Quant Job Market

Despite what you may have heard, the quant job market is still very active. It’s definitely not as "hot" as one year ago, when the quant job market experienced one of those rare "job seeker’s market" periods, but there are still plenty of opportunities on and off Wall Street.
The real problem for a quant job seeker is: competition. More and more graduates are minted from MFE (master’s of financial engineering) type programs, and more and more non-finance students are looking to get into quant finance. The number of available jobs, from my conversations with headhunters, simply cannot match the explosive number of applicants, period.
What’s one to do? Obviously, you should read my book which, I believe, gives you some advantage if you apply the many techniques contained therein. (Forgive me for this shameless, but helpful, plug!) Second, you should really become proficient in C++, and preferably Java and/or C# as well, as a larger and larger piece of the quant job pie demands strong C++ programming skills, and even many traditionally research-only positions require C++ knowledge — or at least the employers will be inclined to hire someone with C++ knowledge. By proficient I mean you really know C++ well, not just the superficial topics like how to define a class. Function calls, reference usage, class inheritance, template definitions, etc. are all very important topics that you must understand thoroughly. Don’t forget to do a lot of practical programming exercises; reading a C++ book is simply not enough!
(BTW, in case you suspect I’m somehow emotionally attached to C++, let me say this: I’m really lousy at C++!)
Of course, good luck!
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4 Responses to Quant Job Market

  1. Vincent says:

    Hey Brett,Thanks for sharing the information. It is partially encouraging and partially frustrating. Understanding C++ thoroughly seems hard, but I am working on it, taking classes and doing the assignments.Hope you have a great Thanks Giving.

  2. Brett says:

    Hi, Vincent!  You’re welcome.  Hopefully all your hard work will pay off handsomely in the future.  Best of luck!

  3. Kirk says:

    Hi Brett –
    I’m an experienced (12 years) software developer who has recently started a master’s program in Computational Finance.  A coworker of mine also recently started an MBA program in Finance through a highly pedigreed (University of Chicago) school.
    He’s been trying to convince me (and all our coworkers :)) that I’m foolish for pursuing a quantitative masters and that spending 6 figures on an MBA at a top tier school is the only way to ensure a lucrative career in Finance.  Recently he sent me this link as "proof" that a quantitative masters is a poor investment http://www.princeton.edu/~bcf/MFinMBAArticle.pdf
    I’d like to get your take on this… can only "superstars" make it in the quantitative field?  It seems to me (based purely on searches on job sites) that there is a huge demand for hybrids – skilled programmers with quantitative expertise and this demand far outweighs the demand for the pure "new math" positions that have come to be associated with the term "quant".  Am I fooling myself, or is my coworker reading too much into this article?

  4. Brett says:

    Hi, Kirk! Thanks very much for posting. I read the article you linked to and frankly I think it’s quite positive on MFE programs – for instance, the writer calls such programs a serious competitor to the traditional MBA degree. Of course, I totally agree with the writer that an MFE and an MBA are totally different things and result in different career tracks. An MFE cannot do (without some education) what an MBA can do, and, converse, a general MBA cannot do (even with lots of education) what an MFE is taught to do. Which degree is "valuable" depends on what your career objective is.
    I think numerical finance and computational finance degrees will always be in demand. There are two things in finance that are still grossly misunderstood and will likely remain so for a long time to come: forecasting, and risk management. These two problem areas, interrelated, give rise to plenty of opportunities to quant positions. The subprime credit crisis of summer ’07, for example, exposed the inadequacy of risk management among Wall Street firms, so risk experts will be in great demand – and in order to be such an expert, a quantitative background is all but surely necessary.
    And you are absolutely right in observing that there will be great demand for "hybrid" quants. That’s why on this blog and in my e-mail replies to readers I always emphasize the importance of programming skills – C++ and algorithms and data structures. In the real quant world, implementation, including testing and debugging, takes up 95% of the modeling time, at least when you’re in a research position. (In other words, the "thinking" is usually a privilege of the manager types, not the rank and file. Sad but true.) Many strong quant developers I know make much money than I, working as a quant modeler, do!
    I hope I’ve assuaged your concerns somewhat.

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