Tips for breaking into IB from non-finance (biochemistry) background?

latvp's picture
Rank: Chimp | banana points 6

New user posting with a question

I graduated from a non-target top 100 public university this year and want to know if it's possible for me to break into IB. The problem is that I was a biochemistry major and recently changed my career interests. I have a significant amount of prestigious research experiences and internships, among other activities, and have a 3.96 GPA. Would it at all be possible for me to apply for an analyst position this upcoming year? I've heard that some banks value academic diversity and select applicants from different academic backgrounds.

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Comments (18)

Nov 29, 2017


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Best Response
Nov 29, 2017

Do not apply for a JD or MBA. If you don't have an extremely clear plan for why you want a JD, you're going to join legions of other people who did it for lack of better ideas, spent three years and 100k+ on the degree, then ended up with a dead end job they hate (and those are the lucky ones). Any MBA program that takes you right out of undergrad is not worth attending.

Take a few finance & accounting classes next year (why would that be impossible at a public university...?), or failing that, micro/macroecon, then network / apply for jobs in healthcare investment banking. Play up your bio and CS background, because it actually matters. The recruiters will like it too, but they won't take a chance on you unless they feel comfortable that you have at least some familiarity with finance. A smattering of coursework will take care of that.

Oh, and put a line at the top of your resume "Relevant Coursework:" followed by anything finance/math/stats/econ related.

Nov 29, 2017

There's no way I could get off the waitlist for accounting/finance classes this fall since I'm not in the UG business school. Getting into econ/business/CS courses is very hard at my school. I could try to audit the classes (go to class but not get graded). The only slightly relevant classes I could get into were Classical Political Economy (Smith, Hobbes, etc) and Technology Entrepreneurship (Industrial engineering department). I'll try to look into stats, data science, and math courses that could be useful.

Are you aware of any certifications or online courses that I could put on my resume? Also any suggestions on firms to target?

Nov 29, 2017

bump please

Nov 29, 2017

Without prior PE experience, a post-MBA PE role will be pretty much impossible to get. If you network, attend OCR events, and prep for your interviews, you should have no problem landing an IB associate role from a school similar to Columbia or UVA.

Nov 29, 2017

Thank you, alternatively is equity research an option too out of MBA for one like me?

Nov 29, 2017

Unfortunately, I am not too familiar with how equity research recruiting works, so I cannot say.

Nov 29, 2017

Former Biology major here. Similar story to yours, except I completely skipped the PhD program and went straight into Finance. I currently work at a Private Equity firm.

I would say to major in Finance. Having a general but broad major gives you options to explore without pigeon holing yourself to a specific area of Finance.

As far as areas to focus on, it all depends on what you'd like to do. Are you more inclined to want to work in Finance with a focus on Biotech/Pharma? Or do you want to deviate from your grounding to pursue Finance from a general perspective?

If you want to utilize your academic/work background, you have multiple options. You can pursue Healthcare/Pharma oriented Equity Research, Investment Banking, Venture Capital, Investment Management, Private Equity, or more. There are numerous firms out there that either specialize in the Healthcare/Pharma sectors or have an arm that look at those sectors.

If you don't want to cover Healthcare/Pharma, you can still pursue the aforementioned areas upon graduation.

Feel free to PM me if you have any questions/specifics.

Nov 29, 2017

Health care coverage groups will value the life sciences experience but it would help if you knew how to do valuation. Plenty of BBs go to Georgetown, go to their presentations and talk to the recruiters or the bankers. There are so many georgetown alumni on wall st it's ridiculous.

Nov 29, 2017

Just to echo what oracles said, HC coverage groups will love you so long as you can prove you have some kind of finance and valuation understanding. This can be gotten through exactly what you are doing - electives and self-study. You won't be able to compete with the technical prowess of an MBA, but you have other things to offer which should make up for your lack of business/finance experience as far as HC groups are concerned.

Nov 29, 2017

technical prowess of an MBA


Nov 29, 2017

Depending on the group / firm the Analyst skillset can be pretty different to that of an Associtae / VP so being an Analyst is not necessarily a pre-requisite to being a good Associate. There is certainly a bigger learning curve for a green Associate but it's less of a disadvantage at a small or middle-market M&A firm where deal complexity is lower and relationships are the most important factor to a senior exec's success.

Apart from Analyst to Associate promotions, almost all Associates are hired out of business school and often do not have prior IB experience, so it's not unusual at all. Frankly IBs would prefer to hire former Analysts but so many are recruited away by PE or burn out that there typically aren't many in the recruiting process.

All that being said, I think it will be hard for someone without prior IB experience to get a role other than as a 1st year Associate. Most hiring happens for 1st year Associates happens through campus recruiting, and lateral hiring is typically reserved for experienced Analysts or experienced Associates / VPs. Lateral recruiting is also very competative since there are so few spots in comparison to campus.

If you're really serious about IB, I think your best bet would be to either (1) focus on small / boutique firms where there is less competition and or (2) consider business school.

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Nov 29, 2017

Agree with everything said above, only thing I might add is sometimes at the senior level (MD) you could see someone make a lateral from a related career because of his or her expertise in a certain area/connections (Have personally heard of a specialized M&A Law partner move to M&A MD)

Definitely not common or regularly heard of - so I would not plan on being able to do it yourself. More of a one off thing than a "Path"

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Nov 29, 2017
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