But if your question is just “how do I learn about the business of junk bonds” – well, that’s easy. Just get a job as an analyst at an investment bank. This will involve two years of consistently 60 hour weeks doing spreadsheets (maybe once or twice a year there will be a crisis that requires 80-90 hours) but the money is decent, and after the two year training program, the money quickly ramps up to become significantly better than decent (and plus the hours will actually get better since you’ll then have your own junior analysts to delegate to).
Wall Street is based on a star system -- within your first three months, people will mentally pigeon-hole you into either "That guy has a future! Let's give a slightly more interesting assignment" or "he's an OK worker, nothing special, let's just keep him doing grunt work for the rest of his career." Make sure you're assigned in the right bucket. If you're mentally assigned into the wrong bucket, then the only way out of it is to switch to a different firm. So make sure your first three months are screw-up-free.
After 2 years, you will know 90% of the business. It’s not complicated, really – there’s some math involved, but it’s quite basic (usually not even calculus) and anyway it’s all built-in to Excel now. You’ll learn the process – what happens when a client decides to issue bonds, how the underwriting process works, how your firm’s computer systems work, how to estimate the proper value of the bonds and how to hedge your exposure to interest rates, etc.
After this two year point, you choose one of several options – either go back to business school, leave to a different firm as a junior trader, or if you’re lucky, one of the senior traders at your own firm will offer to take you under his wing. Spend a year learning from him, and you’ll be invited to accompany him on a few client sales meetings. Be observant for a year or two, and voila, you’ll then know pretty much everything about the business that Michael Milken knew. You are now as much of a junk bond expert as anyone can claim to be. Congratulations! At this point of your career (just four years out of college without even an MBA), you will be making somewhere between 200k - 500k a year, depending.
But of course, Milken at his peak was earning much more than that – up to 500 million a year (in 1980s money!). That wasn’t due to his junk bond knowledge. You know now everything about junk bonds that he knew, but his advantage was that he had the phone number of every important person in the business world on speed dial. He was known to be a major player. And once he’d established that reputation, it became a self-fullfilling prophecy because everybody knew they had to talk to him, which mean his contact list got even bigger, which fed the cycle even more. Salesmanship.
I’ve been working on wall street for ten years and I could definitely coach you to the point where you have all of Milken’s business knowledge. I could make you a junk bond expert in just 2-4 years. But as for the next leap – turning that knowledge into a corporate titan? Well, sorry, I couldn’t help you there. That’s the REAL secret.