3/19/17

Hi guys,

I've been reading this forum for a while and I need your help now. I am currently at the first year of a physics BSc in Italy at Sapienza University (which is ranked 23th worldwide by QS rankings and is definitely the best physics school in Italy). When I enrolled to this undergrad course, last year, i didn't know anything about the investment banking world and I had never thought about entering the field. Anyway a few months ago I came across this forum, I read a lot and I learnt a lot about this field and I've come up to the conclusion that I want to work in investment banking/consulting/business: I like a challenging and stimulating environment, I am genuinely interested in economics, my goal is to work as much as possible, earn as much as possible, retire as soon as possible. Intrigued by the opportunities it seems to offer I decided to apply to a few b-schools in europe (Bocconi in italy and king's/warwick/LSE in the UK) and I was admitted to bocconi CLEF(bachelor in economics and finance) and king's econ (still waiting for warwick's maths and econ response) . Now I have to make a tough choice: should I continue and hopefully finish my physics bsc and THEN try to apply to some msc's in finance/managment/financial mathematics or should I go to Bocconi right now? I mean, I legitimately enjoy what I am studying here and I truly love physics but I wouldn't like to work in the field at all and I have no idea if my gpa (27/30, which actually puts me in the top 15% of the class) will fall/raise/remain the same. While if I go to Bocconi I am confident I will take top grades so it will probably allow me to apply with good chances to all top b-schools for an msc. Here are my thoughts:

Physics:
PROS:
-already enrolled, wouldn't waste an year
-i really like it
-it's giving me a solid prep in maths/programming too

CONS:
-really hard and demanding
-almost no job market, at least in italy, would probably end with no job if I am not admitted to an msc in business/finance in europe
-I would hate working in academia/teaching, I find much more interesting the world of banking/consulting/business

Economics and Finance:
PROS:
-higher probability to get top grades
-good chances to get into top b-schools(even bocconi itself) for an msc and later an mba
-almost granted job(Bocconi places extremely well, at least in Italy, even if my goal would be to go to London/Paris/ecc.)
-much higher probability to get into investment banking

CONS:
-wouldn't develop any kind of mathematical/programming skills which I feel will be extremely useful in the future
-could end up with a poor job anyway

So, what do you suggest? How many physics guys have you seen during your MSc/at your bank? Is it a so hard path to move to finance/consulting after a physics bsc? And what if do not end up with perfect grades/very high in physics? What do you think of bocconi? Would it be hard/easy to be admitted (assuming I get top grades) to LBS, HEC, INSEAD, ecc for an msc and later an MBA? If i decide to stay in physics, would it be possible to be admitted to a decent MBA a few years later to make a conversion to business?

Thanks in advance to all of you

Comments (39)

3/12/17

I don't have enough expertise given your options to provide any useful advice one way or another, but the cons for remaining in your Physics program look overwhelmingly terrible. Super hard and demanding subject, no job prospects, AND you'd hate working in academia? That's about the worst combination for a course of study that could possibly exist.

Investment Banking Interview Course

3/12/17

You are right, but I think it's a quite flexible degree, I mean, it doesn't prepare you for a specific job(except academia) but outside italy it should be possible to find a job into CS/Data Science which seem all growing fields even if they would be a second choice for me, not mentioning that if admitted to a good business/finance related MSc I think it would differentiate me quite a lot. Am I wrong?

3/12/17

Probably not. You make a good case for sticking w/ your Physics bsc since you enjoy it, would presumably do well in it, and wouldn't mind grabbing one of those CS/DS jobs if you can't immediately transition to Business. Moreover the b-schools you mention would be good bets with that background and they place well-it will really just be up to you to execute. Guys like you can typically get jobs as Quants, Consultants, Bankers, Asset Managers, etc. I haven't read anything that would keep you out (so long as you've got the personality for networking).

3/13/17

I'm not in the finance world yet so take my advice in that context, but from a former physics undergrad working towards a career in finance i think you are best to stick with what you are studying as it is a versatile base to work from. Fit in as much Math and CS to the degree as you can alongside the physics - is it possible to graduate with a double major or equivalent? As you say there are not any jobs in physics and academia is to be avoided, so it is good to have a viable career path, for example in CS, in case life forces you to stop studying after your undergrad.

