July 25, 2024

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What Careers Are Available To You?

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What are the career prospects of an MBA in finance? Opportunities can be found with multinational banks as well as Fortune 500 companies. Here’s a breakdown of what’s available

Enrolling in an MBA can help you unlock a plethora of potential career paths, with significant opportunities in highly desirable areas such as consulting, technology, and finance. 

When it comes to finance, business school students have listed the sector as one of the most desirable for some time. It’s an attractive career path that offers opportunities to work with high-profile clients on pressure-laden deals; join the fast-track to career progression; and see the maximum return on the significant investment required to enroll in an MBA.  

However, when you delve a bit deeper into the careers that are available across the financial sector, you’ll see there are a wide variety of avenues you could pursue. Each area promises its own tasks and responsibilities, and will require you to employ different skills. 

So, what careers are available after an MBA in finance? 

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MBA In Finance Careers: Three Key Areas 

For MBAs across the globe who are looking to embark on finance careers, there are three core opportunity areas that stand out at the majority of business schools. Investment banking, investment management, and corporate finance are perhaps the most tried and tested career paths for those seeking MBA in finance jobs. Here’s a breakdown of these key areas. 

Investment banking 

Investment bankers operate on the ‘sell side’ of finance. They facilitate transactions to make money for their clients, typically by selling securities such as shares or bonds in large-scale deals. MBA in investment banking opportunities could include roles in sales and trading, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), and analysis. 

The path from an MBA to an investment bank is highly structured, with top banks recruiting from MBA cohorts each year for summer internship roles and full-time positions. Career centers and investment banking clubs also play an integral role in helping grads transition into investment banking careers. 

“Investment banking continues to be a field with a constant demand for talented analysts and employees in the areas of mergers and acquisitions,” explains Maren Kaus, director of Career Services at Frankfurt School of Finance & Management

Investment management 

While investment bankers sell financial products, investment managers operate on the ‘buy side’, making investments in financial products on behalf of their clients. Often looking after a portfolio of investments, investment managers work with clients ranging from high net-worth individuals to governments.

“Graduates can find lucrative roles managing investments for individuals and institutions, particularly in portfolio management, research analysis, and client advisory,” Maren says. 

An umbrella term that can encompass working for small family run businesses as well as the world’s largest asset managers such as BlackRock, popular areas of investment management include private equity and venture capital.

In these highly competitive areas, teams are often leaner than those in investment banks. Private equity firms use investor funds to buy out private companies or purchase shares of struggling public companies before taking them private. Venture capital is a form of private equity specializing in investments in startups.

Corporate finance 

Corporate finance on the other hand involves working in-house for a company and taking responsibility for managing its financial performance. This can include budgeting, financial planning, and resource management. An MBA working in corporate finance will spend much of their career focused on their company’s all important bottom line. 

Those MBA students who seek out corporate finance roles often set their sights on rising to the top of a company’s finance department, taking on the role of chief financial officer (CFO). Many chief executive officers (CEOs) are also former CFOs. 

MBA In Finance Careers: Which Area Is Most Popular? 

The popularity of each of these core areas of finance varies between different institutions. Competitive roles in private equity and venture capital, for example, are often filled by MBA grads from the world’s most prestigious business schools. 

At INSEAD—a former top-ranked business school—27 MBAs from the class of 2023 entered venture capital and private equity while 16 entered investment banking and 15 entered investment management. It’s a similar story at a number of the most prestigious business schools in the US.

“At Harvard Business School (HBS) specifically, private equity is the financial sector into which most of our students land,” says Kristin Fitzpatrick, managing director, MBA Career & Professional Development, HBS. 

However, a large number of business schools place the majority of their MBAs in finance within investment banking roles each year. 

For example, 70% of MBA students entering finance after graduating from Cornell University’s Johnson College of Business in 2023 took up roles in investment banking, compared to 19% who entered corporate finance and just 4% who entered investment management and equity research. 

Prospective MBA students who are set on their chosen career path should review which business schools have a proven track record of helping students land finance jobs in the area they’re most interested in. 

MBA In Finance Careers: Emerging Areas 

While the career paths mentioned above are currently the areas where students are likely to find the largest number of opportunities—as well as the most structured recruitment processes—there are a number of finance areas where MBAs are increasingly finding opportunities. 

The growth of technology within the financial sector—increasingly driven by the rise of artificial intelligence (AI)—ensures there are opportunities for MBA graduates within fintech. Students interested in this highly dynamic sector of the finance industry could land roles in areas such as payment systems, digital banking, and software development. 

With the increasing importance of ESG (environmental, social, governance) across the world’s financial landscape, sustainable or green finance is also a key growth area. MBA programs, too, are increasingly incorporating sustainability within the curriculum, and companies are seeking new hires who have this specialist expertise. 

MBA in finance roles for ESG specialists could include impact investing, ESG analysis, and CSR (corporate social responsibility) reporting and compliance. 

Elsewhere, MBA graduates could find roles in areas such as cyber security, decentralized finance, and cryptocurrency. 

Those MBA students who are looking to land jobs in these more specialist areas must be aware, however, that recruiting is substantially different from the typical process you’d see in investment banking or at large investment management firms. 

“Specialized firms often do not have structured graduate or internship schemes, making networking and speculative applications crucial for accessing opportunities. Staying informed about industry trends and developments can help graduates identify emerging areas with potential for career growth,” explains Luke Morton, careers consultant at Imperial College Business School. 

MBA In Finance Careers: How To Land One 

So, if you’re considering options for an MBA in finance, you can find a wide array of opportunities to target across the sector. However, successfully landing one of these opportunities and embarking on your desired career in finance can be challenging. 

“An MBA degree alone isn’t enough to land a top finance position. Students must clearly demonstrate they have incredibly strong financial proficiency and modeling skills, as interviews often involve modeling tests and/or cases,” says Kristin from Harvard.

Giving yourself the best chance of success requires extensive preparation for the recruitment process; dedication to acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills; and, as with any career move, a certain degree of luck. 

For more info about what it’s like to work in finance, the perks and salaries you could gain, and tips on how to successfully land jobs in finance, download our BusinessBecause Careers In Finance Guide


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