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Need help with my career path.

  1. Dec 26, 2011 #1
    I could use some help filling in the details of my poorly-planned career path.

    B.S. in Mathematics --------> ? ---------> ? ----------> ? -----------> Financial Modeling

    Where I am now:

    About 3/4 of the way through my undergraduate Math degree, having switched from the "Comprehensive" track, which is highly theoretical, into the "Standard" track, which affords me the liberty to take more classes like Discrete Mathematical Modeling, Linear Optimization, Computational Methods for Data Analysis, etc; the only "core" sequences I'm taking are Analysis and Complex Analysis. When I try, I'm actually pretty good at the aforementioned courses (I can't say the same for modern algebra and topology, which I disliked and practically failed).

    In the middle of a year-long internship crunching numbers for a neurologist who's working on a research project.

    Considering a master's degree in "Quantitative Finance" or whatever guise the particular graduate school chooses for that field. But I'm not sure it's worth dropping $50,000 for such a degree, and I'm not sure I could get into to any of the good schools.

    Bolstering my programming knowledge in my free time. I'd like to claim "fluency" in at least 2 different languages by this summer.

    Suggestions? Thanks in advance! Happy New Year to everyone!
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 26, 2011 #2
    If you're serious about going into financial mathematics, make sure to take as many statistics courses as possible. Increasingly, quantitative analysis is moving towards a more data-oriented way of life. This data is analyzed in many ways, but most of them have a statistical basis, so familiarize yourself with mathematical statistics, probability theory, and of course, a bunch of analysis courses (both real and complex).

    We have so much more data on the planet than we have people that know how to analyze it, and this is especially true in financial mathematics. If you want to be super marketable, I suggest you look into machine learning, and also see how it applies to financial mathematics. I posit that this will be one of the fastest growing areas of study for the future, as well as one of the most useful.

    Finally, gaining proficiency in programming is a very good thing to do, as you already stated. I would recommend become proficient with SAS, and also being able to program in C++, Python, and R (and perhaps MATLAB, depending on where you end up working). With those under your belt, you'll be able to model anything.

    It's a long and hard road. But it's also fun and interesting! Good luck.
  4. Dec 26, 2011 #3
    Interesting. Is a master's degree worth the price, or should I instead take full advantage of my undergraduate course options, self-learn as much as possible, find a related internship, and take other steps to become marketable?
  5. Dec 26, 2011 #4
    This is always a tough question to answer these days.

    I'm currently in the process of getting my masters right now, so I may not have as much experience as other members here. However, I will tell you that more education never hurts... especially in fields that are as technically advanced as financial modeling, machine learning, etc.

    On the other hand, real world experience is always a HUGE plus, but my guess is that the "standard" degree for industry is moving from the bachelors to the masters (well, it pretty much already has), so I would say that the masters is definitely worth it. If there is some way you can intern in a related field while getting your masters, that would be ideal.

    Check with others though! :) Good luck
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2011
  6. Dec 26, 2011 #5
    And also, here is a wonderful site you may or may not be familiar with, in accordance with the programming and mathematics counterparts. It's for statisticians and data analysts, and I suspect it would be a good place to ask *specific* questions to people more qualified than me as you journey towards your goals.


    Check for tags related to financial modeling.
  7. Dec 26, 2011 #6
    One thing about financial modeling is that it covers a lot of very different things that requires things with a lot of different skills. Also the skills in demand can change radically.

    Jamin2112: Considering a master's degree in "Quantitative Finance" or whatever guise the particular graduate school chooses for that field. But I'm not sure it's worth dropping $50,000 for such a degree, and I'm not sure I could get into to any of the good schools

    It's not. The problem with master's degrees in quantitative finance is that they become useless if QF blows up. You are better off taking a masters degree in some field that isn't tied to Wall Street.

    Also QF degree programs realize this. If you look closely then you'll find that they are restructuring their degrees to be joint MBA/MFE degrees.

    Finally, I don't know if I would be useful. I got into quantitative finance by accident. My real love and focus has always been astrophysics, and there is enough similarity so that I got into quantitative finance in that direction.

    Also make sure that you are asking the right question. Are you really looking for a job in financial modeling or else a job that just pays well. There is nothing wrong with being motivated by money, but you just have to realize that you are, since it's possible that the field might blow up.
  8. Dec 26, 2011 #7
    Education != being in school and being in school too long can hurt you.

    One curious thing about mathematical finance is that it's very often the case that the universities are well behind what is being using in the field. I recently came across a paper that was describing a mathematical technique that we'd been using for the last five years.

    The question is "masters in what?" The good and bad news is that there are so many skills involved in finance that there isn't one path.
  9. Dec 27, 2011 #8

    I agree with those points. To the OP: twofish is much more experienced than I, so take what he says with more emphasis.

    To twofish: I was coming from the perspective that if he were to only have a bachelors degree while trying to make way into the field, it would be much more difficult than having a higher education from grad school. This is perhaps not necessarily even due to the specific knowledge he would learn, but more because he would have been involved in rigorous activities that surpass the difficulty of undergraduate work.

    Like I said, it would be best if he could achieve higher education while learning something on-site in a practical fashion. I also know from experience (I was a financial coordinator for a *very major* hospital network for three years) that the real world is much different from academia, so your points are definitely valid.

    "Masters in what" is definitely the question. I was just giving my perspective because I thought the path I suggested could be considered a good one, even though it's one of many paths to his goal. Would it be a 'wrong path' to try and enter the field of QF with statistical and machine learning knowledge? (Just asking... not trying to be combative.)

    Also... I'd like to echo your point that he's in trouble if the field ever blows up... or somehow becomes radically changed (which doesn't seem like a far out possibility).

    To the OP again: it would probably behoove you to shoot for a more "general" goal like becoming proficient in the major areas of applied mathematics instead of specifically financial modelling. There are many other fields that you can make money in besides QF, some of which are probably more stable in the long run.
  10. Dec 27, 2011 #9
    Lots of good advice in this thread. From what I can gather, it'd be a good idea to continue down an applied math/statistics track even if I don't know exactly where I want to apply that knowledge.
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