Set yourself up to go into a finance masters after your undergrad, in London (LSE) if that is where you wish to work. And as you say you can always go back for MBA later in your career if you need to. Make sure to get a head start now on the other things you will need for your Masters, job and MBA applications - extracurriculars, clubs, finance competitions, charity work?, GMAT study, etc you can be doing while you are studying your physics degree.

Hopefully someone more knowledgeable can chime in about recruiting to London finance from Italian undergrad, but I would think doing the Masters in London would be your surest bet.

3/14/17

So you studied physics and you are trying to move towards the financial industry...are you finding it hard? What, if you want to tell me, are you doing to do so?

3/15/17

I haven't started yet so i can't tell you how hard it is i will find out later this year.

I did a double degree and was able to observe some of my friends take physics further while i finished the second degree. Definitely no regrets at leaving physics at BSc level though i think it is a great base and differentiator regardless of what you choose to pursue. I used my second degree to work in industry and i have ridden a boom that ended a couple of years ago and i don't think it will be coming back so it is time to move on.

I did a Master's similar to you are considering while i was working but did not pursue finance jobs at the time for 2 reasons, my industry was still in boom and i hadn't discovered WSO yet. I'm attending MBA this year to career change into finance and while I'm not sure how difficult it will be with my background I'm confident to achieve a better outcome than remaining in a bust industry for the next two years.

3/18/17

Thank you for sharing your thoughts :) Getting an MBA would be my back-up plan if things don't go as expected but, i was wondering, how hard is it to get into it for physics/maths guys? It seems that they accept almost only engineers and finance/econ grads...was it hard for you to be accepted? Unfortunately here there are no double degrees, i would have to rely entirely on a post-undergrad master, so i was thinking: let's say my undergrad gpa isn't high enough for a good master, i could get into e.g. nuclear physics msc to raise my gpa and then re-apply for a master...but do they accept students who already own an msc?

3/13/17

Did a BSc and MSc in applied maths and physics before going into M&A, so maybe I can help a bit.

It really depends on which area of finance you really want to work in.

If you want to work in M&A/Corp Fin/PE, a physics degree is useless. You're better off studying at Bocconi. Chances are that if you follow the right steps (internships, etc.), you won't even need an MSc to break into IBD.

If you want to work in a quant role, or even S&T and trade exotic products, a physics degree would be quite useful. Half of my old classmates are in quant roles now.

So, it comes down to what you want to do afterwards. If you have no idea in which area of finance you want to work, the physics degree allows you to keep your options open.

3/13/17

Thank you very much for your interesting replies, I would really appreciate your answers to the following questions:
1)wich are the differences between quant/non quant roles in terms of pay?

2)looking a 5 / 10 years from now, wich roles do you think will grow/decrease? And in terms of skills: wich will be more valuable in your opinion? I ask this because i've always seen b-school has something needed to push yourself into the field, but that doesn't give you those hard skills that scientific degrees can give you.
And how will automation affect the finance world and the traditional roles?

3)let's consider the gpa: how much does it matter in the field? I mean, it's way harder to have let's say a 105/110 in physics than a 110/110 in finance, at least comparing the statistics of my university and bocconi. Wich gpa did you/your former classmates have?
This, I think, will be relevant even when it comes to my application to MSc: wich undergrad will open more doors under this perspective?

4)in italy, almost noone switches from physics to finance and here, if you want to work into banking/consulting, bocconi(and finance undergrads) has an unrivaled power. Is it the same in Uk/France/USA,ecc?

Thank you very much to all of you

3/13/17

Forgot these 2:

1)Would attending a few finance courses at LSE summer school increase my chances of getting into an MSC?

