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Undergrad major selection

E O Wilson

New Member
Greetings! I have been very interested in Financial Engineering for some time, and am planning on undertaking a second bachelor's degree this fall with the further goal of gaining admission into a quantitative finance master's program.

-The two degrees I have been leaning towards are either a BS in Physics or a BS in Mathematics and Computer Science.

The BS in Mathematics and Computer Science seems to me like it would be more appropriate for quant programs than a BS in pure math or an engineering BS in computer science, and would also provide more of a fall-back for other careers in case the quant route does not work out. I am more passionate about Physics, but the Math and Computer Science degree seems like it would provide a stronger background for moving forward. Do quant master's programs value an undergrad Physics degree as much as math/computer science/engineering? Are there any other undergrad degrees that would provide a much greater advantage?


New Member
Not an "experience expert" but seeing as nobody has replied and have heavily research this, I'll give a few pointers. Your question can be easily answered by doing a little bit of research. Applied Math + stats is king for undergrad major to getting a "quant" position. I majored in physics and the years of physics PhD's walking onto wall street are long gone (albeit if you're a top MIT PhD grad). It doesn't mean you can't, but it's more of a pipe dream if you are graduation from a mid-tier program. The more realistic approach (like you mentioned) would be majoring in physics at a top school, do well, do your final project using C++ , get good references and attempt to get an MFE admission.

The safer bet is obviously majoring in math/cs, especially if the quant dream doesn't pan out. If you're smart and work hard, you will be able to find work in an intellectually stimulating industry even as a physics major, but it's a way safer bet as a math/cs. The jobs you will be getting the most interviews for are ones that don't have specific degrees for (or lack luster degrees, i.e. data analytic positions). You generally lose out to people who majored in that area, i.e. CS majors for a SWE job. You really have to show employers through your experience how you can help them. Although sometimes you might run into an employer who also majored in Physics and they get a hard-on so take a punt on you to learn. This is quite common and not just with physics majors.

Although if you're consider majoring in math/cs (assuming you're American), 4 years is a long time and I'd hate to be something I don't have much interest in. If you're trying to ace your classes, chances are, you will burn out.

But that's just my 2c as a meandering physics grad hoping an employer takes a punt on me.

E O Wilson

New Member
Not an "experience expert" but seeing as nobody has replied and have heavily research this, I'll give a few pointers.


But that's just my 2c as a meandering physics grad hoping an employer takes a punt on me.

Wow, thank you for this fantastic post! Really helped put things into perspective a lot better. I must say that I am saddened that Physics seems to be a weaker avenue of entry into this industry. I suppose getting a Physics degree is kind of like getting a degree in Philosophy, what with it being interesting but with poor career prospects.


Well-Known Member
I mean when doing a physics degree pick up an applied math/stats minor. Classes overlap obviously and it shouldn’t be to much more work. Many physics classes require coding as well so as long as you have decent coding and can do well in physics and math I don’t see why it would really matter. In my undergrad a 4.0 physics guy became a strat at Goldman without a masters. So I would say pursue physics, especially if it’s your passion and pick up stats as a minor. For example my brother is a math and comp sci major with a minor in physics but he’s preparing for law school. As long as you know the pre reqs it shouldn’t matter to much about your major


New Member
I suppose getting a Physics degree is kind of like getting a degree in Philosophy, what with it being interesting but with poor career prospects.
This isn’t what I was saying at all. Physics majors do have good job prospects if you’re proactive, but Math/CS majors have it BETTER. You can still make it and find other types of jobs as a physics major. If you’re really worried, you can always take stats classes as electives. Like another commenter said, you still do quite a bit of programming as a physics major. From memory, all my physics classes from year 2 and up had some programming and we had a dedicated programming class.

Definitely do what you like, but there’s no reason depending on your uni you can do some type of double major with physics and stats or physics and applied math if you’re worried. But in all honesty, if you’re a driven person, like any other industry, you will find work.

But you have to remember we are currently in a recession at the moment and that’s prime time for regulation changes. The quantitative trading industry is always changing, so don’t tunnel too hard especially since you’re young.


Well-Known Member
wat i like is swimming in my private pool filled with benjamin franklins
wat should i major to achieve that?

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
Historically, the ex-Cold War quants tended to be physicists. Physics uses a lot of mathematical symbols (and a bit of PDE/FDM)l to be sure but that's not the same as mathematical insights and methodology. TBH, I'm not sure how useful it is in the ML/Data era..


I was a double major in comp sci and math in undergrad. It was difficult for me to handle both at the same time. Imaging taking 3 CS classes and 2 Math in one semester. Plus I was a new immigrant and had to struggle with my English in college and all that together ruined my GPA...

So i am concerned about if I can get in any top MFE program because my low undergrad GPA.
And I really dont want to get my third bachelor degree to wipe that away....lol

I am doing my master in CS in a top10 school with perfect GPA. I actually think my graduate cs classes are much much easier maybe because i only have to handle one thing at a time.

My recommendation is to make sure that you get in a good school and major in comp sci.
That way, even you fail to get in a top MFE program, you will still get a pretty good job.


Out of interest, which programming language do you use/learn/apply during your CS education?

Hi Daniel. CS students use pretty much all the languages. A CS student is expected to pick up any language very quickly - ex. learn a brand new language and apply that to a project in a week or two. The languages I have used in school project- Java, Python, C, Matlab, Ocaml, Prolog, R, Assembly language, javascript, PHP, HTML. There are a lot of things more than the language itself - like data structure/ computer architecture/ operating system/ Computer network/ Machine learning/ database design etc. The most difficult languages i countered so far are Ocaml and Prolog. And there is a top tier HF(probably the only one in the world) that uses Ocaml...I got the interview but not confident with Ocaml so i did not go. However, as a CS major I never use C++ but I think it should easy to pick up as well. I personally like Python the best .

Can you help to answer my question on this post if you ave an opinion?

Thank you
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