Should I start an MFE at the age of 35?

I am thinking of applying to MFE programs in the US as an international, and I would appreciate brutal honesty in your opinions. I have observed some programs provide funding, so if you suppose the funding situation is taken care of, how would you evaluate my case?

My background:
- Not a citizen of the US, and I do not live in the US.
- BSc in Physics (overseas, top school in my country but doubt people would care in the US, mediocre GPA but graduated ~7 years ago)
- MSc in Aerospace Engineering (overseas, top school in another country, decent GPA, fresh graduate)
- I have done a lot of programming for science/engineering purposes: Fairly experienced Matlab, very limited experience with Python. However, I am good at coding, so I think I can pick up Python and C++ quickly.
- Absolutely no background/knowledge of finance
- I have studied Calculus, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, some Statistics. I think I can refresh my knowledge in a matter of few months if I would be accepted in a program.
- Had a variety of ups and down in my career, but I hope my fresh master's degree will help erase the previous failures.
- High TOEFL score.

Obviously with my STEM degrees I have some research experience, but it is not super fancy. I did not have a traditional student experience, so I am ~35 years old with no real job experience and closest thing to a real job in my resume is graduate student researcher positions. After some soul searching, I am attracted to the idea of getting a job in finance even though I do not have any experience in it. I find the mathematical modeling, coding, and $$$ attractive. So, I am thinking of applying to MFE programs that would introduce me to the world of finance if I was admitted. I believe I can quickly overcome the mathematical and programming prerequisites of the programs before attending, and I could familiarize myself with finance little bit as well.

But, realistically speaking, even if I get in, would I be able to get a job in the US as a quant? If everything would turn out fine and I am admitted and graduated fine, I will be ~37 years old MFE graduate with no work experience but two previous STEM degrees, plus a non-citizen status. Would people be willing to even interview me? I had decent research experience, and I have some publication, thesis to show for it, but after all I feel skeptic about my lack of real work experience and my age. I read that it is illegal to discriminate based on age, but people will see the gaps in my resume (unemployment), will that scare employers?

I would like brutal honesty on my job prospects, and I am willing to provide more information. However, even though I understand the point, there is no need for you to write things like "well, maybe you need some soul searching before doing this" or "why are you interested in a job in finance if you have no experience in it". There are long, private, detailed answers to such questions but I am more interested in the practical prospects I would have if I managed to get a MFE degree in the US.
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
Fairly experienced Matlab, very limited experience with Python. However, I am good at coding, so I think I can pick up Python and C++ quickly.

Matlab is not much good for C++ or (even) Python, methinks.
 
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Yes. You should probably start an MFE (given that you have no finance background).

-------------------------------------------------------- Schooling in the US
If you're not in the US or form the US that makes this even easier. If you were in or from the US you'd be too worried about rankings and prestige. Last I checked mathematics is the same anywhere in the world. The Skill is more important than The School. If you agree then my advice is useful. However, if, when all is said and done what you really want are brand names on your CV - totally fine, but it's not my generally suggested path. Definitely apply to US schools, but mostly apply elsewhere.

  • GPA is irrelevant. If it was over 75% however scaled, you're fine.
  • "Absolutely no background/knowledge of finance"
    • This means you don't want to do a 1 year whirlwind program like at UC Berkeley.
  • Physics and Aerospace Engineering are a great background
  • "...would I be able to get a job in the US as a quant?"
    • Does is have to be on Wall Street? If not, then yes.
  • However, I don't know about the visa/sponsorship side of things.
    • If you're from an EU country, and get a US degree the process should be simpler
  • Would people be willing to even interview me?
    • Getting an interview is about your resume/CV and ability to pass the first recruiter screening.
  • I read that it is illegal to discriminate based on age, but people will see the gaps in my resume (unemployment), will that scare employers?
    • Yes. In the US we discriminate quickly and often, and job gaps makes recruiters run away.
    • You'd need a sound backstory and a clever resume to get around this.
It sounds like you main goal is really the work in the USA, as a quant of course, and the schooling is a pathway to that. This is more of a labor market/job placement problem, that someone well versed in employment of foreigners would need to answer. To be 100% honest, USA discrimination has different layers and levels of severity. It can also quickly be negated using "hacks" like presenting yourself as the hardest worker ever, or having a compelling "I used to have nothing story".

In conclusion
--> Email each school you want to apply to, as they might have resources to help you understand the employment process as a non-citizen
--> Contact people on LinkedIn, in any profession, who are from your background (Country, Ethnicity, Culture, Religion), and working in the US, and ask them direct questions about if and when your background can be a problem in the job market.


-------------------------------------------------------- Schooling in Europe

This is you best option. Cities like Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Warsaw, Lisbon, exists and are neither as dirty, expensive or dangerous as New York City. They also have major investment banks, asset managers, etc. there. Your tuition can be close to free without the need for grants and special programs. Just do a curriculum comparison. Even compare with the curriculum of the US schools, and then choose based on curriculum. When you do a comparison by curriculum, many unranked schools are quite even with the top tier ones.

Two important things
1. Professors can't teach and don't want to.
Don't get fooled by the idea of "quality of instruction". 100% of professors want you to read and teach it to yourself.
They also mostly give lectures - the most bland form of instruction.
2. You must rely on yourself to get an interview.
Paying 5X the amount so that the school lines things up for you (part of the feedback loop of their rankings) is a huge lack of effort on the 2nd most
important part of it all.
 
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