Pre-med to Investment Banking

Hey guys,

I'm a non traditional here and to keep things brief, I was on the premed track but have taken a heavy interest and liking to the world of Finance, especially as it comes to investing and learning about the markets. I looked into Investment Banking though my knowledge is comparative to a child and I am eager to learn more about it. I worked my butt off for a Public health Science B.S. with a pre med track but always had tunnel vision when it came to medicine. After getting into trading and investing and continually losing steady interest in medicine, I know an MBA would be perfect for me.

I have almost zero work experience in anything business related, but I'm damn good at using Excel and Powerpoint as I have used for some research jobs and projects. As such, I believe it's in my best interest to network heavily and look into a pre-MBA internship to develop both experience and skills I can use for finding careers in IB after my MBA. I am not fully set on IB and still like the prospect of becoming a Financial analyst but again, I lack advanced knowledge of those careers. 

Question is, should I be going ahead to find a pre-MBA internship and getting work experience or should I focus on the MBA first? What should pre-MBA internships focus on? Or should simply securing one be my main focus? Most opportunities are clustered in NY and I don't mind stomaching the COL there if it means I can achieve my goals.

Thanks for your advice and please, I am very open to critics in my understanding of anything above!

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Comments (26)

  • Associate 1 in CorpDev
Jun 8, 2021 - 4:27pm

While not in IB, I can definitely chime in. I was pre-med in undergrad and broke into finance post grad - even had an opportunity to get into banking but opted for my current role. In order to better understand the "path", we have to have more information: 

-Where did you go to undergrad? (just tier is fine)

- GPA?

- What work exp (where are those excel and ppt skills being cultivated)? 

I'm only a few years out of undergrad, so I won't comment on anything pre-MBA related, but I do agree that an MBA would be a fast track for you to get into banking. Of course, getting into a top b-school is going to be challenging and quite an investment as well. That being said - maybe other b-school folks can chime in here - I assume you need some basis of work exp to get into b-school, right? Once we've ironed out your current work experience, then of course would be the actual b-school application process, GMAT, etc. FROM THERE, I would say yeah definitely hit the networking hard. Being pre-med is not a disadvantage (so long as you are solid with finance, accounting, valuation), but I think most of the curiosity from interviewers will be centered around why you want to make the transition. Having your story tight is so key. Of course people will know you're smart, but if they aren't sold on you making this transition then nothing will matriculate. 

1) establish where you are currently (address those questions above)

2) prep/b-school application 

3) Networking + Interview prep 

While this is only a few steps and may seem too general, definitely know that of course this timeline is over years. Best of luck and definitely reply with any questions, rooting for you!

Jun 8, 2021 - 5:51pm

Undergrad at University of Maryland, College Park GPA: 3.65

Work experience was creating and entering data for experiments in a research setting, we used excel extensively for this and went over the data about every other thursday with a power point presentation to the then COO I believe (it was a small vaccine research company). 

I'm currently in the midst of networking, hit up a few old pre med classmates that dropped med because they had different goals, and are now working more business related but associated in the healthcare sector. I'm also "cold-emailing" (not sure if this is the right term) different bankers and managers at investment banks around me asking for advice since these guys are already well established in their careers. I want to think I have a good story, and I could dive into it, but mainly having worked in medicine I really liked the working part and being out there "in the field" and independent (albeit under the supervision of a physician). What I hear from many doctors is how the scope of practice is really changing heavily to cater towards administrative guidelines, and less focus on medicine as well. I like medicine don't get me wrong, but I don't have the same passion I do with medicine as I did before or as much as I do now compared to investing and finance. Having worked in a clinical setting, a LOT of my work was administrative duties (more than I had anticipated) but still very focused on clinical care. I would deal with insurance companies for hours to days on end to make sure patients got their prescriptions, I'd end up often times fighting on the phone with insurance companies that they were denying someone medications for BS monetary reasons. In dermatology, some of these prescriptions were minor but the fact that hours and hours of my time (usually done by the physician) was focused on appealing insurance forms and coordinating with pharmacists was a pain. I liked the grind, but hated the system for how patients are treated. In perspective, we'd often finish clinic by 5pm on a good day and spend about 1-2 hours dealing with administrative duties calling insurance, or just answering patient concerns from intramail. 

Anyways, I could go more in depth, and I'd love to have coffee chats with future employers about my story, but what I initially thought was my passion, was merely tunnel vision into a career that I did not like, and I feared I would be obligated to finish all the way through if I continued on. Investing, trading, and learning about the market opened my eyes and I finally felt motivated to pursue something. Medicine had just been the "safe" play for me since many of my family members are doctors as well. The requirements are hard, but they're straightforward; Go to undergrad, then med school, residency, internship/fellowship, join practice or hospital. I felt like all I had to do was study, but as interesting as the human body is, I don't like medicine enough to continue it and I will always find myself more eager to go out of my way to learn about finance than I did with medicine. 

