MsF or MBA for Research/Portfolio Management - HELP ME

ca_zeus's picture
Rank: Senior Monkey | 93

Hello WSO,

I need some career advice badly as I have had a tough time furthering my career into the quant AM/Hedge Fund world. Interested in pursuing Fama/French or quantamental type strategies.

Quick overview:
- Undergrad degree in Finance (~ 3.2 GPA)
- 3 years of experience in institutional equities trading (sell-side)
- 4 years of experience in quantitative strategies implementation (not a PM but a trader/implementation of the strategies).
- Focused my career mostly on programming and quantitative research skills, rather than furthering my education and true fundamental/finance skills.

Career Goals:
- Get into research/associate level roles in more quantitative asset managers (Acadian, DFA, AQR) or quantamental type hedge funds/RIAs.
- Willing also to help fundamental shops leverage technology in their current process.

I would preferably like to avoid studying for the GMAT or GRE and would need part-time/online options.


  1. Should I pursue a Ms. Investment Management at BU (CFA related material) to balance out my quantitative background or pursue a part-time MBA from a non-target school (Illinois Gies or BU)?
  2. Does the concentration of a Masters matter?
United States - Midwest
United States - Northeast

Comments (8)

Feb 20, 2019


Feb 20, 2019

My recommendation would be to try to network with people at those funds - set up informational interviews and ask about what they'd advise. You may have already done this, but just wanted to put it out there.

My hunch is that neither of the paths you laid out will be all that helpful. My background is in more fundamental investing, and I'm not sure we'd consider candidates from either of those to be very helpful. The CFA can be helpful, though - it'd probably be worth studying for and taking L1 just to get a sense of what's out there. You can just study on your own and use the actual curriculum or Kaplan/Schweser study books.

    • 1
Feb 20, 2019

Hi @IllumiNation

I have spoken to maybe 6-7 people directly, and have looked at over 100 profiles on LinkedIn in related firms/roles of interest.

My general consensus is that for the more quantitative roles, a Masters in a STEM/CS field is the way to go.

Whereas more AM/HF type profiles have been a mix of MBA/CFA, or MS/CFA.

I may need to set up more informational type interviews as you mentioned. I just feel like my background is missing that grad level education, the problem is, which avenue to take.

Most Helpful
Feb 20, 2019

Sounds like you've been hustling, which is great! In general, I'll tell you that my firm did not advise getting any sort of graduate degree. My sense is that the importance of an MBA in the investment world has steadily decreased over the last 20 years - the prevailing thinking seems to be that if you're an investor before grad school, you'd be better served by just continuing to invest. Having gotten my MBA (to pivot out of investing), I can affirm that I learned almost nothing of value to investing during grad school (though networking benefits can certainly be helpful). In general, our view was: experience>>>CFA>>MBA>>>MS.

Regarding what we'd look for in candidates, the most important attribute by far was to be able to articulate an investment thesis and defend it. Necessary skills that go into that are willingness to research, modeling skills, market understanding, business writing, and oral presentation. We also wanted an overarching sense that the candidate was extremely passionate about investing - there has to be a hunger to keep turning over rocks, recognizing that only 1 out of 100 researched ideas is going to be good, and you'll even still get 60% of those ideas right (if you're good).

    • 4
Feb 20, 2019

So I think you've highlighted a few key things:
- willingness to research
- modeling skills
- market understanding
- business writing
- oral presentation

and it looked like your firm appreciated the CFA over any MBA/Ms.

How can one show the above mentioned skills with 7-8 years of work experience not directly involved in investment management?

Feb 20, 2019

I think there are a lot of steps you can take: sign up for the CFA (and pass), read all the famous investment books (Intelligent Investor, One up on Wall Street, etc.), stay on top of market news (WSJ/Bloomberg, ZeroHedge on Twitter), build stock models, write up stock theses, etc. For oral presentation, your goal is to be able to talk through a high-level investment thesis in a confident and concise manner. If you struggle with this, you can practice or try something like Toastmasters.

You may already be doing a lot of these things, of course - just putting together a few ideas here. The HF/AM/ER forums would be better places to get additional ideas.

    • 3
Feb 20, 2019

on a last note, what do you look for in candidates?

Feb 25, 2020