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Is it delusional to believe you can become a quant only with an undergrad degree?

I am currently a sophomore undergraduate math major at a top 30 university. Ever since, junior year of highschool, I have always wanted to become a quant- I know quant encompasses many different roles, but my idea of a dream job involves a lot of math and is very lucrative. The more I research about this field on the internet, the more I realize that you either have to be an exceptional undergraduate student or have advanced degrees. What are the chances that I will be an exceptional undergraduate student? Probably not. I'm starting to think that I would have to pursue an MFE degree- but I keep thinking to myself, how can I try to prepare as an undergrad if I don't want to pursue an MFE degree and waste time? Are there specific courses that I should be taking? Should I do lots of relevant research projects? I notice that many of the quant trading interns at the top quant firms are cs majors and had multiple programming internships and research projects. Aside from math, I'm not really passionate about programming that I would want be a programmer and I never thought much until now of what other careers I could pursue if I can't become a quant.
 
If you want to be a quant, you will almost certainly have to know how to code. Not necessarily C++, but Python/R are almost taken for granted. You can get in by having good grades, good projects and good interview preparation; for projects, you will (again) need to know how to code...
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
I am currently a sophomore undergraduate math major at a top 30 university. Ever since, junior year of highschool, I have always wanted to become a quant- I know quant encompasses many different roles, but my idea of a dream job involves a lot of math and is very lucrative. The more I research about this field on the internet, the more I realize that you either have to be an exceptional undergraduate student or have advanced degrees. What are the chances that I will be an exceptional undergraduate student? Probably not. I'm starting to think that I would have to pursue an MFE degree- but I keep thinking to myself, how can I try to prepare as an undergrad if I don't want to pursue an MFE degree and waste time? Are there specific courses that I should be taking? Should I do lots of relevant research projects? I notice that many of the quant trading interns at the top quant firms are cs majors and had multiple programming internships and research projects. Aside from math, I'm not really passionate about programming that I would want be a programmer and I never thought much until now of what other careers I could pursue if I can't become a quant.
Probably not. It's a question of achieving intellectual maturity, like well-seasoned sherry.
Being a maths student probably means your programming skillls are probably weak.
It all takes time..

BTW what "kind" of math degree is it?
 
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I think there are multiple paths to quant, so that brings flexibility. A vast majority of listings I have seen state a graduate degree requirement. With that being said, I have no idea how often they stick/do not stick to this requirement. Maybe with an impressive resume, undergraduates are considered. You are young, so maybe you can pronounce yourself early and get away with just a bachelors. Most graduate students do not look at their program as a waste of time, rather necessary. Graduate school is reserved for those looking to go deeper into their respective subjects. Fin math is diverse and complex, many think it is necessary to dedicate more time to study it. In my opinion, it would be naïve to expect to learn a credible amount of fin math in a bachelor's degree. Especially considering almost half of that time will be used completing more rudimentary coursework.

I would focus heavily on probability, proofs, linear algebra. If you can take an analysis course or matrix analysis, do it. I may be wrong in saying this (also depends on what quant track), but I think experience is more important than research. Try to lock in an internship or two in quant/finance/data science.
 
I've seen some undergrads from target programs getting quant developer, algo trading, and quant research roles. Most of them have double degrees in some combination of CS/Math/Stats/(maybe)Econ, some research experience, or have taken many masters/phd level courses. Winning top ranks in competitions sponsored by quant firms could also help you land interviews (e.g. Data Open, trading competitions, quant hackathons). It's also possible to start from trading or data science in finance and transition to quant roles in a few years once you've gained better quantitative skills and knowledge of financial instruments.
 
If you have a good understanding of markets and probability, you are strong at coding, and you understand the methodological tools of regression/machine learning/data science, etc., then you are effectively a quant regardless of what degrees you have completed or who your employer is. As others have pointed out above, it's difficult to achieve the depth required in these fields without something more than an undergraduate degree. Not impossible, but it would require a lot of drive and time to do all the extra learning with only limited guidance.

In terms of employability, the same applies. It's possible, but difficult, to get employed as a quant with only an undergraduate degree.

As a starting point, you could set yourself the task of predicting each day's move in the markets (e.g. SP500 index) ahead of time. Record the results for a year or so and keep a log. The point is not to predict accurately, which is pretty much impossible, but to see the difficulty and reach the point where you can frame relevant (quantitative) questions for yourself.
 
