. The Series 66 is two and a half hours long and requires a passing score of 71% or higher.

The Series 79: The Original Bankster

I will admit, I am least familiar with the Series 79, only because I was exempt from needing to take it, but it’s the licensing exam for all of you wannabe Bankers. If you were lucky enough to be grandfathered in, that’s awesome. If you weren’t, I wouldn’t sweat it. The Series 79 covers just about every IBD and ECM/DCM function there is. Basically, this exam covers two key areas:

  1. Capital Markets Advisory for Debt or Equity securities
  2. Traditional IBD Functions from Advisory Work to Restructuring and everything in between. And yes, your product group under IBD falls under traditional functions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in FIG, TMT or SSG, you’re still just a sucker who will need to get his Series 79 if you work at a sell-side shop.

This exam, while new, was created as a result of the problems that arose from the latter part of the last decade and is now required if you plan to do IBD. This exam serves as the IBD equivalent of having the Series 7/66 combo. The exam is 175 questions and is five hours long.

The Series 86/87: Learning to Dig Deeper

The Series 86/87 combination is for Equity Research. If you do any sort of ER Work for a sell-side shop, you will need this in some way, shape or form. The Series 7 and 63 are required before you can even be considered to sit for this exam. This has to do with the fact that in order to talk with clients, you need to have the Blue Sky Registration. The exam itself is broken up into two parts, the Series 86, Investment Analysis and Valuation, and the Series 87, Legal Regulation and Best Practices for Equity Research. They cover topics pertinent to exactly what it sounds like in order to make sure that you are at least competent in how you perform your valuations and are more than capable of being able to understand the basic regulatory framework. Seeing as these are a combination exam, you are required to pass the 86 before you can sit for the 87 even though they directly related. The Series 86 has 100 questions and a four hour time limit. The Series 87 has 50 questions with a 90 minute time limit.

Here’s an interesting fact for anyone doing Equity Research. If you have passed your CFA Level 1 and Level 2 exams, you can use that in lieu of taking the Series 86 exam due to the high degree of overlap between the two exams. It’s just something worth noting…

The Series 55: Equity is a Bitch

The Series 55, the last exam we will be discussing, is Equity Trading Desk exam. If you plan to be an equity trader or trade in convertible debt securities on a trading desk, you need to take this exam on top of its prerequisites, the Series 7 and the Series 63. This exam covers a slew of topics including the markets themselves, trading practices for different markets and different types of securities, rules and regulations and electronic trading, all things you need to know if you work on an Equities Trading Desk. The exam is 3 hours long and has 100 questions. You need a 70% or higher to pass.

Some Last Minute Thoughts and Advice

Just so you are aware, the major shops will pay for the exams if you are required to take them. However, there are other shops, particularly some of the shadier ones, which will make you pay for the registration costs. Although I hate my former roommate, I know he had to pay his registration costs out of pocket so this way if he failed, his employer was not the cash for registration. So be careful if you’re going to shop with a less than reputable reputation.

Before you go and ask about prep time and all those other fun questions, let me leave you with a bit of advice. It sucks having to take any of these exams more than once. Overkill, while more time consuming, is better than being under-prepared. I know of firms that have a one and done policy for the Series 7, where passing it must be done on the first attempt or you’re fired. This isn’t necessarily the case for other exams, but I have seen cases where people have failed the Series 66 multiple times and have been given ultimatums where they are gone if they fail it again. Just so you are aware, your firm will pay for study materials for you to use and possibly a class along with it. My advice for all of these exams is to take all of the practice exams until you’re comfortably scoring in the high 80s and you should be able to pass them without much difficulty.

As always Monkeys, fire away with questions if you have them.

As with the CFA and CPA, the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) designation will not get you a job by itself. The designation is geared towards people interested in a career in alternative investments (private equity and hedge funds are a couple of industries where it is respected, as well as by funds-of-funds or FoFs). However, due to its recent entry into the world of finance certifications, it will not hold as much weight as a CFA. While the knowledge gained from studying for the CAIA will be applicable to what you are doing, the CFA is more well-known and a designation secured by many in the alternative investment industry. As far as certifications go, the CFA would be the best place to start early in your career, and the CAIA will be more helpful after a few years' experience.

