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Quant Dev VS FAANG

Hi,

I've just finished interning on a trading desk as a quantitative analyst at a Canadian investment bank. I've also previously interned at a FAANG, and I've been lucky enough to obtain full time offers at both. However, my work on the trading desk was essentially as a quant dev, and it seems if I want to get my hands dirty on the research or modelling sides of the desk I'd need some kind of advanced degree (after talking with my MD it seems something like an MFE would be preferred). This is what leads me to my current predicament.

I really do enjoy math, and despite not having a formal background in finance, I've come to appreciate the field and I would like to work in it. However, as a quant dev I feel like my role is just the "cost of doing business" for the desk. Therefore, I wanted to ask how difficult is the transition from quant dev to a role in which I'm working with more math? If I take the IB offer, and then leave after two years to do an MFE, are my chances decently high? If it really is difficult, I feel I may be better off as a dev at a FAANG. The initial TC seems to be higher at the FAANG, and as far as treatment goes for software developers, I feel I'll be more valued at the FAANG. On top of that, looking at the Tuition for some of the MFE programs mentioned here, they seem awfully high (even more so when you convert to CAD). Lastly, I'm studying CS in school, so while I've taken math and stats courses and done well in them, they haven't been the focus of my major. I don't know if this will make it that much harder breaking into a more mathematical role, but I feel it might.

So what does everyone think?

Thanks!
 
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Did you work as a quant dev during your time in finance (assuming this since it seems you're currently working in tech)? If so, was it hard to transition back into traditional tech?
 
According to Baruch MFE 5th year career development report, it shows that most of the graduates not working in hedge funds or high frequency trading are making around 200k 5 years in their job. I assume this is how much average quants are making. While this may seem like a high compensation compared to the median U.S salary, software engineers at top tech companies with 4-5 years of experience typically make 200-300k total comp. You can make just as much or more as programmers at a top tech company, there's better work life balance plus job security, and there's a lot more programmer job openings at tech companies. So if I were you, I would not work as a quant at bulge bracket if I can work at FAANG as a software engineer.

Also, if you are aiming for quant dev roles at top prop shops and hedge funds like Hudson river trading, Two sigma, jane street, where you can very likely make more than a programmer at a top tech company, you should not pursue an MFE. MFE programs simply don't place well into these companies. I have spoken with several people working at these top companies and they prefer to hire people with traditional quantitative masters degrees such as in math/cs/physics from top US universities.
 
Also, if you are aiming for quant dev roles at top prop shops and hedge funds like Hudson river trading, Two sigma, jane street, where you can very likely make more than a programmer at a top tech company, you should not pursue an MFE. MFE programs simply don't place well into these companies. I have spoken with several people working at these top companies and they prefer to hire people with traditional quantitative masters degrees such as in math/cs/physics from top US universities.
I would like to provide another POV for anyone reading this. I'm a recent international grad with a "traditional quantitative Master's" (got it as a PhD dropout FWIW) from not top but decent US university and I can't even pass the screening to any prop shop or hedge fund by cold applying on firm's website. Not a single one wants to speak with me. I think that you shouldn't so easily discard the value of career services that MFE provides, because without all these on campus career fairs and hand holding in a job search you may not even pass the initial screening even with a hardcore STEM profile. The situation may be somehow different for Americans, but be warned international applicants.
 
I was a quant developer in a hedge fund. Now I am a quant researcher in an investment bank. I do have a PhD in maths though.

Mind you I wouldn't want to work as a developer in an investment bank. Long hours, worse pay than in big tech, outdated technology stack and terrible culture.
 
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I was a quant developer in a hedge fund. Now I am a quant researcher in an investment bank. I do have a PhD in maths though.

Mind you I wouldn't want to work as a developer in an investment bank. Long hours, worse pay than in big tech, outdated technology stack and terrible culture.

I think the math PhD certainly sets you apart haha. But ya, your last sentence is what makes me worried. In your experience, if a quant dev at an invest bank leaves to do a masters, in say data science or even pure math, are they generally welcomed back in a more research oriented role?
 
Hi,

I've just finished interning on a trading desk as a quantitative analyst at a Canadian investment bank. I've also previously interned at a FAANG, and I've been lucky enough to obtain full time offers at both. However, my work on the trading desk was essentially as a quant dev, and it seems if I want to get my hands dirty on the research or modelling sides of the desk I'd need some kind of advanced degree (after talking with my MD it seems something like an MFE would be preferred). This is what leads me to my current predicament.

