high school student interested in high finance, career advice?

Hey everyone, i'm a 16yo from Australia and i'm extremely interested in the world of finance.

I'm a strong student, mathematically inclined with straight A's. I'm interested in trading more specifically quant trading, but wouldn't mind working in consulting, IB/PE/HF and have no attachment to my rural town so am open to moving abroad.

I've read a lot on reddit and heard a lot about people saying that Commerce degrees are virtually useless now, is this true?

I'm leaning towards a STEM degree (Maths and Stats) and am also learning to code.

My main questions are:

Is a BComm still worth it?

What should i aim at doing for the next few years to set me up well for finance?

Can I break into High Finance with a STEM degree?

and any other advice is welcome and encouraged.

I also would prefer for hard truths, I'm a realist and want to know what the fuck the go is.

Thank you

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Comments (21)

Oct 19, 2020 - 9:15am

I'll bite.

Yes and no. Commerce is an easy degree but provides the basics aka an understanding of finance, accounting and economics. Majority of finance professionals in IB / PE will have commerce degrees, quant trading less so as it's much more comp sci / maths / physics, and HF / consulting are much more diverse in their hires from what I've seen. I personally did a commerce / science degree majoring in finance and statistics and would recommend this, or something similar like commerce / comp sci, even tho i ended up in IB instead of a more stemmy finance area.

First thing I'd say is that at 16yo I assume you have a year or two of high school left. If so, priority number 1 is getting a good ATAR and getting into the degree of choice. As someone in a rural town, perhaps look at some rural scholarships as those initiatives exist and can help financially with moving to a city for uni. I personally think Ivy League isn't worth it: you'll have opportunities to work overseas if you're good at your job and it's really really expensive for international students. Other things you could do is read and try to learn as much as you can: no need to network yet, and maybe just chill out pursuing other interests / developments.

Yes of course: The benefit is that it's a lot easier to tick the smart box, the downside is that you will have to demonstrate if you can A) talk to people and be enjoyable to work with and B) also know the finance industry / finance concepts / why you want to work in this other than just money. A valid question will be "if you really wanted to do this career and do finance why not study finance at uni". I remember getting asked in an interview why I didn't go work for a data analytics firm instead with my background.

Lastly on the enjoyable to worth with component: remember that people don't like finance robots (hence the MS getting thrown at a "hardo 16yo" so be sure to not silo yourself in with technical knowledge whilst ignoring skills such as leadership, communication and teamwork). I have no hate for people who live and breathe finance, so long as they are well-rounded (these are the people that impress me the most)

Oct 21, 2020 - 4:01am

Thanks so much for this. I'm glad you mentioned the Ivy league part, it's good to hear that it's possible to move away through a bank etc.

i'm definitely aiming for the high atar and am also looking into those scholarships too.

i'm also glad you mentioned the part about being likeable/not being a robot. due to me being from a country town, i'm surrounded by a lot of people aiming at pursuing trades so i keep the "intellectual" talk for the internet and adults. I believe this'll help me to not be a complete robot, i am a people person. i love a good joke and conversation, whatever it may be.

are there anything in particular that's popular amongst the people in finance here in australia? i've heard AFL is, i don't mind a good bit of footy so if so that'll be good.

also, if i choose the commerce route, would a double major in economics and finance be overkill? or would a finance major be too simple and overcrowded in the job market? I'm interested in both, but I'm thinking focusing on one and smashing it out would be better than doing two majors, with both above average grades?

thanks again

Oct 21, 2020 - 4:01am

Thanks so much for this. I'm glad you mentioned the Ivy league part, it's good to hear that it's possible to move away through a bank etc.

i'm definitely aiming for the high atar and am also looking into those scholarships too.

i'm also glad you mentioned the part about being likeable/not being a robot. due to me being from a country town, i'm surrounded by a lot of people aiming at pursuing trades so i keep the "intellectual" talk for the internet and adults. I believe this'll help me to not be a complete robot, i am a people person. i love a good joke and conversation, whatever it may be.

are there anything in particular that's popular amongst the people in finance here in australia? i've heard AFL is, i don't mind a good bit of footy so if so that'll be good.

also, if i choose the commerce route, would a double major in economics and finance be overkill? or would a finance major be too simple and overcrowded in the job market? I'm interested in both, but I'm thinking focusing on one and smashing it out would be better than doing two majors, with both above average grades?

thanks again

Oct 21, 2020 - 8:43pm

Footy's definitely big in Melbourne, Sydney is a bit more individual as to sport but I would say there is an overrepresentation of rugby union and golf as opposed to rugby league. Other than, it's less about what you like and more being personable and having something to talk about.

I'd always recommend a double degree: the extra year / major can help out and gives you more time to develop / find internships: four years is probably the sweet spot for a degree length IMO. 

Oct 19, 2020 - 10:23am

Millions of threads like this already. 

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Nov 14, 2020 - 7:23pm

Get high atar (ideally > 96)

Go USYD/Uni Melb/UNSW

Do Commerce, major in finance. If you double degree or double major, pick something you'll go well in (don't do STEM stuff for the sake of it)

Get a good WAM (at least above 75, preferably above 80)

Second year, contact 100 boutiques for internships

IMO the Australian Finance/business/consulting societies are all complete wank, and people waste so much time doing these rather than trying to get internships

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