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Majors & Minors

When choosing a major (and a career) you should always choose something that interests and excites you. However, if your ultimate goal is obtaining a job on Wall Street, majoring in something other than business, finance, economics, or mathematics may make things more difficult come recruiting season. If you top that off with no extracurricular activities or internships in the finance sector, your ability to convince finance recruiters that you are truly interested in Wall Street may be hindered even more.

Target and Semi-Target

At a “target” and “semi-target” school, you will have a bit more leeway in choosing a major. Because of the perceived prestige and academic rigor of target and semi-target schools, students may choose a major such as philosophy or political science as long as they are filling up their electives with finance, accounting, and economics courses. It is, however, imperative that when majoring in something other than business, you make sure to take courses more relevant to finance careers and courses that display strong quantitative aptitude (specifically finance, accounting, and economics).

Non-Target

Coming from a "non-target" school, students will usually face an uphill battle for the most competitive front-office positions. Thus, it is imperative that these students are able to clearly display their knowledge and interest of finance. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by actually majoring in a relevant subject. Is it possible to break in from a non-target with a major other than business? Absolutely. But why make life even harder on yourself? If a finance degree is an option, then sign up. If it's not, go with economics. Majors traditionally seen as "hard" (maths, physics, chemistry, engineering type degrees, etc) are also acceptable as long as you do well in them.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, a philosophy major at Harvard is capable of securing an interview based on the Harvard brand, whereas a finance major at the University of Colorado is securing an interview based on the finance major brand (as well as a high GPA in that major). You should also keep in mind that whether you are coming from a target, semi-target, or non-target, having a business-related degree will put you a step above your competition for firms that don’t offer structured training programs. On average, your business-related major should (theoretically) help you perform better in the technical interviews while also giving you a strong working knowledge of financial concepts and financial modelling.

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A minor alone will not help you land an offer, however, it can help pull your story together. If you decide to major in chemistry, picking up a minor in business can help highlight your relevant background to finance recruiters. Similarly, if you are a business major who wants to work for a boutique IB focused on medicine, having a minor in chemistry could also help your case. Minors can also work in your favor by allowing you to connect with a larger group of people. For example, if you minored in German, any German speakers reviewing your resume will likely view it more favorably.

The biggest issue with a minor is that if the additional classes are challenging to you, it could actually do more harm if it brings down your GPA meaningfully. A minor can be helpful, but it's not nearly as important as your major, GPA, internships, and extracurricular activities.

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Whether or not a specific certificate will help you as a candidate for finance careers obviously depends on the specific certificate in question. A certificate will be looked at much the same way as minor would. It won't necessarily help you, but it can help demonstrate an interest in and round out your candidacy. If you are a majoring in the humanities, for example, a certificate from a financial modeling course like Wall Street Prep will allow you to demonstrate aptitude and interest in finance as well.

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Whatever classes you take, in order to be competitive for top Wall Street jobs you should aim to keep your GPA over 3.5. After that consideration, you should try to take a mix of business, economics, accounting and finance courses to show a strong interest in relevant concepts to Wall Street careers. Once you have a nice base of those relevant classes, you should take whatever interests you most in order to highlight that you are a well rounded candidate.

Graduate Degrees

For those pursuing a career in finance, there is some controversy as to whether one should take the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) program or go through a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. Both have their advantages, so if you’re deciding on which one to choose, you need to determine whether the CFA or MBA will best meet your goals.

The CFA program requires a bachelor’s degree, four years of full-time work experience, completion of the curriculum, and a passing score on three levels of exams. Registration into the CFA program costs about $400, with each exam costing anywhere from $700 to $955. The exam passing rate ranges from 38-46%. The CFA program typically takes three years to complete.

