Easy as 1,2,3...
It's a good idea to start taking action in your first year of university. You don't have to make any commitments at this stage and you may well want to investigate other careers too, but you'll find that a head start will help you if you do decide to go down the banking path.
Get reading up about the investment banking sector. If you start doing so as a fresher, you'll have plenty of time to build up your knowledge steadily and firmly which will pay real dividends when you start applying to banks and preparing for interviews.
Speaking of applications, you could also try to get a place on one of the internship schemes that investment banks run especially for first years - these are designed to give you an introduction to the investment banking world, are often relatively short so you can fit in other work experience and other projects over your holidays, and can get you fast-tracked for a more in-depth second year summer placement.
Once you're in your penultimate year, things get more intense. This is when you have to decide if you're serious about a career in banking. Spending the summer between your penultimate and final year working for an investment bank is probably the single best thing you can do to get a graduate position, and you need to be ready to apply for an internship place in the autumn term, and to make the most of it once you're there.
If all goes well with your second year summer internship, this vital work experience will leave you well-placed to make strong applications for graduate positions in the autumn term of your third year and, with luck, secure a job!
But if you're reading this as a third year who has only just started to consider banking, don't panic! If you're committed to getting in and plan carefully it's still possible to succeed. Depending on your academic background, professional skills and the amount of commercial experience you have, you may have success applying to go straight into a graduate role. If, however, you find that you need to build up your knowledge and experience before entering the industry, you may be able to get onto a summer internship scheme and then apply for jobs afterwards, though this route may take you an extra year.
If you want to work in banking, it doesn't matter what degree you're going to end up with. Yes, some investment banking graduate positions are only for graduates who've studied numerate subjects and yes, the knowledge economics, maths or finance students will be acquiring might come in handy. But investment banks recruit students from a wide range of academic backgrounds and very much value what graduates with social sciences or arts degree can bring them, such as research and writing abilities, or fluency in a foreign language.
But whatever your degree, it's important for you to acquire as many skills and as much knowledge as you can that will be useful to an investment bank. This means that students in non-numerate disciplines should keep their maths up to scratch, and everyone should spend time reading The Gateway and other business and finance publications to get themselves commercially aware. Taking part in extra-curricular activities is also a vital step.
The career-building work doesn't stop when you get there! Once you're working at an investment bank, you may find yourself studying alongside your job to qualify as a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), or taking time out to get an MBA.