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Hey guys, I was wondering if anyone had any advice/experience with moving from finance to quant finance or another more "mathy" field, possibly via grad school.

So I'm graduating this semester and starting as an analyst in BB S&T. I majored in Finance with a ~3.5 GPA, but I've also taken a handful of math classes (Calc 1, 2 & 3, Linear Algebra, ODE, PDE and a Foundations/Proof course). In the past year of school though, I've realized that I'm actually much more interested in math and quant finance than sales or trading.

WIth this background, what would be the best way to make the switch? Have i taken enough math to do a MFE or MS? Are there other grad school options that might be more viable? Or is additional school not even necessary...

Any input would be appreciated - thanks!

Comments (11)

  • yhp2009's picture

    For an MFE/MS in quant finance, you will need a foundation in probability and statistics with some introduction to stochastic processes as well as some level of familiarity in coding up monte carlo simulations. If you are comfortable with math, most of this stuff should come to you easily.

  • protectedclass's picture

    Look at the pre-reqs of the schools you are interested. Off hand(I looked at MFE before I started grad school) you seem to be around what they are looking for besides the programming requirement. If you have taken the 1st and 2nd CS courses at your school with some matlab/R experience, you should be fine.

  • Opi's picture

    I've looked at the pre-reqs for NYU and Columbia before, but do you think meeting the minimum requirements would be enough? Or do most people who apply have much more?

    I haven't taken a prob & stat course and my only programming experience is an intro class in python, so I guess I'd need to at least take those.

  • In reply to Opi
    yhp2009's picture

    Opi wrote:
    I've looked at the pre-reqs for NYU and Columbia before, but do you think meeting the minimum requirements would be enough? Or do most people who apply have much more?

    I haven't taken a prob & stat course and my only programming experience is an intro class in python, so I guess I'd need to at least take those.

    I can speak personally regarding Columbia. Prob&Stats is a must, but with your math you'll pick it up quickly. However, if you have weak programming background, you will be overwhelmed. It starts out fairly mild, and then out of nowhere you are required to simulate the market crash of 1987 for your HW due next week. ok, maybe not that much, but it sure seems that way. Many of the guys at these programs are ex-programmers and IT types who are very fluid with this stuff. So don't underestimate the programming aspect. But dont be discouraged, cuz it's definitely do-able for the quantitatively-bent math types like yourself. I recommend C&C++, matlab, and R if youre interested in Columbia.

  • In reply to yhp2009
    Opi's picture

    yhp2009 wrote:
    Opi wrote:
    I've looked at the pre-reqs for NYU and Columbia before, but do you think meeting the minimum requirements would be enough? Or do most people who apply have much more?

    I haven't taken a prob & stat course and my only programming experience is an intro class in python, so I guess I'd need to at least take those.

    I can speak personally regarding Columbia. Prob&Stats is a must, but with your math you'll pick it up quickly. However, if you have weak programming background, you will be overwhelmed. It starts out fairly mild, and then out of nowhere you are required to simulate the market crash of 1987 for your HW due next week. ok, maybe not that much, but it sure seems that way. Many of the guys at these programs are ex-programmers and IT types who are very fluid with this stuff. So don't underestimate the programming aspect. But dont be discouraged, cuz it's definitely do-able for the quantitatively-bent math types like yourself. I recommend C&C++, matlab, and R if youre interested in Columbia.


    Sounds good, thanks for the tips.

    If you're either in or were in Columbia's program, though, would you happen to know what the difference between their 2 or 3 different "MFEs" are? I saw that they have a MS in Fin. Eng., MA in Financial Math, and MS in Operations Research that can focus on FinEng.

    Also, just of curiosity, can the math/programming skills people learn in MFE programs be useful in other fields? Or is it almost entirely specific to finance problems

  • In reply to Opi
    yhp2009's picture

    Opi wrote:
    Sounds good, thanks for the tips.

