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Best route to become a quant

  1. Jul 31, 2013 #1
    I am currently at a community college studying computer science/ physics/ mathematics. I am interested in become a quant. What is the best and most direct route to become a quant? I am not really interested in doing one of those financial engineering degrees because 1. I heard you wont get one of those very high level research jobs (I want to continue learning and doing very scientific and computational work) and 2. I really want to get my P.h.D

    Is there a way when I am doing my P.h.D that I can tailor it to quant type work? Such as maybe a computer science P.h.D and doing my research on algorithmic trading??? I am looking for a good route to take that will also leave me with many options. Also, what would be the best undergrad degree? I am thinking Computer Science with a math and physics minor because I enjoy Math and physics.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 1, 2013 #2
    have you considered a Mathematical Finance / Financial Engineering / Computational Finance PhD?
  4. Aug 1, 2013 #3
    What schools are offering those? When looking at schools I have just seen the masters in these (CMU)
    At CMU they do have a Algorithms Combinatorics and Optimization PhD within the School of Business, COmputer Science and Mathematics so I think that might be the best route to take and do my thesis within the business school. I would defiantly consider a PhD in mathematical finance or the likes.
  5. Aug 1, 2013 #4
    will you only consider schools in the US? nothing in europe?
  6. Aug 1, 2013 #5
    I haven't looked much into Europe's schools for this. That is defiantly something I would consider, do you have any recommendations?
  7. Aug 2, 2013 #6
    https://www.quantnet.com/mfe-programs-rankings/ for the US and Canada.
    you just have to get on these programs websites and figure out if they offer PhDs too.

    You can look up "best quant programs in UK/europe" in google, if you're interested in those,
    seems location is key: Financial hubs like New york, Boston, Chicago.
    Toronto, London, Zurich etc . . .
  8. Aug 2, 2013 #7
    Thank you for all of that. Is there anything in particular I can do to start preparing for this as an undergrad?
  9. Aug 3, 2013 #8
    Look up the prerequisites on CMU website,
    I've read that you need Linear Algebra, probability and statistics theory, and PDE/ODE.

    Let's talk a little bit about what you actually want to do,
    right now what kind of bachelor's degree are you pursuing ?
  10. Aug 3, 2013 #9
    I'm currently in grad school for systems & control, which is held under the EECS department at my school.

    When I started searching for stochastic calculus textbooks (for the sake of learning stochastic control), I noticed that 4/5 were geared towards financial applications. And a professor of mine told me that most of the people that research this were financial people or "applied mathemeticians" towards the field of algorithm trading. I believe he called them "devils".

    The two types of people that research this seem to be controls/systems people from engineering (under which any strong mathematically oriented engineering degree is sufficient for undergrad) as well as financial people (which are pure math undergrads). I would go for an engineering degree as they are highly employable if you decide you would like to stop your education immediately after undergraduate school. while earning your UG degree, make sure you become fluent in programming as it is useful at all levels of your education/work career.

    As for additional math courses to take in UG, look for nonlinear ODE courses ( often very geometric and intuition based) as well as analysis courses (real and/or complex analysis) which become very useful for grad level. Maybe a 2nd course in linear algebra as well.
  11. Aug 3, 2013 #10
    What is it about algorithmic trading that interests you?

    If you really want to be a quant, none of those 'quant/finance' programs should be your first choice. It is generally faster and more interesting if you have an unrelated PhD. I get the feeling from most MFEs and MFin's that they went into these programs because they wanted to get into finance late in college but realized that they couldn't land an internship with their experience or background. These programs at the top universities are generally designed as part of their business model to generate short-term liquidity by means of tuition fees.

  12. Aug 3, 2013 #11
    me too, many of the jobs I see on websites like http://www.quantfinancejobs.com/
    always require a PhD and not a Msc. From what I've read it's just a HR Filter, however I get the feeling that the Msc in Financial engineering is just the "new" MBA for people with real quantitative skills. Just like the MBA it's become a commodity and many schools are starting to offer it, and as with "business" degrees I sense that unless one gets the degree from a very top schools like CMU NYU Colombia etc . . . it may be hard to get a job. Many of the schools on the top quant programs in the US are private schools, and the tuitions are super expensive as always.

