Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How sure a job is quant?

  1. Apr 30, 2010 #1
    How "sure" a job is quant?

    So I would like to do a PhD in physics when I am done my undergrad, this is something that I personally want to accomplish because I really love the field and want to satisfy my own curiosity. But of course I want to learn more about my future AFTER the degree as well. My top 2 choices would be a tenure track position or a becoming a quant. I would have to be extremely lucky to get a tenure track position, but how big is the job market for PhD quants? If I have a PhD in physics, do I have a good chance of being hired? Or is it difficult to find a job in the field?

    thanks for any info you can share
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 30, 2010 #2
    Re: How "sure" a job is quant?

    No physics Ph.D. that I know of that has looked for work in finance has been unable to get a reasonably paying job. I know of a few that are dissatisfied because what they ended up doing is more "computer babysitting" than "heavy math crunching", but that's a different issue.

    As far as the future goes, the world is going to change and finance is also going to change, but barring some major economic catastrophe (which is possible), it's hard for me to imagine that physics Ph.D. skills won't be useful somewhere. One reason that finance is interesting is not that finance can't blow up (it can), but if finance blows up, everything else also blows up too.

    The thing about "quants" is that my feeling is that "quant" is something of an obsolete job title in finance. When I think of a "quant" I think of someone in the late 1990's that uses a hammer and chisel to create a pricing model or complex derivative. Today, derivatives are an industrial business, and so you just can't "hand craft" them, and so they get produced by the truckload, by teams of hundreds of people all running power tools on assembly lines. All of the regulatory changes that are being proposed will push this "industrialization" even further than it is now.

    The financial industry has changed and will continue to change so that "quants" are more and more obsolete, but that's not a bad thing because physics Ph.D.'s are sought after for the new jobs, whatever those jobs happen to be. Even if Wall Street gets smashed, there will be the need to do something somewhere with numbers.
  4. Apr 30, 2010 #3
    Re: How "sure" a job is quant?

    One thing that makes finance a tough business to explain is that you get a surprisingly vague and non useful answer to "so what is it that you do?". Ultimately the answer is "whatever I need to do to ethically and legally make money for myself and the firm."

    This means that what I'm doing right now is different than what I was doing three months ago, and what I'll be doing three months from now will be different than what I am doing now, and I'm not exactly sure what it is that I'll be doing three months from now. I have a project plan for the next year, but whether the plan will resemble at all what actually happens is going to be interesting to see.

    The other problem is an issue of anonymity. If I were to tell you that I'm a waiter at Starbucks and did what all of the other waiters at Starbucks did, you couldn't figure out who I am. On the other hand, financial jobs tend to be very individualized.

    If I told you what problem I'm working on, and what I did yesterday, it would be very easy to figure out who I am, since there isn't anyone else in the world that is doing exactly what I'm doing.
  5. Apr 30, 2010 #4
    Re: How "sure" a job is quant?

    Excellent post thank you so much for typing that up!
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook