How old is too old for MBA going into investment banking track?

dreamtobeabanker's picture
Rank: Baboon | 160

Hello WSO,

I've written a couple of posts on WSO concerning the MBA and GMAT process. I couldn't find a direct post relating to this topic, so I thought I might ask. I was wondering on the age ranges/number of years of work experience of MBA applicants who trying to go into investment banking at a top 1-25 range school? I am currently 26 and working on my GMAT till I get a good score 700+. It may take me a long time till I get the score and repeated attempts, but I'm worried I might get too old when I apply for b-school. Would I be too old to apply to an MBA in order to pursue a career in investment banking (I would possibly have 7-8 years of work experience and apply at the age of 29-31)? The reason why I ask is because when I view mba class profiles the avg work experience is 4-5 years (age estimate 26-27), and I'm under the impression investment banks dont like to bring in Mba grads who are over 30.

Thanks in advance.

Comments (72)

May 14, 2017

I know some MBA classmates of mine who went into IB over 30, usually ex-military or international students. It all depends on how you spin your story and relevant experience/interest. I think it's generally tougher to do the IB hours if you're older. Heck, I couldn't sustain it in my mid-20s and even just thinking about putting in those hours again pains me. Typically, if I had to guess the age range of those who start as an associate right out of MBA, I would say between 27-30 years old.

May 14, 2017

Upto 30 is fine man relax.

May 14, 2017

You're fine. +/- 2 years or so isn't a big deal. But it's harder to put in those really long hours if you are married and especially with kids (although there are folks in that situation who have done it - but it's not recommended).

May 14, 2017

Up to 30 seems fine. Over that is usually ex military people.

May 14, 2017

If you think it'll take you two years to get over a 700 on your GMAT, I don't think you're going to be a very good investment banker.

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May 16, 2017

I had a friend who works in investment banking at a mid tier BB who took 6 attempts 2 years to get their GMAT which got them into Stanford business school (Age 27 entered B-schoo). I mean ppl move at their own pace for the GMAT imo. I was never comfortable with standardized tests in the states (SAT) (most of my family took british O-lvls and A-lvls which is probably why or I am retarded). I can do heavy math subject oriented test Calc I, II, III, Stats, Econometrics. Just these stupid IQ tests are really frustrating and I probably will not succeed in getting a sufficient score, but lets see how I do.

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May 17, 2017

I think each year that passes it's going to be harder to get into B-school unless each year your profile gets stronger and stronger. The longer you wait, the more admissions committees want to see more leadership, career progression. And you always have to ansewr the "why MBA now?" question, and "it took me 2 years to score over a 700 on my GMAT" doesn't cut it. I recommend if you're ready to change careers now, you go full court press on the GMATs NOW.

May 15, 2017

So would someone who is starting an MBA at 31 with the goal of IB be to old without military experience.

May 15, 2017

No, I imagine not. At 30+ you will require a lot less hand holding compared to the average 26 year old. Some banks will see maturity as a plus, some wont care, and others want to only mentor young guys up through the ranks. IB is relationship driven, if you are coming out a top MBA program, age will only be a tiny factor compared to all others attributes they are looking to hire for. That said, if you are 30+ and have no relevant experience, it would be an uphill battle to compete with guys that have been grooming themselves since 9th grade.

May 15, 2017

The 32 year old who can network and ace the technical portion of interviews will get selected over the 26 yr old with his head up his ass.

I don't think age ever came up for the older guys I know who are in IB. Most were ex-military but a few were not, but their work experience was extensive (CFAs, CPAs, Big 4, Consulting, Corp Fin., Tech).

Then again I don't know too many 31 yr. olds getting into top b-schools with shitty work experience.

May 15, 2017

Recently a mentee of mine just got his MBA from Yale School of Management. He didn't have any investment banking experience. Was purely 6 years of experience at UN. Although he landed interviews at BBs, he did not get a single offer. End up doing product development role at Capital One. The problem with rebranding with MBA is for most people that I know, you can easily move into Management Consulting; but for investment banking for the Associate roles, you will be competing with investment banking analysts who already had experience. The only guy that I know is a Chinese guy in Citigroup at New York City. He became an Associate at 33, probably the oldest at his group.

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Best Response
May 16, 2017

People don't realize that for MBAs, in many cases your Pre-MBA resume will determine much of your recruiting experience. It's not QUITE as easy for a hard reset as the schools lead you to believe, though it's certainly possible.

Your friend was in the game by virtue of getting interviews-he likely just failed to close. I find that for many of the people doing banking interviews who have zero background in finance, they underestimate the ramp up it takes to thoroughly understand finance or the networking process. You should know the relationships between financial statements like the back of your hand-to the point that you can intuitively pick up on consequences and impact from changes to any of the variables from one statement to the other in most situations, and you will have to make sure to establish strong relationships throughout. People who do both well don't typically strike out.