    If you're either in or were in Columbia's program, though, would you happen to know what the difference between their 2 or 3 different "MFEs" are? I saw that they have a MS in Fin. Eng., MA in Financial Math, and MS in Operations Research that can focus on FinEng.

    Also, just of curiosity, can the math/programming skills people learn in MFE programs be useful in other fields? Or is it almost entirely specific to finance problems

    Imo, MSFE is the best in content&reputation&recruitment. It's very streamlined and the approach is very practical and hands on. Perhaps too practical? Suffers a bit on the theoretical treatment of the material, but to be honest you would need a PhD in FE to really understand risk neutral pricing, and measure theory. The professors have work experience in the industry so its a huge advantage compared to MAFN which has professors who are mostly academics. The IEOR department is also very proactive. They provide 1-on-1 career counseling, mock interviews, and other resources to keep you marketable and provide job postings and company events/visits.

    MSOR is similar, but its very flexible, and you can take courses from anywhere. If you want to focus in FE, then you wont be able to take the FE core courses, so you will have to make do with a curriculum of your own design. The good thing is that you can take the advanced electives just the same as the FE kids. This is where the OR program really shines. Courses are taught by big names like Emanuel Derman, and Iraj Kani among others. But they require a solid foundation in all the high level math, stats and programming. While the FE kids come into the elective courses with a streamlined core curriculum under their belt, the MSOR kids are kind of 'winging' it since most of them just took a bunch of courses here and there. As for career counseling, MSOR is very decent. Competition is very tough since there are more MSOR students. But its like that everywhere at Columbia so you just haveto figure out a way to stand out.

    As for the usability of an MSFE in other fields, I think that it's definitely transferable. But I wouldnt do an MFE if I didnt plan on being in finance. But if you change yourmind mid-way into the program, I think you can use your monte carlo sim skills in many areas, as well as your math/stats knowledge. It shouldnt be an issue as long as you stay in a technical field.
    Hope this helps

  • Opi's picture

    wow, thanks for the detailed response. So it sounds like MSFE has the best teaching/recruiting, with MSOR offering a similar curriculum/recruiting but it's up to you to learn the prerequisite knowledge earlier in the program.

    I got the same feeling from reading on other forums that MAFN is a little too academic and has minimal career counseling, but the one thing that interests me about MAFN is the website says you can do it part-time.

    Have you heard anything about that, or know anyone doing it part-time? Ideally, being able to take the classes while still working in BB S&T seems like the best of both worlds (with no need to take time off for school), but I'm not really sure if this is feasible with a 60-hour workweek since these degrees/courses seem pretty intense.

  • In reply to Opi
    yhp2009's picture

    Opi wrote:
    wow, thanks for the detailed response. So it sounds like MSFE has the best teaching/recruiting, with MSOR offering a similar curriculum/recruiting but it's up to you to learn the prerequisite knowledge earlier in the program.

    I got the same feeling from reading on other forums that MAFN is a little too academic and has minimal career counseling, but the one thing that interests me about MAFN is the website says you can do it part-time.

    Have you heard anything about that, or know anyone doing it part-time? Ideally, being able to take the classes while still working in BB S&T seems like the best of both worlds (with no need to take time off for school), but I'm not really sure if this is feasible with a 60-hour workweek since these degrees/courses seem pretty intense.

    I've taken a few MAFN courses and have met part timers. They seem to stumble through the stuff struggling to learn much of the material. I really wouldnt recommend the part time route unless what you do at work is directly linked to quant finance.
    Best bet is to attend a program full time after your 2-3 years as analyst. You have a great opportunity to learn alot on the markets/business side in a BB S&T. This can help you become a much more effective quant. Just make the most of that.
    Meanwhile, get yourself into a 'post-baccalaureate/continuing education' program, (Columbia/NYU which is expensive, or Baruch/CityCollege if you want a bargain) and take a few evening courses in probability theory, statistical inference, regression analysis, and programming along the way. But you should be a strong MSFE candidate coming out of an S&T gig. Good luck

  • GutShot's picture

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