What to study at MIT to make it to Wall Street... Engineering, Business, or Math?

MITdude's picture
Rank: Senior Chimp | 19

A summary of my questions:

I have every option available to me. From the perspective of someone who has been on wall street, what is the best thing to study at MIT in order to optimize my chances of making it to a big IB?
Would it be a waste of my time at MIT to NOT study some form of engineering, especially because I am at least mildly interested in it? Or since I really want to work in finance, should I embrace that now and forget engineering? Can you get a good job in IB after studying Mechanical Engineering, and how much more difficult is it than if I studied something else? What is the easiest path?

I'm a freshman at MIT with the best programs in the country for basically all the disciplines I'm interested in right in front of me, and I can't decide what to major in at all. My goal is to go to an IB and make bank for about 10-15 years and maybe after that spend my time starting a company that makes assistive technologies (or maybe not) then drift back to the finance world at a hedge fund or VC firm (one that I start?). The majors I'm considering are:

Management Science (aka quantitative courses for optimization and finance)
Mechanical Engineering with a specialization (I'd probably do Control, Instrumentation, and Robotics which involves computer science/EE a little, also avail: Product Development, Energy, more)
Pure Mechanical Engineering
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Applied Mathematics or Mathematics with Computer Science
Physics

Feasible options:
Management Science, Minor in Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical Engineering, minor in Management Science
EECS, minor in Management Science
Management Science and Applied Math (or math with CS) double major
Management Science and Physics double major

I want to learn finance ("management science") and that is what I'm truly interested in-- as I said I see myself on Wall Street and that is what I want to do. At first glance the best option seems, of course, to be Management Science (look at it here if you want: http://web.mit.edu/catalog/degre.manag.ch15.html), which is ranked 2nd for ugrad business in the country. Nevertheless, here it is considered a wimpy major and one of the (if not the) easiest at the school. I think recruiters know this as IB jobs often go to EE/CS grads, often above Management Science grads. EE/CS grads with stellar grades here are probably the smartest quant thinkers in the country. I don't think I'm capable of being in that ballpark- if I did EE/CS, I'd probably have around a 4.0/5.0. I would also not enjoy it very much.

If I weren't to do finance (though I do want to do finance), I would want to start a company developing assistive technologies like special robotic wheelchairs. I am also interested in cars and engines quite a lot, but mostly for fun/as a hobby. I'd rather have tons of money and buy nice cars to play with than spend my life designing them for $80K a year. The only way I see myself working in engineering is if I did study ME, got a great idea for something, and turned it into a startup. Even then, after the technology was developed, I'd be much more interested in the business side of the company. I anticipate I could do reasonably well in ME (4.4 or 4.5 /5.0-- not bad for MIT standards)

If I did Management Science, I'd probably have around a 4.6 of 4.7 /5.0. Note at MIT this is a very solid GPA (but in Management Science, it's not respected as much, at least within the institution, because of the engineering driven culture). I suppose I could minor in engineering, though this seems like a strange thing to do.

I know guys in my fraternity who didn't do particularly well and still got great consulting jobs. Would you say GPA matters less on the IB front too, because it's MIT, or does GPA still play a large role?

Note: I'd still want to get an MBA later in life, which may deem the degree in Management Science somewhat useless, though that doesn't matter for the immediate task of getting recruited at a top IB BEFORE I would get the MBA.

Anyways, to quit the BS and ask a question already... given my interests (primarily in finance but also in the stuff above), the MIT culture where the smartest students study engineering, and grade considerations for hiring outlook... what do I major in? Does it matter a whole lot?

I'm open to suggestions on any Major/Minor Combination (minors possible in anything except EE/CS) or double majors in math/M.S. or physics/M.S. If you truly think it would not matter what I major in, please say so, but I get the feeling that it does matter. The things I actually like the most are Management Science and Mechanical Engineering, but I don't think I could pull off a double major in those two areas in the remaining three years I have. I don't really think ME is great for finance when it could have been math or computer science. Is it?

Thanks for any help, and for actually reading this all if you made it down this far. I appreciate it-- this is a stressful decision and could use some help from people who have a different perspective on this all than I do.

Comments (32)

Oct 10, 2015

....