Maybe i'm going about all this wrong because I can't find too many IB pre-MBA internships here in MD, though I am contacting as many IB directors and team members around me about advice, and hopefully they can point me in the right direction. I see a ton of opportunities in NY, and I'm ready to move if I have to, but I don't want to jump the gun and drop everything for NY unless I get a job there.

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  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jun 8, 2021 - 6:47pm

Hey dog, I wish you super good luck. But I just wanted to point out that your story seems a little more focused on why not medicine instead of why finance. Take what you will from my prospect fingers typing this but I think that is a fair comment. I wish you nothing but success my friend. 

Jun 8, 2021 - 5:32pm

I'd say try to stay in whatever field you're in pre-MBA if you can. It sounds nontraditional and your application may be viewed in a lenient light.

I do however know one person who was iffy about pre-med before their IB stint. Had the grades and took the MCAT, quit IB after 2 years (worked at a top group at one of the BBs) then worked in medical research for a year. Now they're a 2nd or 3rd year medical student. Might be an exception though, from what I'm aware - their parents always wanted them to go into medicine so it may have not been by choice (but most likely was by choice).

Jun 8, 2021 - 5:58pm

I've seen this as well, I'm quite the opposite with those business into pre-med guys mentality. I just don't believe that "I want to help people" is sufficient for med school for me anymore. I can still pursue altruism through financial careers as well, and put my same diligence and focus in it while actually enjoying it without overthinking like I constantly do with medicine. "Is this right for me" always rings in my head, "am I doing this for me or my family full of doctors, am I doing this because its the safe bet". I want to venture out of my way more and take chances. I love investing even with such a basic knowledge, but I am HUNGRY to learn more. Actions are better than words, so I'd better continue reaching out!

Thank you for your help

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  • Analyst 2 in IB - Ind
Jun 8, 2021 - 5:38pm

Assuming you still haven't graduate, absolutely and unequivocally do not get an MBA. Apply to MSF programs as they're built for people without work experience. Getting into a good MBA program requires work experience (at minimum two years) and a mediocre MBA program won't help you much in terms of getting an active investing or investment banking role, especially without work experience.

I could see you as an attractive healthcare banking candidate, but you'll likely need to go through an MSF program to get there.

Jun 8, 2021 - 6:09pm

Graduated May of 2019 worked as a medical assistant at a Derm clinic, so not much relevant to finance except dealings with billing and insurance, occasional pharmacy rep meets as well. Would I still consider an MSF? I'll look into that more but frankly don't know how it compares to an MBA. Thank you for your advice!

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Ind
Jun 8, 2021 - 6:18pm

You'd still be a good candidate for an MSF and would likely be more competitive for the top MSF programs. On-campus recruiting for MSF programs are focused around entry-level roles, so you'd be starting as an analyst. I think that'd likely be your best fit, and post-mba associate roles for IB are competitive and I don't think your profile would really be what they're looking for. Sorry if I sound harsh in saying that. I know for a fact there are really good healthcare banks out there that would interview you with the requisite finance experience.

Jun 8, 2021 - 8:35pm

Not harsh at all and very much to the point. Love it! Thank you for the great advice! I don't mean any disrespect, but what If I followed into a pre-MBA internship to get some exposure in business? I'm keen on applying to an MBA but I am still learning more about prospective careers with an MSF vs an MBA, I'm also looking into complimenting either or with a CFA to be more competitive because of my atypical background. Thanks again and let me know!

Jun 8, 2021 - 7:51pm

IB is a joke to medicine. I know a guy who left medicine to finance.. became ultra ultra succesfull. this could be you.. or not.

You should fit right in. Half of the ppl are retarded in IB (and don't want to admit it cause they think earning 200K at 23 gives them PrEstIgE) while the other 50% is actually smart

AS I Said, coming from medicine, you'll be FINE in work

Jun 8, 2021 - 8:40pm

LOL that is interesting! Lovin this community already and only been a day. What are your thoughts on pursuing an MBA then? or a pre-MBA internship before my MBA? I looked into Wharton (a long shot with my background I know) and I saw that the class of 2020 was pretty diverse with the same proportion of Business/econ majors as Humanities majors and Stem majors. Definitely encouraging and applications are due this September. I'm also trying to contact some old friends and ask them for some insight as well, I think I might be able to get the physician I worked with to re-write a strong rec-letter for MBA school as well. I am just ready to eat and go at it!