2)Let's say i quit physics, I would have 6 months of time before bocconi's courses start: would travelling, volunteering abroad, visiting exotic places, learning new languages, ecc be good activities? What would you do? If I write this in my resume, how would it look from a future employer's perspective? And how would you sped this free time? I mean it's not common at all for italian students to take a gap year so i was wondering how it would look on a cv

Best Response
3/13/17

1) Pay is pretty good in both areas. It also largely depends on the firm you're working for and as you progress on your own skill set. Pay should not be the main driver in choosing between the two areas. Try to figure out what your core competencies are and which job you would like the most. A very rough example would be reading corporate finance books, analysing financial statements and creating models versus understanding derivatives and learning to program. Try both and see what you like. You're young, you can afford to do this now without falling behind in school.

2) I cannot speak about quants, I know too little. My view, which is limited is that M&A/PE/Corp Fin are relationship driven businesses and that is very unlikely to be automated in the near future. Things will change, but bankers will not seize to exist.

3) For better or worse, GPA matters. However a 2% difference is minute. When applying for an MSc your background will matter in terms of which MSc you are applying to. Will it be an MSc in Quantitative Finance? The go with the physics degree. Do you want to do a plain vanilla MSc in Finance in order to work in M&A? Bocconi.
Again, it comes to what you want to do after the MSc. It all comes full circle. Try to figure out what you enjoy doing and what you're good at.

4) Not much info on that. Very few people I have met in M&A in London have physics degrees. But maybe my sample is small.

5) I imagine that wouldn't hurt but I don't think it would be a deciding factor. Other members could shed some light here. However, you can use your summers more efficiently- internships.

6) Volunteer/Internships. I wouldn't be able to learn a new language in six months, if you think you can and you will commit to learning that language fluently, it's a good use of time. Languages in Europe are an extremely valuable asset, if you speak them fluently.

3/14/17

Thank you very much for sharing you ideas. May i know how you made the move from physics to finance? Was it hard (in terms of recruiting)? Did you feel a lack of knowledge about financial topics in interviews?

3/15/17

Applied mathematics and physics..
My journey had many zigs and zags, so I don't think it is relevant to what you want to achieve.
However, if you're interested you can read here: http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/30-year-old-...

3/18/17

wow, i read your story, seems fuc**n' crazy...you have been very strong, i think almost anyone else would have given up, congratulations. I must admit that reading how much you strove to get where you are prompts me toward the "easy" path of bocconi, mainly for the higher gpa i think i would achieve and the much higher internship opportunities (i applied to a few interns in the past months but i was always rejected while there are plenty of bocconi first years students getting accepted into BB summer programs ).... anyway i am very grateful for your advice :)
In your opinion, in the eventuality i am not admitted to a Finance or a management msc, would a CS msc do well for a possible tech consulting/quant position? How is the physics/cs combo seen in the field?

3/20/17

I don't know much about the quant world. Again, your choice will largely depend on which area of IBD you want to work. It's quite clear that although physics would equip you better for quant roles, the industry values the brand name of Bocconi much more than the actual skill set that the content of the courses would provide you.
If I can leave you with one thing, it would be not to take the hard road - sometimes it leads you nowhere. My experience is that this industry values pedigree as much or even more than substance, at least when it comes to breaking in.

Investment Banking Interview Course

3/15/17

I also did physics in undergrad. Think it sets you up pretty well for a career in finance. The main skillset that is becoming increasingly critical (at least on the investing side) is a good command of statistics. I think whether you get this from a hard science, engineering, math, or a rigorous econ program is less important but it is really important that you get it somewhere.

I do sometimes feel like I wasted a lot of effort on the physics major given I never used it after I graduated. That said, I think you will be given a lot of credit for having done it since interviewers can see that you are a "serious candidate". Guessing double majoring is not an option at Sapienza? Like you, I realized I wanted to work in finance about halfway through the program and so added the econ major, which i think was a pretty solid double from a recruiting perspective. If that's an option for you I'd def consider it. Econ major was about 1/5th as difficult as finishing the physics degree.

3/18/17

Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately we have no double majors here, just 3yrs bsc + 2yrs msc(and in italy the msc you can choose is strictly linked to your undergrad studies: e.g. icould only take a physics msc) . This is the reason my goal would be to pursue a 1yr msc somewhere else in management or finance after the bsc, the main problem is that i don't have any idea of how hard upper physics classes will be and how those courses would affect my gpa. I know it's quite personal but may i know how your gpa changed when you added the econ major? What would you do if you were in my situation (fiance at bocconi vs physics)?

