Best major for WallStreet at Columbia?

Hi! I'm an incoming freshman at Columbia who wants to go into either IB or Hedge Fund Management in the future. I am currently in the College and planning on majoring in Financial Economics. However, the school of engineering offers a pretty unique major called Operations Research: Financial Engineering. Which major would you think is more helpful towards my goal? Any advice is appreciated! Thank you.

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Comments (10)

Apr 14, 2020 - 1:33pm

It would help if you specified exactly what kind of work you'd like to do at a hedge fund. But regardless, operations research is very much the kind of thing you'd study if you wanted to work in the back office of a bank which is probably not what you want to do. That said, I did quickly look at the curriculum and despite its name it seems to be aimed directly at quantitative research. Do you want to do quant work for a hedge fund? If not then probably forget about that OR degree.

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Apr 14, 2020 - 2:08pm

The above poster is not correct. Operations Research would be a fine major regardless of whether you want to be a quant or do IB/traditional fundamental analysis. You do not have to study finance/economics if you want to go into finance. This is particularly the case if you go to an ivy league school such as Columbia. You can major in History if you want to and probably still land a role in IB. You would get the necessary finance training on the job and during internships.

Major in what interests you the most. The luxury of going to a school like Columbia is that most opportunities will be available to you regardless of your major.

Apr 14, 2020 - 2:15pm

To be fair I was talking mostly about the merits of doing OR as opposed to the degree already planned (Financial Economics) which is the context of the post. It is quite clear that if you are inclined towards quant work then OR is the better choice, but if you are not then I don't see it being that much better than financial economics. Nothing against OR. Hence why I asked for details about what kind of hedge fund he/she is looking to work at.

Apr 14, 2020 - 3:00pm

I go to Columbia (polysci major) and am doing ER at a BB this summer. A few guys in my frat work at hedge funds - mostly financial econ/math/stats/compsci guys but I know of humanities majors doing it too. A very good friend of mine is a philosophy major and has done VC since freshman year. Major doesn't matter much at all when you go to school here - at least in my experience.


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  • Prospect in IB - Restr
Apr 14, 2020 - 5:46pm

I would recommend focusing more on club applications than major for IB at Columbia. Probably the top ones would be CFIG and Lionfund which both have pretty strong kids. For school just get a good gpa

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Apr 25, 2021 - 12:31pm

I was an ORFE major at Columbia. Most of the stuff you see here is misinformation. Operations Research has nothing to do with back office operations. The name actually comes for WW2 when the US military was trying to analyze naval operations. They started using complex math to find U-boats etc.

Essentially majoring in OR is majoring in probability and stochastics, the FE part is just an emphasis on the applications of stochastics in Finance. In other words, this is essentially an applied math major with an emphasis on a particular field of math and a particular application of that. If you like math, especially probability, do it.

It is probably one of the tougher majors at CU (obv depending on how much you want to challenge yourself and what classes you end up taking).

There was an application to get in, with a minimum 3.8 GPA requirement.

I heard from the dept that they might have gotten rid of the application (my year only accepted 3 students out of quite a few applications, so I suspect they wanted more students in the program to be worth the expense).

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Apr 25, 2021 - 12:35pm

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