May 12, 2010

What I'm discovering really interests me is Management Science and Mechanical Engineering. Still, though, I'd rather make money than be an engineer, and don't want to be considered a cop-out by majoring in only Management Science- hence my dilemma.

I hear about CS guys going to Wall Street all the time (especially from MIT), but not about Mechanical Engineers. Does it happen?

May 12, 2010

An engineering degree from MIT would get you in the door pretty much anywhere. I had no problem getting interviews in London with a MEng degree from a far less prestigious institution (although my work exp was very good). Also, as a vocational degree it gives you a lot more options if you decide finance isn't for you after all. You can always minor in subjects with a more economics/finance bent and incude those on your CV.

    • 1
May 12, 2010

All the same. Study whatever would get you the best grades and GPA.

May 12, 2010

Ha, that was one freaking long post there buddy. Take a literature course or write for MIT's paper; it will teach you how to be concise and more effective with your language.

May 12, 2010

How come Management Science a wimpy major? I don't know the case in MIT (housed in B-school?) but I've seen such degrees (some called OR) that have very little to do with management/business, have a lot to do with math (probability/statistics, optimization,stochastic processes, simulation, sometimes financial engineering), and are heavily recruited in quant fields in finance because of the optimization (for asset allocation) and stochastic (for pricing) side of it. You can argue it's a less quantitative major in engineering but i don't see it as less competitive when you apply for finance jobs.

May 12, 2010
Hmmmmm:

How come Management Science a wimpy major? I don't know the case in MIT (housed in B-school?) but I've seen such degrees (some called OR) that have very little to do with management/business, have a lot to do with math (probability/statistics, optimization,stochastic processes, simulation, sometimes financial engineering), and are heavily recruited in quant fields in finance because of the optimization (for asset allocation) and stochastic (for pricing) side of it. You can argue it's a less quantitative major in engineering but i don't see it as less competitive when you apply for finance jobs.

Degrees in Management Science and Engineering, etc are considered wimpy by engineering standards because most programs (including the one at MIT) don't force students to load up on quant-heavy courses. Students can load up if they really want to, but most students don't and instead choose to take easier courses like Entrepreneurial Finance. This freedom to take it easy doesn't exist in other engineering fields. That said, since investment banks seem open to hiring even English majors, it probably doesn't make a difference.

May 12, 2010

If you can get a higher GPA with Management Science, go with that. I like the idea of adding a A.Math or Physics double major but just do one of those as a minor if you can.

For one thing, you want to have enough time to network, interview for internships and maybe even do an internship during a lighter semester. Work experience and GPA are big deals on Wall St. Like people have said, plenty of 3.9+ English majors from targets have broken in.

May 12, 2010

I would go with Mechanical Engineering. Everyone knows its fucking hard, and being at MIT, is really fucking hard. Don't cop out for something easier. It will give you a base of problem solving and a way of thinking for the rest of your life--not just prep for an engineering job. take some finance and accounting electives and apply to the Harvard 2+2 program.

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May 12, 2010

This is tough, because I would really like to do VC at some point too, and want to get involved with a startup if I can. (Points to engineering). However, the more "guaranteed" (though I realize it's far from that) path to finance-- Applied Math and M.S.-- seems like a safer route to money and an exciting finance job.

Regardless, I'm leaning towards doing Mechanical Engineering specializing in Robotics, Energy, or Product Development, perhaps with two minors in Management Science and either Econ or Math. This path would be relatively difficult, though, and I might have to cut it to a single minor. How would this be perceived on the street? Would you say the opportunities gained by having an engineering background (potential for startups/VC, more prestigious from MIT) would outweigh having a GPA a few decimal points lower? (~4.4/5.0)

Pinkbanker, was in the midst of an all-nighter and had a lot to say! Wanted to get all the facts out there. Sorry if it was a bit jumbled.

May 12, 2010

The Harvard 2+2 program looks phenomenal... I hadn't heard of it before. Definitely an option I will look into.

May 12, 2010

I recommend Course 6, EECS but given your future interests I think you should highly consider Economics (Course 14). If you are really diesel, double up with Applied Mathematics.