3/19/17

Upper division physics was def pretty tough (at least for me). I remember my first quarter taking upper div physics I got my first legit 'F' on a thermodynamics midterm. I think i got something like 32/100, and the class average was like a 48... fucking brutal. Eventually i recalibrated and realized those classes were going to take a lot more effort, and ended up finishing with a GPA pretty similar to what I had my first two years. Frankly the econ classes felt pretty easy by comparison, so I think i was close to a 4.0 average on that and it was enough to offset some lower scores in upper div quantum, themo, E&M and lab classes.

If I were you I'd probably finish out the physics degree. You seem interested in it and I think it will be an asset for you long-term. Just also try to stay in-tune with markets. Read the FT (or Italian equivalent?), see if you can get access to a Bloomberg terminal somewhere, keep up with major deals that are interesting to you, try to spend some time thinking about business models, etc. so that you will be ready to have intelligent conversations when the time comes to interview. I don't think any interviewer will hold a physics major against you... good luck & have fun!

3/19/17

Thanks again! The fact is that our grading system is actually very different from yours: our grades aren't awarded in comparison with other students' performance. E.g. in my last exam(linear algebra) we had 6 exercises, everyone accounting for 5 points in the final score(30 is the max grade)...well i completed 5 exercises out of 6 and despite being the 6th highest grade among 104 students i was given a 25/30. And all the universities i checked in the UK for MSCs ask for a final grade of 108/110 which is fucking hard to get in physics(you need a gpa of at least 28/30)...this is the only thing that makes me seriously consider making the switch: almost none ends with a so high grade(at least in the bsc, msc grades are a whole different story), i would say no more than 10 students over 250 last year. And you can understand which kind of pressure i am enduring knowing that i always have to make an almost perfect test in order to hope for an admission to a prestigious b-school after this bsc

3/19/17

Newsflash! it's 21'st century. Open edx.org or coursera.org and develop any mathematical or programming skills you like.

You killed the Greece spread goes up, spread goes down, from Wall Street they all play like a freak, Goldman Sachs 'o beat.

3/19/17

yes, but i think this to be true just on a personal knowledge perspective....maybe i'm wrong but considering the number of well-trained stem graduates i can't think to any employer interviewing a finance major for let's say a CS/data science/quant position just because he "says" to have the needed skills (with thousands of other candidates having a degree that proves those skills) which are still very hard to acquire in school with someone actually teaching them to you and with a much higher amount of time to dedicate to the process. While it seems easier, at least to me, to imagine a stem graduate who self studies econ

3/20/17

In the world of CS and math no one give a sh*t how and where you got you skills, if you pass the tests you're good. Also you can work on various programming and data analysis tasks on your own, consider Kaggle for example or WorkQuants Websim.

You killed the Greece spread goes up, spread goes down, from Wall Street they all play like a freak, Goldman Sachs 'o beat.

3/19/17

From ita to ita.
Bocconi absolutely amico. Scarta il King's, poi pensera a tutto il servizio placement Bocconi che e davvero una spanna avanti.
Cheers

Still trying to get a reservation at Dorsia

3/19/17

Ciao! Grazie del commento, posso chiederti se studi/hai studiato alla bocconi come ti sei trovato? Hai esperienza nel settore IB? Perche vedendo le statistiche la bocconi sembra piazzare molto bene dopo l'msc in finance ma io, venendo da un'altra uni, non avrei l'accesso automatico alla magistrale(che si ha se sei dalla bocconi fin dal 1o anno e se hai una media del 28) e quindi dovrei pensare anche a qualche eventuale master altrove (LBS, LSE, HEC, ecc) nel caso in cui non venissi preso a finanza, anche se credo che la reputazione della bocconi dovrebbe essere di aiuto per l'ammissione a queste uni. Invece il corso a cui sono stato ammesso e il CLEF, di questo che ne pensi?