Why would analysts go to b-school to return to banking? Not sure I saw much of that in school. Most ex-analysts I know wanted nothing more to do with IB. They mostly gunned for PE or Consulting.

May 17, 2017

Great point. Try as I may to walk away from pre-MBA experience it came up in EVERY interview. And it comes up in MOST projects. I think the actor term is "typecast"? Tough to break out of that mold. Risk averse management aren't keen on helping you break out of your mold.

May 18, 2017

Not everyone is made to move to PE. Some people are just good at working on the sell-side. Transition from sell-side to buy-side is not as easy as people think. From my personal opinion, when I was in sell-side, I just want to close the transaction and when someone sign off on the Definitive Agreement, my job is done. When I did move to the buy-side, as soon as we close a deal, this is where the nightmare starts. How are we going to justify the price? What are we going to do to add value to exit out in a few years? The sponsors - either the LPs/ HNWIs/ Family Offices are going to bug the heck out of you if you can't manage to "add value". This is one of the reasons, I decided to move back to the sell-side (after 2 years in buy-side).

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May 18, 2017

Did the bugger do any internship in banking? Did he do, like, a pre-MBA internship? Or one during MBA?

May 18, 2017

He managed to land a corporate finance (FP&A) role with a big conglomerate as an internship. But not the typical AM/IBD/PE internship.

May 20, 2017

I've seen lawyers going into IB through MBA after a few years practicing at law firms

May 21, 2017

Exactly what @TheGrind said. This was my experience in b-school as well. As in, I saw other classmates go through it, I did not recruit banking myself.

May 22, 2017

You will be fine if you get into a top program. I go to an M7 school and those who pursued banking almost invariably got it if they put in the legwork for recruiting, regardless of prior experience. The level of finance knowledge that you need for any kind of MBA recruiting outside of HF/PE is rudimentary, so all backgrounds can pick this up. MBA-level recruiting is 90% about networking for most fields.

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May 22, 2017

Is that true irrespective of age and years of work experience?
It seems that a few people in this thread are saying that work background does influence employment opportunities, or is that only for alternatives outside of banking and consulting?

May 23, 2017

Pretty much. Ex-military officers, engineers, etc in b-school programs have been going into investment banking and consulting for many years.

Again, as long as you're at a top program where it's a core recruiting school for a lot of the firms - if you're at a top 8, it shouldn't be a problem at all, and a top 16 with a bit of effort you'll also be able to pull it off.

The key thing that it boils down to for these firms is fit. If you're at a top 8 or even top 16 program, they are pretty sure that 90% or so of the folks who submit resumes have the brains to do the job and/or to pick things up quickly enough without much trouble.

But they want to know that you fit the lifestyle of those jobs.

With consulting, it's a combination of thinking on your feet or thinking out loud that is required with client work, and the lifestyle of significant travel, and lack of continuity (being shuttled from one engagement to the next). No matter what school you go to, the case interview is usually the litmus test for the former (communicating your thinking out loud in a clear way), and then the subsequent interview rounds a test of the latter (cultural fit with the firm).

With investment banking, they really do want to know that you are going in with your eyes wide open - that you know what you're getting yourself into. Long hours, grinding away at numbers (analytical but not always necessarily challenging - but at times repetitive), and the unpredictable workflow that comes with being in professional services (which is relevant to consulting, but consulting engagements tend to be longer so the intensity of your work/deadlines won't be as unpredictable as in banking for the most part).

They won't say (and can't say) they prefer younger, but they want folks whose personal lives can better fit this kind of lifestyle - and regardless of age, it tends to favor those who are single and no personal commitments (caretaker for family members, etc).

Prior relevant experience, as always, is an asset - but it's not necessary (and in some cases, prior relevant experience may be outweighed by personal concerns i.e. a former IB analyst who now has a spouse and 3 kids, and is female - while the firm can't overtly discriminate, it may take more convincing on that ex-analyst's part that she is WILLING to do the job at 100% commitment (since her ability isn't in question, but her level of commitment).

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May 23, 2017

age aint nothing but a number kid

May 23, 2017

http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/class-statistics/
Average age at HBS is 27, if anything you're average

May 23, 2017

27-32 is fine..

at 33 you will be considered older

35 is probably the oldest age one would consider going to a top ranked b-school

May 23, 2017

BillyRay05 hit the nail on the head.

The good thing is that many top B-Schools (Wharton, Darden, UNC-KF, Fuqua, and a few others) have weekend programs where you get the same degree. However, this does not give you an opportunity to do an internship. Most of the people in those programs are older and are futher along in their careers, so not interning is not a big deal to them. A lot of them are much more senior than entry-level MBA jobs, anyways. However, if you are a 'career switcher' like myself (military to IB) then an internship is going to be key to establishing yourself over the summer and finding a job.

