For those unable to break directly into high finance, starting at a one of the "Big 3" (S&P, Moody's, Fitch) is a great entry-level job, in which you can position yourself for a bright future.
*Entry-level analysts may only make about $70k (1st year all-in), but work about 45-hours a week max (similar hourly rate to banking)
*Pay/prestige is obviously well below banking, but there is significantly less competition for these positions
*The skill sets are real- , deep dive into SEC filings, access to nonpublic information, preparing formal credit memos, meeting with senior management teams, attending industry conferences, investor days, etc.
*If you hustle (CFA track, network with investors / management teams), the exit opportunities can be great (buy side bond investing, banking for structured finance in particular, industry, etc)
Started in for boutique investment bank in NYC and moved to a "Big 3" credit rating agency a year ago (not my choice). Currently going down the CFA track, and hoping to make a big move up at some point in 2013. For those readers who may be interested in finding out more about this path, feel free to PM me, and I would be happy to help.