I really do enjoy math, and despite not having a formal background in finance, I've come to appreciate the field and I would like to work in it. However, as a quant dev I feel like my role is just the "cost of doing business" for the desk. Therefore, I wanted to ask how difficult is the transition from quant dev to a role in which I'm working with more math? If I take the IB offer, and then leave after two years to do an MFE, are my chances decently high? If it really is difficult, I feel I may be better off as a dev at a FAANG. The initial TC seems to be higher at the FAANG, and as far as treatment goes for software developers, I feel I'll be more valued at the FAANG. On top of that, looking at the Tuition for some of the MFE programs mentioned here, they seem awfully high (even more so when you convert to CAD). Lastly, I'm studying CS in school, so while I've taken math and stats courses and done well in them, they haven't been the focus of my major. I don't know if this will make it that much harder breaking into a more mathematical role, but I feel it might.

So what does everyone think?

Thanks!
I'm sorry I haven't read your long paragraph..But just skimming through the initial paragraph, I would like to give you an advice - ----- "FOLLOW YOUR PASSION....IF YOU LIKE DOING FINANCIAL ENGINEERING THEN FUCKING DO IT BRO...DON'T HESITATE!! "
 
I think the math PhD certainly sets you apart haha. But ya, your last sentence is what makes me worried. In your experience, if a quant dev at an invest bank leaves to do a masters, in say data science or even pure math, are they generally welcomed back in a more research oriented role?
Most people in my team have MFEs, so I think it is a good route. I can't imagine that having Dev experience would heart your chances.
 
I think that you shouldn't so easily discard the value of career services that MFE provides, because without all these on campus career fairs and hand holding in a job search you may not even pass the initial screening even with a hardcore STEM profile. The situation may be somehow different for Americans, but be warned international applicants.
If you are an international applicant who wants to work at a hedge fund and prop shop, you are better off getting a quantitative degree at a top university than getting an mfe. Most of the people that I know working at prop shops and hedge funds do not have mfes. They typically graduated with a cs/math degree at a top university like mit, cmu, and princeton. As I said before, I have spoken with several people who work at these firms and they prefer to hire people with traditional quantitative degrees. Even if it's princeton or mit master of finance, an ms degree in cs from stanford is more favorable. MFE degrees are not favored because some of the things you learn like derivatives pricing aren't applicable to the buyside and the firms would rather hire someone with strong quantitative skills rather than someone who learned a lot about financial math.
 
If you are an international applicant who wants to work at a hedge fund and prop shop, you are better off getting a quantitative degree at a top university than getting an mfe. Most of the people that I know working at prop shops and hedge funds do not have mfes. They typically graduated with a cs/math degree at a top university like mit, cmu, and princeton. As I said before, I have spoken with several people who work at these firms and they prefer to hire people with traditional quantitative degrees. Even if it's princeton or mit master of finance, an ms degree in cs from stanford is more favorable. MFE degrees are not favored because some of the things you learn like derivatives pricing aren't applicable to the buyside and the firms would rather hire someone with strong quantitative skills rather than someone who learned a lot about financial math.
I've also seen this on linkedin and thought about it. If it is true that most prop shops/hfs are filled with cs/math degrees from top universities, that would make sense because of the sheer number of students. Stanford's current class size for matriculated CS students (undergrad+grad) is about 1350 and MIT is about 800. This size alone I think is enough to cover the matriculated size of all top 5-10 mfe combined and this is just CS alone at 2 schools. FE is not even an undergrad option for many of the top unis. Sure there are some seriously gifted students, but in the grand scheme; there's just going to be multiples more cs/math students applying for quant jobs than mfe. Is there anything special about the students generally? I don't think so; most have a tough time getting into top prop shops/hfs. I'm also pretty sure there's a lot in cs/math/physics/engineering curriculum that will never be applicable either to some quant jobs and good mfe programs have already adapted to provide more applicable skills
 
If you are an international applicant who wants to work at a hedge fund and prop shop, you are better off getting a quantitative degree at a top university than getting an mfe. Most of the people that I know working at prop shops and hedge funds do not have mfes. They typically graduated with a cs/math degree at a top university like mit, cmu, and princeton. As I said before, I have spoken with several people who work at these firms and they prefer to hire people with traditional quantitative degrees. Even if it's princeton or mit master of finance, an ms degree in cs from stanford is more favorable. MFE degrees are not favored because some of the things you learn like derivatives pricing aren't applicable to the buyside and the firms would rather hire someone with strong quantitative skills rather than someone who learned a lot about financial math.
I will try to elaborate more on my previous message but also would like to make a comment about your post.

