• C++ Programming for Financial Engineering
    Highly recommended by thousands of MFE students. Covers essential C++ topics with applications to financial engineering. Learn more Join!
    Python for Finance with Intro to Data Science
    Gain practical understanding of Python to read, understand, and write professional Python code for your first day on the job. Learn more Join!
    An Intuition-Based Options Primer for FE
    Ideal for entry level positions interviews and graduate studies, specializing in options trading arbitrage and options valuation models. Learn more Join!

Is BSc Economics ok to become a quant?

Hi all,

I'm 18, have just received my A-levels and am about to start BSc Economics at LSE in September. I definitely want to work in finance and am presently between trying to become an investment banker or a quant. I had already applied to Economics degrees by the time I started really looking into career paths and am now slightly worries that not taking maths or computer science will limit my career prospects as a quant.

I really enjoyed studying double maths at A-level and achieved A*A*. I understand the Economics course at LSE is quite mathsy and intend to make it as much so as possible. I also understand (largely from QN) the importance of a MSc in Maths/Financial Mathematics/Statistics/Maths and Computing etc. so hope to apply to one of these degrees after my undergraduate. I've kind of assumed that spring weeks and generic steps towards investment banking/finance, teaching myself programming and finding ways to put more maths in my degree will help with this.

My question comes in two parts:
1) Will it be harder for me to apply to competitive universities (Imperial College London, Oxbridge, LSE again) on relevant and renowned masters courses for having a degree in Economics instead of Mathematics?
2) Will undergraduate Economics limit my career prospects (independent of or with a decent masters) as a quant?

Any advice would be much appreciate and I hope you're all having an awesome day.

Thanks gs
 
I think you can be quite happy with your course - there's enough flexibility for you to transition into either role. Universities like Imperial and UCL offer "quant conversion masters" which happily will accept you as an economist. Courses within maths departments might be more tricky though.

Now you just have to decide which you like better: PowerPoint or IDEs.
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
To be a "quant" a decent knowledge of maths and programming is needed.
The "maths" in Economics is probably not enough.
 
No, it’s not OK. You need a degree in mathematics, applied mathematics, physics, or something else with dense mathematics. It’s OK (and even good) to supplement with a degree in economics.
 
To be a "quant" a decent knowledge of maths and programming is needed.
The "maths" in Economics is probably not enough.
No, it’s not OK. You need a degree in mathematics, applied mathematics, physics, or something else with dense mathematics. It’s OK (and even good) to supplement with a degree in economics.
I think you're both right but not for the good reason, if the "math" in physics are anough, it would not be the problem when talking about the "math" in economics, I don't know where you from but I have to say that a fairly good undergraduate in economics contains enough math to the quantitative finance industry today and I think that LSE belongs to this range of program (at least, I hope). The real problem is more about your skill in programming, while undegraduates in physics used to manipulate different laguages, in economics it is something very unusual and it could be hurt your odds to be a quant researcher. Get a look at some program that would allow you to get some computer skills (I have in mind UCL with their bsc in economics and statistics) or try to get these courses at LSE, it may be possible
 
I think you're both right but not for the good reason, if the "math" in physics are anough, it would not be the problem when talking about the "math" in economics, I don't know where you from but I have to say that a fairly good undergraduate in economics contains enough math to the quantitative finance industry today and I think that LSE belongs to this range of program (at least, I hope). The real problem is more about your skill in programming, while undegraduates in physics used to manipulate different laguages, in economics it is something very unusual and it could be hurt your odds to be a quant researcher. Get a look at some program that would allow you to get some computer skills (I have in mind UCL with their bsc in economics and statistics) or try to get these courses at LSE, it may be possible
A “fairly good” undergraduate program in economics absolutely does not contain the same level of mathematics as even a “not so good” undergraduate program in physics, and you are fooling yourself if you think otherwise. Even if physics and econ undergraduates both take a calculus sequence, linear algebra, differential equations (and maybe a course in analysis), one must be clear: the applications of mathematics in undergraduate level core economics courses — with the exception of top ~20 universities — are nowhere close to how much math is applied in undergraduate level core physics courses. This is under the assumption that both groups take the same level of mathematical prerequisites which is already not usually the case. If you want to study economics in undergraduate and you want to be a quant, pick up a double major in math/applied math/stats.
 
The exception that proves the rule: in three decades in the business, I've encountered only one full-fledged quant who only had a BS (from Berkeley). Withe a bachelor's degree, you simply don't know what you don't know. A few years on the job helps focus your interest, but you really need graduate-level education.
Thanks for the input Ken. Where would you say is the stage that people start to "know what they don't know" then? Is it during the graduate education itself? Or perhaps while on a job?
 

Ken Abbott

Managing Director
Thanks for the input Ken. Where would you say is the stage that people start to "know what they don't know" then? Is it during the graduate education itself? Or perhaps while on a job?
For me it was on the job, but that was bolstered by my early classes. What is like to happen is that you'll see some problem (and perhaps even solve it) and then realize there's a whole body of knowledge surrounding it. I had to reverse-engineer a portfolio optimization as a young man. Only then did I realize the process had a formal name (QP) and that volumes of material had been written about how to do it.
 
