6. How to Be a Banker

Commercial Banks

Commercial banks focus on business needs. For example, you can help businesses accept credit cards and process other types of payments from customers. Companies also need guidance on managing their assets while limiting risk. You might even help organizations do business overseas or borrow money to expand operations.

Useful Skills

To become a commercial banker, it’s essential to understand how businesses work. A business degree is helpful, and an MBA might be even better. You need the ability to evaluate a business’ finances and determine what products and services might be a good fit. You also need to understand the mechanics of loans and when it makes sense for a business to take on debt. Sales skills are increasingly important for business bankers. Banks and credit unions need revenue from active businesses, and it may be your job to grow and retain business clients.

Investment Banks

Investment banks help businesses raise money in financial markets, and they may help coordinate mergers and acquisitions. Becoming an investment banker is a demanding (and sometimes competitive) endeavor that requires serious commitment. These banks typically hire high achievers who thrive in high-pressure environments.

Life of an Investment Banker

Investment banks are traditionally most common in major metropolitan areas (New York City, for example) where potential clients are nearby. To work for the largest investment banks, plan to devote much of your waking life to your career. You need to arrange financing deals and complicated transactions with sophisticated counterparts. And you may need to get everything done quickly.

Analytical Skills

You need to have strong spreadsheet and analytical skills, and to advance at most firms, you may need graduate degrees and designations. For example, a master’s degree in finance or a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation is common with investment bankers.

The career of an investment banker is extremely demanding, but successful bankers have the potential to earn high salaries and bonuses. 

Before you pursue a career as an investment banker, decide if you’re willing to put in extensive hours of analysis on high-pressure projects. Also, evaluate what’s most important to you in life—you may need to remind yourself of those goals during late-night work sessions.

6. How to Be a Banker

How to Become a Banker

Banking jobs are an excellent fit for anybody interested in personal finance, business, and math. Banks typically provide excellent benefits, opportunities for advancement, and an office environment to work in. Plus, there are a variety of positions that include customer-facing roles and analytical duties. If you like the idea of working indoors and dealing with numbers, you may want to try a career in banking.

How to Become a Banker

Start by identifying the type of banking career that appeals to you most, and develop your skills to advance your career.

Pick Your Path

You can work in retail banks and credit unions nationwide, commercial bank divisions with a focus on business needs, investment banks that help firms raise capital, and other types of institutions.

Develop Your Skills

Before you get a job as a banker, it’s critical to be good with numbers. Study math, statistics, or business to build a strong foundation—but don’t ignore “soft” skills. If you can score an internship with a bank or an organization in financial services, you’ll gain valuable experience and meet people who can help you move forward. Customer service and sales skills are also helpful.

Satisfy Requirements

You can potentially work as a teller with a high school diploma or GED, but personal bankers typically need a college degree.

 For investment banking, loan origination, or financial planning, you may need advanced degrees, designations, or licenses to land a job or get promoted. That said, you can often begin in an entry-level position and meet those requirements through on-the-job training and employer-paid programs.

Get Hired

It’s easy to apply for open positions—and that’s an effective strategy for entry-level roles. But you can also try to create your own opportunities by contacting banks and credit unions that you think would be a good fit and asking about available positions. Go through the interview process with several potential employers to learn more about your career path and the industry in general. At the same time, you’ll sharpen your interviewing skills. For higher-level positions, use your network, if possible. Ask for informational interviews, which can potentially uncover opportunities that are not yet published in job listings.

Move Up and Branch Out?

There’s nothing wrong with becoming a personal banker and enjoying a long career in one place. But if you have the desire, you can move into management or director roles, regulatory compliance, or accounting. Taking on additional responsibilities typically leads to higher earnings.

Retail Banking

The household name banks you’re most familiar with are probably retail banks. Retail banks, located in almost every city, help individuals and businesses with essential financial needs like checking accounts, savings accounts, loans, and more. 

When you become a retail banker, you can find job opportunities nationwide. You’ll excel if you have customer service skills and you’re good with numbers.


Retail banks and credit unions are an excellent place to start your career. You can start as a bank teller with a high school diploma or GED and continue your studies or move on from there. But you don’t have to move on—life as a teller can be a satisfying lifelong career. Tellers work with the local community and develop relationships with customers.

Personal Bankers and Loan Officers

With some work experience and a college degree, you can help customers with more complex needs. You might promote bank products and services that help them manage their finances and assist customers with obtaining home and auto loans. You can also help local businesses with basic banking needs and financing.

Sales Skills

Becoming a personal banker requires more than just helping customers make deposits and withdrawals. You also need basic sales skills and the willingness to promote your bank’s services. You shouldn’t need to mislead or take advantage of anybody. Instead, you would learn to arrive at mutually beneficial solutions that truly help customers while bringing in profitable business. 

Your customers need banking services, and the goal is to help them satisfy that need.

6. How to Be a Banker

How to become a banker

Here is a step-by-step guide to consider if you’d like to work as a personal, commercial or investment banker:

1. Obtain a high-school diploma

The first step to take for any career in banking is to obtain a high-school diploma or a similar qualification, such as a GED. Completing courses in subjects such as accounting, mathematics and personal finance can teach you the practical understanding necessary to be a banker. You’ll likely need a college degree for commercial or investment banking, but some personal banking institutions hire candidates with high school diplomas.

