MSc. Theoretical Physics or Computer Science

I thought it would be worth an update now I'm a mid-career quant.
I'm very grateful to the comments above. They made me realise I needed to "kick in the door" rather than expect it to be opened.

I found my Theoretical Physics (TP) program at Edinburgh fantastic: It was incredibly tough going, but as Daniel Duffy mentioned had little or nothing to do with finance.

Positives
- I found it gave me a literacy and intuition that was very useful in quant finance. I found it a lot easier to follow Bouchard's thinking, for example, in Trades Quotes and Prices.
- I don't think I would have got a research role with CS, I would have moved instead into Quant Dev roles.
- Easy to find common ground with other quants that have physics / pure maths backgrounds: This cannot be underestimated.
- Lots of physicists go into academia, then quit 5y later. Very convenient, as 5y into your career, you look to build a team & know a load of junior quants

Negatives
- I found it difficult, and still do, in interviews that look for traditional pricing quant knowledge: "Jack of All Trades: Master of None"
- I initially I began my career as a Risk Quant as I struggled in interviews
- TP has an insane workload. It's hard to interview or prepare properly until graduation by which time postings have closed.
- Many students in TP have anxiety etc. issues following graduation. It may take a few months to become "normal" again. It took me 3-6 months.


Some other musings... that maybe both CS and TP have vs. MFE
- Flexibility! Great for mental health knowing you can just quit and do something nothing to do with finance. I know MFE grads that feel "trapped".
- MFE clearly will be better to get you "in the door" but it's extremely expensive and I know MFE grads that haven't got great roles but still have a huge debt to repay.
- Once you're "in the door", a degree is little use other than for common ground when networking
- I would recommend poorer students to avoid MFE due to the fees unless they can get scholarships. There is more risk attached and fewer options if you don't make the cut in quant interviews.

If anyone wants to get career advice on quant roles, particularly related to this thread, reach out to me on linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/asmcfarlane/
I may take some time to respond but as long as I don't get flooded I'll get back to you
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
"I found my Theoretical Physics (TP) program at Edinburgh fantastic: It was incredibly tough going, but as Daniel Duffy mentioned had little or nothing to do with finance."

Maths is useful in finance, TP uses maths ==> TP is useful in finance? Just asking.

BTW what stuff from TP was most usefull for you in finance?

A short rant ...

Maybe some people think there is a close association. Each discipline some level of mathematics.
When the Cold War ended many physicists entered finance and many ideas were tried out, not all successfully.

e.g.

The madness continues: physicists are working on QM and Deep Learning with NLP. And I won't mention String Theory, gosh.
 
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Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
physics / pure maths backgrounds:
IMO more experience with numerical+applied maths is much better.

And real programmng (I don't mean coding) skills.
 
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