The CFA curriculum is based on three levels of study. Level I studies portfolio management, financial reporting and analysis, and asset valuation. Level II focuses on tools for asset valuation, such as quantitative methods and economics. Level III emphasizes models for asset valuation, in terms of managing investments, fixed income and equity.

An MBA, on the other hand, is broader in focus and attracts students looking to pursue careers in various fields of business. An MBA can be obtained in dozens of fields, but the most common ones include business, finance, operations, entrepreneurial management, human resources and marketing. Many schools even allow students to customize their own MBA program based on their interests and career goals.

Most MBA programs require several years of work experience, essays, Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores, transcripts and letters of recommendation as part of the admission process. An MBA can take 1 to 2 years to complete, depending on the school, type of program and whether you attend full-time or part-time. Many schools even offer online accelerated programs.

Whether you should pursue an MBA or the CFA depends on what type of career you plan to pursue. A CFA is typically most useful if you plan to pursue a career in portfolio management, equity research or hedge funds. A CFA won’t be as useful if your career goals lie in other fields, however it can also serve as a strong signal of financial competence in related fields. You can also study for the exams while working full-time. If you plan to pursue a career in other types of finance, it does not hurt to get a CFA, but it is a large time commitment. Most students spend close to 1,000 hours studying for exams. Unlike an MBA program, with a CFA you may not have as much access to a large school networks or as many recruiters.

Being part of a top MBA program gives you access to recruiters at top firms. You also have ample opportunity to expand your network and start a career in a new field. With an MBA, you can work at almost any company and in any field. On the downside, MBAs can be very expensive (expect to pay $100,000 or more at top universities for a two-year full-time program). MBA programs can also be intense and difficult to balance while working. You may have to take time off work to fully engage yourself in the program.

When you have compared a CFA vs MBA, if you decide that an MBA is right for you, check out The Business School Bible – Guide to Top MBA Programs.

This question is very vague. It is almost impossible to predict your chances without looking at your essays and knowing what you have done. It also depends largely on the applicant pool and what schools you apply to. The best way to find out how you stack up against the competition is by posting in the Business School Barrage forum.

A quick way to give yourself a general idea of how you stack up is by pulling up your resume and entering the business school you wish to attend. To give you an example:

  • Harvard Business School
  • 650 GMAT
  • Volunteer once a month at local food shelter
  • Deloitte Tech Consulting (2 years)
  • Michigan State University (Business, 3.05/4.00)
  • Random Accounting Firm (summer internship)

vs

  • Harvard Business School
  • 750 GMAT
  • Founded non-profit which delivers clean water to 5,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa (3 years)
  • Analyst, JP Morgan Asset Management (2 years)
  • University of Virginia (Finance, 3.65/4.00)
  • Bank of America (IB Summer Analyst)

Obviously the accomplishments of the first don’t quite match up with those of the second, but there is still a lot more to an application including essays and recommendations so there is no way for anyone to definitively answer this question. It might help to do a search for the resume books of the schools you’re interested in to get an idea of the applicants they accept. If you are looking for GMAT prep or admissions consulting, check out our partners, Veritas Prep – they give WSO members a 10% discount.

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An MBA is still one of the most respected and the most traditional degree to help you get promoted in the world of finance (and/or switch careers within or into finance). How important the MBA truly is, however, depends largely on what type of career you are looking for on the Street. For example, while an MBA isn’t the only advanced degree that will help you move up in investment banking, it is what the vast majority of analysts aim for and the most common path along the road from analyst to associate. However, for many traders and hedge fund managers, the MBA is less useful and some of these firms may even look down on the degree.

