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Bad news about quant jobs for computer science graduates

The path is narrow if you only study computer science

If you're a computer science student, you might assume that the doors to the finest finance jobs will open to you on the grounds that you are studying a STEM subject. 

Recruiters say they won't. 

The finest quant jobs in finance are mostly only open to people who studied mathematics, statistics, or who maybe did a top masters in financial engineering.  

This sorry truth is elucidated in the following chart derived from a now classic YouTube video made by Dmitri Bianco, a former risk officer at Santander who's now the head of quant risk and research at somewhere called Agora Data in Dallas.

Quant career paths by Master's qualifications:

Source: Dimitri Bianco

If you study only computer science all the way through, including at Masters level, Bianco says there are three types of quant job open to you: implementation in risk, implementation in investment, and implementation in a fintech firm. Basically, you will be a quant developer, implementing other people's ideas. Someone else will build the models.

However, if you study statistics, Bianco says there are five jobs open to you: model development and model validation in risk, or research quant, arbitrage quant, and 'developers' (which he defines as model development for the purpose of risk, pricing and capital calculations) in the investment realm.

If you study mathematics or financial engineering at Masters level, things are looking equally fine: quant investment jobs are a possibility. 

Bianco therefore thinks that the many of the finest and highest paying quant jobs are closed to computer science graduates. "Research quants is my favorite position," he explains. This is because research quants, "go out and create new strategies for trading and investments."  

Bianco's video is now five years old, but he tells us that he still stands by its claims. "I would say math and statistics define quant finance," he says. 

Recruiters in the quant space agree, up to a point. Henry Booth, a quant recruiter in London says studying only computer science can limit your career possibilities, unless you want to work in the high frequency trading space where coding is critical. A supplementary statistics qualification is more versatile and lets you move beyond mere implementation, says Booth.

A computer science degree need not be your final qualification, however. If you have a computer science bachelors, you supplement it with the Masters in Financial Engineering, which will open up the superior jobs. Bianco says this is the sweet spot. 

John Meadowcroft at London recruitment firm Anson McCade, says computer science degrees are valuable for quant jobs because quant jobs involve a lot of coding. However, if you're studying a masters, Meadowcroft says you need to choose something more "mathematical/statistical" than mere computer science. Computer science alone won't unlock the best jobs in the world of quant.

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Da
    Dax
    11 September 2023

    Did you know that CS curriculum entails a lot of Math? And that it's only a few classes away from a Math major. Lots of double CS/Math Majors out there. Many people incorrectly assume that CS is only coding. Calling it 'mere' too? Hmm...

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