May 12, 2010

If you want finance don't go for the hard shit. Keep your GPA high, build up a resume, get a PWM internship this summer before college ( no joke ). As an engineer you really need to show that you're interested in finance, majoring in MechE can only detract from that.

As an engineer you can probably swing something in TMT, but first get your foot in the door. The nobility of taking hard classes to be a "real" engineer is stupidity.

Aug 20, 2010

MITdude, I was in your shoes several years ago, thinking about how to break into Wall Street (ie what to major, what looks good on resume etc). Having worked on Wall Street for past few summers at major investment banks (GS, JPM), I can offer my own perspectives.

Here's my advice:

1) If you really want to do IB after MIT, the best way to do that is to keep a high GPA and network like crazy. Go to company presentations, try to get a few business cards and learn out to stand out at these company events. Analysts, associates, VPs, etc often will often use these events as a way to filter potential candidates for summer internships. And I think most people will agree that the summer internship is the best way of securing a full-time job offer. The hardest part is breaking in...knowing people initially..at least that's been my experience.

2) The real way to determine what you want to study is to sit in on a few classes at MIT and see whether they are enjoyable. From your post, I would recommend Mechanical Engineering and maybe a minor in Econ or Finance. But again, your major isn't as important as your passion and will to learn. Like previous posters have alluded, there are English majors and Art History majors working as traders for banks like Goldman Sachs.

3) Just be open. You sound like a bright kid and pretty ambitious. But keep in mind that your goals may change. Finance 5 years from now can be vastly different. Who knows? Maybe after you'll learn from a summer internship that finance isn't for you and throw away the idea of working 10-15 years of finance. I would also say that you don't necessarily need an engineering background to go into venture capital.

4) Read Michael Lewis's book Liar's Poker, books on financial history, crises, WSJ, Economist...Read everything you can get your hands on about finance and economics!

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Aug 20, 2010

first lets see op if you can get past the CS pre req courses lol

Aug 20, 2010

I always wonder why people went to a school like MIT for the sole purpose of trying to make it to wall street. I can understand if you really want to study engineering, but it seems like you just want to find a means to an end.

Why did you choose a school like MIT, when you could've easily gone to a school exponentially more fun, with more attractive girls, better sports team, with just as good/if not better recruitment?

Aug 21, 2010
JohnWall:

I always wonder why people went to a school like MIT for the sole purpose of trying to make it to wall street. I can understand if you really want to study engineering, but it seems like you just want to find a means to an end.

Why did you choose a school like MIT, when you could've easily gone to a school exponentially more fun, with more attractive girls, better sports team, with just as good/if not better recruitment?

LOOK. I'LL ANSWER THIS.

because any school with "more attractive girls" and a "better sports team" has marginally worse rep on wall street than a school that doesn't have those things...If I had the choice between going to MIT and not get laid ONCE for 4 years and not sip a drop of alcohol and going on a full ride to Penn State's Honor's Program and get laid every day and still graduate summa cum laude, I'd still take MIT.

Most people on this forum have clear cut goals and are ambitious as fuck. We're not the average, 9-5, Happy-Hour-"hey-man-lets-go-grab-a-drink-after-work"-"put-on-some-Alan-Jackson"--"It's-5oclock-somewhere" type of guys. Although I played sports in high school and am a pretty athletic guy, I could care fucking less about sports in college.

Sports doesn't matter for shit in real life -- unless you go to Duke, Penn State, Ohio State, Florida State, etc...and you happen to contribute to the $Billions of dollars in merchandise sold every year and the coaches collect millions of bonuses making the rest of you sports freaks look like fools.

Fuck college sports. I want to be the guy who owns the teams - not sitting at a bar after 5PM with the boys from work watching Penn State beat Ohio State on the big-screen tv on the bar counter top.

Aug 22, 2010

Dude, you're an idiot. My point is.. you could've gone to a school like Wharton,Dartmouth, Duke, even UVA- all of which place as well as or better than MIT on the street- and have had a much better time. Thinking about it, though, with that response it sounds like you're probably a great fit for MIT. If being average means that you want to have a good time, get laid, and watch sports, then I guess I'll just have to settle. Enjoy beating off to compsci textbooks for four years!

