Math or Engineering Undergrad for a Quant?

Hey everyone,

Trying to decide where to apply for undergrad right now. I really like STEM (especially math and chem), so that's why I was reading up a bit about quant jobs on Wall Street. Obviously I know it's pretty unlikely to land a quant job right out of undergrad, but I'd like some advice & past experience on which school/degree would better set me up for the future.

  1. Amherst College - I'd try to double major in Math & Economics (both BA's)
  2. Harvey Mudd College (Claremont college near LA, similar to Caltech) - I'd major in Engineering
  3. University of Toronto - I'd major in Chemical Engineering (much cheaper than 1. & 2. but I'm thinking getting a job in the States would be easier coming from an American college.. correct me if I'm wrong)

I'm getting recruited to both Amherst & HMC and admission at both is likely, so it's a matter of where I should apply ED. Harvey Mudd is the most expensive (and it's in LA - will that be a problem when applying for jobs on the east coast?), but I think an engineering degree will be really valuable, in case I decide I don't want to work on Wall St.

Thanks in advance.

Hedge Fund Interview Course

  • 814 questions across 165 hedge funds. Crowdsourced from over 500,000 members.
  • 11 Detailed Sample Pitches and 10+ hours of video.
  • Trusted by over 1,000 aspiring hedge fund professionals just like you.

Comments (15)

Best Response
Oct 17, 2017

-I would recommend going with Amherst. It's much more well known on the east coast (where most quant finance jobs are) than Harvey Mudd. Mudd is a great school but it will be tough to get a good gpa there. The alumni network in finance is very strong from Amherst and is well respected.

-I would recommend double majoring in CS rather than Economics if you're going to do a double major. The finance/econ you need to know can easily be learned. At most, majoring in econ demonstrates interest in the field but if you are able to land an internship in finance, that is more than enough. You can take a couple electives or an intro finance class (if Amherst offers such a class). Btw the BA vs BS distinction doesn't really matter (on wall street anyway). A math major is a math major.

-I would not go to University of Toronto.

It's pretty unlikely to land a quant job on the buy side out of undergrad but there are lots of quant opportunities at the big banks on the sell side. Check out the Goldman strats program. Plenty of people get recruited into that program (and similar programs at other banks) straight out of undergrad.

If you want to do engineering instead of wall street, you always can go to grad school after getting your math/cs degree. Plenty of people who have math/physics background go on to get graduate degrees in engineering.

    • 4
Oct 19, 2017

Be careful with this -- a number of accredited Engineering programs want an Engineering undergrad degree (as well as progress towards your PE if in the States). However - CompEng will typically take a CS undergrad degree for Grad School would second the notion of Math/CS.

Take Econ 101/102 (Micro and Macro) and you'll be fine. You'll pick up enough of the Math to support Econometrics and the like through your Math major that self-studying this nonsense after the fact should be sufficient.

One other thought...If you enjoy Chem, why not think about Chem? You can always go the Pharma route and grab your MBA after a few years. You should follow what you want to do (trust me....I thought I wanted to go to Med School but preferred Engineering. I forced my way through a Bio degree instead of Engineering as an undergrad and have spent a lot of time trying to make up for that decision)

    • 3
Oct 20, 2017

Just to clarify, are you suggesting I go the undergrad engineering route rather than a Stem BA major from Amherst?

Nov 28, 2017

sorry...just seeing this.

and yes, if you think you'd want to ever go the Engineering route.

Oct 20, 2017

Thanks for the advice... definitely leaning towards Amherst rn.

Learn More

814 questions across 165 hedge funds. 10+ Sample Pitches (Short and Long) with Template Files. The WSO Hedge Fund Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to land the most coveted jobs on the buyside. Learn more.

Oct 21, 2017

Also, do you think it'd be possible to get a quant job out of Harvey Mudd on the west coast, then eventually try to transfer to an east coast office? Thanks.

Oct 23, 2017

There are very few quant jobs on the west coast. They exist but they are far fewer. Also, remember that finance is much much more gpa obsessed. Harvey Mudd will be 100x harder to get a good gpa from. Way, way, way harder.

    • 1
Oct 25, 2017

One last question, do you think I should still double major in CS even though Amherst's program apparently is purely theoretical? I'm thinking that it might just be easier / better for my GPA to major in Math.

Also, Mudd does get access to Claremont McKenna and Pomona's OCR, though it still seems from what you've said OCR would be much better at Amherst... is this correct?


Oct 26, 2017

It doesn't matter if it's theoretical or not. The important thing is to understand/learn the important computer science concepts. A math major alone is just not enough. Your mathematics knowledge is only useful if you have a way of applying it. The way to apply it is with programming. Without at least a CS minor, people may assume you aren't capable of programming.

For quantitative finance roles, on campus recruiting doesn't really matter. The strat/quant roles at banks that you'd have access to coming out of undergrad don't really do much OCR as far as I'm aware. You'll probably have to network. The point is that Amherst is a much, much better known school and you're going to have an easier time with Amherst on your resume. Hardly anybody knows what Harvey Mudd is.

    • 2
Oct 19, 2017

I like math, but sometimes I need help with my homework. I use one source for it and I happy to enjoy my knowledge.

    • 1
Oct 19, 2017

Honestly I am not sure how helpful an engineering degree would be for quant finance. I know absolutely nothing about engineering so don't kill me for saying this but it seems to me like engineering isn't really all that much hard-core quant/math/coding. If you are really sure you want to do quant finance I would recommend a math\CS combination (both of these are equally important imo) or if you are really, really sure you want to do quant finance I would recommend getting an undergrad quant finance degree. Also I just want to add that even if you love quant/STEM stuff and get a quant/STEM degree, you don't have to be a quant. There are plenty of quant-y jobs in finance that give you better exposure to the business and different career opportunities imo. But if you do decide to be a quant more power to you, it's a sweet gig.

Oct 20, 2017

Thanks for the info, I'll take that into consideration. I would definitely try the math/Compsci combo @ Amherst

Oct 23, 2017

Engineering is a very diverse field. Lots of engineering is perfect for quant roles and combines applied math/computer science/applied physics in a wonderful way

Oct 23, 2017

Engineering is generally very quant/programming heavy. It's just that you end up learning a lot of stuff that isn't really particularly pertinent to quantitative finance.

Oct 23, 2017
    • 1
    • 1