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Wall Street Jobs Have Changed

If you ask a recruiter how to land a great job on Wall Street straight out of college, they’ll probably say the best way is through connections and a degree from an Ivy League school, or one of a handful of other elite universities known as target schools.

But not fitting the stereotype isn’t a reason to be deterred. While these credentials may open doors, people without these advantages have succeeded on Wall Street. Plenty of Wall Street CEOs had humble beginnings, went to public schools, beat the odds, and worked their way up the ladder. Here is a look at what it takes for an outsider to make it to Wall Street.

College majors often matter when seeking out positions on Wall Street. Internships are an important way to get your foot in the door, especially if you’re an undergraduate student. Identify the kind of work you want to do, along with a list of potential employers.
Make calls, send out resumes, and apply for a variety of open positions. Network constantly by joining groups related to your job search on LinkedIn and other local organizations of professionals.
Wall Street Jobs Have Changed. First, it’s important to understand how these jobs have changed over time. In the past, a college grad vying for a Wall Street job would seek an entry-level analyst position at one of the big banks like Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan. But the proliferation of boutique sell-side firms and buy-side asset management companies, including hedge funds, has altered the definition of Wall Street. For review, buy-side firms might buy and invest in securities for fund managers and pension funds while sell-side firms might include advisory firms and investment banks.

So let’s take a look at how to get an entry-level job at one of these Wall Street-like firms, including different types of investment firms—most of which are on the buy-side. Just to note, big banks and boutiques tend to be the only ones on the sell-side.

What Was Your Major? College majors like finance, business administration and management, economics, accounting, and mathematics are natural fits for Wall Street. However, firms do hire from any major if the candidate understands markets and business. Legendary hedge fund manager George Soros, for example, has both a bachelor’s and a Master of Science degree in philosophy.

From a salary-by-position perspective, analysts who made the most money majored in management and strategy, according to a 2015 survey by Business Insider. The highest-earning associates majored in math and statistics, while vice presidents and directors at the top of the salary scale studied engineering. Interestingly, the outlet found that, on average, across all finance workers in New York City, computer science majors were paid the highest.1

If you’re still an undergrad, try to get an internship at a Wall Street firm or similar institution the summer after your junior year of college. Many firms hire from their intern pool, and even if you end up working somewhere else after college, a successful internship will give you an edge in the hiring process, along with a better understanding of the world you’re hoping to enter.

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