How to Get Into Private Equity With No Experience

This article covers breaking into the private equity industry without prior experience, essential skills and strategies for gaining relevant experience. Learn how to leverage internships, startups, and rotational programs to start your private equity career.

How to Get Into Private Equity With No Experience

Dreaming of a prestigious career in private equity with lucrative pay and high-stakes deals? It’s possible to break into the industry even without prior experience.

This guide will clarify the ins and outs of private equity and offer a clear path to launching your career.

We'll cover what private equity firms do, the essential skills needed to stand out, and insider tips for getting hired.

Whether you're a college senior or considering a career switch, this guide has you covered.

Key Takeaways:

  • Breaking into private equity with no experience requires mastering technical abilities (financial modeling, valuation), problem-solving skills, and "soft" people skills (communication, empathy, influence).
  • Gain experience through internships, investor relations, previous work experience, corporate development, startups, or rotational programs.
  • Create a standout resume by leading with a value-driven profile summary, emphasizing transferable skills and domain knowledge, spotlighting related projects, and accentuating educational achievements.
  • Ace private equity interviews by researching, asking good questions, using stories, and preparing case studies

What is Private Equity?

Private equity involves investing in private companies, which are not listed on the stock market. Private equity firms pool money from institutional investors and wealthy individuals to create large funds.

These funds are then used to invest directly in private companies. The aim is to acquire significant stakes in these companies, often with a view to eventually selling at a profit.

Why Do Private Equity Firms Invest in Private Companies?

The primary goal is to generate high returns on investment. Private equity firms do this by:

  1. Enhancing Operational Efficiency: They bring in expertise to streamline operations, reduce costs, and increase revenue.
  2. Driving Strategic Growth: They provide strategic guidance to help companies expand into new markets, develop new products, or make acquisitions.
  3. Financial Restructuring: They optimize the capital structure of the companies to ensure better financial health and flexibility.

How Does Private Equity Fuel Growth?

When private equity firms invest in a company, they often bring more than just capital. Here’s how they contribute to growth:

  1. Investment Capital: Access to substantial funds allows companies to invest in new projects, technology, and expansion plans.
  2. Strategic Guidance: Experienced professionals from the private equity firm provide valuable insights and strategies to improve business operations.
  3. Network Access: Companies can leverage the extensive networks of the private equity firm for partnerships, new client acquisition, and market expansion.
  4. Governance and Management: Private equity firms often place experienced executives and board members to provide leadership and oversight.
About Private Equity List: We are a simple and up-to-date platform for finding private equity, venture capital, and angel investors, especially in new markets. No need to sign up. It gives you quick info on what investors are looking for, how much they invest, and how to contact them, with updates every month. Check it out if you need a full list of Private Equity firms

Why Private Equity? Benefits of Working in the Industry

Despite the challenges and long-term commitments, many professionals find private equity careers highly appealing. Here are the main reasons why:

1. High Earning Potential: Private equity offers lucrative compensation, especially at senior levels. Partners and principals can earn millions annually, and even entry-level analyst positions starting with $100,000 to $150,000 annual salary on average

2. Influence and Control: Private equity firms often take controlling stakes in companies, allowing them to directly impact operational changes and improve profitability. This hands-on approach to creating value is both impactful and rewarding. 

3. Diverse Industry Exposure: Private equity firms invest in a wide range of industries, from technology to healthcare to manufacturing. This variety keeps the work interesting and allows for continuous learning and professional growth. 

4. Strong Networking Opportunities: Working in private equity involves close collaboration with executives across various companies and industries. These relationships can become valuable networks for future career opportunities, whether within portfolio companies, startups, or other prestigious roles. 

5. Versatile Career Paths: Experience in private equity opens doors to various finance roles, such as growth equity, venture capital, investment banking, or executive positions at PE-backed companies. The skills and experience gained are highly transferable and valued across the industry.

Typical Career in Private Equity

Here's an overview of the hierarchical private equity roles and standard private equity career path:

  • Analyst (Entry-Level) – The private equity analyst's role is to conduct research, build financial models, prepare presentations, etc. to support deals
  • Associate – Take on more responsibilities like evaluating deals, coordinating due diligence, interfacing with management
  • Senior Associate – Lead parts of deals end-to-end functioning as mini-project managers
  • Vice President – Oversee deal execution, represent the firm in negotiations, manage junior team members
  • Principal/Director – Source and lead deals end-to-end, sit on portfolio company boards, contribute to fund strategy
  • Partner/Managing Director (Senior-Most) – Major role in deal sourcing/structuring, fundraising, firm strategy and operations

To give you a sense of the typical compensation at each level, here is a table with rough estimates:


Base Salary Range

Bonus Range


$100K - $150K

$50K - $100K


$160K - $300K

$140K - $230K

Senior Associate

$250K - $350K

$200K - $400K

Vice President

$350K - $500K

$400K - $1M+


$550K - $800K

$1M - $2M+

Partner/Managing Director


$2M - $10M+

Note: These ranges are rough estimates and can vary significantly based on firm size, fund performance, and individual performance.