3/20/17

Figurati! Senti io sono attualmente undergrad in una Uni italiana ma sto facendo molti exchange (ora sono a Londra, prima Parigi). Volevo fare assolutamente (anche visto incognita Brexit) application per finance/clefin or in case AFC in eng li in Bocconi, perche, anche a detta di tanti amici che ci studiano, e assolutamente nell'olimpo, per tutto, da istruzione a placement. Sto preparando appunto IELTS/GMAT, cosi in caso di application fired posso ripiegare su altre, quali appunto HEC St.Gallen RSM WHU etc.
Non sottovalutare Germania,
Effetto Brexit per London se non arrivano a bank passport la rendera useless imho purtroppo.

Still trying to get a reservation at Dorsia

3/19/17

Echoing what some others have said, and as someone currently studying at Bocconi, my biggest piece of advice would be to ask yourself how long you want to wait to break into high finance. I've definitely seen people with math-intensive backgrounds break into banking at the associate+ level, especially after a few years in industry, but going to Bocconi now could save you a bit of time. Yes, you will forego some upper-level math and physics, but that won't be relevant once you're in banking anyway. If you think something more quantitative (hf, trading, etc.) interests you more than IB, then perhaps continuing your physics degree would be valuable, so long as you DO make it into a top masters program at a business university with strong placement in finance.

3/19/17

yes, you centered the point: "as long as you make it into a top master program"...this seems extremely hard given the hard nature of physics itself (just to give an example at the last the exam only me and other 17 of us out of 104 passed) and the lack of brand of my university in the business world. And this is the reason i am seriously considering bocconi: once there it would be easier to enter both the IB world and to gain access to the most prestigious MSCs (LSE, LBS, ecc) and later MBAs too. Nonetheless, to be honest, i would be much happier to do the physics bsc + business msc combo, at least to have some backup options (CS, data science, etc) if i fail in banking/finance. An option could be to finish the bsc and than, if my gpa isn't high enough for top schools, do a physics msc to raise it(it's much easier to get high grades in MSCs here), what do you think about this last option?

3/19/17

FYI, your title thread is super misleading.

3/19/17

Bocconi through and through. I haven't heard of your university, and frankly don't care whether we're talking top school for physics in Italy or not. That would put your resume straight into the reject pile at most BBs. Even S&T folks would prefer Bocconi over Sapienza, simply because Bocconi has a good branding to the name.

In fact, Bocconi and Bolognese may be the only two Italian universities I have heard of. And maybe some Tutti Roma thing.

3/19/17

yes, in fact my goal would be to get my msc from a well known uni, the fact is that i don't know how much the university's name matters in this process (i assume bocconi would be a good brand in the applications too... i have seen many ex bocconi alumni getting into top masters in LBS, LSE, etc). Does what you said apply to b-school admission too?

3/20/17

Not exactly. But for your job, obviously a name brand undergrad helps. A lot.

3/19/17

Hey man, I come from a very similar background, and I will say do NOT underestimate how valuable a degree in physics is. My advice to you is to continue studying physics but look into double majoring in finance or economics, OR minor in physics if possible. While doing this, get as many extracurriculars in finance/business as possible and do your best to land good summer internships.

I studied physics in undergrad and thought I wanted to go into research. So I spent all my summers in research labs building up my CV so I could get into grad school, which I did. I did my Master's and now I'm joining a consulting firm immediately after, but it was not easy. The major obstacle is proving your commitment to the industry. Every interviewer immediately assumed I was smart, but had questions about why I was interested in consulting and how I got there. What helped me out was that I spent an entire year networking with consultants and winning case competitions, but you have more time than me

All of this being said, while I was practicing for the case interviews, I found that my mindset in breaking down problems into first principles gave me a huge advantage compared to my peers from other majors. Physics trains you to think in a certain way that is very valuable in the business world. Also, my experiences TAing tough subjects gave me a rock solid habit of explaining difficult concepts in very simple and straightforward ways, which is what interviewers like. I have friends from my undergrad major who went on to work at MBB as well as IB and other banking roles, so it's definitely possible. Business math and concepts are truly child's play compared to what we do in physics, you just need to prove that you want it.

