Choosing the right college involves more than just finding a place with the major a prospective student wants. Challenging coursework, experiential learning opportunities, and alumni connections all help round out the student experience and prepare them for life after graduation.
Those factors play an important role in business schools, and particularly for students interested in a career in investment banking. While there is no major in investment banking at any college, the best prerequisite field of study for this job is finance.
In finance careers, employees help businesses and other groups earn money, according to CollegeBoard. Students who study finance “learn how to plan for the long term,” it added, because “it’s not enough for a company to be ahead of the pack today — it has to be successful five, 10, even 20 years down the line.”
Now is a great time to enter the investment banking field.
More than 106,000 people worked in investment banking and securities dealing in the United States in 2021, according to IBIS World, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics believes finance sector jobs will grow 5% from 2019 to 2029.
Those who work there pull in high-paying salaries, even in entry-level positions. As of December 2019, Payscale.com reported that investment bankers earned a median annual salary of more than $99,000.
First, though, students need to get admitted to a university that will set them up for a successful career in investment banking.
These schools are the top 10 for feeding students into jobs on Wall Street in the 5 year stretch between 2014 – 2019, as reported by Peak Frameworks.
10. Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
Princeton’s extensive, worldwide alumni network benefits students at the Ivy League university’s Bendheim Center for Finance.
The program offers an undergraduate certificate in finance and a master’s degree in finance, and students sometimes choose to stay on to earn a doctorate in the field.
Sophomores studying in any field can apply to the finance certificate program in the spring. They must take two core courses and three electives plus complete the independent work requirement, which they can do with their senior thesis.
Princeton tied for the #6 spot on U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of graduate program in public finance. The master’s degree in finance differs from a master’s degree in business administration as, Princeton pointed out, it “has become the preferred degree” for areas in which “the pricing and analysis of complex securities require significant quantitative input.”
Students gain experience across multiple disciplines, as program faculty members come from departments from throughout the campus. The university also has a Corporate Affiliates Program, which connects companies with students for potential internship or jobs.
9. University of Notre Dame (Notre Dame, IN)
Finance students at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business gain experience beyond the midwestern campus.
The university offers both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in finance, and Mendoza tied for #36 in U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the nation’s best business schools for 2022.
Students can undertake research at campus centers such as the Notre Dame Institute for Global Investing. They also can develop their own ideas at the Innovation, De-Risking and Enterprise Acceleration (IDEA) Center at Innovation Park, which the school describes as a place “where aspiring entrepreneurs, faculty, students and industry experts collaborate.”
Additionally, undergrads can gain a new perspective on finance through Emerging Markets Investing in London or the International Portfolio Management Practicum, which happens over spring break.
Graduate students can pursue their degree at the Notre Dame campus in South Bend or in downtown Chicago. The South Bend option is a full-time, in-person program and takes 11 months to complete. In Chicago, the degree takes a year to finish, and students take classes on alternating weekends along with three, week-long intensive sessions at the main campus.
8. Columbia University (New York, NY)
Columbia Business School may only offer one finance program, but it’s a knockout.
The master’s degree in financial economics is a two-year program that is STEM eligible. Semesters include Ph.D. level courses as well as graduate-level courses, including some from the master’s degree in business administration program.
Students choose from one of two tracks of study, Academia or Industry. To graduate, they also have to complete a six-week summer internship, which can involve working as a faculty research assistant or working for a business, and thesis seminar, a research project they do with faculty supervision.
The Princeton Review included Columbia in its list of best business schools, and the university also ranked sixth in the publication’s Best Career Prospects list, so admission naturally is competitive. In 2020, the business school received 606 applications and admitted 50 – an acceptance rate of just 8% – and 23 accepted a position.
Students have much to look forward to as well. The business school plans to open a state-of-the-art campus in Harlem in January 2022 that will include research centers, housing and more.
7. Yale University (New Haven, CT)
Students interested in careers in finance can choose from a master’s degree program and several certificate programs at Yale University.
The Ivy League school offers a master’s degree in asset management through its School of Management. The STEM-eligible program is geared toward people interested in areas such as investment analysis and portfolio construction who are still early in their careers.
Once they graduate, they’ll be well-positioned to take on jobs in sectors such as portfolio management and at companies like hedge funds.
Applicants can expect a competitive process. The Princeton Review ranked the School of Management eighth on its list of most challenging business schools to get into, noting it has an acceptance rate of 20%.
For working professionals looking to add more skillsets, Yale’s Executive Programs include the online Investment Management Theory and Practice program, which aims to prepare participants to pass the Certified Investment Management Analyst certification exam. The Executive Education offerings also include the Sustainable Finance and Investment online program and Wealth Management Theory & Practice, geared toward helping students pass the Certified Private Wealth Advisor certification exam.
6. Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)
Cornell’s S.C. Johnson College of Business offers programs for all levels of students in its Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management (AEM).
Students can start their careers in the undergraduate program in AEM, and Cornell makes it easy for students in the program to also focus on or double major in several science fields. Cornell gives its AEM students latitude, too, when it comes to choosing their classes. They can take more than 4,000 courses from over 100 departments.
Forbes ranked the Johnson graduate school ninth in its 2019 list of best business schools, and graduate students have a few options when it comes to Cornell. The university offers both a Master in Professional Studies in AEM and a Master of Science in AEM.
For even more advanced studies, Cornell has a fully-funded doctoral program in AEM, in which students conduct research in areas such as international and development economics.
5. Georgetown University (Washington, DC)
More than 1,300 undergraduates call Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business home.
Finance is one of seven majors business school students can choose from, and its curriculum includes a mixture of business core courses and electives along with liberal arts classes. Students are exposed to several aspects of the financial world, including investments and corporate finance.
Thanks to its location in the nation’s capital, Georgetown can easily connect its students to major players in government, business and other organizations.
Students also can broaden the scope of their learning by taking classes with an international focus, such as the Global Business Experience, or they can study or intern abroad.
Financial education doesn’t stop at the undergraduate level, either. The university also offers a master’s degree in finance that has both full- and part-time options, making it a convenient option for working professionals. The graduate program mixes classroom learning with residencies that even take students overseas.
4. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
Students hoping to specialize in finance will find several certificate programs and a doctoral program right for them at Harvard Business School.
The university offers online four certificate courses focused on aspects of the finance world: Alternative Investments, Financial Accounting, Leading with Finance, and Financial Analysis and Valuation for Lawyers.
They range in length from three weeks to eight weeks, and they involve much more than just sitting at home and staring at a computer screen. Lessons are based on real cases, and students will hear from the actual people involved.
Doctoral students, meanwhile, can specialize in finance when pursuing a Ph.D. in business economics. The program involves economics courses as well as two MBA courses in addition to a research dissertation.
3. University of Michigan Ross School of Business (Ann Arbor, MI)
While Michigan has six ways to earn a master’s degree in business administration, including full-time, weekend, and online options, the full-time program is the only one that offers the Fast Track in Finance (FTF).
Students in the Fast Track still take some of the MBA program’s core general management classes, but they start taking their finance electives right away.
FTF students first have to complete an online program over the summer, during which they’ll need to show that they have “a good understanding of introductory financial concepts and applications.” They also need to waive the core financial accounting course.
Doctoral candidates also can focus their studies on finance, taking such high-level courses as Theoretical Models in Finance, Corporate Finance, and Empirical Methodology in Finance. As with other Ph.D. programs, students must complete and defend a research dissertation. Michigan keeps the program small to ensure “quality interaction with the faculty.”
2. New York University Stern School of Business (New York, NY)
One of the world’s leading financial markets also is home to one of its best finance programs.
Courses at NYU’s business school run from undergraduate level to doctoral, and it also has several certificate programs available. Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business can concentrate on finance, which includes courses in the corporate finance and investments/capital markets subfields.
At the graduate level, the full-time, two-year MBA program lets students choose finance as an area of interest.
Students can pick up to three focus areas and then narrow their studies through electives. Part-time MBA students also can specialize in several finance-related areas, including Financial Instruments and Markets, Financial Systems and Analytics, and FinTech.
NYU also offers a Master of Science in Quantitative Finance as one of its master’s programs for early career professionals, as well as a Master of Science in Business Analytics in its master’s programs for experienced professionals.
The Ph.D. program also allows candidates to focus their studies on finance and “trains scholars to conduct research at the leading edge of financial economics.”
1. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
The Wharton School at Penn has become synonymous with excellence in business education.
Wharton was the first business school in the country and has the nation’s largest alumni network, with many government officials and business leaders in its ranks, according to U.S. News & World Report. The publication ranked Wharton second in its list of the country’s best banking schools and its finance program #1.
Wharton MBA students can choose finance from 18 possible majors and concentrations, some of which are STEM-certified, and can double-major as well. The finance coursework offers a wide-ranging look at the financial sector, from historical matters to modern techniques for financial analysis.
At the doctoral level, students can pursue a Ph.D. in finance and learn from some of the top business minds in the process, as many of Wharton’s faculty have published research on a wide variety of financial topics. Ideal candidates for the program have previous experience with fields such as economics, math, and engineering.