Quantitative Analyst

  • This has become our largest and most active forum because the physics GRE is just one aspect of getting accepted into a graduate physics program.
  • There are applications, personal statements, letters of recommendation, visiting schools, anxiety of waiting for acceptances, deciding between schools, finding out where others are going, etc.

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YodaT
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Joined: Mon May 10, 2010 2:01 am

Quantitative Analyst

Postby YodaT » Wed Jun 29, 2011 5:46 pm

So, I just wanted to know how many people contemplated going into the financial world? For those that have worked (or know people) in this field, what is it like?

With my final year as an undergrad approaching I'm brainstorming about where to work after I graduate. I'm putting PhD programs in physics on hold for at least a year. I thought about working in industry, somewhere along the line of R&D divisions, physics engines for video games, and/or animations studios. But now I'm actually considering going into a terminal masters program (and maybe into a PhD program) in physics or math just to work as a quantitative analyst. It seems challenging, exciting, and demanding. Plus, it seems to me that, unlike physics, the problems are not always based off of well-founded laws and principles... which somehow excites me.

bfollinprm
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Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Quantitative Analyst

Postby bfollinprm » Wed Jun 29, 2011 6:04 pm

If being a Quant is what you're aiming for, get a degree from a mathematical economics department, like the one at Chicago. You'll have much better job prospects, and you'll probably be able to get accepted. The only downside is less funding, but in the long term that isn't really important.

Alternatively, you can get a job as a quant with just a bachelors--not at Goldman et al, but at say an internet startup who needs a guy to work on consumer data analysis. The pay is like 80k+, and straight out of university a physics major with experience working with data is probably the most qualified of any major (except maybe statistics).

As an aside, working on a physics engine requires extensive knowledge of the openGL programming environment. Otherwise, don't count on being hired. Modelling, etc is the way to go for industry (or public school teaching, which is pretty much guaranteed employment).

TheBeast
Posts: 114
Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:06 am

Re: Quantitative Analyst

Postby TheBeast » Wed Jun 29, 2011 7:19 pm

How good are your programming skills?

The reason why I ask is that a few friends of mine, all with PhDs in Physics, have applied for a variety of quant jobs and it seems that the general trend is that they ask for excellent programmers in addition to people with terrific math skills. Many of these jobs (or at the least the ones my friends were applying to) have actual programming tests that need to be performed as part of the interview or as homework that will factor in the decision of determining whether you get another interview or not.

In my experience, a lot of physics students overestimate their programming abilities. Just because they do a lot of programming for their research and maybe took a couple of Comp Sci classes as undergrads doesn't make them excellent programmers. They don't know enough to fathom what they don't know. Fundamental algorithms and data structures, the ability to effectively estimate algorithm efficiency or just programming concepts that may not be present in their research code might be lacking from their current knowledge base.

This isn't to say that these things can't be learned. But, unless programming is a genuine hobby for a student (writing complex programs and libraries in one's spare time, contributions to open source projects, etc.) or they have minored is CS or CompEng and have practiced such skills in their everyday physics programming, I would hesitate to say that they have the needed computer skills for some of these quant jobs.

For what it's worth, I know enough about programming to know that I'm not a good programmer :D

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Quantitative Analyst

Postby bfollinprm » Wed Jun 29, 2011 10:39 pm

I second the previous post. The best thing to do is grab a good data structures book, and then a book on computer science interview questions. 90% of the important information you'd need to do well on the interviews (and really your job) is there.

And yes, as physicists we definitely jury-rig our programming. I really hate code written by physicists when I compare it to a computer scientist (and I include myself in the physicists).

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YodaT
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Joined: Mon May 10, 2010 2:01 am

Re: Quantitative Analyst

Postby YodaT » Wed Jun 29, 2011 10:44 pm

bfollinprm wrote:If being a Quant is what you're aiming for, get a degree from a mathematical economics department, like the one at Chicago. You'll have much better job prospects, and you'll probably be able to get accepted. The only downside is less funding, but in the long term that isn't really important.

Alternatively, you can get a job as a quant with just a bachelors--not at Goldman et al, but at say an internet startup who needs a guy to work on consumer data analysis. The pay is like 80k+, and straight out of university a physics major with experience working with data is probably the most qualified of any major (except maybe statistics).

As an aside, working on a physics engine requires extensive knowledge of the openGL programming environment. Otherwise, don't count on being hired. Modelling, etc is the way to go for industry (or public school teaching, which is pretty much guaranteed employment).


I haven't looked into Chicago, but I was considering NYU's master's programs.

Also, my programming skills are modest (well acquainted with Mat-Lab and C/C++)... I can write nice programs utilizing 2+ processors (parallel-processing and parallel-kernel programs). I also know the basic structures of operating systems and can also write C programs interfaced with Mathematica and Mat-Lab (did a couple Monte-Carlo simulations like this). I'm quite good at image analysis and non-linear ODE solving with Mathematica (I'm going to take the Mathematica Student Certification exam soon... but I don't consider that to be a real programming language). Also, I'll be taking a course in data structures and algorithms this Fall, so my knowledge is limited in that area for the time being. There's still four Comp. Sci. courses I'm taking before I graduate, too... so lots to learn.

I've learned to know I'm not good in any particular field from an early age... so I hardly overemphasize my abilities. There's always more that's needed to be learned in any field or job.




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