Private Equity Career Path: Titles, Roles, & Responsibilities (2024)

If you’re thinking of starting your career in private equity, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ll take you through what you can expect regarding career progression and what it takes to move up the private equity ladder.

Let’s get started.

Private Equity Skills and Requirements

Most newcomers to the private equity game come from one of the following paths:

  • Investment banking analysts
  • Directly from another private equity firm
  • MBA graduates with at least two years of experience in finance

If you don’t have something similar to this, the chances of getting into a well-known private equity firm are pretty low.

The competition within private equity is fierce, and if you don’t have the basics, you don’t stand a chance unless you get super lucky by having or developing “an in” at a firm.

The thing is, private equity firms are looking for people that can hit the ground running. There isn’t time to explain the basics. The core skills required include:

  • Financial modeling
  • Investment judgement
  • Communication — written and verbal
  • Financial due diligence process

Private Equity Career Hierarchy

In general, there is a hierarchy in private equity that the majority follow at the start of the private equity career path.

This hierarchy is:

  • Analyst
  • Associate
  • Senior Associate
  • Vice President
  • Principal
  • Managing Director (or Partner)

Private Equity Analyst

Age: 22-24

A private equity analyst is usually hired directly out of undergrad. Usually the analyst has interned successfully at the firm during school; however, this is not always a requirement.

To start, most analysts spend most of their time analyzing potential investments and reaching out (cold calling) targets.

In deal work, you might be responsible for a small area of a deal rather than its entirety.

So much goes into private equity, so this is an excellent way to start getting an idea of all the moving parts of a deal.

Private Equity Associate

Age: 24-26

A private equity associate usually has two to four years of working experience within consulting firms, investment banking, or other private equity firms.

Moving up a spot, a private equity associate will be responsible for financial modeling and handling most diligence analyses. This means they are more hands-on with the actual deal.

At some firms associates also oversee the analyst’s work.

Private Equity Associate vs. Analyst

A private equity analyst is usually primarily tasked with reaching out to companies (called “sourcing”); however, they can also start to assist with certain deal-related tasks.

Meanwhile, the private equity associate is the primary executer of all deal-related diligence, including the financial model.

The private equity associate will look over any diligence work done by analysts and add more detail to prepare it for evaluation. Once approved, the associate will hand the investment over to higher-up private equity professionals.

As an analyst, you have to be prepared to hand your work off and have someone else take the credit. It’s par for the course in private equity; everyone goes through it.

Private Equity Senior Associate

Age: 26-32

Senior associates have a more well-rounded position in the private equity industry. They’re involved in most things within the firm that has to do with deals.

They might communicate with partners, perform financial valuations, research investment opportunities, and assist with portfolio company management.

They’ll likely work alongside partners and other senior folks within the firm.

Generally, this role is only offered to associates who’ve successfully completed 2 years as an associate at the firm. At most places, it’s considered the first “career track” position.

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Private Equity Career Path: Titles, Roles, & Responsibilities (1)

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Private Equity Vice President

Age: 30-35

Vice Presidents are essentially responsible for managing deals in general. They work directly with clients to build and maintain relationships (to win deals), but they also oversee and manage all work by associates and analysts.

They travel quite often to meet with clients face-to-face at this stage. This is a vital part of initial contact to ensure transparency and trust.

The VP will also act as a mentor to the senior associates, associates, and analysts.

Private Equity Principal, Director, or Managing Director

Age: 33-40+

At the senior level, a private equity director, principal, or managing director is directly involved with client negotiations. It’s usually up to these senior folks to ultimately win and close deals.

After closing a deal, these roles work extensively with portfolio companies to ensure the deal will prove successful.

These roles are also responsible for setting the overall investment strategy within a firm, which is a key undertaking.

A managing director (MD) is the most senior position at a private equity firm.

An MD is responsible for basically the entire firm. While they may not be involved in the everyday workings of the firm, they remain accountable for deals and decisions.

Private Equity Careers Pros and Cons

Like all things in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to a career in private equity.


  • Fantastic compensation and bonuses
  • High prestige
  • Tons of development and learning
  • Wide variety of career opportunities if you ever want to leave


  • Tough industry to get into
  • Long hours
  • Career progression can be slow as firms get more crowded


Is it difficult to get started in private equity?

