How to Become a Banker

Bankers keep the world of finance running by managing, investing, and loaning money. Find out how to enter this exciting career path.

portrait of Blake Weil
by Blake Weil

Published August 25, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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How to Become a Banker
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Bankers manage money and other assets. They can work across a wide variety of fields, including investments, loans, and mergers and acquisitions. Typically, bankers study some form of business in college. Many also pursue a master's degree at some point in their careers.

Banking is a good career choice for people with strong math skills and an interest in financial operations. Bankers also tend to work long hours, making banking a field well-suited to people with a strong work ethic.

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What Does a Banker Do?

Bankers begin their careers in entry-level positions, although those in different specialties start in different roles. Many bankers start their careers during college, working as interns in the financial sector. After college, some bankers proceed directly to graduate school, while others work for a number of years first.

Specialties are typically chosen with a banker's first job, but attending graduate school can offer them a chance to change specialties. After further education and experience, a banker can gain additional responsibilities in their roles, often supervising and managing junior bankers.

Salaries are typically quite high for bankers. According to Payscale, banking professionals earned an average annual salary of $73,000 in 2022.

Banker Responsibilities

  • Prepare and examine financial records, checking them for consistency and validity or analyzing them for trends.
  • Analyze potential loan borrowers to predict their likelihood of repaying a loan, and manage the approval process.
  • Manage institutional funds, investing them to grow assets.
  • Analyze broad market trends in order to give financial advice to both corporations and individuals.

Banking Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.

What Are the Steps to Become a Banker?

Bankers are highly trained. They obtain both academic degrees and real-world experience to support their careers.

Bankers generally continue to grow in their roles through professional development opportunities and additional education. This can enable them to pursue specialized and more senior roles that pay higher salaries.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in a Related Field

Students looking to become bankers typically choose to major in business. Possible concentrations include finance, economics, or accounting. However, for certain specialties in banking, a degree in math could be useful. For those unsure of their interests, a degree in general business provides exposure to a wide variety of disciplines.

Students in these programs learn business skills, including financial literacy and quantitative analysis. They also develop soft skills, such as networking abilities, management techniques, and problem-solving strengths. On average, a bachelor's degree program costs $35,550 per year for four years.

Step 2: Get an Entry-Level Banking Job

After earning a bachelor's degree, students often pursue entry-level jobs. While it can be difficult to get your first job as a recent college graduate, students should highlight educational and practical experience, like internships, on their resumes. They can also network with mentors from school to find opportunities. When deciding whether to say yes to a job offer, students should consider location, work-life balance, salary, and benefits. Some banks also offer career bridge programs.

Entry-level employees typically work for one to two years before pursuing a higher degree or progressing to a higher-level position. Entry-level salaries vary by specific role. For example, Payscale reports that loan officers with little experience earned an average of $42,000 in 2022. On the other hand, entry-level investment bankers earned over $80,000 during the same period.

Step 3: Earn Your Master's Degree in a Related Field

To advance as a banker, a master's degree is often helpful. For some fields, such as investment banking, an MBA can be especially useful. However, a master's degree is not a formal requirement, and other paths to advancement exist.

A master's degree raises your earning potential. Workers with MBAs in finance made $31,000 more annually than those with a bachelor's in finance according to 2022 Payscale data.

A master's degree can be quite expensive, and students should compare their earning potential to the cost of the degree, especially if it requires incurring student debt. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average cost of tuition and fees for graduate programs in 2019-2020 was about $19,790.

While an MBA with a concentration in finance is the most common choice for future bankers, other paths are available. For example, some bankers pursue a master's in finance or economics.

Step 4: Get a Job as a Banker

Once someone has obtained a master's degree, they typically enter higher-responsibility positions in banking. Many specialties are available, including:

  • Credit banking
  • Investment banking
  • Relationship banking
  • Commercial banking
  • Private banking

While the average banker makes $72,000 a year according to 2022 Payscale data, top earners can earn might higher salaries. When selecting a job, bankers should weigh not just salary, but also quality of life. Potential considerations include work-life balance, the need for business travel, and job security.

Step 5: Consider Continuing Education or Specialization

Although not necessary, bankers can continue their education as they advance their careers. Graduate certificates can increase earning potential or make an applicant more competitive. They can also help a banker keep their skills up to date and introduce them to new techniques and technology.Doctorates in finance and economics are available. However, these typically lead to more specialized academic roles as opposed to careers in banking.

What to Know Before Becoming a Banker

Accreditation

Accreditation ensures that a school meets certain academic standards. Independent accrediting bodies are empowered to accredit schools by the U.S. Department of Education.It is important to earn a degree from an accredited school. Those who do not attend colleges with accreditation may have trouble transferring credits and finding employment after graduation.

Licensing and Certification

Generally, a banker does not have to be licensed or certified. However, certain specialties, such as investment banking, have license requirements. Investment banking firms often sponsor workers to pursue any required licenses. To obtain a securities license, bankers need to pass an exam specific to their particular job.

Cost

It can be expensive to pursue a career as a banker. A bachelor's degree costs, on average, $35,550 annually. A master's degree is also expensive. When considering hidden costs, including books, transportation, and room and board, college is often more expensive than the sticker price. Students looking to reduce expenses can pursue business scholarships.

Salary

Education Level Average Annual Salary (2022)
Bachelor's $71,000
Master's $102,000
Doctorate $120,000

Source: Payscale

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Banker

What qualifications do you need to become a banker?

Bankers typically hold at least a bachelor's degree. Common majors for bankers include business, finance, and accounting.While a bachelor's is typically the only necessity for entry-level positions, upper-level banking jobs often require a master's degree. A master's in finance and an MBA with a finance concentration are common degrees bankers pursue to advance their careers.

Some fields of banking require professionals to have a license. For example, investment bankers are required to pass an exam to become licensed in securities trading.

What is the fastest way to become a banker?

The fastest way to become a banker is to apply to positions directly after completing a bachelor's degree. Bachelor's programs are typically four years long, however, students can graduate more quickly in accelerated programs or with AP credits.

Students should pursue experience outside the classroom to make a job application competitive. Someone eager to quickly become a banker should pursue internships during their college years in order to both network and gain practical experience.

How do I become a banker without a degree?

A majority of banking jobs require a college degree. It is exceptionally difficult to become a banker without a college degree. Many bankers go on to pursue advanced degrees, such as an MBA, which makes the field even more competitive.

Some jobs in the industry, such as being a bank teller, only require a high school degree. These positions can give students some exposure to the financial services industry before they pursue a degree. These positions also let students build up savings in order to pursue further education.

Can I become a banker with an online degree?

Yes, you can become a banker with an online degree. When determining whether an online degree is worth it, consider that many universities offer the same programs online and in-person.

Students pursuing an online degree should supplement their education with experience. When building a resume, it is important to have practical experience and educational qualifications.

How much money can I make as a banker?

Bankers generally make high salaries. According to Payscale, these professionals earned an average salary of $72,000as of 2022. Many banking jobs also award bonuses that increase total compensation.

Banker salaries vary broadly by specialty. For example, Payscale reports that investment bankers earned an average salary of $101,300 as of 2022. However, the same year, Payscale also reported that credit bankers earned an average annual wage of $54,150.

Salaries tend to rise with education and experience. Those looking to maximize their salary potential should consider pursuing a master's degree.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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