Although it's my first choice, I don't see high hopes of having a career in academia. As such, I've decided not to put all of my eggs in the same basket, and instead first set myself up for a backup option in the industry. The issue is that my interest lies with providing smart grid infrastructure for trading exchange and brokerage servers, designing retail- and institutional-end quantitative risk management software (nothing fanciful... think about something that can keep up with risk measures, hypothesis testing of modeled loss distributions on a rolling basis, and maybe with F# API - because I think it's fast and neat) and market-neutral and market-making trading algorithms. What I know is that the barriers to entry to these areas are very high, and I don't know where to start. Now, I come from a poor family and I'm about to finish my second year at a small liberal arts college. I've done some of my part, by knowing nearly all of my schoolmates on a first-name basis, and getting elected as the president of the physics society recently. But it seems like none or few of my schoolmates have immediate connections with any high net wealth individual. (Well, at most someone's-dad's-friend is rich, that's about it.) Option 1: Start on my own I have about $10,000 in risk capital, but few friends I'd rely on for a startup. I don't even think I'm anywhere near good enough. [Not sure if I got it right: Yes, I've worked it out and realized it's enough for speculatory trading in futures (well, for paying intraday margin on 1 contract with enough to absorb maximum drawdown/consecutive losses). But I'm not keen on this because I view trading as a kind of gambling where there is asymmetric information and the rules of the game are not known - and gambles never seem to be in my favor. *shrugs* Which is why I'd only take on market-neutral positions or at least some kind of hedged pair. I have written and backtested/simulated some basic trading algorithms with unfiltered tick data... well, they sort of pick up on the volatility premium and use option spreads on the underlying instead of naked stocks where appropriate for a classical mean reversion strategy, and I mix it up with some momentum strategies, producing 5-6 Sharpe ratio together - I think the slippages are just going to make this unfeasible - though I'm confident of getting it to 2 digit. But then again, I don't even have enough for such an account trading in equities/ETFs, and this type of returns can't feed me because I'm not managing a huge fund/insurance company.] Option 2: Conventional paths It seems like a combination of my school-branding, declared majors (and admissibly, I probably know much less about finance than the kids who view this as their 1st choice career) is getting in the way of the intern -> analyst-> associate... path into a bulge bracket investment bank/proprietary trading firm that would be the most common entry into this field. (Moreover, I won't get any direct work of the infrastructure/software/market-making algorithms kind that interests me - but this is a non-factor as I'd accept such an internship offer any time.) Alternatively, I've considered focusing on academia, then getting out with a graduate degree that could get me hired in a market-making, high frequency trading firm. But I can't afford grad school - my mother is getting old, and she will run out of life savings from keeping me in college by the time I graduate. And I can't justify working 10-12 hours a day on paltry pay when I am fit to work and pay for her living expenses. I want to help her out as soon as possible: What happens if I go down with a disabling condition, lose my life in a traffic accident etc. during those long years of grad school? Question Is anyone familiar with my depressing situation and the financial industry? Haha. So, how should I network my way into the industry this summer?