I think you're both right but not for the good reason, if the "math" in physics are anough, it would not be the problem when talking about the "math" in economics, I don't know where you from but I have to say that a fairly good undergraduate in economics contains enough math to the quantitative finance industry today and I think that LSE belongs to this range of program (at least, I hope). The real problem is more about your skill in programming, while undegraduates in physics used to manipulate different laguages, in economics it is something very unusual and it could be hurt your odds to be a quant researcher. Get a look at some program that would allow you to get some computer skills (I have in mind UCL with their bsc in economics and statistics) or try to get these courses at LSE, it may be possible
A bad physics degree most likely contains as much (perhaps more) mathematics as (than) a good economics degree.
 
Last edited:
My sister did her BSc in Econ at a top UK uni (LSE/UCL) and I did a BSc in Physics followed by a maths MSc at oxbridge. She interned in S&T, I am trying to get into quant finance.

A couple inputs:
1) The quantitative component of an econ degree is not sufficient for becoming a quant. Especially in the UK, where in my opinion university is less academically rigorous than in continental europe, an econ bsc is not a good enough preparation for a quant career (not enough maths and programming). And btw, in response to people who said that a good econ degree has more maths than a bad physics degree: they are not even close. If I compare my physics curriculum with that of my sister's BSc, they are miles apart in terms of how quantitaive they were and how much maths they had. Econ at BSc level doesn't go past vector calculus, linear algebra and some stats. They didn't even study integrals. However, I remember that my sister's degree had a lot of flexibility in terms of electives so you *might* be able to squeeze in enough maths to make it good enough for grad applications to MFEs. The best masters like imperial maths and finance and oxford MCF won't generally take you with an econ bsc but you will have reasonable chances for lighter MFEs like imperial RMFE and UCL computational finance, etc. Another options are computing conversion courses for quant developer roles (I know a guy with a business bsc who did msc computing at imperial and found a job as quant developer at BoA).

2) In my opinion, you cannot know at your stage whether you want to be a quant, you simply don't have enough data points to assess that because a) quants spend 95% of their time coding and I would guess you never spent enough all nighters debugging C++ code to understand if you actually enjoy doing it; b) the maths in high school is totally different than the maths at university. I was a rockstar in maths in high school (took part in maths olympads) but my physics degree has been quite a shock at the beginning (and quite an humbling experience too). Quants make less money than i-bankers and spend their days coding, which I think is a kind of occupation that would be enjoyable for a relatively small subset of people, arguably much smaller than those who might find IB or S&T enjoyable

3) I do know people with econ BSc who got into top MFEs (one at CMU, one at Berkeley, at one at Ecole Polytechnique in france after which he got a quant job at JPM) however they all did their BSc electives in maths and programming and the CMU guy also took several classes in maths as an outside student at a local university while he was working.

As I see it you have three options:
1) continue your bsc econ degree, which is arguably the best BSc in Europe if you want to do vanilla banking, and do IB or S&T. For instance, you could do some maths electives and shoot for more quanty S&T spots, like QIS structuring, exotics, etc. They are more enjoyable for 95% of people and you would make more than quants

2) Do your econ bsc taking as many electives as you can. Learn coding and do some projects, either as internships or on the side. Then you could take some classes in maths/coding as an external student or do a 1yr conversion course in CS or Maths (e.g. kings college has a maths conversion diploma) and apply for MFEs after that

3) Reapply as a transfer student for a maths bsc this year at imperial, lse etc

Personal advice: if I were you, I would focus 100% on route 1.
 
Last edited:
Hi all,

I'm 18, have just received my A-levels and am about to start BSc Economics at LSE in September. I definitely want to work in finance and am presently between trying to become an investment banker or a quant. I had already applied to Economics degrees by the time I started really looking into career paths and am now slightly worries that not taking maths or computer science will limit my career prospects as a quant.

I really enjoyed studying double maths at A-level and achieved A*A*. I understand the Economics course at LSE is quite mathsy and intend to make it as much so as possible. I also understand (largely from QN) the importance of a MSc in Maths/Financial Mathematics/Statistics/Maths and Computing etc. so hope to apply to one of these degrees after my undergraduate. I've kind of assumed that spring weeks and generic steps towards investment banking/finance, teaching myself programming and finding ways to put more maths in my degree will help with this.

My question comes in two parts:
1) Will it be harder for me to apply to competitive universities (Imperial College London, Oxbridge, LSE again) on relevant and renowned masters courses for having a degree in Economics instead of Mathematics?
2) Will undergraduate Economics limit my career prospects (independent of or with a decent masters) as a quant?

Any advice would be much appreciate and I hope you're all having an awesome day.

Thanks gs
Apply, there is only one way to find out. There is not one true way in becoming a quant, only the most commonly traveled path. With that being said, I definitely would not hesitate to find ways to study more quantitatively exhausting topics. Most of the programs I considered when applying required courses such as linear algebra, probability, numerical methods, and calculus (maybe only through multivariable. I did engineering in undergrad, so we took differential equations. I am not 100% sure that was a requirement for these programs).
 
Top