Whether you're a budding analyst for a huge accounting firm or dipping your toes into the investment banking world with a Wall Street firm, a college internship can be a wide-open gateway into your dream financial services industry post—if you handle it right. So what are some good expectations to have in mind when looking for a finance internship, and what makes a successful internship for a college finance major? Let's take a look.

Finance Internships: Expectations

A great internship depends on what field you enter, such as investment banking versus accounting. However, by and large, applying skills you've learned and developed in the classroom define the best internship experiences. Ideally, more than half of your internship should be focused on professional duties (analysis and project management) and less than 25% on non-essential work like filing data or ordering lunch for full-time staffers. So if you're spending almost half your time doing challenging, rewarding work, your finance internship is on the right track.

Key Takeaways

  • Having the right finance internship expectations can make all the difference in turning a summer position into a full-time job offer.
  • College interns working in banks, brokerages, and other financial services firms should aim for between 200 and 400 hours during their internship.
  • On average, a summer intern working at a top 10 investment bank makes $81,000.
  • Signs of a good internship program include opportunities to use analytical skills, a formal internship program at the company, and opportunities to network with other staffers.

Average Hours

College interns working in banks, brokerages, and other financial services firms should aim for between 200 and 400 hours during their internship. Why? Because that's what hiring firms look for in terms of on-the-job interning experience.

Average Pay

Finance is one of the most lucrative industries, especially for summer analysts and interns. According to a study by Wall Street Oasis, a summer intern working at one of the top 10 investment banks made $81,000 on average.

What banks and investment firms pay the most for internships? These are the average salaries for the top 10 investment banks based in New York to give you an idea.

Average Summer Analyst Salaries (2020)

Firm    

Average Salary, Summer Analyst
Citigroup   $82,000
J.P. Morgan  $78,000
Credit Suisse    $78,000
Barclays $78,000
Goldman Sachs $77,000
Morgan Stanley $75,000
Deutsche Bank $73,000
UBS $64,000
Wells Fargo $64,000
Bank of America Merrill Lynch $58,000

Signs of a Good Internship Program

College grads and students wondering what other elements comprise a rewarding internship experience should look for the following elements:

  • 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 in its internship program—you shouldn't have to ask, the firm should give you one.
  • An emphasis on challenging, and not menial, work.
  • Opportunities to network with and learn from staffers and management at meetings, seminars, company dinners, and training sessions on a regular basis.
  • An opportunity to speak with former interns at the financial services company, to get their perspective on the internship experience.

What steps should you take to secure a good financial internship?

Landing a Finance Internship: A Check List

Getting a decent internship at a bank, insurance company, or other financial services firm is all about preparation. In that regard, cross these items off your checklist first:

Check Your Online Status

The unemployment line is littered with the resumes of college graduates who didn't take care of business in vetting their online reputations. Money management firms are, above all, extremely cautious about who they bring aboard to help manage client's money. In fact, most big banks and Wall Street investment firms insist on a background check, and most likely a drug test, to see that you're fit to represent the firm to the public.

That's why it's a good idea to scrub your online persona swiftly and thoroughly. Watch out for risky pictures on Facebook or inappropriate Twitter comments. Financial services companies will be on the lookout for what they deem to be risky behavior; avoid it and remove any examples of such behavior online before your interview with a money management outfit.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

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 way beyond pure academics. Those are the overachievers who land good internships and good job offers.

Start Your Networking Early

Once you gain an internship, begin filing away the names and contact information for the professionals you meet along the way in your internship. It could be the contact who helped you land the internship, the broker or analyst who you've been assigned to help, or the specific internship coordinator at your company. All can come in handy when push comes to shove and you're looking for a job offer.

Above all, make sure to write personalized thank-you notes to all the professionals who've helped you along the way once the internship ends. Civility and good manners count for a lot on Wall Street and in the finance industry, and may even mean the difference between leveraging an internship for professional gain or not.  

The Bottom Line

While most paid internships are generally more rewarding in terms of experience and can get you further in your career than unpaid internships, in the end, you're better off if you can get any internship at all. The value of networking and experience goes far, whether you're earning a paycheck or not.