Career/Educational Advice

Okay, so this is my first post on this board and I just wanted to get some advice on my career/educational future. First, I suppose I should provide a little background on myself.

I graduated from UCLA about 3 and a half years ago with a bachelors in Mathematics Applied Science with an Emphasis in Actuarial Science. I also took a fair amount of accounting and economics courses before I graduated. We used Matlab in a couple of numerical analysis classes at UCLA and I also had a few classes inn financial mathematics where we used a program called Eviews (have not seen anyone mention it). I enjoyed the class and we talked about stochastic processes, brownian motion, the CAPM, option pricing, etc.. I found that I was interested in this a lot more than anything other applications of mathematics. I did some research into becoming an Actuary but from what I understand most of them work with insurance companies, and I think the job could get quite boring.

When I graduated I interviewed with a few places and took a job at a tax firm in West LA. I worked there for 2 and a half years. The job was very interesting at first however I felt like I did not use any math skill at all. My GPA at UCLA was not that great to get into a better graduate school, however, I applied for a Masters in Mathematics with an Option in Applied Statistics at a school in Long Beach, CA and am currently attending classes there and I'm in my second semester in the program. I am planning on taking a graduate class in stochastic calculus, as the amount used in my undergrad seemed a little "dumbed down." Also, another graduate course in Scientific Computing, although I'm pretty sure the use Matlab and not C++.

Currently in my statistics courses we use SAS quite a bit. How useful is SAS in finding a job as a quant. I took a class on C++ in my undergrad, however it was not mathematical at all and I don't feel as if I really learned much other than the basics. I am curious as to some good pathways to obtaining relavent experience in C++ programming. Is doing it on my own the best way (I have seen plenty of books listed on these forums)? or would you recommend taking more computer science classes while I'm in school even though the would not be financially or mathematically focused?

I am very interested in becoming a quant. However it seems as I may not be as qualified as a lot of other people out there. Most of the jobs I have seen are in New York and I do not see myself working in the "Big Apple". I have seen some companies in Los Angeles that employ quants as well. Also are there any other job areas where I can obtain useful experience in becoming a quant (i.e. working for investment banks in a non-quantitative role)?

Also, I have looked at possibly furthering my education and getting a Phd. after I am done with my Master's. I was interested in the Statistics program at UCSB "" with an emphasis in financial mathematics and statistics. I have not seen anything on this program on the quant forums and was curious as to other peoples opinions. Also would it hurt me if I didn't attend a top tier school? My question however is it better to get an MFE or a Phd in Statistics (The program seems to be a stat program with some econ and finance flavor). I have also considered applying to the MFE at UCLA however it doesn't seem to be very programming oriented which I do not like and if I can teach myself the programming anyways would I be any better of getting the MFE. I have considered the program at USC, as I could attend part time. However the MFE programs cost quite a bit more than a Phd. (as in-state tuition is actually rather affordable and there is the potential to work). I have also looked at the Phd. in the UCLA statistics department however most of their research seems to be toward biostatistics and engineering.

What programming languages should I learn? I have seen people use Matlab, C++ and Java is learning how to program in all of these necessary? I am very interested in any guidance anyone can give me on courses to take and/or career paths to take. Any advice on potential courses to take or other books to read is greatly appreciated. Also are there if there are any good websites on sample trading algorithms using C++ that anyone can recomend (I have found some using Matlab and Java but haven't seen much for C++ on the internet) . Thanks.
I have seen people use Matlab, C++ and Java is learning how to program in all of these necessary?
Hi viertelasiat, I'm not from the states so I won't give you career or MFE program advice.

But on education if I were you I'd make sure to pick up as much math in your selected MFE program as possible.

On programming,

Matlab (Octave) or S-Plus (R) for data visualization
Java or C# for Monte Carlo, development &c.

Forget about C++ it's an old language and a waste of your time to learn.

Play around with SQLite.

You can get started on the basics on your own and with google, there's no need to enrol in comp.eng subjects, nothing stopping you from sitting in though. Once settled pick-up any quant book with pseudo code to play with. That's where the algo's are.

Also are there if there are any good websites on sample trading algorithms using C++ that anyone can recomend

I don't understand what good these will be?

good luck,
Welcome to QuantNet!

I'm no expert but I will try to answer some of your questions best I can.

Any experience in finance like in an investment bank is going to be a positive thing. It will give you some basic knowledge and it shows that you are interested and dedicated to finance.

I too am currently using Eviews in my program but had never heard of it before nor I have heard it mentioned here. But Matlab and C++ are heavy used. I would have to disagree with the comment that C++ is no longer used or useful. Most of the quant positions I have seen advertised ask for C++ knowledge/experience and if you know C++, picking up Java or C# will be easy.

PhD or MFE? This is a continuing debate. PhDs take longer than a MFE and pursing a PhD is a big life decision. It has to be something that you really want to do, otherwise you won't complete it and it will have been wasted effort (some schools will let you leave with a Masters after 2ish years I believe).

On whether to self-study C++ or take a class, if you have some background in programming I would recommend self-study.

Quant jobs can be found in LA, Chicago, NY and some in the general New England area.
If you look through applications of students from China, you would notice that a large number of them list EViews, Matlab, SAS in their programming skills section.
As I read these files, I have a feeling that they have no idea that these are statistical packages, not OO programming that is required by many MFE programs in the US.

Tip to future applicants: if your university does not teach C++ or any other modern language, get a book, take an online course. And spend time in your SoP explaining your experience programming. If the only mention is one line in your resume, you probably will not make it to the most competitive programs.