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Physics Physics PhD Versatility?

  1. Aug 17, 2010 #1
    Hey all, I've been contemplating PhD'ing in physics for a long time now. Originally I wanted to pursue this goal for my affinity to learning and interest in research. However, like other people in I've seen posting in this forum lately, I too have developed an strange fascination for finance, and things like wall street, trading, and quant analysis! Truth is I wanna live pretty well off in my life, financing I hear can bring in mega bucks, which is fantastic because in a way it can be a interesting thing to do. However my ultimate goal would be research for government, national lab, or wherever. Another thing I've considered is engineering. Awesome job prospects. I wouldn't chase that as a college major however because it might gimp my possibilites of getting jobs in finance or research. Another thing I enjoy is programming. TBH, I mainly program things to solve my homework problems but it's still good. With a range of interests : finances, engineering, programming, research - is it possible these doors can all be opened with a PhD in Physics?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 17, 2010 #2
    You shouldn't do a PhD unless you're 100% sure that you LOVE physics.

    It sounds like you're in high school? Is that right?
  4. Aug 17, 2010 #3
    Yeah, and I do love physics. And it too seems like a physics PhD is the only degree that might open all of these options for me
  5. Aug 17, 2010 #4
    High school..? Seriously, don't even think about a PhD right now. Concentrate on finishing high school and doing your undergrad. There is no reason for you to be worrying about getting a PhD right now.

    In the words of Buddah; "Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment."
  6. Aug 17, 2010 #5
    Why are you interested in Wall Street?

    For most people, it has something to do with the money that they hear that people make there. It turns out most people on Wall Street do make decent amounts of money, but it's not so much over other careers that you shouldn't blind yourself to alternatives just for the money.

    The bad news is that the fact that there is only one of you, and so eventually you are just going to wander down one path. The good news is that you have time to figure out what you want to do, and if you are in high school, the odds are good that the career that you end up doing will involve something that hasn't been invented yet.
  7. Aug 17, 2010 #6


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    If you want to get into quantitative finance, don't get a physics PhD. It's a waste of an awful lot of time. There are one-year Master of Financial Engineering programs that post first-year salaries for all graduates that average $130,000 in salary and bonuses. There's no reason to spend 4-7 years getting a PhD. The physics BS would certainly help you get into an MFE program, however, since they mostly care about students having adequate mathematical and programming skills more than any actual knowledge of finance.

    If you really want to do that, though, look seriously at what they require of students. It's very difficult to get into a good MFE program with no work or prior graduate experience. You'll need close to a 4.0 GPA from a top school in a program like applied mathematics or electrical engineering (especially signal processing). Become very, very good at stochastic calculus and C++.
  8. Aug 17, 2010 #7
  9. Aug 17, 2010 #8


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    Yeah, good point. I don't want to say don't pursue all of your interests simply for the sake of economizing on time. If you really want to do everything, it's a lot easier to go from physics to finance than vice versa, and you can pursue programming in your spare time right now if you want to.

    Heck, I got two unrelated bachelor's degrees and two unrelated master's degrees before I ended up in the career field I'm in now, so I'm certainly not the person to learn focus from.
  10. Aug 18, 2010 #9
    On the other hand, if aren't the type of person that wants to get a physics Ph.D., you really should seriously ask yourself why you want to go into quantitative finance. The obvious answer is "for the money" but there are other ways of making money.

    That's what they claim. I'm rather dubious about those numbers. Personally, if you want to get into finance, I think you are much, much better off with a straight MBA or Masters of Finance

    Which is precisely why I think those degrees are silly, and in some ways a bigger waste of time and money than a physics Ph.D. With a physics Ph.D., you at least come out with knowledge and skills that you didn't have before you came in.

    If you have a 4.0 GPA with experience in mathematics or electrical engineering and are already good at stochastic calculus and C++ and if you already have industry/graduate experience, then you can get a job on Wall Street without an MFE. So what's the point?
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