Is IB impossible for me now?

Totally depressed coming to realise there is almost no chance for me to break in.

Undergrad: Top 100 in almost all major world rankings, non-target for finance (UK)

GPA/grade : 1st class hons

Graduated with an intergrated masters a bit over a year ago. Recently got a scholarship to do a PhD in Chemistry in my undergrad institution. 

Worked in a big pharma for a year and another in a research organisation. Had also done interns in biotech companies.

I have always wanted to break into IB. However, by the time I finish my PhD i will be 27 and have no related experience. 

Just want to ask if it is 100% impossible? I would do anything just to break in, even if it is something weird like doing a MFin in a target/semi-target after my PhD. 

Appreciate any advice or comments. Even if the truth is harsh please let me know.

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Sep 21, 2021 - 8:44pm

Dude if you have a PhD in chemistry at 27 you are in great shape. Work in the private sector 2-3 years then apply for an MBA. Kill the GMAT and I can see you getting into a Top 15 school. Graduate with a Top 15 MBA and go do pharma banking as an associate at 32/33 years old. Making $300k is an absurd amount even at that age. Sure, you'll work long hours but if you're so set on investment banking then this shouldn't be a problem

  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Cov
Sep 21, 2021 - 8:26pm

Experience in big pharma and biotech is relevant experience in HC, I've definitely seen a handful of people with biotech backgrounds break into HCIB

Sep 22, 2021 - 4:38pm

You're way overreacting imo. It's completely doable, I've seen plenty of people make the move from either Ph.D. programs or corp dev/finance roles at biopharma companies to HC IB. There are quite a few really good banks that recruit at the associate+ level directly out of Ph.D. programs. That being said, these roles are, from what I've seen, typically slanted a bit more toward the high-churn ECM banks like Jefferies, Cowen, Piper, etc. 

Sep 21, 2021 - 9:57pm

Bro, I broke in as a foreigner in the US, with a  shitty GPA from my college in my home country. It took me years but I did it. At 30+ years old.

Hint: Score well on your GMAT, be strategic about B-school selection, be willing to eat shit at first. Everything is possible if you set your mind to it. 

Sep 21, 2021 - 10:10pm

Timing means a lot, and timing is excellent now. I would suggest you email some no-names for part-time IB internships opportunities. This works especially well if your PhD program is in or near London. Everyone would love the help. I have a friend who is in the academia track for biotech/biomed sciences and I know the hours are brutal if you want to do well in your PhD, but I would start at that. 

No-names also give interns assignments that are surprisingly important because they are too cheap / undercapitalized to get full-time professional help. Perhaps unpaid internship?

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Sep 21, 2021 - 10:17pm

Hey, if it makes you feel better I come from a hard non-target - 350+ global ranking and 150+ U.S. ranking. After four years of pursuit (graduated in 2019, but found out about IB before), I just recently started my first IB gig (prior to this I still worked in Finance). It was a long and arduous process, but I've still made it.

I'm sure you can, just keep grinding.

Sep 22, 2021 - 3:33am

Easy answer would be that yes you're pretty much not going to make it. But if you stick with your HC interest and play to your advanced degrees strengths there is a pretty good chance that with some targeted efforts/recruiting strategies you can make something happen. I've honestly seen people go from a few years of work at a large pharma company post-college transfer to a masters or PhD then go straight into an ER or IB role (more commonly ER candidly) not because they were offered recruiting opportunities there but rather that they focused on opportunities they felt were a good fit with their backgrounds.

  • 3
  • Intern in S&T - FI
Sep 22, 2021 - 7:45am

Honestly? Fuck IB. Do your PhD. Crush it. Get into ER at a bulge bracket. After two years, exit to a HF client with a focus on your sector. You'll make fucking bank (assuming you're good) with half the hours, and you'll be the client instead of the client's bitch. My 2 cents.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Sep 24, 2021 - 9:38pm

HF pms still get grilled by LPs, but the rest of ur comment I agree

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  • Business School in IB - Gen
Sep 22, 2021 - 11:52am

As others have said you are in great shape. I wouldn't gun for IB if I were in your shoes because you're clearly extremely smart and have so many more options even within finance with a PhD.

That being said, I go to a top b-school (M7) and we only have a couple PhDs in our class. The reason we don't have more isn't because it's hard to break in with a PhD; it's because most people are 30+ when they get the PhD, and most people wouldn't want to go back to b-school then. If you get a PhD, work 2-3 years in industry with a solid job, then apply with a 720+ GMAT, I would be very surprised if you didn't at least get into a top 10-15 program if not better. IB is not only possible at that point, you'd have to seriously fail to not get a role at that point and you'd only be 32-33, so only maybe 2-3 years older than the average post-MBA IB associate. That's only if that's what you want to do, and again I think there are better roles out there for you to pursue anyway.

Sep 22, 2021 - 12:02pm

The people suggesting MBAs are obviously Americans. MBA recruiting has really dried up in the UK, so consider doing your MBA in the US and recruiting there.

You could also consider trying for ER and eventually pivoting to IB.

It does strike me as super weird that a "top 100" school according to you would be a complete non-target. It also strikes me weird that despite your desperation to get in, you have made 0 steps to do so.