Why Get an MBA

Clearly, the industry you are most interested in plays an important role in whether or not you should attend business school. Are you interested in investment banking or want to try and accelerate your promotional track in private equity? Do you want to switch careers into another area of finance? Do you want that coveted corporate strategy position> If you answered “yes”, then an MBA might be right for you. Are you more interested in trading, hedge funds and being closer to the markets? Then you might want to do more research on the subject. In these last cases, an MBA from a top school still makes sense, but it is very specific to the individual and firm. If you are already in the finance industry, going to business school may help you move up the ladder, switch to a different firm, switch industries or break into the buy side. If you are in another industry such as consulting or marketing, going to a top MBA program is the best way to switch to an industry such as investment banking and vice versa.

Importance of Ranking

Going to a top business school (think Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, etc) won’t guarantee you a spot anywhere, but it will make the job search a lot easier. Coming from a lower level business school (think outside of the top 20, or a b-school that's not strong regionally), you will be facing a far more difficult battle than your undergraduate counterparts. If you can't get into a strong business school, whether nationally or regionally, it might be a good idea to get a couple more years of work experience and then try applying again.

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Despite being somewhat new in terms of degrees, a Master of Science in Finance (MSF or M.Fin for Master in Finance) are generally well-accepted in the finance world. Whereas an MBA gives a general business education, an MSF [or M.Fin] is focused solely on finance. These degrees often do not require work experience and are great options for non-business majors looking to break into finance and for business majors to increase their knowledge of finance. It will provide you with time to network and provide career resources to help get you a job. Do not, however, expect to come out as an associate. For most positions on Wall Street, you will be applying for analyst-level (entry-level) jobs.

Make sure to check out the link to MSFHQ in our Additional Resources section, it's a site dedicated to the MSF run by long-time WSO Certified User ANT.

Other Graduate Business Degrees

  • Master of Quantitative Finance: You should only get this degree if you are a quant looking to take the next step in your career or if you're looking to switch to a quant position.
  • Master of Financial Engineering: Similar to the MQF, unless you are, or are looking to be, a quant, you need not apply.
  • Master of Financial Economics: This degree varies in quantitative intensity depending on the school. At some schools it may be closer to an MSF, at others it may be closer to the above MFE.

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This is highly dependant on the firm and industry. To be straightforward a JD will usually not set you up nearly as well as an MBA. If you’re applying for a position with an investment bank or private equity firm, they may see you as overqualified and/or think that the work they have for you won’t fulfill your intellectual interests. There are of course, some exceptions.

A Juris Doctor from a top law school will position you well for a number of more specialized jobs in finance. A boutique investment bank focusing on restructuring or the restructuring group of a larger firm may see you as an attractive candidate because that type of financial work is more closely tied to the law. The same goes for a hedge fund that makes investments based on the outcome of legal decisions. Many companies working in the real estate sector (whether it is real estate PE, IB, or AM) will greatly value an employee with knowledge of both real estate law and business.

Most firms do, however, look for candidates with corporate law experience. This shows them that you actually have a working knowledge of that field and aren’t merely an accomplished academic. Remember, the more specialized your area of expertise is, the less jobs you will find available to you in finance. While being accomplished in a specialized field is great, you run the risk of pigeonholing yourself to that area.

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This is highly dependent on the firm and industry. To be straightforward, a PhD or MD (Doctor of Medicine, not Managing Director) will usually not set you up nearly as well as an MBA for a position in finance. If you’re applying for a job at a financial services firm, they may see you as overqualified. They may also think that the work they have for you won’t fulfill your intellectual interests. There are of course, some exceptions.

Since MDs and PhDs are so specialized, there are niches in the finance careers market for them. For example, a boutique investment bank specializing in chemicals may find someone with a PhD in Biochemical Engineering to be a boost to their team. Likewise, a hedge fund focusing on pharmaceuticals may find a MD perfect for a position researching new drugs and their ability to boost their company's income. Consulting and venture capital find PhDs extremely useful as well.

There is no single path to breaking into finance, but unless you are already working towards or have your JD, MD, or PhD, you should strongly reconsider a non-business related graduate degree. The more specialized your area of expertise is, the less jobs you will find available to you in business. While your degree may open doors for you in niche areas, you are probably going up against MBAs as well as other graduate degree holders who are giving finance a shot.

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