Investment banking can be an intimidating field to think about. It’s been compared to organizations like the mafia by some writers. Investment bankers prefer to keep knowledge of what they do and how they do it from the general public. In many ways, they conceal their jobs behind layers of secrecy from laypeople. For a long time, investment banking was a kind of old boys’ club, and it can still be a tough nut for outsiders to crack.

The truth is, investment banking can be a great career, but it’s not for everyone. Investment bankers typically work with large organizations, not the general public. For example, investment bankers may provide advice to one company about mergers and acquisitions. If company A is interested in buying company B, an investment banker will break down the transaction’s pros and cons. Ultimately, they’ll give company A a recommendation one way or the other.

In addition to mergers and acquisitions, investment bankers also take on other roles. One example of this is underwriting. Investment bankers may work in the world of venture capital or for private equity firms. The largest two investment banks are still Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. These are huge organizations that have many different departments and interests. Some investment bankers may work for smaller organizations or governments. Experienced investment bankers can become high-paid consultants.

Traditionally, candidates for investment banker jobs came from high society. They were educated at the best schools, and that typically means they grew up in wealthy families. Over the past 20 or so years, it’s become a more open field. Today, there are more women and people of color working as investment bankers than ever before. It’s now possible for a kid from a firmly working-class background to make it in this once rarefied world.

Investment bankers often make more money than 99% of their peers. To excel in this career, it’s necessary to be ambitious, detail-oriented, and have nerves of steel. Investment banking is a highly competitive environment. It’s a very exciting career, but the demands on people’s time can be steep. People who aren’t cut out for this exact field may still excel as economic analysts or in corporate finance.