Yes, getting your foot in the door at a good firm is challenging. But it’s not impossible. You need the right background and experience, which can take a lot of hard work to attain. However, PE firms are expanding, and with lots of hard work and the right networking strategy it’s possible to get into private equity

What should I do to prepare for a role in private equity?

It highly depends on what level you’re already at. Check out my master guide on how to get into private equity.

Is a career in private equity stressful?

Yes, it’s one of the main drawbacks to the job. In my experience, private equity can be extremely demanding. If you aren’t prepared to put a load of work in, this isn’t the job for you.

Private Equity Career Path: Titles, Roles, & Responsibilities (2024)


What is the hierarchy at a private equity firm? ›

The Private Equity Career Path
Position TitleTypical Age RangeTime for Promotion to Next Level
Senior Associate26-322-3 years
Vice President (VP)30-353-4 years
Director or Principal33-393-4 years
Managing Director (MD) or Partner36+N/A
2 more rows

What is the path to work in private equity? ›

Private equity firms usually look for entry-level associates with at least two years of experience within the banking industry. Investment bankers usually follow the PE firm career path as their next job and typically have a bachelor's degree in finance, accounting, economics, and other related fields.

What is PE job title? ›

A career in private equity (PE) is one of the most interesting opportunities for those who already possess a passion for finance and who enjoy growing and building up a business in the long-term.

Is principal higher than VP in private equity? ›

Principals are the next most senior role and usually need to have several years of experience as a VP before making the leap. Principals are evaluated on their ability to find promising companies and close deals on them.

How much does a VP at a private equity firm earn? ›

Private Equity Vice President Salary in California
Annual SalaryWeekly Pay
Top Earners$241,298$4,640
75th Percentile$187,500$3,605
25th Percentile$113,500$2,182

What is the role of a VP in private equity? ›

VICE PRESIDENT/PRINCIPAL: Vice presidents and principals typically manage the daily responsibilities of the deal teams and work closely with the senior partners of the firm on strategy and negotiations. Professionals in these roles are also expected to generate investment opportunities and potential acquisition ideas.

Is private equity a prestigious career? ›

Working at a Private Equity Firm

The private equity business attracts some of the best in corporate America, including top performers from Fortune 500 companies and elite management consulting firms.

What is the highest position in private equity? ›

These roles are also responsible for setting the overall investment strategy within a firm, which is a key undertaking. A managing director (MD) is the most senior position at a private equity firm.

Does private equity pay well? ›

For the vast majority of first-year private equity associates, the base salary is around $135k to $155k. Then, based on fund performance, bonuses tend to range from 100% to 150% of the base salary.

How hard is it to break into private equity? ›

Private equity is one of the most competitive jobs to get – period. Not just in finance, but across the board. Private equity firms have very specific requirements for their hire candidates, both for entry-level analyst positions and for higher-level job openings.

How much does a private equity VP make in NYC? ›

The estimated total pay for a Vice President, Private Equity is $304,795 per year in the New York City, NY area, with an average salary of $176,028 per year.

Is managing director the same as partner in private equity? ›

These titles effectively refer to the same position, but there may be slight differences depending on the firm and group. For example, some PE firms use “Managing Director” for the credit team but “Partner” for the equity investing group.

How much does a Principal make at KKR? ›

How much does a Principal make at KKR in the United States? Average KKR Principal yearly pay in the United States is approximately $248,270, which is 137% above the national average.

How much does a Principal make in private equity? ›

What Is the Average Principal Private Equity Salary by State
StateAnnual SalaryHourly Wage
North Dakota$104,501$50.24
46 more rows

How do you become a VP in private equity? ›

The primary qualifications for becoming a vice president in private equity are an MBA and several years of experience in private equity. Most vice presidents move through several other positions first, including analyst, associate, and senior associate before finally getting a job as a vice president.

What is the highest position in a private equity firm? ›

Private Equity Principal, Director, or Managing Director

These roles are also responsible for setting the overall investment strategy within a firm, which is a key undertaking. A managing director (MD) is the most senior position at a private equity firm.

What is the most typical organizational structure of a private equity investment? ›

Private equity funds are usually established as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or a Limited Partnership (LP). The reason the fund is its own entity is the fact that it offers benefits for those involved in these limited partnerships.

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