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Is finance a viable career for a simple engineer?

  1. Jun 2, 2013 #1

    What job could a guy with a MSc. in technical physics (engineering-physics) do if he chose to pursue a career in finance/economics? Typical math stuff like modelling and analysing? What are the work hours and wages compared to a job in the tech industry? Finally, does taking a phD pay-off for a career (in finance or tech industry) outside the academia?

    All replies are greatly appreciated!
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 2, 2013 #2
    How good are your programming skills? What country will you be looking for work in?
  4. Jun 3, 2013 #3
    Hours are usually very long both in finance and technology. You can make a lot more money in finance if you can get into the right position.

    A Ph.D. doesn't do much for you in industry except in a few niche areas.
  5. Jun 3, 2013 #4
    Just a small sample slice: I recently employed two interns for the summer. One turned down a $10,400 offer from a bulge bracket investment bank; the other turned down a $15,000 offer from a software development job at a large CA tech firm. The pay you get also largely depends on how many previous job experiences you've had in the same field. But on average, tech firms pay more than financial institutions. This is also true of the statistics I've gotten from my alma mater's alumni association.
  6. Jun 4, 2013 #5
    thanks for the answers! So it's really just a myth that working in finance will make you filthy rich? Huh. But what kind of jobs could I expect to do if I chose a career in finance?

    Locrian: By the end of my degree I'll have 3 programming courses under my belt. My focus is physics.
  7. Jun 4, 2013 #6
    It depends on how you define "finance". People in this forum seem to define "finance" as one of the following:

    Front desk trader at Goldman-Sachs
    Hedge fund manager
    Partner at a big M&A firm

    So yes, if you think those are "finance", then it will make you rich. You also won't be working in it.

    I define finance as a job within banking, insurance and related companies. By that measure, the area has shed hundreds of thousands of jobs worldwide over the past few years, and most jobs (before and after the crisis) were not particularly high paying.

    However, there are still opportunities out there if you're willing to dig. I would find a forum in which people who work in these industries post and then see what they say. What I find from reading and talking to people is that jobs in areas such as quantitative analysis are still out there, but they've changed a lot. Make sure anything you read is up to date.
  8. Jun 4, 2013 #7
    Also, three programming courses won't mean anything to an employer. However, evidence you code will, and hopefully those courses will give you a chance to demonstrate that.
  9. Jun 4, 2013 #8
    Well I got decent grades, but I'm not very into coding. Regardless, I have no intention of becoming a full-time programmer in finance or anywhere.

    Though thanks for the help! :) I'll check out those forums during summer vacation.
  10. Jun 4, 2013 #9
    If you’re not going to be programming (or doing some other similar systems work), there are very few good options left to you in finance/banking/insurance. Sales is always an option, open to anyone who has the knack for it. Sales is hard, but it is very lucrative. You could also check actuarial work, which is very open to career changers.

    Besides those, I think you’d only be qualified for generic stuff (underwriting, data entry) that IMHO you should avoid like the plague.
  11. Jun 4, 2013 #10
    I wouldn't say that you *have* to be doing programming - it's just that not knowing how to program just sets you up to compete with every other major (sociology, psychology, economics, business administration...) For investment banking, a lot has to do with coming from a selective college/university and your "fit" rather than proficiency. For the buy-side, we look almost entirely at your ability rather than "fit". I believe having programmed in your college courses is good enough depending on the kind of projects you've done in the process. But in more extreme cases, I recall DE Shaw wanted to know how many lines of code you wrote for each programming language that you're familiar with, and some Chicago prop firm had interview questions on programming in store for the regular position - these firms would probably be more stringent.

    My ex-classmates who were majoring in mathematics had two years of internships in front-office positions which do not involve programming and will probably not have a difficulty landing such a job after they graduate.
  12. Jun 6, 2013 #11
    I appreciate all the help! Thanks, now I got a decent gut-feeling about this stuff.
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