    Although I want to work in quantitative finance later, I've decided to pursue a PhD in Physics (https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=609657 if interested) which I think cover more bases.
  13. Aug 3, 2013 #12
    Well, I would think if someone really wants to work in this field there should be a more direct route. Iv'e always been told I can be whatever I want to be in life, I just have to make it happen....well what is the best way to make this happen? I have been thinking maybe a statistics major and economics double major with a minor in computer science for the heck of it. There has to be a good way to get in.
  14. Aug 3, 2013 #13
    why not, its a math graduate degree after all. the maths (or stats)major with a minor in compsci should do it.
  15. Aug 3, 2013 #14
    What are you getting your degree in (and specialty within the degree) and how do you plan to get into finance? I am not trying to base what I will do after you, just trying to get a general idea of the paths people are taking.
  16. Aug 3, 2013 #15
    I'm graduating next year with a Bsc in Physics, after that I'll apply to theoretical physics Msc or Complex systems modelling Msc degrees. once that's out of the way, I'll continue with a Complex systems or Physics PhD with complex systems emphasis (preferably econophysics). I'd like to work in Quant Finance, and I have always had a general interest in economics and finance (political implications etc . . .). Nowadays around 10% of physics graduates end up working in finance so it's significant enough to show that Physics grads are appreciated in the industry. Many job ads don't require previous experience in Finance although an Internship will surely help most candidates.
    Pretty sure I'll succeed but if that doesn't work, cause you never know, I'll be able to land on my feet :)
  17. Aug 4, 2013 #16
    Well, again, it's hard to suggest a route for you without knowing exactly what your motivations for going into finance are, because there are many things that can be done in finance that require quantitative skill (maybe 1/3 of the jobs in a large firm that doesn't advertise itself as a quant firm). I can better understand for the post-doc that is unable to find a permanent position.

    Without more information, I reckon that job experience at top tier firms (Jump, Jane St, Google) is a better entry point for you than a PhD. It's possible to get rather far in finance even without a degree. What got me in was a knack for delivering 4 digit alpha/basis points, after that, it mostly depended on the luck and fortitude in getting to the sufficient capitalization.

    P.S.: I have to add a disclaimer in every thread about finance careers. I know that no matter how much I say, people will not get rid of this notion, but it helps nevertheless to insist: finance is a very bad way to getting rich.

    (0) People like looking at the tails, not the peak, of the distribution.

    (1) Most jobs do not have a positive environment - there's a skew of hiring towards more men over women, cocky men over regular men, physically-attractive women over regular women etc. Everyone's tight-lipped about their firms; you're at the mercy of exchanges, prime brokerages, the Fed, SEC etc. And the IRS likes making an example of financiers. (Having come from a physics background, I prefer having zero exposure to these risk factors.)

    (2) Quant jobs in finance are very hardly about making money or predicting the market.

    (3) You'll be very poor. Poorer-paid than your friends who accepted jobs at software/tech firms, who cashed in on their stock options at said firms, and relatively poorer because you're living in a leased 800 sq ft apartment in Chicago, Manhattan etc. when the said friends are purchasing 6 bedroom houses in other cities. You'll meet lawyers who have the freedom of a 20-floor office in the prime district while you spend most of your time debugging code that was purchased from another firm 5, 10 years ago. You'll meet people who are making 2, 3 orders of magnitude as much money as you for 2, 3 orders of magnitude less work.
  18. Aug 4, 2013 #17
    This also means that there is more supply and less product differentiation for firms to choose from among those who have spent (or are willing to spend) time getting a job in finance via physics.
  19. Aug 4, 2013 #18
    This does not mesh with my experience. The people in my physics phd class who ended up going in to finance make significantly more than the people who are not in finance.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2013
  20. Aug 4, 2013 #19
    My motivation for pursing this field is that I find the field to be very fascinating, exciting, high paced, very intellectual, and the fact I would be successful. I have always been told I wouldn't be successful and I feel like this is a very successful job. I have considered the field of an actuary because it claims to be low stress, high pay and good working hours, but I don't think I would get the rush and excitement like I would on wall street.
  21. Aug 4, 2013 #20
    maybe he's talking about Quant Developers, rather than Quant analysts?
  22. Aug 4, 2013 #21
    This is the incorrect comparison to make: he's deciding whether to pursue a PhD in physics for the sake of becoming a quant, not deciding between finance and other industries given a PhD in physics in hand. The appropriate comparison to make is whether people in your university's grad schools (including MBAs, CS PhDs, lawyers, doctors) who are in technology firms (or any other) make more than the people in your physics PhD class who are in finance firms.

    What remains is to argue the point if he is deciding to go into finance or other industries given a bachelor's in physics in hand. My college's alumni association releases statistics of median wages of alumni and the software/tech jobs have always been paid more (above 100,000 out of college, median). Comparables: bulge bracket banks that match the regex .*S are bidding 80,000 for analysts while Dropbox is bidding >100,000 for fresh-out-of-college developers.

    "Fascinating, exciting, high-paced, intellectual, successful" are adjectives that don't really convey much except that you're enamored with a job that you don't know much about (no offense intended, all of us have this mentality to some extent). Let's put that in perspective:

    - Fascinating: I don't really think that debugging and writing UIs is a fascinating activity, and I hope you don't either. This means we're talking about the few jobs where you don't do debugging and writing UIs as your primary activity. But you wanted something with rush and excitement too, this leaves the kind of work say, the managing directors at **** ***** Capital do (I reckon only the two of them make trade decisions while everyone else does slow-paced work), but the way in which they acquired their positions had nothing to do with acquiring a physics PhD.
    - High-paced/rush/excitement: Work for quantitative individuals on the pits is getting completely outphased. This means you are looking at only two possibilities: working at one of few quant-oriented Chicago firms that still trade largely during the open outcry, or a prop trading floor. In the former, there are very few names left, DRW and CTC come to mind. In the latter, the Volcker Rule has shipped off a large number of prop traders in banks. This leaves you with much fewer jobs that can be both high-paced AND intellectual on Wall Street. There are still jobs that require on-demand debugging though, but I don't think this is the kind of 'high-paced' that you're looking for.
    - Exciting and intellectual: Intellectual quant work and high-paced are rather mutually-exclusive characteristics and often require different personality types. Or rather, as a finance employer (and I am one), I'd rather keep them mutually-exclusive.
    - Successful: How so? Renting a 800 ft^2 apartment vs owning a 4000 ft^2 house? Do you win a Nobel Prize for being in finance? Also, in many parts of the world, being a lawyer/doctor/scientist is considered a more prestigious profession than being a trader. I didn't actually know what a trader really did until I left my country for college.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2013
  23. Aug 4, 2013 #22
    Well, what sort of job is high paced and exciting? I want to work in a very scientific and mathematical field, but I want that excitement and high paced environment. I am not too worried about the pay as long as I can pay the bills and live comfortably. Any idea's?
  24. Aug 4, 2013 #23
    Good, I was just get across that it's difficult when you have a very demanding set of criteria. I'd do a bit of homework, (1) ease your requirements, (2) find out more about which part of finance you want to get into. About (1), the only way to get everything you want is to do a startup, but there's always a trade-off: most startups fail. I think it's easier for people to help you when we know more about what you're looking for. Also, Wilmott/WSO might be better sites for this sort of information.

    Take care.
  25. Aug 4, 2013 #24
    I'm pursuing a computational neuroscience degree. My personal advice would be to thoroughly investigate the research techniques/principles of your area or specialty and take courses as well as additional classes from websites such as coursera.ra and MIT Opencourseware vids on YouTube (typically these types of sites are free) to constantly tailor the subject offerings to YOUR PERSONAL needs. If your aim is to get A's and a p.Hd degree or achieve respect in the science community you should completely ignore my advice. If you have a fascination for a certain field that is very personal to you, then by all means consider what I have said and good luck.
  26. Aug 4, 2013 #25
    Maybe be a reactor officer on a nuclear sub? I know two people who did that and they both said it was very intense.

    In truth, though, the vast majority of tech jobs are almost exactly the same. The subject matter and final output may be different, but typically you're sitting on your butt 10 hours a day clicking a mouse and typing large quantities of text while you're under pretty intense pressure (regardless of the field). If that's fast-paced for you, great!
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