Should I major in Physics/Econ or CS/Econ?

Hi everyone. I'm an incoming first-year at UChicago. I'm set on majoring in economics, but I'm unsure on whether I should choose CS or physics for my second major. Which major is looked upon more highly by consulting firms, hedge funds, and investment banks? Thank you.

Comments (12)

 
Jan 16, 2021 - 7:41pm

CS is a much more flexible major unless you hate the subject matter. If you're 50/50 do CS.

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
 
Jan 16, 2021 - 11:20pm

maroon0809

Hi everyone. I'm an incoming first-year at UChicago. I'm set on majoring in economics, but I'm unsure on whether I should choose CS or physics for my second major. Which major is looked upon more highly by consulting firms, hedge funds, and investment banks? Thank you.

Economics plus CS would be pretty strong. If you're going to study physics there, yes you have to be very passionate about it. You could specialize in astrophysics as it sounds cooler (its a few more courses). Having a cool story or sounding smart gets you places and gets you noticed in interviews. But, these courses would be challenging. 

You could also consider statistics as a major or a minor. Mathematics could also be an option that hedge funds may like. I see the Physics degree is a BA from there, but mathematics is a BA or BS

"Four bachelor's degrees are available in the Department of Mathematics: the BA in mathematics, the BS in mathematics, the BS in applied mathematics, and the BS in mathematics with specialization in economics." http://collegecatalog.uchicago.edu/thecollege/mathematics/

So there might be some overlap with your Econ degree if you double major with Math. There are a lot of good options, but you should follow what you're passionate about and everything else will fall into place after that. 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

 
Jan 17, 2021 - 3:05am

If you can handle physics, do physics. It's harder but there's much less supply of graduates and the demand is always higher.

Can be summoned to make fun of liberals at will. 

 
Jan 17, 2021 - 9:11am

neink

If you can handle physics, do physics. It's harder but there's much less supply of graduates and the demand is always higher.

Which roles specifically look for physics majors ?

Array
 
Jan 17, 2021 - 9:13am

Anything quantitative really.

Though let's be honest, if your idea is to get into study physics to get into finance, you might as well go for maths. If you study physics to get into physics and then change your mind later, it makes more sense.

Can be summoned to make fun of liberals at will. 

 
Jan 17, 2021 - 10:21am

I study Physics and I would suggested you do it ONLY if you are passionate about it and you are good at Maths. If you lack any of these 2 factors, you are going to have a really hard time. It's a brutal course, but very rewarding in terms of the skillset that you will obtain out of it. Also, you will do a lot of different things (ranging from coding to presentations to article writing etc.) so you can become a well-rounded graduate. Many people here are...interesting (the general public would consider them crazy), so keep that in mind.

CS is more mainstream and less challenging. But the supply of graduates is much (much) higher. I am not sure how advanced their Maths are so I can't really comment on how well it prepares you for that. Also, CS people have the reputation of being "ghosts" (ie. you never see them anywhere outside). I guess most of them are somewhat introverted but for quant positions that shouldn't really be a problem(?).

 
  • Intern in Consulting
Jan 18, 2021 - 2:10am

I was in a very similar position to you. Did CS at a target school and was looking at Physics/Econ as a second major/minor. I'm gonna try to pitch that you should drop the Econ major and pick up the CS major.

CS - you can't really go wrong with CS. It opens a ton of doors into PM/SWE, quant trading, etc, all of which are arguably much preferable to consulting/IB. In addition, my experience during recruiting was that I got a lot of respect for a CS major from finance/consulting and actually had lower expectations during finance interviews, so those doors 100% remain open. Downside is that it is tough, but it's really not impossibly difficult. A few tough nights, sure, but you'll make it through.

Physics - gets you a ton of respect during recruiting like CS, but it's super tough. It also doesn't get you coding skills that would open doors for PM/SWE.

Econ - the value of an Econ degree is pretty low IMO, especially compared to Physics/CS. Econ major is mostly theory and doesn't really help for recruiting. You'll actually learn most of what you need on recruiting from UChicago's finance clubs. Yes, it checks the mark of 'business acumen', but doesn't do much else for you

What I ended up doing was CS and minor in Econ, which I found to be perfect for rigor and recruiting. I interned at a BB, said no for full-time, and ended up in tech at FAANG.

All said, I know you said you're 'set' on Econ, in which case I'd prefer CS as a second major/minor. But would definitely recommend doing the CS major and dropping Econ.

 
Feb 3, 2021 - 11:33pm

Thanks for the detailed answer. If you don't mind, can you please explain why you turned down BB for FAANG? Are such transitions common? And how well does IBD experience translate into tech for recruiters? I'm split between SWE and IB and I'm not sure how to go about recruiting.

 
  • Intern in Consulting
Feb 8, 2021 - 2:21pm
  • Sure, I turned it down because of the hours and content. Although IB is a lot of downtime, you still will be up quite late, and it's difficult to see life pass you by when this is the time in life you're supposed to be having the most fun. Tech allows you to do that while still getting paid a little more. The pay gap does close, but tech is still very strong. Similarly, the content I was doing in finance was just the least interesting thing ever. Technology is the future and it's so exciting. I don't get the same jitters when doing a model. Exit opps might be a concern for tech if you want to do PE, but I've heard VC/GE/entrepreneurship are still very open for tech new grads, especially PMs.
  • The transition is not common. I had a SWE internship at a startup under my belt before the finance one + the CS major + some technical side projects, so I came across as sufficiently technical to get interviews. What I would recommend in your case is something similar. Since the big finance internships are not really available until your junior summer unless you're a minority, recruit for SWE/PM internships for your sophomore summer or for a semester to get that experience. If you like it and it's at a big company/high-growth startup, keep with it. Otherwise, you'll be able to recruit for finance the summer btwn soph + junior year (and I will say I've rarely met someone who did big tech for a summer then switched into IB for FT). The SWE internship will not be seen as a bad thing if you do end up recruiting for finance.
  • Don't stress too much about recruiting. I had no idea what SWE/IB even was when I entered college. I only took recruiting somewhat seriously my sophomore year and only declared my major my sophomore spring semester. Enjoy your time before college and enjoy college. So much fun lol
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