Aug 22, 2010
JohnWall:

Dude, you're an idiot. My point is.. you could've gone to a school like Wharton,Dartmouth, Duke, even UVA- all of which place as well as or better than MIT on the street- and have had a much better time. Thinking about it, though, with that response it sounds like you're probably a great fit for MIT. If being average means that you want to have a good time, get laid, and watch sports, then I guess I'll just have to settle. Enjoy beating off to compsci textbooks for four years!

Because in my opinion, age 22 - 29 is what I still call "youth." I'd rather give up 4 years of "attractive girls" and actually have the money to fully enjoy the next 7 years of my life. Yeah, you guys are right -- even after graduation, we'd be stuck working for some sadistic MD for 100 hours a week - where's the fun in that? But even then, it's only for 1-3 years....some of us don't want to work in finance past the age of 25...it's mostly to pay off private school loans, gain experience, make contacts, and then get the fuck out for something we enjoy doing (and still have some cash saved up).

True, there isn't much difference between going to MIT or partying it up at Penn State if you work hard and are smart because potentially SOME guy at Penn State will make it to Goldman Sachs and go on to become an MD. There's no question about that. But if you told me that I had to transform myself from a high school athlete into an academic geeky sexless drone for 4 years by going to MIT instead of enjoying my college years somewhere else, assuming MIT increased my chances of landing an IB job by only 1%, I'd still do it. I really want to enjoy my 20s to the max, and there is much much much much more to life than 4 years of keg parties, banging sororistitutes, and painting your faces blue to cheer on your football team. Main Point (and I'll probably get flamed for this) but I don't come from a rich family and my whole life I've had this selfish ambitious need for everything I've never had and I just cannot settle for a mediocre standard of living - I want to really enjoy the next 10 years of my life and not have to worry about whether me and my girlfriend have enough money to eat out tonight or take that trip to Rome.

Perhaps Eminem said it best:

"Pretend he procrastinated had no motivation...
Pretend he just stayed outside all day and played with his friends...
He's gonna have a hard time explaining to Hailey these food stamps and this WIC shit
Cuz he never risked shit"

Aug 23, 2010
lookatmycock:
JohnWall:

Dude, you're an idiot. My point is.. you could've gone to a school like Wharton,Dartmouth, Duke, even UVA- all of which place as well as or better than MIT on the street- and have had a much better time. Thinking about it, though, with that response it sounds like you're probably a great fit for MIT. If being average means that you want to have a good time, get laid, and watch sports, then I guess I'll just have to settle. Enjoy beating off to compsci textbooks for four years!

Because in my opinion, age 22 - 29 is what I still call "youth." I'd rather give up 4 years of "attractive girls" and actually have the money to fully enjoy the next 7 years of my life. Yeah, you guys are right -- even after graduation, we'd be stuck working for some sadistic MD for 100 hours a week - where's the fun in that? But even then, it's only for 1-3 years....some of us don't want to work in finance past the age of 25...it's mostly to pay off private school loans, gain experience, make contacts, and then get the fuck out for something we enjoy doing (and still have some cash saved up).

True, there isn't much difference between going to MIT or partying it up at Penn State if you work hard and are smart because potentially SOME guy at Penn State will make it to Goldman Sachs and go on to become an MD. There's no question about that. But if you told me that I had to transform myself from a high school athlete into an academic geeky sexless drone for 4 years by going to MIT instead of enjoying my college years somewhere else, assuming MIT increased my chances of landing an IB job by only 1%, I'd still do it. I really want to enjoy my 20s to the max, and there is much much much much more to life than 4 years of keg parties, banging sororistitutes, and painting your faces blue to cheer on your football team. Main Point (and I'll probably get flamed for this) but I don't come from a rich family and my whole life I've had this selfish ambitious need for everything I've never had and I just cannot settle for a mediocre standard of living - I want to really enjoy the next 10 years of my life and not have to worry about whether me and my girlfriend have enough money to eat out tonight or take that trip to Rome.

