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How to get into private equity

Private equity (PE) is often described as an exclusive club that accepts only former investment bankers, strategy consultants, and top b-school graduates as members. That’s not the case always.

PE also offers grads and undergrads, engineers and accountants serious consideration and engaging and gainful careers.

Here we map the routes to PE careers and career paths.

Before moving ahead, read more about how we can help you with our career coaching for private equity careers.

How to get into private equity


How to get into private equity

Routes: Graduate to Private Equity

Going straight from school to PE remains a pipedream for most. Strong candidates are those who gain experience in financial modeling at elite investment banks, become top financial analysts at their banks, and then plan their move to PE in two years, says But if you are a top student and also lucky, a PE fund may discover you, and you may be able to leapfrog over banking straight into a PE.

PE funds don’t want to hire undergraduates and train them. They prefer someone who has completed two or three years in a bulge-bracket bank or Bain or McKinsey and has the necessary basic skills.

MBA grads stand a good chance, particularly, but need experience in finance. Most PE companies like to hire people below 30, so the timeline should be planned well. For senior positions, most firms see an MBA as a prerequisite.

Firms that don’t consider an MBA a prerequisite still find it useful in a candidate. The percentages of MBAs at top Private Equity (PE) firms as per a survey quoted by are KKR – 61 percent; Blackstone – 63 percent; Candover – 59 percent; and Permira – 58 percent.

Undergrad to Private Equity

The (difficult) path from undergraduate straight to PE is through determined networking and cold-calling, to bag an interview, and through an academic initiative, to learn financial modeling by yourself. Undergrads hired by big firms have typically done internships at PE firms or in IB, strategy consulting, or restructuring.

If you manage to get an interview, you would need to show a passion for investing. Young PE hopefuls may receive more consideration at smaller firms than big ones. If you know alumni from your school, you may find success at least in the initial phase of recruitment.

An adequate grounding in PE, finance, and investing is required, so make an effort to improve your technical qualifications. Join a training program run by an institute or an online platform. Buy study material or a video course. If you learn financial modeling through a tutor-driven or online course, you will one up on your rival undergrad candidates.

Even if you have done some extended preparation for a year, you may still not make it. But continue your groundwork and networking, and keep your motivation high.

Pluses/minuses for undergrads

The advantage of moving from undergrad straight to PE is that you don’t have to face the long and hard hours and instability that a banking analyst faces, though a PE job is hardly a vacation activity. The work offers more variety, especially at smaller firms. As there are fewer people, you have to do everything from financial modelling to legal issues to deal brokering. But this also means that smaller firms look for experienced recruits in the just-below-30 category.

Undergrads who get into PE directly, bypassing banks, don’t benefit from the rigorous training that their banker colleagues receive in 100-hour weeks. They also won’t have the names of big banks on their resume that come in handy if they plan to switch tracks later. However, they may win credit for not taking the tried-and-tested route to PE through banking.

Engineering to PE

It is not impossible to get into PE from an engineering background, according to a Quoran. One path is through investment banking or consulting, which allows for a lateral move into PE. Banks like engineering graduates for their ability to work hard.

To make the transition possible, early- or mid-career engineers may require to join a top school for an MBA or Master’s in Finance degree and take up intensive networking. Browsing through Dealbook and Financial Times is essential, so is mastering financial modeling (3-statements and LBO).

From Consulting / Accounting to Private Equity

A former consultant who majored in finance and worked for a top consulting firm found that a move into PE from consulting was a challenging mission. But he leveraged networking to join a middle-market PE firm. He focused on sub-industries to narrow down his target group of recruiters and met them in person.

When interviewers quizzed him about financial modeling, he mentioned his M&A experience, and when asked about leadership, he narrated his experiences during an expansion project at his consulting firm. Getting into PE from consulting depends not only on technical skills but also about your views on investment opportunities.

Private equity firms may hire high-quality accountants from the Big 4 who have worked on PE deals. PE firms work closely with audit companies and may poach their accountants who have experience in private equity.