If you do apply later in life just make sure you have a 'story' for that when you interview.

May 23, 2017
FormerHornetDriver:

BillyRay05 hit the nail on the head.

The good thing is that many top B-Schools (Wharton, Darden, UNC-KF, Fuqua, and a few others) have weekend programs where you get the same degree. However, this does not give you an opportunity to do an internship. Most of the people in those programs are older and are futher along in their careers, so not interning is not a big deal to them. A lot of them are much more senior than entry-level MBA jobs, anyways. However, if you are a 'career switcher' like myself (military to IB) then an internship is going to be key to establishing yourself over the summer and finding a job.

If you do apply later in life just make sure you have a 'story' for that when you interview.

Of course, nothing is impossible, but as pointed out above, there are certain ranges where you are more likely and less likely to be accepted, or so it would appear. One thing to consider, as HornetDriver pointed out is you get to a point where you won't/do want to/can't stop working, earn no money for 2 years and drop upwards of $200k just to get an MBA. My guess is "older" people (35+) could get into top programs if they wanted to, but they don't generally want to. Most top programs have executive programs in some capacity which tend to be a better option because the student doesn't want to stop working, doesn't want to leave their current employer...just break through a glass ceiling, doesn't want to hang out with 25 year old kids, possibly has a family, etc...so it might be a causation vs. correlation situation, to some extent.

At the end of the day, the schools are trying to find students that have the ability to be stellar brand ambassadors (so other quality candidates will come to the school in the future) with high earning potential (so they have a great data point and are more likely to get significant alumni donations)...in some ways, a 35 year old that hasn't done something significant in their life will just appear to be a bit more risky than the 25 year that is up and coming and/or right on track.

Regards

May 23, 2017

The truth is, there are some schools that definitely have a bias against older candidates. HBS and Standford come to mind. This is not to say it's an automatic reject if you are 30 or older from these schools, but for various reasons, it's just not the sweet spot for these schools. There are plenty of top tier programs who don't care about age, but more about achievement, so no need to worry.

Bryant Michaels
Veritas Prep Consulting

May 23, 2017

Severe disadvantage? Not severe enough where I haven't seen it overcome. If military experience is the "reason" for getting an MBA at 33 as opposed to 27, that could actually work in your favor. In this situation, it's important to demonstrate that you're comfortable with the idea that your direct manager could be younger than you, that there are going to be people 10 years younger than you at the same level and pay grade, and that you're resilient enough to handle going into this type of field and level of pay at 33.

May 23, 2017

Brady, Are you thinking in terms of Associate IBD roles at major banks (or whatever the consulting equivalent is)?

I would be interesting to hear what people think about this: Is age a barrier assuming you have the relevant experience / network for HF, PE and other investment management (e.g. PIMCO)?

May 23, 2017

this is false... i know several bankers who didnt enter the field until after 30

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May 23, 2017

The only thing I dislike about WSO is that there are a great number of stupid kids asking stupid questions like this.

My ex-boss used to work in a TV network until he finally thought "fuck this" and got his MBA from Booth at 35. He went into trading and became the co-head of credit trading at 42. He's now a c-level exec in HK. My brother-in-law also got his MBA from Ross at 32 and now flies around the world every week constantly reminding me of how lucky I am not to be a consultant.

I can't speak for U.S. but here in Asia(Tokyo/Seoul), if you have the right characteristics and the credentials, people actually prefer you to be slightly older than your peers cuz old Asian men with lot of ka-ching (translation: clients) no no like to speak with young kidos oh no.

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May 23, 2017

Agreed with ERGOHOC.

May 23, 2017

I do not agree with the point..And age is not at all a barrier..

May 23, 2017

Sorry to say, but if you are trying to career switch and break into IB (without any relevant experience) through the B-school route, I doubt that it will work. 33-34 +2 yrs? At that age people are looking at Exec MBAs. It might be possible, but you will be at a disadvantage to a 26-28 year old with IB experience when it comes to recruiting, particularly in this current economic environment.

May 23, 2017

i know guys that started as analysts at 28-30. cant comment on the specific situation but if you can start as analyst at 28 you should be able to do associate at 33

May 23, 2017

No big deal. I've seen plenty of people start at 30+.

May 23, 2017

I'm just a 26 year old applicant myself, but from what I have read being a little older does make it tougher to a top program because you start to fall more in line with an EMBA. That being said, there people who fit your profile in top programs as well. You just need to do the research and justify why you want an MBA vice EMBA.

May 23, 2017

I really think the focus on age, rather than seniority, in these discussions is nonsense. I believe adcom care about the right level of seniority, not the right age. The discrepancy in ages of university leavers in the US and, say, Germany, makes this quite obvious. You enter McK in Germany when you're around 25 or so. Does that mean that with 2 years of experience - at the age of 27 - you should gun for an EMBA program? I don't think so.

May 23, 2017

I generally agree with m2 but at the same time there is mounting evidence that many of the top US MBA programs (primarily Harvard and Stanford) have been trending younger and the primary reason is the competition for talent. MBA programs feel that the traditional focus on work experience/requirement puts them at a disadvantage (real or imagined) against JD and PhD programs when competing for talent. Also, I think business schools want kids who are more malleable before they gain too much experience and/or become disillusioned with the real world. Although that's probably a biased cynical perspective. The oldest accepted applicants are generally the ones with military experience. Plenty of other programs such as Wharton still highly value quality years of experience and age is less of a factor. Good luck to you.

May 23, 2017
junkbondswap:

I generally agree with m2 but at the same time there is mounting evidence that many of the top US MBA programs (primarily Harvard and Stanford) have been trending younger and the primary reason is the competition for talent. MBA programs feel that the traditional focus on work experience/requirement puts them at a disadvantage (real or imagined) against JD and PhD programs when competing for talent. Also, I think business schools want kids who are more malleable before they gain too much experience and/or become disillusioned with the real world. Although that's probably a biased cynical perspective. The oldest accepted applicants are generally the ones with military experience. Plenty of other programs such as Wharton still highly value quality years of experience and age is less of a factor. Good luck to you.

Harvard actually reversed the trend last year. Median work experience went back to that sweet spot of 4+ years. It's still in that 3-5 range, but for three years or so it ran much nearer the lower bound than the upper. This past year it pushed north of 4.

May 23, 2017

i was accepted to hbs last week - and i'll be 31 when i matriculate in the fall. on top of that, i'm in finance and am an asian male. i think if you have a credible story and can show that you will fit into the culture of the school you can do it ... so just apply .. what have you got to lose?

May 23, 2017

There is no end to discussion about the age issue at business schools. There is a sweet spot with about 4-5 years of experience, but the "downward trend" is not quite right. In the bad old days when I was at business school, the number of years of work experience was about 2-3 years -- one job out of school and basically, that was it. Now you see much more experience, many more jobs, international sabbaticals, the whole thing.

The question is, is now the inflection point for you and your career? That's what they are looking for. I know a guy who is 35 who is going to a top 2-year program next year. OK, he's military, and they do make exceptions for that. But like Yale2005 says, he's 31 and he's breaking all the WSO myths (such as you cannot be an Asian male and get into HBS without being a Nobel Prize winner).

Check out each school's culture and see where you fit. You may find that you will be the teacher to your younger peers, and that won't do any good at all. Or, you may find that you are amazed by the diversity and will be learning from everyone. Don't assume without doing your own due diligence. That's the best way to answer your own questions.

Make sense?

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... Ask away!

May 23, 2017

Thank you all so much for your help. I understand it a lot better now!

May 23, 2017

I don't think so there will be any age issue in any business school.

May 23, 2017

Oh ya..n got a CPA too...i hope tht helps...

May 23, 2017

too old in what sense? firms will hire you; whether you're at too late a stage in your life is your own decision.

but 29 isn't old by any stretch of the imagination.

May 23, 2017

Hmm thanks jimbo....
just wanted affirmation...

whether being 29 n not having prior experience wud disadvantage me...

May 23, 2017

well the advice is worth what you paid for it. i have a friend who came out of bschool at 32, having already done a phd, and started as an associate at a bank.

May 23, 2017

I know a decent number of people who have started around that age. It is not terrible. People who start as associates at 32-33+ or so are stretching it in my opinion.

If things go well you could still be an MD by 40-ish which isn't bad. Not early, but not late.

May 23, 2017

thanks exGS....nice to hear tht...
how long does it take to get to MD on an average?

May 23, 2017

on average...
people dont make it to MDs

May 23, 2017

Haha...and why's that?
And what is the average for the few who do?

May 23, 2017
klusener:

Haha...and why's that?
And what is the average for the few who do?

Why doesn't everyone who enters the industry make it to the top?

Is that actually a question?

May 23, 2017

ignore tht and answer the part tht did make sense to u...if u know the answer

May 23, 2017

Most respectable b-schools don't take people with less than 3 years of work experience (4-5 is more the norm). That puts you entering at 25-6 and leaving at 27-28. I would say most MBA associates are around 28, so 29 is not off. I agree with ExGSBanker that 32-33 is hitting the upper limit - but simply because at that age, people are often working on families, or tolerance for BS and super long hours is reduced, both of which are plentiful at the Associate level.

May 23, 2017

So what is the average age by which a VP/Associate becomes an MD ?

May 23, 2017

conditional statement...if you make md chances are you were an associate for about 2-3 years, likewise vp, likewise principal.

i really hate this keeping up with the joneses stuff

May 23, 2017
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May 23, 2017