Getting a Hedge Fund job as a Political Science Professor?

IRnerd's picture
Rank: Baboon | 102

Hello all,

I was hoping to get some advice on the types of jobs/funds that might be a natural transition from my current job as a political science lecturer. Just to give a little quick context, I'm in my mid-twenties, was an adjunct professor for 3 years, and am now a full-time lecturer, but on the non-tenure track. I teach primarily courses in international relations, and my own research has been mostly related to immigration in the past, but I am working on an article related to the impact of political event on exchange rates. I've always had an interest in the buy-side, and was a member of the investment club as an undergrad, have read very widely about valuation, hedge fund strategies, etc. (Graham, Malkiel, Veale, Schwager, Ittelson, Schilit, Drobny, etc.). I've taught myself a lot about trading equities, options (from LEAPS to reverse iron condors, etc.), and currencies, as well as hedging methods and managing risk, and I've done quite a bit of investment personally. However, since I am on the non-tenure track and have had a fascination with applying my interest in international politics and political economy on the buy side,

I was wondering if anyone could suggest the type of job that might be relevant given what I have described as my interests. So I guess this all leads me to two specific questions that I hope someone in this community with hedge fund experience can help me answer. First, how likely is this type of background to get me hired (taking for granted I have an enormous amount of enthusiasm for the markets and think about them all day) given that I am not a math, engineering, or science PhD? Second, what type of role should I be looking to apply for (research, portfolio associate, etc.?) and which type of fund would be most conducive to my experience/interests? Perhaps someone with my background has no chance of getting hired into a buyside role? What do you guys think? I appreciate any practicable advice that you could give.

Comments (33)

Nov 2, 2018

Global macro research analyst (?)

You're a very niche candidate that's going to need to find a very niche opportunity.

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Nov 2, 2018

I had been looking at something like GIR at Goldman, which seems to look for finance and economics PhD candidates, but maybe someone in the international relations/political economy realms of political science would stand a chance? It seems like a good way to try to enter the industry potentially, though I haven't done too much research yet on what the job specifically entails beyond the description on the job posting. Do you know much about that type of job and what it would generally entail from a day-to-day standpoint?

Nov 2, 2018

Honestly not sure, from my understanding of their macro research team, you work predominantly on how shifts in the global macro environment drive rate and currency fluctuations. Seems like very interesting stuff.

Nov 2, 2018

What is your mathematics/statistics background? My understanding is that a good portion of political science involves pretty rigorous statistical analysis that would be at least partially applicable to the realm of asset management.

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Nov 2, 2018

I do have some statistics background (linear regression, basic understanding of STATA that could be improved on if I used it more regularly, fairly proficient with excel, etc.), but my research has generally been more qualitative than quantitative in nature. I did start on a Professional Risk Manager cert, which is pretty quantitative and I've found value in some of the mathematical muscles that it has forced me to flex a bit (which I haven't used in a while), but haven't found the time to buckle down and finish it. So that's my math/statistics experience--it's limited, but not non-existent. Asset management was a path I had considered trying to go down as well.

Nov 2, 2018

Hedge funds are just a specific subset of asset management. Hedge funds just seek to be broadly uncorrelated with overall market changes through the use of hedging but in many cases the investment framework long-only asset managers use and hedge fund managers use are basically the same. In certain cases there are key differences but speaking generally here. There's a ton of crossover. The head of my firm actually has a a PhD in a similar field to political science. I think if you can try to emphasize the statistical knowledge you've gained through your academic coursework (even if exaggerating a little) but then back it up with self studying you could put yourself in a pretty good position.

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Nov 2, 2018

Makes sense, but is there any particular subset or role in asset management that you think such a skillset would be well-suited as a first buyside job? In other words, should I be looking at entry-level analyst positions at less-quant heavy asset management firms, you think? Is trying to go the summer intern route as a means of trying to get a full-time analyst position a good idea, or is that more for undergrads?

Nov 7, 2018

Lmao you call linear regression a statistics background? Every college kid on earth knows that

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Most Helpful
Nov 7, 2018

Not sure if you realize this but linear regression analysis can get pretty complicated.

-Understanding how to determine if your regression coefficients are significant
-Determining out of sample performance via cross validation
-Dealing with multicolinearity
-Determining if model residuals are truly random noise as regression assumes
-Dealing with missing data
-Outlier screening and variable transformation/scaling

All of the above are necessary for doing regression analysis properly. Just because the math is superficially simple/understandable with some calculus and basic linear algebra in no way means that regression analysis is simple.

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Nov 7, 2018

Thus, I said "some"--i.e. I took research methods courses as an undergrad and grad student. I do not have a significant statistics background, as I said, since my research is not primarily quantitative...also, having taught quite a few students over the last few years, I can assure you that not every college kid on earth knows even such basic statistical analysis, though maybe your own career in academia has yielded different findings. Regardless, note that I did no initially advertise myself as someone who knew much statistics, but was rather just responding to a question saying I'm essentially not totally incompetent in that area. But thank you for your concern that I was overselling myself; I'll keep that in mind.

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Nov 3, 2018

Just apply to 100s of places and you'll get a job eventually. Just be extremely persistent and meet a lot of people. Worst case - work in a bank first.