Steps to Get Into Private Equity Without Experience

Entering private equity without prior experience can be challenging, primarily because recruiters and hiring managers prioritize candidates with specific technical and interpersonal skills. However, you can develop these competencies and become a strong candidate.

Let's break down the essential steps:

Step #1: Master Technical Abilities

Financial Modeling and Analysis

To succeed in private equity, you need to be proficient in financial modeling, LBO modeling, and data analysis. Here’s how to build these skills:

Pursue Relevant Education

  • Formal Training: Enroll in finance-related programs, such as business school or specialized master's degrees. Certifications like CFA, CPA, and CAIA also provide rigorous training in accounting, financial analysis, and alternative investments.
  • Specialized Courses: Take courses from platforms like the Corporate Finance Institute to learn financial modeling and valuation techniques.

Practice Mock Scenarios

  • Practical Application: Practice by creating financial models and valuations using public filings and online data sets. Dedicate regular time to honing these skills to improve your fluency and agility with financial concepts.

Step #2: Refine Problem-Solving Capabilities

Analytical and Critical Thinking

Private equity involves solving complex, multifaceted problems. Here’s how to develop strong problem-solving skills:

  1. Consulting Projects
    • Real-World Practice: Offer to assess a small business in your network. Analyze their business model, identify growth opportunities, and evaluate their cost structure to gain practical problem-solving experience.
  2. Case Competitions
    • Competitive Analysis: Participate in case competitions organized by groups like the Association for Corporate Growth. These events challenge you to analyze complex scenarios and provide well-thought-out solutions.
  3. Critical Thinking Courses
    • Academic Training: Enroll in courses that teach critical thinking, often found in philosophy and psychology programs. These courses help you break down arguments, evaluate assumptions, and develop experimental designs.

Step #3: Develop Interpersonal "Soft" Skills

Communication, Empathy, and Influence

Strong interpersonal skills are crucial in private equity. Here’s how to enhance these abilities:

  1. Communication
    • Clarity and Simplicity: Practice explaining complex financial concepts in clear, straightforward language. Focus on articulating your reasoning and avoiding jargon.
  2. Empathy
    • Understanding and Trust: Develop the ability to understand different viewpoints and build trust with partners and portfolio companies by showing genuine concern for their priorities.
  3. Influence
    • Collaborative Leadership: Learn to unify stakeholders around ideas and guide behaviors positively. Collaboration is key; avoid being overly authoritative.
  4. Conflict Resolution
    • Defusing Tensions: Practice resolving conflicts by finding mutually acceptable compromises. Listen actively to all parties and ensure everyone feels heard.

Practical Experience

  1. Customer-Facing Roles
    • Direct Interaction: Seek roles that involve direct interaction with customers and partners, such as retail jobs, account management positions, or community organizing roles. These experiences help build communication and empathy.

Here's a summary table of the key skills to develop across the three core competency areas:

Technical Abilities

Problem-Solving Skills

Soft Skills

Financial modeling

Critical thinking



Creative problem-solving



Analytical reasoning


Data analysis

Strategic thinking

Conflict resolution

Gaining Relevant Experience to Apply

By now, you should have a solid understanding of private equity, the skills required, and how to acquire those skills. But how do you gain actual private equity experience without prior finance exposure? Here are some strategies:

Target Private Equity Internship Programs

Internships can be a gateway into private equity, and they're not just for students. Many firms offer programs for early-career professionals looking to switch fields.

Smaller private equity firms with limited campus recruiting may have sporadic openings.

  • Research and Identify Firms: Look for boutique private equity firms with 10-30 employees in your area. Use LinkedIn to find investment bankers who transitioned from non-traditional backgrounds.
  • Reach Out: Contact these firms to express your eagerness to learn. Offer to assist with special projects or market research in exchange for mentorship. Smaller firms often appreciate proactive candidates willing to contribute.

Consider Investor Relations Roles

Investor relations (IR) roles at fund management companies can provide valuable exposure to the private equity ecosystem.

  • Role and Responsibilities: IR professionals communicate fund performance to limited partners (LPs), handle LP inquiries, coordinate capital calls/distributions, plan LP meetings, and ensure compliance.
  • Benefits: These roles offer insight into fund operations and exposure to deal pipelines, investment committees, and partner collaboration with portfolio companies. IR often values communication or business development experience, making it accessible even without extensive finance credentials.

Leverage Your Previous Experience

Highlight your transferable skills when crafting your resume and preparing for interviews:

  • Key Competencies: Data analysis, financial modeling, communicating complex concepts, team leadership, budgeting, performance measurement, market research, and customer or partner interaction.
  • Application: Clearly articulate how these experiences relate to private equity roles. Help the listener understand how your background equips you for the industry.

Consider Corporate Development Roles

Corporate development positions offer excellent private equity exposure by focusing on strategy, M&A, and operational growth initiatives.

  • Responsibilities: Identifying M&A targets, leading due diligence, deal structuring and negotiation, overseeing acquisition integration, and launching new business verticals.
  • Alignment: These responsibilities closely align with private equity work, making corporate development a valuable stepping stone.
About Private Equity List: We are a simple and up-to-date platform for finding private equity, venture capital, and angel investors, especially in new markets. No need to sign up. It gives you quick info on what investors are looking for, how much they invest, and how to contact them, with updates every month. Check it out if you need a full list of Private Equity firms

Pursue Startup Operational Roles

Working in finance, operations, or analytics at growth-stage ventures can provide essential experience. Startups require quick learning across various disciplines and problem-solving with limited resources.

  • Experience Gained: Rapidly researching markets, modeling valuations, managing capital needs, and honing both technical and soft skills.
  • Opportunity: While startups carry risks, the accelerated learning and diverse responsibilities can be highly beneficial.

Explore Rotational Development Programs

Many large corporations and boutique finance firms offer rotational programs for non-traditional candidates. These programs often include exposure to private equity.

  • Structure: Participants rotate through different departments, including investment arms, gaining a broad range of experiences.
  • Benefit: These structured programs function like internships, providing targeted training and exposure to private equity.

To summarize, here are the key ways to gain relevant experience in private equity without a traditional finance background:

Experience Path

Key Benefits

Private Equity Internships

Direct exposure to deals and investors

Investor Relations Roles

Visibility into fund operations and LP interactions

Previous Work Experience

Transferable skills in analysis, communication, leadership

Corporate Development Roles

Experience with M&A, due diligence, deal execution

Startup Operational Roles

Fast-paced environment to build diverse skills

Rotational Programs

Structured experience across finance and investing functions

 Pursuing one or more of these creative paths can help you build the requisite competencies to break into private equity.

Before you go...

You've made it to the end of this comprehensive guide on breaking into private equity with no experience. By now, you should have a solid grasp of the industry's inner workings, the key skills needed, and actionable strategies for gaining relevant experience to get the private equity job.

But your private equity journey doesn't have to end here. Continue expanding your knowledge and enhancing your competitiveness by exploring our further guides on private equity.

About Private Equity List

Private Equity List is a top choice for finding investment opportunities in new markets. It's a straightforward and detailed site for people looking for private equity, venture capital, and angel investors. You don't have to sign up or subscribe to use it.

With global perspective (incl. US, EU and UK) and special focus on regions like the Middle East, Africa, Pan-Asia, and Central and Eastern Europe, Private Equity List provides vital info on investors, such as how much they invest, what regions and industries they're interested in, and how to contact key team members. This means you get everything you need to find, check out, and reach out to potential investors for your project. We also pay attention to early stage founders.

Our team, experienced in financial services and committed to helping businesses and entrepreneurs, keeps adding around 300 new companies to our database every month. This effort has made us a reliable source for anyone looking to find investment in markets that don't get enough attention. Check out Private Equity List to begin searching for investors.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it hard to break into private equity?

Breaking into private equity is challenging as firms expect strong technical, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills even for entry roles. But with a dedication to continuous skill building, breaking in without prior finance experience is possible. 

Is private equity a risky job?

Private equity carries moderate career risk compared to more stable corporate roles given the boom and bust cycles. However, the risk is still lower than in entrepreneurial positions at startups or small businesses.

How long does it take to break into private equity? 

Most candidates break into private equity within 1-3 years by starting with internships or junior rotational programs out of undergrad. Switching from investment banking, consulting, corporate finance or strategy roles can accelerate entry to 1-2 years.

What degree is best for private equity recruiting?

Common degrees are finance, business, economics, and accounting, but tech degrees can work well too with complementary coursework, certifications, or training in financial modeling, valuation, and analysis.

Do I need MBA for private equity?

An MBA is not required but is preferred for senior private equity positions. Many successful private equity professionals enter right after undergrad or Master’s programs through analyst/associate Rotational development programs.