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Italian physicist(bsc) dilemma: msc physics + mfe vs mfe right after bsc?


New Member
Hi everybody,

I've been a long time lurker on this site, but after reading a lot it's time for me to ask for some advice regarding my future steps.

BACKGROUND: I've just finished the 2nd year of my physics bsc at the University of Rome (I don't have any idea about it's international recognition and how much it matters, but the physics department is by far the best in my country and ranked top 40 in the world by QS), I'm in the top 10% of my class (gpa is 29 / 30, I don't really know how it's scaled in the US grading system, in the UK it's considered first class), BUT whereas I have all 30/30 in my physics courses I got 2 Bs (= 26/30) in Linear Algebra and Vector Calculus.
Coursework included all the classical physics courses, 2 programming courses in C, one statistics course where we used R, 1 econ intro course and 5 maths courses (calculus 1 and 2, linear algebra, financial mathematics, mathematical methods for physics (which consisted of complex calculus, fourier's series, differential equations, etc) ).
I'm part of the finance club of my uni but I have very little work experience (did a spring week in a prop trading firm in london in march and I will intern as a risk analyst for 2 months in a brokerage firm in Rome this august)

GOAL: while I really enjoy physics, my goal since when I enrolled into this degree was to become a quant. My mother's cousin did a Phd in Nuclear Engineering at MIT and worked until 2008 as a quant in wall street and I really want to follow his footsteps. Now my goal is to start either in London or in the US (my dream is actually to work in the US but it seems much harder) and I'd like to get an MFE after my physics degree.

MY DILEMMA: right now I have 2 options
1) start studying now for the GMAT or the GRE and apply in autumn for MFEs in the UK and US
2)Get a MSc in physics and then, after it, apply for MFEs

So here are my questions:

1) How are EU bsc viewed by US admission committees? It would be enough to apply to UK unis, but while it's accepted by most of the US programs I've been browsing, I don't know if it's seen as competitive

2) How hard would it be with my actual profile to get into a good MFE in the US? I'm taking abot UCLA, Berkeley, U of Chicago, CMU, Baruch, Columbia, NYU, GTech, Univ, of Michigan, Washington University, etc. Is my work experience too weak? And what about UK masters like UCL, imperial, Oxford, etc?

3) Would getting a 2 year Msc in physics improve my chances? And most importantly, would it make any difference in terms of the positions I could shoot for after an eventual MFE? I could automatically enroll in a Msc in Theoretical Physics or in Astroparticle Physics at my university (both taught in english by many internationally recognized professors) after my bachelor, but honestly I'd prefer to make the switch to quant finance as early as possible. In case, which one would be seen better: theoretical physics or particle and astroparticle physics? In terms of curriculum they are quite similar and pretty flexible. Since it lasts 2 years I could use the summer between them to intern somewhere here in Italy (many alumni work for accenture and Unicredit, but there are many companies in Rome and Milan I could apply to, including MBB for data scientist positions)
If anyone is interested/wants to get a look, this is the prospectum with the exams of the MSc (last two pages):

4) If I start in London, how hard will it be to transfer to the US? Would it be possible to get a first msc in the UK, work there for a few years, and then get a second msc in the US (maybe in maths or CS) that I can leverage to get a job there?

Any input will be extremely appreciated

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Well-Known Member
1) Don't overthink this. As long as the admission department says it's okay to apply with a 3yr bachelors degree, go ahead. You're not the first one to do that.
2) Hard question to answer. If you have good grades, and you have internship experience that should be enough to send a good signal. Of course, having years of experience is always better but that's not always possible is it?
3) If you want to study physics, any data intensive degree will do. I have a preference for complex systems (theoretical physics, statistical mechanics).
4) No, once you've started working. Network and find ways to get job offers in the US if that's what you want. If you have a Masters from a reputed university in Europe, you do not need to do that again to come to the US unless it fits a particular career goal (i.e. management which would require a MBA)


New Member
Hey, thanks a lot for your answers, I really appreciate that. May I ask you a couple of other things I can't really figure out? In particular:

1)Going back to the question about the msc in physics e.g in theoretical physics, would it make any difference to have it in my post mfe job search? Or I'd still be competing for the same spots I could shoot for with just my undergrad and the mfe?

2) Is there a big difference in terms of quants job market between london and NY / Chicago / L.A. (both in terms of opportunities/n. of jobs and in nature of the jobs)?
I've talked a bit with a quant VP in London and he wasn't exactly super happy about his job (he complained about spending most of his time writing reports for regulators) nor about the future prospectives. He also said that in the US, due to the more intense competition by tech firms, quants are much better paid. Can you confirm any of these statements?

3) If I ever decide to switch to management consulting and therefore I decide to apply to MBAs, how are quants seen? I've been doing some linkedin scouting but it seems like most of the people admitted to top MBAs are etiher ex mgmt consultants or come from "vanilla" finance (e.g. IB, PE, etc). I still have to come across an ex quant or even trader. Is my sample small / there's a self bias for witch quants generally stick to their career path without switching? How are ex quants seen in the tech space (both startups and big firms)?

Thanks again a lot for your help


Well-Known Member
1) depends on your employer, if you apply for jobs at a firm and the people making recruitment decisions have PhDs in Physics, yeah it would surely help but that's marginal. You will be fine with the MFE, I don't see how a Masters in Physics would give you an advantage on top of the MFE.
2) I wouldn't comment on working conditions but regulation is an important part of the job. in the US yes, tech and finance are in competition: That's also because finance companies are essentially tech firms too. So yeah competition is more important. Keep in mind LA and Chicago are not the east coast. Life style, cost of living etc... are things you want to consider especially given that living in NYC is very expensive. You'd usually get more money in NYC but if cost of living is higher it's not clear it'd be to your advantage.
3) I can't answer that question. I don't know how they are seen. What I know if that you're right regarding the self-selection bias: A lot of people with math competencies lack soft skills, and the ability to explain things coherently to non-quants: this one basic skill of managers so if this isn't something one wants to improve maybe the management route isn't appropriate.


New Member
Your answers are extremely helpful to me and very much appreciated. Thanks again a lot.
If anyone else wants to give me his 2 cents about any of the points above, I'll be very happy to read his opinions.