Getting into a private equity career track doesn’t happen overnight. However, there is a typical path taken if you are seeking a prestigious private equity career. First, you must come from a top-tier undergraduate school such as the Ivy League schools. During your junior year, there will be an opportunity to interview for summer analyst programs at top investment banking and consulting firms. If given the opportunity to return after graduation as a full-time analyst, you will be ahead of the game. However, there will be another chance to interview during senior year for 2-year analyst programs at top firms. This usually occurs in the fall of your senior year. Some analysts make the jump to private equity, or the “buy-side,” after completing one or two years of the program. I would suggest completing the analyst program and then starting as a pre-MBA associate at a PE firm. That way you can build a stronger network with your previous colleagues and senior Managing Directors as they may be a source of deal opportunities once you are on the buy side.
If you are getting your MBA from a top-tier graduate program, you will also have a chance at getting onto the private equity path by going to a banking/consulting associate program for two years or making the jump directly to private equity from graduate school (latter is typically the path taken).
Exhibit taken from Private Equity Interview Guide: