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Non-Typical Background, Need Substantial Guidance

EvanMcM

Active Member
C++
So, as the title says, I don't have a background typical of someone looking to break into this field, to say the least...

Apologize for length in advance, will try to remain as succinct as possible.

I have an undergraduate degree in finance, very low GPA, 3.12. Major GPA is a bit higher but nothing special. Only two math courses in all of undergrad, both in my first year, both with very low grades because I simply didn't put in the effort.

Have had an intense interest in this field for a long time now, with the goal of becoming an algorithmic trader at some point in the future. Unfortunately, due to various factors, didn't start to learn much about quantitative finance and trading until about halfway through my senior year in undergrad. Very much regret not deciding to stick with engineering or go with math or CS as an undergrad. My institution had a rather lackluster business school, no placement to speak of, no faculty with much experience to speak of either. For over a year, there were no advisors or career counselors, only 2 full time finance profs, one of whom went straight from school to teaching, and the head of the department was temporary. Anyway...suffice it to say, was never going to do much coming out of there. And unfortunately have had to teach myself ~all I know to this point regarding finance, quant finance, programming, and related topics. Have been working retail for a while now just to pay bills/eliminate debt, and finally have the financial resources to try to change direction.

I recently applied to a Master's in CS program at a fairly prestigious school, program itself is not especially highly ranked. Have had a strong interest in computers and programming concurrent with my interest in quant finance, and seemed like a solid way to try to hit the reset button, especially given that the program offers courses specific to finance/trading applications and is located in a city full of top-notch trading firms and one rather well-known hedge fund, with great placement. Unfortunately, was rejected, which I had a feeling might happen due to background. GRE is 158/166/4.5, quant score needs significant improvement, but I know I could do much better with some proper prep work and some better time prioritization during the actual test.

My main question at this point is, first, what is the best way I can go about improving my level of education with the ultimate goal of entering this field? Seems a master's degree will be very difficult to obtain, at least from a highly-ranked school. I would love to take additional courses in math and programming (self-teaching is proving less effective than I had hoped, mostly due to difficulty of filtering sheer volume of material) in order to both give myself a stronger on-paper appearance and, mostly, to actually further my level of knowledge and skill. I am also still a bit split between the idea of a CS master's degree and an MFE. Seems like CS might perhaps be a better fit for my current aptitude level, however even a decent CS program seems out of reach due to my background at the moment. Would love to hear some thoughts on how each is perceived in the industry. I suppose they have potentially fairly different career paths.

I have started looking into taking courses at a community college in order to sort of erase the poor grades I received in undergrad, and also to go beyond that level to give myself a leg up. However, I'm concerned about the weight that will pull when applying to any sort of decent program. In addition, I've looked into some online certificates in specific subjects, for the same reasons. But am hearing conflicting things about how much those really mean as well. So, ultimately, I'm trying to find a way forward that both gives me more validation and results in a higher aptitude level than simply reading books in my spare time. That's all well and good, but it means little on paper and even less if you can't apply the skills in real life. I would love to have a direction to travel in, I just need to know which one.

I realize any chance I have of entering this industry is small, at best, but if I can formulate a roadmap on how to get there, I'm willing to put in any amount of work required to get done what needs to get done. Just need to figure out what I need to tackle first to obtain the next step in my education.

Thanks so much, appreciate any and all responses. And, yes, I know this seems like a rather ridiculous goal to some of you. I'm well aware. I've had that thought plenty of times myself. But after this many years, I'm simply not willing to give it up.
 

EvanMcM

Active Member
C++
Quick bump.

Would still very much appreciate any input from any that might have perhaps found themselves in an analogous situation at some point along the way.

Thanks.
 

ronaldy

Well-Known Member
C++
You need two things to go from point A (where you are now) to point b (where you want to be). Passion and hard work. Once you have those, it's matter of time before getting there.

Get your gre scores up, get a job in a finance related field while studying. Perhaps take some math courses at a local school. Doing this might MIGHT get you in somewhere.
But like i said, if you have passion then youll do whatever it takes. With hard work youll get there.

Good luck
 

Ken Abbott

Managing Director
Get your gre scores up, get a job in a finance related field while studying. Perhaps take some math courses at a local school. Doing this might MIGHT get you in somewhere.
But like i said, if you have passion then youll do whatever it takes. With hard work youll get there.

Good luck
This is the best advice you will get. Change the things you can. Get your scores up. Get experience.

The only thing I will add is that focus on the industry, not the specific job.
 

bigbadwolf

Well-Known Member
Community college won't help -- the quality of fellow students is poor, the teachers are mediocre at best, the curriculum tends to be watered down (because the students lack key skills in arithmetic and algebra).

Difficult to suggest anything. The math skills have to be hard-wired, which usually comes from years of childhood and adolescent practice. For an adult to acquire them is analogous to learning a foreign language and hoping one day he will speak with the fluency and accent of a local.
 

Philip_Mitterrand

Well-Known Member
In this age of Coursera, Community college is pretty much redundant. As von Neuman said, "In mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them."
 
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