CPA to Investment Banking Career Switch?

One of the questions I often get is how to transition out of the CPA profession into another field. More specifically, can one transition from being a CPA to an investment banker?

First of all the bad news. Investment banking is not really a field that one can transition into. The reason is that I-Banks traditionally recruit straight out of business school.  The traditional track is to hire undergrad business school graduates as analysts and to hire recent MBA’s as associates.

Thus, if one were serious about working as an investment banker the best course of action would be to apply to an MBA program. It should be noted that I-Banks do not recruit from every MBA program. Nowadays, MBA programs are a dime a dozen and only the top quartile might produce a pool of students for Investment Banks.

The good news is that an MBA program would most likely value a CPA quite highly in their admissions process.  With a decent GPA, GMAT score, a CPA designation and a couple of years work experience, one can have a shot at business schools that are heavily recruited.

You can see a list of the most recruited schools here that send the most students into careers in finance. 

You probably could have guessed that Columbia, Wharton and Booth (Chicago) lead the nation.

It might perplex some CPA’s why the Investment banking world is closed off to them. The reason largely stems from the fact that investment bankers generally do not hold CPA’s in high esteem. There is a definite bias against what are viewed as back office people. This includes lawyers and accountants.  There has always been a rift between compliance officers and the bankers making the deals. One is viewed as playing fast and loose while the other is viewed as mucking up deals.