2. Earn a degree

Relevant college degrees for working in banking include business, finance and economics. Some universities also offer business or finance degrees with a banking concentration. These programs include courses like risk management, accounting, corporate financing, compliance and financial regulations.

3. Obtain an advanced degree

Although it’s often not a prerequisite, candidates who want to work as bankers can boost their chances of gaining employment and advancing their careers by obtaining a master’s degree. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a popular and valuable degree that provides both theoretical and practical training in the fields of business or investment management. You can also opt for other programs, such as a master’s in banking and finance or a master’s in global central banking and financial regulation.

4. Complete an internship

Completing an internship is beneficial because many banks require entry-level candidates to have work experience before applying. Internship programs typically last from three months to two years, depending on the organization and the specific role. Interns gain useful knowledge and experience during these programs, including exposure to banking culture and the opportunity to network with professionals in the industry.

6. How to Be a Banker

Essential skills for bankers

Different banking roles require different skill sets to complete their day-to-day activities. However, there are also certain skills that all bankers need, regardless of their role. These include:

  • Communication: Bankers must have strong listening skills to interpret the needs and requirements of their clients. They also well-developed verbal skills to share and relay information to clients and colleagues effectively.
  • Sales skills: In order to market a bank and its products successfully, bankers need excellent sales skills.
  • Relationship building: Bankers who can nurture strong relationships with their clients earn their trust. A trusting client is typically more willing to invest in banking products.
  • Business acumen: In order to advise and assist corporate and business clients, commercial bankers need a strong understanding of how business works.
  • Attention to detail: Bankers need to spot and fix discrepancies quickly. It is important that they maintain a high level of accuracy at all times and learn to double-check their work for errors.
  • Analytical thinking: Investment bankers need to monitor and analyze data and market trends and make sound decisions based on their analyses. They also need strong problem-solving skills to find effective solutions for complex problems.
  • Innovation: To be successful in their careers, investment bankers need to be creative so that they can identify new ways for companies to improve and grow.
6. How to Be a Banker

Salary of a banker

The salaries that bankers earn vary greatly depending on the type of banking occupation. Personal bankers earn an average of $36,229 per year, while commercial bankers earn around $65,705 per year. Investment banking is a very lucrative field, with bankers earning a high salary of $86,075 per year.

6. How to Be a Banker

Different types of bankers

The financial industry offers positions for different types of bankers, who all have different roles and responsibilities. Here is a short overview of three types of bankers:

Personal banker

A personal banker assists individuals with their private financial needs. These professionals work at retail banks and maintain a regular 40-hour, Monday to Friday work week. Here are a few of their day-to-day duties:

  • Helping customers open new checking and savings accounts, and customizing accounts to suit the needs of each individual client
  • Offering ancillary products, such as overdraft or round-up options
  • Selling conservative investment products, such as money market and retirement accounts
  • Assisting customers to secure mortgages and loans
  • Advising clients regarding college saving plans, such as savings bonds or the 529 plan

Commercial banker

Commercial bankers provide financial services for corporate and small-business clients. They work in commercial banks, which are financial institutions that make loans to businesses. Like personal bankers, commercial bankers have regular 40-hour work schedules, but they may also spend time outside of business hours and the bank itself to promote the bank to prospective clients. Their daily duties normally include:

  • Maintaining and building relationships with corporate and business clients
  • Facilitating loans and financing options to help companies start or expand their businesses
  • Assisting business clients in determining their financial goals and needs and advising on how to reach them
  • Guiding companies on how to manage their assets while limiting risk
  • Assisting clients with banking services such as insurance or foreign exchange
  • Helping companies manage their employee retiring accounts and pensions

Investment banker

Investment bankers act as financial advisors for corporations. They work in investment banks, which are financial institutions that help businesses raise funds by issuing stock or borrowing money. Typically, investment bankers work long hours, sometimes up to 100 hours per week. Their daily activities include:

  • Helping companies raise the money they need to improve and expand their operations, whether through selling stock or issuing bonds
  • Assisting young companies that are planning to go public
  • Assisting companies with their mergers and acquisitions
  • Underwriting deals for their clients during the arrangement of capital market financing
  • Assisting corporate clients who prefer to raise capital through private placements as opposed to stock or bond markets
6. How to Be a Banker

What does a banker do?

Bankers work in banks, credit unions and other financial institutions, where they assist either personal or commercial clients with their financial needs. They provide a wide variety of financial services for their clients, such as setting up accounts, organizing mortgages and other types of loans, advising clients on bank products and assisting them with investment decisions. As banks are businesses, it is the aim of bankers to maximize the profit of their organization without exposing it to excessive risks.

6. How to Be a Banker

How To Become a Banker

The banking industry comprises many types of financial institutions, such as retail, commercial and investment banks, that cater to the financial needs of different customers. If you’re thinking about a career as a banker, there are various career paths open to you. These banking careers offer different working environments and salaries and also require different skill sets. In this article, we provide an overview of three occupations for bankers, and also list the steps you can take to pursue a career in this field.