Also, physics majors carry with them the stereotype of being a bit anti-social or introverted (and I don't think this is unfounded). I found myself almost overcompensating and being overly gregarious and social while interviewing/networking to combat this perception in an effort to seem more well-rounded. So just make sure you don't discount the EQ side of things.

Regarding the MSc, I think you will be fine to get in as long as you have the grades and a demonstrated interest. My friend went from physics at Berkeley to a role at a BB, but he went through their M. Financial Engineering first. He had a strong demonstrated interest though and had leading roles in the investing clubs and such.

PM me if you have any questions.

3/19/17

I appreciate your answer since it reflects almost all my thoughts: i firmly believe the mindset you acquire in physics/math to be really useful in a lot of other roles who involve problem solving (e.g. i can code much better than many of my CS friends because they get often stuck on the problem solving phase), the fact is that it becomes pretty useless if you have no opportunity to prove your skills (e.g. you can't get to the interview part, which seems to come after a lot of pre-screening stages for IB roles, where the school name can be decisive). I also think physics to be a very versatile degree which can lead to many different roles (CS, data science, etc) and which keeps many other doors opened if things change in the future (e.g. automation takes over and there are only cs related jobs), BUT it becomes useful, at least in my country, only if you can combine it with a more "job oriented" msc like a management/finance/cs one. And it's very hard for us since the entry requirements for most of them are the same (e.g. a final grade of 108/110) for all the undergads, so basically you are competing with guys coming from, i don't want to say easier but at least "different" degrees, who probably also had time and opportunities to join clubs(which are totally absent in my uni), extracurriculars, etc.

About the "anti-social" stereotype of physicists i think your are right (i met some very crazy guys in my courses) but i consider myself quite normal on this side (i mean...i had a few girlfriends in the last years and i was decently popular at my high school). And i agree with your opinion about proving an interest for the field(that is why i wanted to take a few LSE summer school courses during these years).

The fact is that i chose physics because i believe that a degree isn't something you just get to sell yourself better in the job market: these are the only years of our lives we can completely dedicate to study what we want and to shape our minds. I mean, we are just visitors, moreover for a quite short time, in this world and it seemed to me like a moral duty to try to learn how it works and how it's made. And this is why i find so hard to leave this field even if i know it would be probably much easier to enter the finance world through the bocconi path.

3/19/17

Keep studying physics.
If you decide to go for inv banking later, there's plenty of quant roles that want a profile like that, rather than social sciences like eco and finance.

Also read Taleb's books.

3/19/17

I know school name to be a must for traditional IB roles, but what about quant/risk management roles...does it matter so much there too?

3/19/17

My instinct was to say physics, but after reading the threat above I think Bocconi. Think the Italy vs. U.S. context is the key driver here that some U.S. commentators advising physics might not be getting.

If you were in the United States I would say 100% stick with physics - interviewers will be impressed enough to offset the lower GPA, and the skillset/ intellectual rigor learned will be useful. A smart undergrad with a physics degree from a school in the U.S. would be just as competitive as people with business degrees from schools of similar caliber.

However, from reading the comments about how Italy works the system seems way more rigid. It seems like the straightest/best path to a BB in Italy is Bocconi. If doing physics would force you to do a 1 year MSC just to change courses, its not worth it (except for accounting and fundamentals of corporate finance formal education has limited utility on the non-quant side of the business). If you were going to immediately recruit in the U.S./UK I'd advocate sticking with physics (for reasons above), but if you are likely to be within the Italian system for some time then you should prioritize the most direct path to success in that system.

3/19/17

Yes, i hate how things work here but here it's extremely hard to enter a field with a degree which isn't specifically tailored for it (probably because there are thousand of unemployed graduates with every kind of degree who saturate the job market, at least in the last years). An MSC would be compulsory in my case but while bocconi is a well known school which would open almost every path (i am talking about grad schools too), my uni just doesn't have the name in the business field (despite being ranked 23 worldwide for physics) and i fear it would be very hard even to join a decent msc program. My goal is to move somewhere else to work but with the recent changes (brexit - Trump) seems to be getting increasingly difficult to enter UK/USA.

3/19/17
3/19/17
Add a Comment