Internships are often the most important ways to stand out amongst your peers and show that you have what it takes to have a successful career in finance. This is especially true in finance where job opportunities can be competitive and having experience can give you that needed edge to landing your dream job. Whether paid or unpaid, the experience they provide is invaluable in giving you insight into your future career path, and gaining the skills to get there.
Many international students choose to study in the US because they're looking for access to jobs that will open doors to them in the future. Those students who study finance have some of the best ability to do just that, thanks to the wide variety of careers in finance. One of the major ways to land your first job is gaining experience, often times this translates into a finance internship.
Why should you choose an internship in your field? Consider that there are many restrictions on international students to work, but CPT and OPT give students the opportunity to get in the door, gain experience, and perhaps even land a job. Doing an internship increases your expertise in a specific area, gives you access to network with individuals in your field, and allows international students to determine if it's the right career path for you. All of this experience can translate into a better position with higher pay which can in turn mean a higher earning potential in the long run. Also, almost all internships will qualify for school credit, meaning graduation could come sooner, and with better job prospects.
Finance internships in general, can be thought of as a trial period for both you and the organization. It's a chance for you to spend some time in the real day-to-day lifestyle and environment you're considering. Some companies may or may not hire after the internship period, so it's wise to research the company and the opportunities available to interns – and is an excellent way to get a foot in the door. You should try to apply for internships at places that you'd seriously consider working for after graduation. As with jobs in finance, there are many different kinds available. Many organizations put together finance summer internship programs that can be quite rigorous and competitive.
The best finance summer internships for international students depend on the students themselves. Ask a high level investment banker or experienced commodities broker what their version of the holy grail of finance internships is, and they'll probably say Goldman Sachs or J.P. Morgan. It's true that, with experience at a few select companies like these, combined with high academic marks, an MBA graduate can go virtually anywhere they want. However, that path is not for everyone. It is extremely rigorous, and provides those who do make it in, little in the way of sleep or free time. A recent graduate stated, "If you think you're going to have the same lifestyle as your friends who have entry level jobs in other fields right out of college, you're sorely mistaken. You're going to have to gun the engines straight out of the gate because precise indicators of your performance can be so clearly measured [using financial data], and so many people want to be in finance."
There is clearly rigor and personal sacrifice involved in what are traditionally thought of as the best finance summer internships for international students, but these alone are far from the only reasons to consider the many other valuable options for international students in finance internships. The kinds of jobs have recently changed - there are more available in compliance and in investment and trading compared to what there used to be. There is now a larger regulatory structure that needs to be maintained by local, national, and international governments, and with contributions from groups in the public sector like the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, all of which hold summer finance internships. So, what kind of summer finance internship should you look for?
A good place to start is probably your school's career services office. It's worth taking the time to meet with an academic career counselor, and perhaps also one or two of your professors whom you admire or whom know you relatively well. After you've done some preliminary thinking and performed a few basic searches, ask them to sit down with you, look over your transcript and give you some advice and suggestions on your ideas about directions you might like to take your career. Once you've gotten some basic guidance, you'll have an idea of what kind of internships you should focus on applying for.