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Do you find that many people have a hard time switching into financial careers like IB or HF without much exprience in those areas prior to their MBA? Is it also true that quite a few Columbia students have part time internships during school to gain as much experience as possble for a career switch? How easy is it to get those internships?
While I am downtown rather than at Columbia, I think I might have some things to answer your questions.
It is possible to stay in NYC. I am an International, and while the adaptation to some of the features of Wall Street recruiting are tricky, the opportunities are there for you to get in to New York careerwise. There are a lot of London opportunities (potentially more - visas and recruitment wise it is more open at the moment), you just have to commit to the London Banking Days (thanksgiving break) and show you want to be in London.
Internships during the semester are available - I have seen a few Hedge Funds and a few PE places advertise at the school (I am not actively looking). There is a little bit on the PE & HF side that means they are less keen on Internationals (they typically want you to have permits already).
How many people take them is difficult to tell right now. The 1st semester is so hard on recruiting that I am not certain anyone is prepared to start internships next semester, or has had the time to think about that as yet. Typically they want you to have a background that applies to the industry from what they ask - it appears to be more "work" than an internship is.
Switching to IB is entirely possible, so long as you can articulate why, and what interests you in the job. I think it is especially more open if you want to go into banking rather than S+T, but either is open to people changing careers. Everyone knows that is why a lot of people go to B-School.
My experience has been mostly with IB's, I think HF jobs are more prone to go to experienced people. It's very difficult do go both routes because of the large time commitment required. There is about a 50/50 ratio of those with experience to those without. From what I've heard and seen the major obstacles are in learning the material required to sound informed at events and informational interviews. I don't think there is a bias against hiring of people without a finance background (judging by the recently released interview invite lists).
Semester internships are mostly for people going for HF or PE jobs. I know a few people who take this route but can't say how much it helps since most of them won't find out about internships until March-April. Since most of these are unpaid, they are not as hard to get as summer internships but require a lot of effort.
Hope this helps, let me know if you have any other questions.
RE: Do you find that many people have a hard time switching into financial careers like IB or HF without much exprience in those areas prior to their MBA? Is it also true that quite a few Columbia students have part time internships during school to gain as much experience as possble for a career switch? How easy is it to get those internships?