How to Be a Banker: Education and Career Roadmap

Oct 20, 2021

Learn how to become a banker. Research the various education and career requirements, licensure, and experience required for starting a career as a banker.

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What Does a Banker Do?

The financial industry employs many different types of bankers, including personal, commercial, and investment bankers. While the roles and responsibilities of these bankers may differ, they all must serve the financial needs of their clients. Personal bankers may work one-on-one with clients opening small business accounts and overseeing financial transactions, such as sending money orders and handling deposits. Commercial bankers process loans for prospective entrepreneurs, while investment bankers connect financiers with possible investment opportunities. Overtime and travel are often involved in these jobs, especially for an investment banker. In general, bankers spend many work hours sitting at a desk.

How to Become a Banker

To become a banker, you need at least a high school diploma but should consider a bachelor's degree, an internship, and/or a specialty, along with obtaining any required licensing.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

While in high school, it's important to take courses in math and business to prepare for a career in banking. Students should also begin to familiarize themselves with computer software programs, such as databases and spreadsheets. Graduating with a high school diploma may qualify individuals to work as personal bankers.

Step 2: Obtain a Degree in Banking or Finance

Courses in a finance program educate students in accounting, regulatory compliance, and business practices related to banking. There are two-year associate's degrees in banking and finance and bachelor's degree programs in business administration with a concentration in banking and financial management that are a good fit for prospective bankers. These programs offer courses in marketing, management and strategic planning, accounting, and finance. Those who graduate with a bachelor's degree are eligible for commercial and investment banking job opportunities.

Step 3: Participate in an Internship

A banking internship may be part of a degree program or an opportunity a student pursues during the summer. Participating in an internship provides prospective bankers with experience in the field and an understanding of banking policies and regulations. Additionally, an internship may help familiarize them with the responsibilities they'll have once they begin employment. Internships are also a way for individuals to begin making connections in the field and networking for prospective employment opportunities.

Success Tip:

Consider a banking specialty. When looking into possible internships, consider the different types of banking specialties. For example, if interested in investment banking, apply for an internship with an investment bank, which may be located in a major metropolitan area.

Step 4: How to Become an Investment Banker

Banks offer investment banking training programs that will prepare individuals to learn about the strategies involved in making investments and working with clients. Those enrolled in the program are introduced to business practices, banking services, and client relations. To begin learning about these practices, banks provide individuals with case studies, presentations, and modeling sessions.

Step 5: Get Licensed

Investment bankers must be registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). This is a rigorous process that requires opening a special bank account from which examination, application, and registration fees are paid. The applicant's fingerprints are required as is a membership interview. Lastly, a series of exams must be successfully completed to obtain the license.

Success Tip:

Pursue certification. According to the BLS, employers, especially for investment bankers, though not a requirement, typically prefer certification. The CFA Institute offers the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification. To obtain the certification, a bachelor's degree and four years of related work experience are necessary as well as passing three exams. The exams are intensive, requiring hundreds of hours of self-study in subjects such as economics, accounting, corporate finance, asset valuation, and portfolio management.

Step 6: Consider Obtaining an MBA

According to the BLS, a Master of Business Administration degree prepares prospective employees to work in higher-level banking positions by teaching them about advanced banking and financial concepts, as well as the economy and financial regulations. Some programs may also provide student-experience opportunities that teach students how to follow the market, learn about trends, and make investment decisions.

How Much Do Bankers Make? reported a median annual salary of $38,455 for personal bankers, $93,068 for commercial bankers, and $98,760 for investment bankers, as of September 2019.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma may be sufficient; bachelor's degree often preferred
Degree Field Finance, business administration, accounting, or economics
Licensure/Certification Varies depending upon area of expertise; voluntary certification available
Experience 0-5 years; rigorous on-the-job training programs are typically provided
Key Skills Math and customer service skills; in addition to strong business, oral, and written communication skills; basic understanding of Microsoft Office and other related software; critical thinking capabilities; multi-tasking proficiency; and attention to detail

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Job postings from employers (2019);

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