Choosing between Quant Trading offers and PhD


I'm currently a final year student at an UK Uni and would like some advice in deciding what path I should choose to proceed in.

I currently hold several job offers, mostly from quant trading. I have an offer in trading from a top BB, offers for Quant Trading at two(think SIG/IMC/Optiver/Virtu/DRW) prop firms, and I have another offer from an equity research house. 

In terms of future career progression, sustainability of the industry, and location (London, Ireland, Netherlands, and HK), I would very much appreciate it if there's any advice with regards to the above options. 

One other option I have been considering is that one of the professors at my Uni has expressed interest in supporting me do a PhD (topic being machine learning&finance). I was hoping that this might open up doors for potential job opportunities in Quant Research. 

Would it be worth it to do a PhD instead of entering the workforce after graduation?

Very much appreciate any suggestions/ experiences from you all! 

Comments (3)

Most Helpful
  • Associate 1 in IB - Restr
Dec 17, 2021 - 12:31am

Firstly, there's really no need to categorise as much as you have (tier 1.5/top 2 etc) no one cares nearly as much as you think at it makes you seem quite pedantic. Saying Oxbridge and a prop firm such as Optiver/whatever/blah blah is perfectly fine and comes across better imho. 

Now then for the advice you need to take some executive decisions on what you want to do. Prop trading isn't exactly known for being a versatile position for exit opportunities and to an extent, without retraining/going back to school, you're going to be somewhat pigeonholed career wise. Although you could probably move around within roles to an extent depending on how your skills develop. IB quant will probably be more versatile but doesn't pay nearly as well compensated. At the named shops you could definitely live out your entire career there and progress internally (probably lateral to other shops at some point) and make 7-8figs at some point. The counterpoint is that it's hard to stay in the industry, you need to keep performing and job security isn't nearly as safe as quant in IB. Really wouldn't concern myself with ER stuff tbh since it won't pay nearly as well - only consider it if you are genuinely interested in equities and valuation/origination.

I'd probs take the prop offer, kill it for a while and if you decide academia is your calling, go and apply for a PhD afterwards.

  • Intern in S&T - FI
Dec 17, 2021 - 6:58am

Definitely agree with the previous comment.

GO to prop first. If you go there, your career would be quite pigeonholed so that its hard to move to HF or sell-side. (Although I've seen some ppl from props become traders in HFs where the PMs prioritize trading strategies over investing). But the thing is if you perform well there there's no reason to even think about going to sell-side, though HF would be a quite different case. 

Even if you turn out to be a not too decent trader, you can always go back to academia. Your high GPA and your undergraduate research experience(assuming you do have it?) don't get useless. Some of the firms you mentioned at least don't fire traders/trading analysts in one year or maximum 2 years so you still would have earned at least similar to BB. It's never too late to apply for PhD afterwards(Not sure about Dublin though). After PhD I don't think you'd struggle to secure a quant research job whether in HF or BB considering you already had successful recruiting experience. 

Dec 17, 2021 - 8:16am
WilliamMckenzie, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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