Perhaps Eminem said it best:

"Pretend he procrastinated had no motivation...
Pretend he just stayed outside all day and played with his friends...
He's gonna have a hard time explaining to Hailey these food stamps and this WIC shit
Cuz he never risked shit"

...First off, I'm going to presume your examples of a MIT 'sexless drone' or the playboy from Penn State are polarized examples used to illustrate your point that you'd sacrifice the potential fun of a lesser school for the higher potential of MIT. If you actually believe you can't get laid at MIT or you can't succeed out of Penn State, you are a sad, sad person.

Secondly, you say you would sacrifice "getting laid everyday and graduating summa cum laude" for a 1% increase in your chances at an IB. This is perhaps the stupidest thing I've ever heard, and if you're a rational person, you should agree. Lets assume IB is worth 500k for 40 yrs and our discount rate is 5% (pretty ridiculous assumption being youll make significantly less early in your career). The PV of IB for you would be ~$7,690,000. So 1% would be $76,900. Your willing to sacrifice what can be some of the best years of your life for 77k? Willing to sacrifice making friends, getting a gf, watching sports, in short enjoying life from ages 18-21 for 77k? Maybe its worth it to you...not to me.

Aug 22, 2010

There is more to life then just getting into banking. College should be as much about the experience as it should be about the education. You go to MIT because you want to be at one of the best technical schools in the country. If you want to go into banking and enjoy yourself there are plenty of other places to be.

Cock, grow up a little. The only thing that is going to be owned in your life once you sign the line to be a banker is the MD owning your ass. People who own things are entrepreneurs. I think you discount way too much the collegiate experience and having a close knit campus environment. Duke and UVA are two great examples. UMich is another one. Being a Blue Devil or a Wolverine is something that will create an instant bond and familiarity. I would be very weary of discounting that.

Aug 22, 2010

I agree with Anthony. I go to MIT and think I've missed many parts of the overall picture by getting invested into academics so much. However, once you're there, you better capitalize on the strengths of the situation, else you're missing the chance.
Thus, MITdude, I'm a rising senior, and what I can say is to dive as much as possible to the field of your career. I double major in EECS and Applied Math, but decided I'm not gonna be a software developer, thus my EECS classes were partly a waist. I'd rather have taken stochastic processes, PDEs, chaos theory and more quant stuff. Don't waist effort on areas you don't expect to directly apply in your career.

Aug 22, 2010

Study what interest you, intern with finance companies to show interest.

Nov 24, 2010

My opinion is that if you get into MIT you are probably a very smart, very quantitative person. Study computer science or EECS so that you have the most options open to you after college. You can work in market making, high frequency trading or algorithmic trading with that background (in the later two knowing object oriented programming, especially C++, is essential). And if you don't make it on wall street, software engineering is always a nice fallback.

Also, you can still do banking/consulting with EECS, but trading might be more attractive/a better fit.

Dec 2, 2011
nownow:

My opinion is that if you get into MIT you are probably a very smart, very quantitative person. Study computer science or EECS so that you have the most options open to you after college. You can work in market making, high frequency trading or algorithmic trading with that background (in the later two knowing object oriented programming, especially C++, is essential). And if you don't make it on wall street, software engineering is always a nice fallback.

Also, you can still do banking/consulting with EECS, but trading might be more attractive/a better fit.

I mostly agree with this.

Original Poster - what exactly do you want to do at an investment bank? there are lots of different roles. do you want to do advisory/M&A type stuff, sales & trading, quant?

I couldn't really understand your first post because it was too long and it made my vision blurry, but it seemed like you said "I'm interested in engineering but I want to work in finance. What major should I choose at MIT."

Why do you want to work in finance? Do you just want money?

Without much info to go on, I would say you should do something quant (CS, quant finance and/or math, maybe) and then get a quant job at an IB or prop/hedge fund. You can make serious, serious bank.

If you want to do something like M&A, i would say engineering or mgmt science is fine, just make sure you get a good gpa and like others said, get finance internships and network a bunch.

Dec 2, 2011

heh, I have similar problem except I'm considering a joint major between a humanities major and a science major (Course 21S)....but I've seen posts saying just study what interests you, try to get a high GPA, gain work experience, and network like crazy. I think that sounds more feasible and worthwhile rather than plowing through an engineering program at MIT.

Jan 3, 2017

this thread was nuts

Jun 1, 2017
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