Is a conjoint degree worth it for someone wanting to break into IB?


#1

Hey!

I am currently studying a BCom/BA conjoint at the University of Auckland, with majors in economics, finance and statistics. I am passionate about finance, and am hoping to (one day) go down the career path of something along the lines of investment banking. Soon to start my second year at varsity, I am wondering if anyone has any idea if getting that second bachelor’s degree is ‘worth it’? By ‘worth it’ I mean the extra workload, course fees, opportunity cost of the extra year of study, etc…

The way I see it, in that extra year it would take to complete my second bachelor’s degree, I could do a masters degree, which I think would be far more of an asset than a second undergrad, or get a year of relevant work experience under my belt.

Anyone got any thoughts on this?? Cheers in advance!


Getting into Investment Banking from an NZ University
#2

Hey Bentley,

Great question.

First and foremost, let me state there is no one path that delineates a successful career in Investment Banking. Yet, there are obviously ways to fast-track the process and stand out from the herd - especially with the more prestigious firms (JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank etc).

In reality, and I’m speaking from a North American perspective, the fact that thousands of undergraduates apply for every available role means that both experience and an understanding of finance sets you apart from the competition. Every candidate whom applies will be scrutinised, carefully looked over, and go through a series of rigorous interviews. Having a competitive edge, any competitive edge for that matter, is pertinent. Therefore, pursuing a conjoint demonstrates your academic flexibility and depth; adding a further layer to reinforce your application.

Additionally, to address your other concerns:

  • Extra Workload - this shows that you’re able to balance a heavy workload, of which will be very common in IB (it’s not uncommon to work 80+ hours)

  • Course Fees - Being in New Zealand you are very fortunate that i) fees are very affordable, an additional year won’t cost you more than 10k; and ii) have easy-access to a student loan service such as StudyLink.
    Because of this, I’d say finances should not be a concern. You can always pay it back. With the value-add that an additional degree brings to your applications, you’ll be able to apply for a better job; resulting in a higher salary.

You’re 100% right, with an additional year and a diversion of energy and time, you could pursue a Masters degree. BUT and I’m being presumptuous here, you’d be wanting to pursue an MBA. Much like the aforementioned IB Firms, top MBA Programs are no different in the sense that they want the best talent - globally - within each cohort. This makes the for a very tough application pool, admission office’s have the ability to pick the cream of the crop. How will you stand out?? Again, this is where an additional degree will be beneficial towards your overall candidacy.

You don’t want to rush into an MBA either. Applying young [and often inexperienced] will have a detrimental impact on your application. Typically the applicants to these programs are a lot older, a few years out of University, and have a decent amount of work experience under their belt. For example, check out the average of age of arguably some of the best MBA programs in the world:

  • Harvard Business School (27)
  • Chicago Booth (28)
  • MIT Sloan (28)
  • NYU Stern (28)
  • Stanford Graduate School of Business (28)
  • Columbia Business School (28)
  • Haas School of Business (UC Berkeley) (28)
  • Wharton (28)

In Europe the picture is only slightly different, with an average age of 28.6 at London Business School, and close to six years of work experience on average at INSEAD.

It’s not uncommon for some school’s to have mature students in their 30’s and 40’s, especially in the likes of UCLA Anderson, Oxford, and HEC Paris.

The reason for this trend is that these school’s want the best and brightest. A direct correlation to this typically is experience, experience, experience, and more experience.

Long story short, a conjoint will do you wonders. The benefits outweigh the cons ten-fold.

@jamie.beaton @dhbconsult - what are your thoughts on this?


#3

Hi Bentley

It’s an interesting question and probably one to consider from both the perspective of getting your first job after graduating and longer term. I work in IB in Auckland so I can share some thoughts on the first point.

When choosing a course of study, one of the factors will be how your qualification is viewed by potential employers. Of course there are always many considerations to be thinking about but focussing on this factor, I would say the four things you are hoping to achieve are:

  1. Show you have a strong work ethic and the attitude seeking to produce work at a highest standard;
  2. Show you have the ability to understand concepts in that discipline;
  3. Be prepared with skills that will be useful in the job; and
  4. Show you are interested in the area.

I assume you are thinking about a NZ-style Masters degree when thinking about this rather than offshore / US style MBA degree so looking at these areas:

(1) In my opinion, the fact of having a conjoint in itself does not give you a significant advantage in applying. It shows one has a wider experience than a sole bachelors degree, and may signal ability to handle a high workload but grades achieved in whatever papers you have taken is the foremost indicator of work ethic, and attitude towards producing the highest quality work.