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Ind
Jun 8, 2021 - 11:11pm

Get an MSF. Start studying for the GMAT and if you get a really high score (730ish) skip the MSF all together and get an MBA. But candidly you shouldn't look at any MBA programs outside of the top 15 and absolutely nothing below the top 20 if you want a realistic shot of breaking into IB. It becomes exponentially harder once outside the t15

Jun 9, 2021 - 1:34pm

If you haven't had any work experience, I would look into MIT/Vandy MS in Finance. Less expensive, place relatively well (solid MM and lower BB IB), and would be easier for recruiting compared to MBA w no work experience. Feel free to PM

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jun 9, 2021 - 1:37pm

Don't sell yourself short, just keep grinding away. Finance to Med is algebra to Calc. Buddy of mine is going to med school and is basically caught up with finance guys in our friend group in understanding finance. Literally took him 6 months to our 4 years of reading, learning, and understanding. 

  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Jun 11, 2021 - 12:01am

I've worked with the healthcare team enough to know that, especially when focused on Life Science vertical, having a medical background is almost table stakes. One of the top partners is an MD and can really think through how a new drug could be appealing to various majors or even portfolios given how it works. You get to work with amazingly smart people in HC IB - Chief Medical Officers, researchers, etc, and it is almost impossible to bullshit industry knowledge the way you can in other sectors. 

To your situation - I don't understand, do you have a full time job? The reality is that to (really) have a solid shot of placing into IB post-MBA, you NEED to go to a top-15/20 school. These schools are not going to look favorably on an internship - you need to show success in a career, not just experience in an area you think will be appealing. People (like myself) land IB roles with zero pre-MBA finance experience all the time, in fact they are the MAJORITY of mba associates (hence the bad rep). 

The MSF is basically a re-do and will allow you to recruit for analyst roles. The MBA places into Associate roles. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT go to some low ranked MBA now because you get in and you feel that ANY MBA will let you get access to finance. So many kids get an MBA early because their school offers it (frankly, UMD Smith is one of the worst offenders) and disqualify themselves from ever going to a top MBA program.

So to summarize -either go to an MSF program with documented IB analyst hiring (Columbia, etc) and go in as an analyst OR work hard now and build a strong career in whatever you're currently in. Once you've gotten some experience (average MBA age is 27 fyi), start applying to Top 15 programs and jump into IB that way. 

Jun 11, 2021 - 7:09pm

Thank you for that amazing insight.

I did leave my job as a Medical Assistant (very little finance experience though a little bit of admin work and billing mixed in with the clinical duties). I'm very much leaning towards an MBA. I graduated with a 3.6 gpa so I hope I'm competitive for at least some T10 schools.

What I hear is that MBA programs, regardless of gpa, prefer work experience. So i'm going to try and find an IB analyst or internship to analyst position locally if possible. Honestly, I dontknow if I should apply to NY positions, but If I got one Id drop everything and move to NY without hesitation.

Basically still trying to figure out if it's worth applying to an MBA right now (2 years out of undergrad at age 23) or hustle for an IB role as possible. But then if I get the IB role, wouldn't the associate role be awaiting after 3 years anyway? regardless of MBA?

  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A
Jun 13, 2021 - 12:05pm

What I'm trying to say is I don't think you'll get into a top ranked MBA program right now. Like I'm sorry, but a 3.6 from a state school is not at all special - it's right about average for those going to MBA, and unless you nail like a 770+, you're just not a competitive candidate right now because you just don't have compelling work experience yet. I also think it will be extremely hard to land an IB Analyst role right now given how most are recruited out of undergrad. 

It kind of seems like you're unemployed and have no desire to go back to medicine and are trying to figure out next steps. If that's the case, if it were me I would look to do a 1 year MSF program, that will be easier to get into than MBA, and recruit for entry-level analyst roles. I also would do this because lets say you DO get into a Booth or Columbia Business School or something, you're not going to be a great IB associate candidate either with such limited work experience (you still have to interview quite extensively while in your first semester)

Jun 11, 2021 - 7:01pm

That's great! Can I pm you some questions? Namely trying to value an MS in Finance vs an MBA and relevant work experience i.e. i'm looking to put in about 1-2 years in IB as an analyst if I can even get in, but i'm gonna hustle for networking as possible, probably cold emailing IBs in my area (Maryland) but not much.

I've got mixed advice from non econ majors about the value of an MS vs the MBA, and I've also heard that an MBA does NOT guarantee an associate position. Also for my own knowledge i'd rather grind the analyst position/internship to get some basic experience.

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