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Career Change in early 30s reasonable? (BS in Finance, starting from Scratch)

I am currently experiencing a semblance of "midlife crisis" at the age of 33.

I have been in Corporate Finance (FP&A) work for the last decade (graduated in 2011 with a non quantitative degree in Finance). I'd consider myself adept without being a rockstar in my various non-management roles, hovering between worry and boredom in the majority of them. I am looking to find intellectual stimulation and challenge in my "next career", while not sacrificing too many years to make the change if possible.

While quant finance is an area I am interested in, I would also add data science/actuary/engineering to the list of areas that have piqued my interest. I am looking at masters programs in these areas, but the majority require having taken Linear Algebra, Calc 1-3, and advanced stats/probability courses along with knowing a programming language.

The Cons with these switches are as follows:

1. except for an AP calc test I passed in highschool and a stats course in freshman year of college, I have not taken a single math course in 15 years. I have been reviewing the fundamentals again and I am certainly in need of a boot camp up to pre-calc level, while still needing the pre reqs listed above as well.

2. I have never done any programming except for some basic VBA for excel

3. I'd love to not have to devote more than 2 years to non-income generating endeavors

The Pros are:

1. I am lucky enough to have a significant amount in a 529 plan that must be used on education.

2. I'd be excited to go back to school and encounter further learning opportunities.

My questions are as follows:

1. What is the best method to finish all of the pre-reqs needed for an MFE or masters in computer science?
2. What kind of timeline should I really expect if I need to take all of the pre-req math and programming courses?
3. What is the best method to both learn and get credit for these pre-req courses? (another full Undergrad degree?, low expense Online courses? combining it in a longer master program?)
4. What would you expect as a reasonable timeline for finishing the pre-reqs and masters program?

much thanks guys!
 
I transitioned to finance at 26, quant finance at 28 and started taking math classes (calc 1, represent!). I kept on part time while working in the middle office, eventually getting a second undergrad in mathematics. Now in a top 5 MFE program, slightly north of 40.

- you're likely looking at 4-5 years to get the pre-reqs out of the way if you go part time.
- MFE is the start of the process, not the end; you're not a standard candidate, so you really better know how to sing and dance
- All of my job leads are from people I know / worked with - had I not been in the quant sphere before now, I'd be probably up a creek

That said. .
1. What is the best method to finish all of the pre-reqs needed for an MFE or masters in computer science?
Fastest is to enroll as a "special student" at a local university and load up. You're looking at 4 semesters probably, since calc 1, calc 2, multi-variate,differential equations are sequential. Summer courses are faster, but difficult.

DataSim has a very good reputation. So does Baruch - probably one of the best and their classes are remote now as well. Baruch and Chicago both have pre-MFE type sequences, but not sure what the pre-reqs.

2. What kind of timeline should I really expect if I need to take all of the pre-req math and programming courses?
If someone lets you in to an MFE without those pre-reqs, you should not go. I got rejected twice by my top choice school, and thank God they did. I would be mincemeat had I tried to attend without the foundation I entered with. And it is still very hard for me. The only thing worse than getting rejecting is getting accepted and having to drop out.

3. What is the best method to both learn and get credit for these pre-req courses? (another full Undergrad degree?, low expense Online courses? combining it in a longer master program?)
Coursera won't probably count for most programs. You could look at a terminal masters degree in mathematics, with understanding that first year will be all undergrad majors courses.

4. What would you expect as a reasonable timeline for finishing the pre-reqs and masters program?
Have you considered medical school? I'd say 1-2 years for pre-reqs, going full bore and another 1-2 for the masters program, and that's IDEAL. If you're working, 3-4 years for pre-reqs and another 1-2 for the masters program. Not impossible, but longer payoff period.

buyside quant is going through a lot of disruption right now. Sellside is pretty hot, but very competitive to get into. You should be doing leetcode and hackerrank until your fingers bleed.

Update: I'm still really glad I chose this route; it was right for me, but probably not for everybody (or even anybody). Opportunity cost is exponentially higher mid-career, as are the family costs.
 
I'm barely 25 and I wonder if I waited too long to get into quant finance. Even if I go to grad school this year, I'd almost be 27 by the time I graduate and that honestly worries me. Hats off to you @Onegin , there's no way I could even dream of doing what you did.

@heck_of_a_climb , at the end of the day I guess it all depends on you and what you want to do. What might seem reasonable to you might not to someone else.
 
@Onegin Thanks for the very helpful response!

As for further background, I do not have a wife or kids that I need to support, as well as having a chunk of money saved in a 529 plan that would go to covering the masters program cost. I also believe I could go full time on the pre-reqs for atleast a year.

However, I am certainly concerned about your comment regarding "up a creek" had your prior experience not been in close proximity with helpful references for breaking in. I certainly do not have that in common with you. I come from corporate FP&A, which is of course far removed from working in a technical/market focused area. It sounds like despite you being in a top 5 program (mind me asking which one?) that you are still finding the career services / placement not on a level analogous with say a top tiered MBA in regards to management styled positions and placement.

@Kev-X certainly good point, with "reasonableness" being relative.... I suppose the question is more whether it is possible I go through the pre-reqs, the masters, and then find myself without being much closer to a "quant focused career" that would atleast pay in the ~200k range for compensation.

For me, "reasonableness" = easily finding a six figure career directly out of the masters program whether it be in a quantitative finance or a more "data science" position. on a financial level I'd expect break-even within 6-8 years. With the caveat being educational/career enjoyment adding the "intangible" return on to the longer term financial one.
 
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Suppose you're a VP in quant research. You went to a good school, either Ivy and straight to industry or lower tier + Masters degree, and you're managing a team of analysts. You're 25-35. Are you going to pick the 22 year old kid with perfect GRE's who won the math olympiad, or the 40 year old who did god knows what in middle office and for some reason has two bachelor degrees. All else equal, you'll want to avoid the awkwardness and hire the more traditional pipeline candidate.

Now, just because we're not part of a pipeline doesn't mean we should lose hope. There are ways to network in; typically, you start with an area of deep competency and hop through intersections of domains related to your ultimate goal.

So career services at CMU MSCF are top notch from my point of view. But I'm so many standard deviations from their typical candidate, I didn't think they would be much help. Now, fortunately, I was wrong. They had incredible networking events, introduced a very systematic approach for job search through keywords and job description optimization that has been very solid. They even helped me with a side project I threw together in the summer.

But career services, even at the schools with a dedicated team, are not magic job fairies. Almost all firms now do online assessments for coding and even ML / DL / StoCal questions. That's the screen now, and you either pass that or you don't advance. The best career services get you in front of the top firms. But a lot of that interviewing happens in the fall, when you likely still haven't covered even 25% of the curriculum. So you need to come in pretty ready.

I'm not trying to discourage you. More knowledge is better than less knowledge. I'm really happy with how things have turned out, but that's because I know this is the best I could do and things have worked out ludicrously well.

Maybe an additional approach - there are a lot of fundamental managers who would kill to have someone with corp fin and coding experience. So that could be an approach as well.
 
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