Whether you’re an aspiring auditor for a major accounting firm or hoping to break into the investment banking world with a Wall Street megabank, a college internship (or several) can make a big difference. You will not only gain experience to add to your resume but also may enjoy a competitive edge if you apply to those firms after graduation.
Here’s what you can expect from a finance internship and how to make yourself a prime candidate for one.
- Finance internships during college can help you gain experience and put your classroom learning to work in a real-world setting.
- A good internship program will allow you to spend at least 50% of your time using and developing your professional skills rather than simply doing grunt work.
- Participating in an internship program can also give you a competitive edge if you apply to that company for a full-time job after graduation.
Finance Internships: Expectations
The best internships provide a real-world setting to apply and further develop the skills that you’ve learned in the classroom. Ideally, more than half of your internship will focus on professional duties (analysis and project management, for example) and less than 25% on grunt work like making photocopies or fetching lunch for your bosses.
So if you’re spending almost half your time doing challenging, rewarding work, then your finance internship is on the right track. However, you’ll also earn points for doing whatever grunt work you’re assigned capably and cheerfully—and not acting as if it’s beneath you (even if you think it is).
College interns working in banks, brokerage houses, and other financial services firms should expect to devote 200 to 400 hours to their internships. Why? Because that’s what hiring firms look for in terms of on-the-job interning experience.
Finance is one of the most lucrative industries, especially for summer analysts and interns. For example, according to salary data collected by the website Wall Street Oasis, a summer intern working at one of the top 10 investment banks will be paid at an hourly rate equivalent to a $73,000 annual salary, on average. Of course, many internships will pay less than that, and some don’t pay at all.
Should You Consider an Unpaid Internship?
Although many students won’t have the luxury of accepting an unpaid internship—especially if it’s located in a high-cost city like New York—some more affluent ones will. If you’re in the latter situation, an unpaid internship may be better than no internship at all. The work experience and networking opportunities can still be of value, whether you’re earning a paycheck or not.
Signs of a Good Internship Program
In addition to being a match for your skills and career ambitions, these are some indicators of a good finance internship program:
- A direct internship coordinator, whose full-time job is managing interns
- A written blueprint from the company explaining its policy toward interns and its goals for its internship program
- An emphasis on challenging rather than menial work
- Opportunities to network with and learn from staffers and management at meetings, seminars, company dinners, and regular training sessions
- An opportunity to speak with former interns from that company to get their perspective on the internship experience
Recognizing the need for more diversity and inclusion in the finance industry, some companies are adapting their internship programs to provide greater opportunities for women and members of minority groups to gain experience in the field. These are some of the best diversity and inclusion programs, according to Investopedia.
Landing a Finance Internship: A Checklist
Obtaining a worthwhile internship at a bank, insurance company, or other financial services firm is all about preparation. Here are three important items that should be on your checklist:
Tailor Your Resume
Make sure your resume calls attention to the courses you’ve taken and skills you’ve developed that are most relevant for each company to which you apply. This may mean 25 slightly different resumes for 25 different employers, but it will help you stand out from the competition.
Develop Extracurricular Credentials
Write a blog on finance and investment issues, host a podcast on stock market risk or the state of the U.S. mortgage market, or start an investment club (or at least join one). Financial firms love intern candidates who delve deep into the money management industry in ways that go beyond pure academics.
Check Your Online Persona
Banks and other financial firms are, understandably, very cautious about who they bring aboard to help handle clients’ money. Most big banks and Wall Street investment firms will insist on a background check and frequently a drug test before they hire. That’s also why it’s essential to take a hard look at how you present yourself online.
Check for any inappropriate pictures you might have posted on Facebook or Instagram or any Twitter comments you’ve made that someone might deem rude or offensive. Your potential employers will be on the lookout for anything that might signal poor judgment or risky behavior. Remove any material that could be embarrassing before you apply, and of course, be careful in the future.
During and After Your Internship
When you land an internship, you’ll want to begin filing away the names and contact information of the professionals who you meet. That could be the person who interviewed you for the internship, the broker or analyst to whom you’ve been assigned to help, or the internship coordinator at the company. All can come in handy when you’re looking for a full-time job, especially at that organization.
When the internship ends, remember to write personalized thank-you notes to all the people who helped you. Interpersonal skills count for a lot in the finance industry and can make a difference in which candidates are ultimately hired and promoted.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Objective of a Finance Internship?
A finance internship provides the opportunity to expand and utilize technical skills in a professional, real-world setting. The broader purpose of the internship is gaining a deeper understanding of how a finance division works, including areas such as asset management, investment research, global markets, operations, or investment banking. With the training from finance internships, individuals learn the various responsibilities involved in the industry.
Which Company Is the Best for a Finance Internship?
A number of companies offer finance internships in the United States, all with different benefits and drawbacks. According to a 2021 survey by Finbold, some of the top finance internships were Blackstone Group, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, and J.P. Morgan.
How Many Hours Are Involved in a Finance Internship?
On average, finance internships last 200 to 400 hours across banks, financial service companies, and brokerage firms.
What Are the Signs of a Good Finance Internship?
A finance internship that has a dedicated internship coordinator, a written policy that outlines internship goals, and emphasizes challenging work rather than low-skill work are all good signs to consider.
How Do You Land a Finance Internship?
Finance internships are typically very competitive. To improve your odds of landing an internship, carefully tailor your resume for each application, take on extracurricular credentials such as starting or joining an investment club, and monitor your online persona since prospective employers will be checking your digital presence.