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Direction Needed


I am from Sydney, Australia and have just completed my first semester of a bachelor's degree in commerce with a major in finance. Prior to enrolling in university, I was completely ignorant to the existence of quantitative analysis and the fact that financial organisations were even interested in people with technical backgrounds in maths, CS, engineering, physics etc. It wasn’t until midway through the semester that a family friend, who works in IB, mentioned to me that I could indeed gain entry to the financial world with a degree heavy in mathematics or even computer science. This came as a revelation to me as I had always been interested in mathematics–even before I knew that a proficiency in it could potentially be lucrative–and more recently I had been getting into programming. I was also finding that the level of maths required to complete my finance degree was well below what I had anticipated. Although I enjoyed all of my subjects on some level, the only unit that really held my interest was an elective called “quant methods in economics and finance” where we covered binomial, linear algebra, Lagrange, pricing using integrals etc. and worked with octave, gnuplot, maple etc.

At this stage, I was still unaware of quant analysis; however, I was beginning to think about restructuring my degree to include more quantitative subjects as I had a strong interest in them. I had also been learning C++ in my spare time for fun and had decided that I should get some of my study recognised. I began looking for online certificates in C++ and it was during this time that I happened upon Quantnet and discovered quantitative analysis–I was amazed to find a job description so germane to my personal interests. It didn't take much reading to become aware of the assertion that a more quantitative degree could potentially benefit me in a number of ways.


The events described above culminated in me reassessing my current situation and led to a number of preliminary conclusions about which path I should take with my degree. I figured the best way to enable this forum to assist me would be to present my own thoughts on the matter to provide a base that can be built upon/rebuilt. So, with reference to the above situation and by acknowledging the possibility that I could potentially change my mind and decide that quant is not for me in the future, I have deduced the following:

Restructuring my degree to be more quantitative/computer science based creates a situation where I am afforded the opportunity to study something that I am more interested in, i.e., not accounting (/wrists), while also minimising my exposure to changes in the labour market.

I say this because, if we take the scenario where I continue on with BCOM (Finance), I effectively rule out–or severely limit–any prospect of moving into a quant type field by limiting my chances of being admitted to an MFE; I am also left with a cookie cutter degree that could potentially be useless in a number of situations. On the other hand, if I was to change my degree, I can move towards getting into an MFE program without closing any doors that my finance degree would have opened.

Additional Questions

-Exactly how would you suggest I go about restructuring my degree? I am currently enrolled in a statistics unit, micro econ unit, business management unit and an accounting unit (all core units of BCOM); however, I have approx 5 weeks before I need to finalise anything. Should I just go to the maths department and talk to them about my options? If so, what kind of questions should I be asking them? or can I somehow complete the core unit requirements of a BCOM and allocate my elective units appropriately?

-I should probably preface this next question by saying my intention is not to cut corners; I am good at developing an interest in things that I need to be interested in; e.g. I managed to achieve the highest possible grade even in marketing this semester. That being said, when applying for masters programs and job positions in the future, is the content of your degree reviewed in order to determine the quality of your GPA? In other words, what is to stop someone from picking subjects that they might already be proficient in to service a perfect GPA?

Which uni are you studying at? Almost every uni (USYD, UNSW, UTS,...) allows you to do a BSc degree in Maths/ Statistics with a major in Finance. They also offer double degree (BCOM/BSc) programs. It really depends on where you see yourself and what your interests are, but if you are leaning towards quant you'd be better advised obtaining a BSc with a Finance major than a BCOM with a few maths units or major. Since it's your first semester, you may be able to transfer the units you have already done to a BSc program without losing any time.
Depends on your university (so would need to know your university) but a degree in math/statistics with some finance and computer science classes would be best (double degree, multiple minors, other combinations).

Based on your info, don't think of MFE right after your BSc as the only entrance into quant finance. If you have a family friend in IB then ask them to help you get some summer internships in IB/investing which could potentially lead to a job after your BSc. This gets you some real work experience in finance and allows you to explore your options. I think having a few years of experience at an IB for example would help you get a job after any kind of graduate work if you decided to go back to school.
Pulling out a class profile for CMU (picking that university for no reason at all)
Looks like 20% of their class comes from people with a business background. So I wouldn't discount a degree in non-quant finance as locking you out of a quant future. I also agree with Connor, MFE is only just one way in.
Though (if I'm allowed to do some unsubstantiated speculation) MFE admissions boards would probably be looking to see that you're up to snuff with the requisite math and programming skills as well as interested in the quant side of finance.

That being said, since you've only finished your first semester, you've got flexibility on your side for tailoring your degree for showing you want to be a quant (to employers or admissions boards). The BCOM/BSc that tobias elbert is a suggestion that gets my vote if you're up for it. Though I'll have to be the third to ask for the university.