Sep 22, 2021 - 12:56pm

Thanks for your comments!
I have heard that MBA recruiting is almost non-existent here, but I guess staying in the UK is jus one of the options.

There are plenty of schools ranked decent that aren't target from finance of view. 

Struggled between chem and ib, I always easily land science internships. I always consider science to be a safer but less exciting options, and I truly like it. I have also registered for November CFA level I like 3 months ago and is cramming the notes, hopefully it can be my first step to get some knowledge of this field (potentially get all 3 level sorted by the time I finish my PhD).

Sep 22, 2021 - 1:04pm

Yup most banks don't do it any more. MS still does and Barclays definitely used to but I can't see it on their site anymore.

Yeah, that's cos most rankings are bullshit tbh.

I hope you realise that the CFA isn't that useful for IB. Not much of the content is to do with corporate finance. It's much more of an ER/AM thing. Especially levels 2 and 3. Definitely don't need a CFA L1 for IB technicals. Too late now anyway. 

Sep 22, 2021 - 11:23pm

I just don't understand how you've always wanted to break into IB while having no relevant experiences so far. You had some work experiences. Why did you not choose an IB internship or anything related back then?

Sep 22, 2021 - 11:49pm

Was choosing between IB and science, kind of went for the safer but less exciting option, as there were so many internships available for science out there. Now having worked for a bit I realised what I really want and try to move to IB.

Sep 23, 2021 - 10:24am

With a good MSF or MBA (MBA preferable), it's absolutely possible, ESPECIALLY in healthcare IB. A number of the directors in the healthcare practice at the bank I worked at (leading MM) came from a background in the sciences/research/medical and had no formal finance training other than maybe a late masters degree. It also lends itself to your story, and makes you a unique candidate for a career-track position with domain expertise. As long as you can convince your interviewers that your story makes sense and that you have a genuine interest in finance, and can sell your background in sciences, you shouldn't have a problem. Your best bet is to get an MBA and do an MBA summer associate program.


  • 4
Sep 23, 2021 - 10:26am

I would add a caveat that this is less likely for bulge brackets and elite boutiques, but for many middle market banks and healthcare-focused banks it's possible. You might also consider healthcare consulting, healthcare investing / research.


Sep 23, 2021 - 12:35pm

Outside of what others had mentioned with an MBA, which I completely agree is possible. There are opportunities on the buyside - Many PE and VC firms look for bright industry specialists like yourself to bring into the firm.  In certain industries, like pharmaceuticals, business/finance comprises of a small amount of the investment decision, as many of the companies they are analyzing are 5 years or more out from revenue generation.  Ergo a large part of the investment case is based on understanding the science behind the drug and figuring out how successful the company will be at navigating through FDA phase 1,2,or 3 clinical trials or EMA (European) to revenue generation.  I imagine a chemistry Ph.D would come in handy with these regards.

In general, and it is worrisome for me because I'm not a particularly smart person, Investment Banking, PE, and VC are getting more specialized.  The way I see it, a chemistry Ph.D would give you a higher advantage over someone like myself who just has generalized business expertise.  You can always pick up business knowledge, I cannot just go out and pick up a chemistry Ph.D.

"A man can convince anyone he's somebody else, but never himself."
  • 6
Sep 23, 2021 - 4:26pm

obviously not impossible lmfao. why dont you go for a credit analyst role. write a paper on akzo Nobel/inovyn/ineos and show it to credit shops.

Sep 23, 2021 - 11:54pm

Look into the following firms: locust walk, back bay life science advisors, SVB Leerink, MTS Healthcare partners. You'll be very competitive for them. I got an interview with locust walk just by networking and expressing my interest. Also plenty of folks there lateral up to BB

  • Associate 1 in HF - Event
Sep 24, 2021 - 12:33am

HC coverage should be your aim.

Have known a few guys ex-physician/PhD working in HC IB/PE

Sep 24, 2021 - 8:40am


I don't have any advice for you, but I just want to encourage you-and any other PhD or candidate-and tell you that it's definitely possible. I actually made an account just to do so.

I have a PhD in history of all things, in a country that's difficult to immigrate to, the language of which I still kind of suck at and where nobody knows the name of my actually really decent university. Not at BB and older than my peers, but in IBD with ex-BBers and happily chipping away at my PowerPoints. It just takes multiple steps where others would just need one and there is no established path to your goal.

Don't let doubt stop you. You can do it.

Sep 24, 2021 - 9:04am

I don't know how things work in Europe, but I can tell you how I did it in the states.

I had a 2.55 GPA in undergrad but had pretty good work experience in that I was promoted frequently. It also helped that one of my roles was finance-related in my company. Once I figured out I wanted IB long-term, I got very strategic about how I went about everything. I went the MBA route at a school that banks in my area recruit at, networked my balls off, invested in training resources like Wall Street Prep, Training the Street, WSO, etc. It was almost a full-time job of preparing for interviews on top of school and work. You are much smarter than me and younger, so there's definitely a chance, though it may be easier for you in the states.

Long story short: shit GPA, didn't take the GMAT, minimal finance experience, non-M7 MBA program, and 31 when I received my offer. Will be 32 when I finally start next year. A lot of banks, at least from my experience, care more about hustle and a little less about pedigree than they used to.

You can do it if you really want it. 

Sep 28, 2021 - 12:59am

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