What to do recent PHD grads to get a decent quant front desk job in a bank? Here are my recommendations

(Last Updated On: June 26, 2012)

What to do recent PHD grads to get a decent quant front desk job in a bank? Here are my recommendations

I just did my local Meetup last nite. A large percent were PHDs and about one third were looking for work. You would think there is little opportunity for these folks in terms of banking. It seems it could be very competitive for entry level jobs or non interesting work. It seems the only positions filling up are Risk Management or Model Vetting. Many seem not interested to be on these teams. I don’t blame them but they definitely want to be in Research or Front Office activity. I am sure these teams hiring have pick of the litter looking for people with CFAs and grads of Ivey League level schools. I am sure grades will matter too. So does this mean PHDs don’t have opportunity?

Other s comment about how the banks hire only subpar grads who cannot deliver what is expected. I really cannot comment on this one due to the fact I am not in these environments. I choose not to be as these 500 page laundry lists of key skill sets are impossible to find. Or they want you perform brain surgery on last minute notice to perform a 650% return within a 5 minute notice. It seems the expectations from hiring managers might be what we call: slightly too high.

Anyhooo…what does a PHD do? Get your entrepreneurial hat and start learning. After my recent trip to London, it seems many banks are following the Google lead of looking for ‘quant’s that are literally brands within themselves. I am definitely not one of them but have some recommendations on what to do:

  1. Learn as many popular math algorithm techniques taught in academia. Understood and live and breathe these. I am starting this process in my Membership for  Premium Members
  2. Do development and get good. For analytics/prototyping, use R and/or Matlab. No questions on that.  Matlab is used more in industry. Also, stick with the popular languages like C++, Java, or C#. If you had to pick one, no doubt C++ is what is going to get you the highest paying and keep you in demand. Also, it is  a tough language to master but it is definitely a guaranteed career path for you in the banking field with a PHD. Do ignore the usual flaming wars that go on in the programming field. As said, if you need to focus on one, C++ is the definitely the way. To get an edge, know Java too.
  3. The Windows and Linux is always important. If you want edge, learn Linux/Unix shell scripting. It will allow you to become first choice in the pack of applications. Things like PERL come to mind here especially on the technology infrastructure side.  NOSQL and databases help but I would definitely not put that as a priority to already a long list of stuff.
  4. Excel is definitely worth knowing. It helps to know VBA but it is considered you can learn on the job but it may help
  5. What about those extra credential s like CQF, CHRP, etc? Uh…probably just cash grab for the organizers. Serious hiring managers don’t really put a lot of attention on those so why rack up extra debt for marginal return? If you want to go into management, do CFA no questions asked.
  6. So now you know? Get noticed to build your brand. Do it through Blogging or organizing events or do presentations. Those sorts of things look real nice on your resume.


Remember these tips are for beginners who are struggling to get a career. Remember, you are up against highly experienced developers, traders, analysts, etc who are most likely applying for the same job you are. Banks and hiring managers owe you nothing unfortunately but in this crappy job market, these are the sort of things you need to do. It sucks I know, but you got to do what you got to do.

NOTE I now post my TRADING ALERTS into my personal FACEBOOK ACCOUNT and TWITTER. Don't worry as I don't post stupid cat videos or what I eat!

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