Thanks for the responses everyone; they are more useful than you know.

I am currently studying at Macquarie University; however, it was my intention to graduate from UNSW. My first preference was BCOM at UNSW and although I satisfied the entry requirements, due to some oversights on my application I wasn’t considered in the first round. I have also confirmed that transferring won’t be a problem, as long as I complete my first two semesters at MQ.

It seems there is a lot of misinformation and generalisation about degrees and their application. When faced with the decision of which course to take, it appeared as though I only had two options–BCOM or BEcon. The only reason I went with BCOM was it had a higher entry requirement and seemed to be more quantitative in nature. This simple logic seemed to make sense to everyone I talked to–even people I knew already working in the industry.

I wonder why entry into BCOM is so much more competitive than BSc? Is it just the general public’s perceptions (uninformed perceptions) about the degree’s value in terms of job prospects that puts upward pressure on the cut-off? Because, if you think logically about it, it would appear that a BSc in mathematics/finance would afford you a wider range of opportunities in the financial world. Anyway, I digress...

I looked over the BSc structures at MQ and UNSW and it seemed as though my major would be mathematics or computer science etc. and I could only minor in finance. Does that sound right?

Also, as I mentioned above, I have one more semester to complete at MQ. What would you suggest I do with the upcoming semester in terms of subjects? Perhaps I should try to align some of my units at MQ with the core units of a UNSW BSc (depending on which BSc stream I decide upon)?

Ps. I don’t mean to say that I am in any way displeased with MQ. MQ is an excellent university, having perhaps one of the best business faculties in the country. The main problem is that getting there is somewhat of a journey from where I live. UNSW, on the other hand, is about 5-10 minutes away.
I am only vaguely familiar with the OZ HSC system, but I think that similar to Germany, admission requirements to uni are to a large extent a function of supply and demand each year with your HSC score being the differentiating factor. Admission requirements for BSc's being lower may simply reflect the general trend of sciences becoming less popular amongst students relative to other degrees. Hence it is "easier" to get accepted.

Re UNSW offering a BSc with a minor in finance - you might be right.

Perhaps I should try to align some of my units at MQ with the core units of a UNSW BSc (depending on which BSc stream I decide upon)?

This would be the most reasonable approach, IMO.

This simple logic seemed to make sense to everyone I talked to–even people I knew already working in the industry.

It may have made sense to the people you spoke to when you were reasoning on the basis of the two options you presented/ knew about. Or the people you spoke to were/are only vaguely familiar with what the requirements for quants are. I cannot imagine a (industry) quant giving you that advice. I surely wouldn't have.
I cannot imagine a (industry) quant giving you that advice. I surely wouldn't have.

When I said "industry" I meant the financial industry at large. I never spoke to any quants before I started my degree–just a few people in IB and consulting. The standard hereat least that I'm aware ofis that if you want to work in a bank you go and get a commerce degree from somewhere like MQ or UNSW.
Fair enough - for quant analysis BCOM is not the best choice though. It really depends on where you see yourself. If IB'ing or consulting is where you want to break into then do a BCOM - maybe with a minor in maths/stats to distinguish yourself from the crowd a bit. If it's quant'ing then you'd be better off with a BSc IMHO.
So, I spoke with the various heads of departments and have condensed my options down to the following majors and minors:

I can choose one major and one minor (I have also included links to each of the course's structure).


- Mathematics
- Statistics


- Finance
- Computing

What would you suggest is the most appropriate combination?

P.S. The above options are part of the "customisable" BSc degree (link). There were other BSc in applied mathematics and quantitative risk etc.; however, the subjects didn't seem as relevant IMO and there wasn't an option for an official minor. The applied mathematics program had psychology and physics units and the quantitative risk program looked like an actuarial degree.
For the minor, I'd rule out Computing and go with Finance. Do work on your own (as you've been) to keep your C++ sharp.

As for the major, both Math or Stats should do fine.

That's my 2 cents.
I'll vote for Statistics with a minor in computer science. And I agree with alain, it will be much easier to teach yourself finance than programming. Double major is also an option depending on your motivation and work ethic.

A question to help you decide is: If you were to get a non-finance job/career, what would you want to be doing?
A question to help you decide is: If you were to get a non-finance job/career, what would you want to be doing?

That’s interesting; I hadn’t really considered anything outside of finance... to be honest. The only other thing I really get excited about doing extensively in the future is programming. In fact, I hope to do it extensively whatever industry I go into.

I was considering finance as a way of perhaps broadening my horizons; however, it seems that technically, computing would do a better job of that. I mean, even if the US defaults the day after I graduate, I can always get a job writing code for Chinese missile launches :D.