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Nov 7, 2018

Use the political science bend/connections and get the inside scoop on regulation coming down the pipeline. Definitely legal.

Not too high, not too low

Nov 8, 2018

I would also look into building contacts in the industry by consulting for firms like GLG... the Trump administration has naturally coincided with large interest in politics as they've introduced fat tail risks for a number of industries

I am currently at a hedge fund now and have many friends at hedge funds and a large percentage of them (or people on their team) were on the phone with the political scientists from 11/16 to 1/17

Would love to stay in touch as you go through your process. I am relatively young but have always been interested in political science and am looking for ways to merge my interests in poli sci and financial markets

Nov 9, 2018

From an interests standpoint, I'm also on the path to merging my macro interests (global politics economics) and the financial markets.

I'd love to pm you to further discuss your own experience thus far!

Nov 13, 2018

Don't know how much I can help but feel free to PM me

Nov 14, 2018

Currently trying to merge my interests of the financial markets and poly sci/international affairs also. Finding it more difficult than I thought - can't seem to find the right fit.

Nov 10, 2018

As a student who studies quite a lot of Politics, I would say being a lecturer in your mid-twenties is already quite astonishing! Some macro funds do need "Economists" and maybe they really want someone to help them how the split Congress will affect every moves in the US for the foreseeable future...Worth a try and maybe apply more...

Nov 12, 2018

I took a somewhat less orthodox route through academia, going from undergrad straight to PhD program, then starting as an adjunct at one school for 3 years while writing my dissertation before getting a (non-tenure track) full-time lecturer position. For a while I really liked academia, but my desire to transition from academia has a lot to do with the lack of job security/extreme competitiveness for tenure-track jobs, relatively low pay, and the fact that while I'm young now and so it's not weird to deal with undergrads (I understand their concerns, grade-grubbing, etc.), as I get older I think that their childishness will really wear my nerves thin in a business where keeping the students happy seems to be becoming the main thing schools care about (rather than actually teaching them anything about either the subjects they are studying or life).

People think academia is a sweet gig, and they are right, but only if you are lucky enough to land a tenure-track job, work your ass off for seven years hoping you get tenure and don't have to start over or change careers (and it's a different kind of "working your ass off" than other jobs, in the sense that you don't put in long hours at the actual "office" per se, but you are literally always either working or expected to be working when you are at home or on vacation, etc. unless you have tenure, and even then, if you want to move to a better school or advance up the ranks and get raises you have to keep at that grind). So that's why I'm looking to transition away from academia, despite the various things I actually like about it. But I want to go the macro or equity research/buyside analyst route largely because throughout my life, market news was literally the first page I always flipped to in the newspaper and with any research I've ever done, I've always thought about the market angle to my findings (not to mention the personal investment I've done and reading I've done on valuation, different strategies, etc.).

Anyway, my game plan will be applying for sell-side equity research positions before eventually trying to transition to the buyside (I'm hoping the writing and research experience/skills will be of some value and my overriding interest in public markets will be of help here). Given that my pure economics coursework is limited to a few classes in undergrad (including one I got a C in the semester I got mono), I'm not sure I could swing applying for an "economist" job, but I do hope maybe to get my start in ER and see where my career takes me.

Nov 12, 2018

You act like once you have tenure you can just do nothing all day lol

Nov 12, 2018

I wouldn't focus on getting a specific finance seat (hedge fund) as you're going to have to be open if you want to transition. The easiest switch would've been econ/macro/stats but you've already rule that out. I'd be cautious about doing ER bc you'd get little credit for what you've accomplished already if you're gunning to be a 3 statement excel jockey and may even be viewed as a bad candidate to "start over" (could you go from prof to student?) You should leverage whatever political science background you have to become and expert on it for investors- be it sectoral legislation, foreign policy, regional politics or whatever as that will be the best way to "touch" finance. Here's hoping your specialty isn't political systems of Ancient Greece. Good luck

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Nov 12, 2018

Not to worry, my expertise is a bit more applicable to current events than underwater basketweaving, but I take your point. Likely I'll just apply widely and see what kind of reception I get. I'm definitely not "gunning to be a 3 statement excel jockey," as my impression of ER by reading posts on this forum has caused me to believe it is a bit more than that, but if you have any suggestions regarding how, in practice, the buy or sell-side interact with political analysts and thus how I may attempt to do what you are proposing, I would be very interested to hear your opinion on the subject.

Nov 12, 2018

Don't work in ER but most entry level ER folks appear to be 3 statement excel jockeys. If there's an angle where you could become a full covering analyst right off the bat that I'm missing...well. Echo the comment above about GLG type outfits, other kind of political consulting firms (Eurasia group), or just starting your own blog with analysis.

Nov 12, 2018

You might try reading some comments from Niall Ferguson on this subject, he spends a lot of time consulting to hedge funds through his firm Greenmantle. There is a comment somewhere in one of his books where he talks about speaking at some event on interest rates / some other Fed topic and was amazed at how smart the macro fund guys were on pol. science stuff.

Nov 13, 2018

Any idea what book this could be in?

Nov 14, 2018

Have you considered EM equity long-only/HFs? Political science can be relevant there across several dimensions.

Nov 17, 2018
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Nov 20, 2018