Probably not. It's a question of achieving intellectual maturity, like well-seasoned sherry.
Being a maths student probably means your programming skillls are probably weak.
It all takes time..

BTW what "kind" of math degree is it?
I am required to take a few cs classes like data structures, object oriented programming, analysis of algorithms. I would not say I enjoy computer science and am good at it since I barely scraped by with a B in data structures- I had programming assignments that took me the whole day to debug and I still could not figure out. For the class on analysis of algorithms, the median exam grade is often 7/100 or 4/100

For my math classes, I'm required to take linear algebra, analysis, complex analysis, ODE,PDE, probability, statistics, numerical analysis, math modelling, I could also take graduate math classes in stochastic processes if necessary. My university also offers financial math classes from their MFE program as electives I can take.
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
I am required to take a few cs classes like data structures, object oriented programming, analysis of algorithms. I would not say I enjoy computer science and am good at it since I barely scraped by with a B in data structures- I had programming assignments that took me the whole day to debug and I still could not figure out. For the class on analysis of algorithms, the median exam grade is often 7/100 or 4/100

For my math classes, I'm required to take linear algebra, analysis, complex analysis, ODE,PDE, probability, statistics, numerical analysis, math modelling, I could also take graduate math classes in stochastic processes if necessary. My university also offers financial math classes from their MFE program as electives I can take.
Don't want to be too criitical, but progamming courses in universities are not good (and many are atrocious) in general. There are many reasons for this (believe me for the moment on this).

We don't have the headaches you mention in the QN C++ course


In a sense, the best investment ever made.


I would focus on hard maths and worry about finance after graduation. One thing at a time.
 
Even Galois had to do some study.
You can be a good quant without undergrad degree. You don't see that often or at all because it doesn't make sense to skip it 99.9% of the time.

Self-taught mathematicians (or put any field instead of math here) are proof of this, what are 'good quants' in comparison with world-class mathematicians.
 
Don't want to be too criitical, but progamming courses in universities are not good (and many are atrocious) in general. There are many reasons for this (believe me for the moment on this).

We don't have the headaches you mention in the QN C++ course


In a sense, the best investment ever made.


I would focus on hard maths and worry about finance after graduation. One thing at a time.
Thanks for this reply Daniel.

I already know Java and Python but looking to learn C++ since this is what most Quant firms need to know. I learned my first 2 languages by going to school and doing my own projects. In my opinion, I learned more in 2 months of just sitting down and writing my own projects than I did in my first 2 years of CS classes. I am seriously thinking about taking the C++ course here and you mentioned it doesn't have some of the same problems a university has. In general, if I had no experience in C++ where would this course get me in terms of competency, assuming I applied myself and tried to grasp all of the concepts?
 
Ok, so I'd say that a standard undergrad degree in applied math/statistics/computer science should be fine to get into a good MFE program. A good understanding of the technical skills in the most important thing for being a quant, and that's what you'll be hired on. The skill set required to get into a good MFE program is the same as the skill set needed to get into a good statistics/math grad program or STEM job if you don't want to do grad school. So, just get good grades and learn the material, and you should be fine. You can look at doing projects related to the field in order to familiarize yourself with the subject, but I'd say that a good understanding of the fundamental technical skills is much more important. Hell, almost all MFE programs expect that students have no familiarity with basic investment finance, so they just teach that to you as needed. Now, the core skills you need to focus on, in importance to this field, are: probability theory (and analysis), statistics, AI/machine learning, PDEs, numerical analysis, and coding. Now, if you decide to focus more on being a quant developer than being a trinational quant, then coding becomes much more important. However, it's really not that hard to learn to learn how to code, and you can probably learn the needed coding skills in a few months if you're smart. It's much harder to learn the math and stats needed for this job, so employers and grad schools focus on those skill sets over coding or financial knowledge.
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
However, it's really not that hard to learn to learn how to code, and you can probably learn the needed coding skills in a few months if you're smart. It's much harder to learn the math and stats needed for this job, so employers and grad schools focus on those skill sets over coding or financial knowledge.

Interesting. The word "coding" is in anno 2022 dumbing down programmer skills.
Maths is 1d but programming has many semantic levels. But they don't teach you that in the ivory tower.

The software crisis continues, 90% of software projects fail on a scale [1,5].
 
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