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The three degree subjects most likely to get you a job in banking

In theory, banks are open minded inclusive places that are more than happy to hire liberal arts graduates just so long as those graduates can pass a few numerical tests and answer some mathematical interview questions. 

That's the theory. The reality, however, is very different.

We analyzed the degree subjects of 50 analysts (ie. juniors) picked at random working in front office sales and trading or advisory jobs at Goldman Sachs, at J.P. Morgan's investment bank, and at UBS's investment bank. The analysts in question were based everywhere from London and New York to Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

(Related articles:

Bank by bank graduate and internship application deadlines, 2013-2014

Meet the happiest bank on the street - no, it's not Goldman Sachs

Four unusual ways to get hired as an investment banking analyst)

Weirdly, however, no matter where they worked and no matter which country they attended university in, almost every analyst had studied one of three subjects at bachelor's degree level. They were:

- Economics

- Economics and maths

- Business

None of the front office analysts in our sample had studied anything even resembling Art History or English literature. The most far out degree subject we came across was Psychology. A few junior traders had studied Computer Science. One member of our sample had studied Philosophy, but it was combined with economics. The dearth of liberal arts degrees held as much for advisory as for trading roles - even though advisory jobs in banks are deemed more charisma-heavy and less dependent on mathematical ability and prior financial knowledge.

Conclusion: banks like to hire people who know about economics and business. If you want to work in front office banking, forget banks' claims to be open-minded and don't risk studying anything else.

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • to
    30 October 2013

    What does it matter? None of the worlds supposedly knowledgeable economists forecast the GFC and mismanagement and incompetence within most of the worlds major banks was rife. The only thing they seemed to be able to calculate, was the amount of money being transferred from the taxpayer to their own accounts!!

  • th
    the pleasant pheasant
    10 September 2013

    might be true for analysts. At higher grades esp in markets there are more maths and physics grads on the trading floors. Personally I'd advise doing the most rigorous quantitative major you can handle (heavy on the econs/finance electives, go for internships) and then a masters in economics/econometrics/finance/MFE. Economics and maths is the right idea. Undergrad alone doesn't cut it any more.

  • FH
    9 September 2013

    "Conclusion: banks like to hire people who know about economics and business" - No kidding?

  • Do
    6 September 2013

    All you need to know about economics can be learned in about 3 months. The rest has no bearing on your success or failure. Logic based disciplines with some real world application (law, maths, engineering) tend to produce the most useful people.

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