Looking at your comparison between conjoint vs Masters, I think a Masters stands out significantly more than a second bachelors degree. It is a harder degree to perform well in, and aligns more with the “real world” so showing you can achieve at a high level in that degree is a greater indicator that you will have the skills sought after in hiring graduates.

(2) Similar to the above. On its own, a conjoint shows you can understand a range of concepts, particularly if they are in different disciplines, but a Masters shows you can understand more difficult concepts and in a way that is “self-led” so I think employers would be more favourable to this.

(3) & (4) A conjoint or Masters is definitely a stronger indication of interest and skills than sole bachelors degree.

However, comparing the two, I think it a fairly neutral point for a first job as skills from a statistics undergrad are equally as likely to be useful than from a research Masters. I think an MBA-style degree is definitely more likely to provide practical skills than a conjoint.

There may also be some value in the commitment to a Masters in order to show your ambition to get into the industry and come prepared with a strong skills set for the job.

On balance, I think you are right that the Masters is a better differentiating factor to apply with than a conjoint bachelors degrees. It also gives you a free option to decide to undertake the Masters or not once you have finished your bachelor degree.

The question of “is it worth it” is quite tricky to answer as it depends on so many factors. A four year degree would be the standard for IB graduate roles in NZ, and I think offshore as well as the US expects applicants after a four year undergraduate degree. If you are planning to complete a four year program, your question of conjoint vs Masters is a good approach to deciding your degree. If you decide to plan for the Masters route then you can always take it up if you haven’t got an opportunity in banking or elsewhere that interests you after three years and reapply.

In terms of cost, I think it is easy to say it is always worth it in the long-run if you are able to get a degree that gives you an opportunity to do something you are passionate about. You will always be more likely to achieve in that area in the long-run and pay off the investment numerous times over.

In summary, I would encourage you to look to complete your standard bachelors degree with top grades then consider pursing a Masters degree.

Feel free to send me an email or get in touch on LinkedIn if you would like to chat further.

https://nz.linkedin.com/in/henry-black-b25530b0


#4

Hi Bentley!

Dual degrees in general can be useful for future career growth, but I think you need to consider dual degrees with purpose, not just to delay the inevitable of deciding a career path. I personally received a Doctor of Medicine from Harvard Medical School and a Masters of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. To some extent, I think I did both degrees because I was unable to decide what I wanted to do. But this decision created a fairly large financial burden and also consumed the majority of my twenties. :slight_smile: It wasn’t an easy sacrifice.

Physicians do not have to earn an MBA to run a business, and there are many ways to innovate, and create a business in healthcare without having an MBA. The MBA does gives physicians a level of credibility to pursue more non-clinical leadership roles, but an MBA does not guarantee a great job in industry.

If a scientist, a doctor, researcher, or engineer receives formal education in business, he or she becomes exposed to a different world. The industries that are commonly discussed in healthcare within business school are pharmaceuticals, nutritional products, medical devices, biotechnology, hospitals, consumer inter-facing companies, and much more. Physicians bring a unique perspective because they understand patients and their needs. All physicians desire to improve overall effectiveness and efficiency and those with an understanding in systems management can do more.

Finding a school that fits your goals is important because dual degree programs can vary quite a lot in what they teach. In business school, the first year is usually standardized curriculum involving marketing, strategy, finance, and accounting, but the second year can be more customized. Business schools do not require exams like the OSCE (objective structured clinical examination) such as medical school or taking the medical boards. Medical school trains students through standardized examinations, specific materials that everyone must know and memorize.

Interestingly, many physicians who want to become immersed in business have also decided to find alternative career paths rather than attend formal business schools by doing work in management consulting. Medical students, residents, and people with biomedical PhD degrees are attractive to industry because these talented people are determined, motivated, and have an expertise in their respective fields.

Hope that gives you insight into a more in depth dual degree program!

Cheers!
Liz


#5

Hi the advice given by the respondents is sound. My advice would be to move to doing a Masters degree internationally in Finance or similar preferably at a top School. A Masters degree is a recognised higher qualification and carries a lot more weight than a Bachelors or two Bachelors degree. I frankly think if you are going to do a conjoint degree I think you are better doing across widely different disciplines. e.g. I have a student at present doing a conjoint in History and in Computer Science. Economics and Finance in my view would not carry as much weight as History and Finance for example. I suggest you talk with someone like Crimson and look at your options of getting into a top Masters degree internationally. I myself went to MIT and did my Masters degree that has benefited me nore than any other degree. Good luck in your thinking.


#6

By the way, many universities offer a 5th year degree that is a masters degree. You would essentially complete a BA or BS in college for 4 years, and then with an additional year, you add a masters degree. At Stanford, this was called co-term. This is something very good to consider instead of two bachelor degrees.