First of all, if we are comparing Master's level programs, are you aware that you're talking about nonexistent programs? There are a lot of universities which doesn't offer Master's program in STEM fields as a separate program -- you may get Master's only as a milestone on the way to PhD. This is precisely the case with my M.A. in Math -- I got it while leaving the Ph.D. program, but my department doesn't offer M.S. or M.A. degrees to non-Ph.D. students. I will backup this point using your list of programs in order not to be unfounded:
1. MIT doesn't offer separate Master's in Math or Master's in CS. These degrees are awarded either to Ph.D. dropouts or as a degree placeholder while studying further towards Ph.D.
2. CMU doesn't have Master's in Math. Again this is just a milestone towards a Ph.D.
3. Princeton doesn't offer terminal Master's in Math.
So 4 out of 7 degrees that you mentioned aren't offered as separate programs and are awarded as a part of Ph.D. It's also possible that you were really talking about Bachelor's or PhDs from these universities, but I think it isn't fair to compare them to MFEs, since different degree levels have too different age demographics, acceptance rates and time durations.

Now lets get back to STEM Master's vs MFE chat. The point that I want to make is that traditional Master's can probably be described as a hit-or-miss situation -- you can place yourself very well by cold applying through your own efforts and luck but may also end up with no interviews (and consequently no job) at all, while MFE career services will help you to get at least something. I'm a living proof of that -- I have degrees in traditional STEM fields (physics and math), a "strong quantitative skills" (Math Ph.D. ABD who can code in C++ and Python and knows algorithms and data structures) which I'm ready to show on interviews, but all this is useless because coming from a non-target program with no career services I can't get interviews by cold applying. I have no clue what is wrong with my profile but I see the result -- people aren't enthusiastic about interviewing me.
 
I've also seen this on linkedin and thought about it. If it is true that most prop shops/hfs are filled with cs/math degrees from top universities, that would make sense because of the sheer number of students. Stanford's current class size for matriculated CS students (undergrad+grad) is about 1350 and MIT is about 800. This size alone I think is enough to cover the matriculated size of all top 5-10 mfe combined and this is just CS alone at 2 schools. FE is not even an undergrad option for many of the top unis. Sure there are some seriously gifted students, but in the grand scheme; there's just going to be multiples more cs/math students applying for quant jobs than mfe. Is there anything special about the students generally? I don't think so; most have a tough time getting into top prop shops/hfs. I'm also pretty sure there's a lot in cs/math/physics/engineering curriculum that will never be applicable either to some quant jobs and good mfe programs have already adapted to provide more applicable skills
Whether you think MFE graduates are more deserving of these jobs or not, it's a fact that these prop firms and hedge funds do a lot of recruiting from schools with top cs/math undergrad program(you can see from their websites what upcoming campus events they have) which is ironic since mfe programs are supposed to have the strongest recruiting for quant roles. By the way, I am specifically talking about "quant trader" roles not quant researcher roles which assumes a phd.

Some of these prop firms and high frequency trading firms like Hudson River Trading also demand strong programming skills. MFE programs slapping in a few programming classes doesn't make their graduates have programming skills as strong as someone with a cs degree. They would much rather hire a specialist than someone who, for example, took one class in high frequency trading.
 
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According to Baruch MFE 5th year career development report, it shows that most of the graduates not working in hedge funds or high frequency trading are making around 200k 5 years in their job. I assume this is how much average quants are making. While this may seem like a high compensation compared to the median U.S salary, software engineers at top tech companies with 4-5 years of experience typically make 200-300k total comp. You can make just as much or more as programmers at a top tech company, there's better work life balance plus job security, and there's a lot more programmer job openings at tech companies. So if I were you, I would not work as a quant at bulge bracket if I can work at FAANG as a software engineer.

Also, if you are aiming for quant dev roles at top prop shops and hedge funds like Hudson river trading, Two sigma, jane street, where you can very likely make more than a programmer at a top tech company, you should not pursue an MFE. MFE programs simply don't place well into these companies. I have spoken with several people working at these top companies and they prefer to hire people with traditional quantitative masters degrees such as in math/cs/physics from top US universities.
to your last point - really? I am a masters candidate in mathematics at a good university (and I'm pretty good), and I am having a hard time even getting noticed by HRT, Two Sigma, or Jane Street, let alone in anything related to quant modeling.
 
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to your last point - really? I am a masters candidate in mathematics at a good university (and I'm pretty good), and I am having a hard time even getting noticed by HRT, Two Sigma, or Jane Street, let alone in anything related to quant modeling.
just because they place better doesn't mean it isn't easy to get an interview or noticed, I agree that non-MFEs generally place better at HFT/prop shops because they pref people with stronger dev / quantitative skills; but even then it's like bringing your chances of getting in from 0.5% at a firm to 0.7%
 
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