Private Equity tasks

The typical tasks at a PE firm are spreadsheet analysis of a target business for an LBO; identification of new deals for LBO; collection of data on a target company in which there is already an investment; coordination of diligence and research for a transaction; and efficient communication, explains

Career paths in Private Equity

Pre-MBA candidates are usually hired as analysts or pre-MBA associates. Candidates, more often than not, have worked in investment banks, strategy consulting firms, or accounting firms for three or four years. Their main tasks would be prospecting (cold-calling, cold-emailing, etc.) and investment analysis. After a couple of years, they may be promoted to senior associate level. Some leave to pursue MBA or shift to another PE firm, hedge fund, or corporate development. Total average annual remuneration for analyst would be $110,600 and associate $174,800 in the US, according to Preqin/

Post-MBA candidates are hired as senior associates straight from b-school or two or three years after graduation. They have around six years’ experience in investment banking, PE, or consulting. They are usually in charge of deal-screening, financial modeling, and managing advisors such as investment banks, lawyers, and accountants. Remuneration: $264,500.

Director/principal/VP is a position that MBAs reach after two or three years at a PE firm. They execute transactions, source their own investments, and generate investment ideas. If they bring revenue for the company, they are made partner. Remuneration: $687,700.

The next level is managing director or partner, who leads a PE firm’s strategy, manages relationships with investors, and raises funds. Partners may invest a substantial share of their personal wealth in their own fund/firm. Compensation largely depends on the firm’s investment profits, explains Remuneration: $1,873,000.

The total annual average remuneration at the senior-most level for chief executive officers of PE firms is $3,312,000 in the US.

Obviously, in PE, your investor clients won’t be the only ones counting the money.

How to get into asset management
A guide to private equity careers
How to get Hedge Fund jobs after MBA
Private Equity or Venture Capital jobs after MBA
How to get a job on Wall Street
Best MBA programs for private equity and venture capital
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

7 thoughts on “How to get into private equity”

  1. Hello Sameer,

    I have gone through your various posts on executive MBA and MBA for executive and came to know about this option which I think may be suitable for me if I am able to crack it. My total experience is 14 Years with various fields like Production, Designing, Purchasing, Vendor Development and presently working in SAP from last 10 years. From last 3-4 years I am working as a team lead for some big MNC. My academics was quite good with background as mechanical engineer. So can you please suggest if I can go for this option of PGPX @IIM and one more thing how many IIMs provide such course of full time one year MBA?


  2. Hi sir,
    I am Abhinav Asthana. I have a 4.5 years gap due to health issues after my graduation. I did research assistant job at national chemical laboratory Pune for 8 months after graduation. Thereafter due to bad health, I was not able to do job. Do I stand a chance to get admitted to good b schools in USA or Canada. And will I be able to land up in a job after my MBA with such a huge break in my career. I have good academics. I did Integrated M. Tech in polymer science and technology from Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee. I was 3rd ranker of my batch at Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee.

  3. sir i am a 3rd year student and very confused about ms programs abroad whether to go for it or not . sir i am getting very different opinions about MEM program . i want a job that will include some interactions as well as my core field electronics . sir please help if MEM is a best option for me or not

  4. Hi Sir, I have 4 years gap in my engineering , due to some family emergency.. I would like to do MBA after finishing my BE .. but I have read somewhere that, A grade colleges not allowing such students who having more than 2 years during their undergraduation even though they score well.. so sir ,pls tell me is it true condition ? Reply soon ..

    • Hi Snehal! I hope you are doing well now and your family situation has resolved well too. I pray you find peace and strength to rise from the dust of the emergency and become a bright light for yourself and your loved ones – both now and in the future.

      Just wanted to tell you this.

      All the best from Germany!

  5. @Amol: Yes, PGPX would be a good fit for your profile. You’ll find the list of one year MBA programs offered by IIMs here:

    @Abhinav: The gap can be explained, but it may be better for you to wait and get some more experience, since its only 8 months now. Work for 2-3 years at least before considering an MBA.

    @Divya: Read this and take a call:

    @Snehal: I don’t think that assumption is correct. If you have a genuine reason for the gap and you’ve done very well in your acads/professional life, then go ahead and try.

  6. Hi sir,

    I’m 29 currently working for sap as senior consultant.i want to pursue my further career in private equity or hedge funds (investment banking). I’m giving my GMAT in February end. My target score is 740. Targeting colleges are Wharton, booth, NYU Stern. I see in your post that companies gives prefrences to folks who are below 30. By the time I complete my age will be 32. Will my chances get reduced ? Please let me know your thoughts.


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