I've read the FAQ and I know that this question may be considered off-topic by the standards set forth but I think a topic such as this is a valid exception. Questions like this one have been permitted on various StackExchanges before, despite "not a real question." Opinions and "answers" can be useful to both novices and professionals alike and it's absolutely possible that somebody "earning a living at this" could benefit from the perspective of others in this regard.

I apologize if this reads like a resume. I'm interested in quantitative finance and data-driven market decision and would like to position myself for a future career in that field.

I have a BS in Physics and Statistics
I am soon to complete an MS Finance

I have been developing enterprise software for almost ten years. In my current position I develop analytics and portfolio management software for the alternatives space. I enjoy the work and am doing quite well here. I have no intention of leaving in the short term, but after a few more years as I expand my education and expertise the company may sell or relocate... you never know. I also have a small amount of market experience as an independent commodities trader using basic technical analysis (I was financially successful enough where I didn't think more exotic approaches were necessary at that time).

What do you recommend to prepare or in general to develop individual craftsmanship?
Should a PhD be considered? If so, what mastery?
Should additional certifications be obtained? Which ones?
Are there any targeted training courses or literature to familiarize?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Hi Matthew, welcome to quant.SE and thanks for posting. There are varying opinions on the acceptability of this type of question. Personally, while I don't appreciate the repeated requests from those just looking for quick and generic advice, I hope well-written and thought-out questions such as yours receive a fair response. $\endgroup$ Aug 9 '12 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ I've moved this discussion to chat. $\endgroup$ Aug 9 '12 at 22:43

"Individual Craftsmanship"...I am not sure how you want to apply this skill set later. Craftsman to me means someone who simply applies a tool set, it does not imply (according to the dictionary definition) whether professionally to earn money or in order to teach or treat it as a personal hobby. So please let me comment on all three:

Professionally in the financial industry:

While academic achievements can greatly help to get the foot in the door, it could not matter less whether you got a PhD or finished high school in the day-to-day business. I have seen excellent traders who were made MD when they were 25-26 years old. True wizards in the craft of generating excellent risk-adjusted returns rather than just people swinging for the fences. If you have an inclination to high level math and want to get into modeling and pricing exotic derivatives I would rather hire a kid who learned it all by himself than a mid 30s who had to go through his BS, MS, and PhD math program to achieve the same level. I think most on the street would concur with this opinion. As long as you got the tools and skills how you acquired such skills does not matter in the slightest. I often times come across extremely "academically arrogant" people who interview for a job. Most always arrogance masks other weaknesses and I prefer to spend the time during the interview to dig deeper into such weaknesses than having to listen to rehearsed derivations of Black-Scholes or the HW model. Having said that, given you are looking to acquire a quant finance skill set, and you finish your MS I would probably need to know of what quality your MS program was. To give you an example: If you did the MSCF program at Carnegie Mellon I would consider that as a stamp of approval (not because of the school name but just because the program is excellent) to sit you at a derivatives desk given all your other credentials match up. A generalized MS program where you have done very little to no programming, stochastic calculus and derivatives pricing would make me much more cautious. So it depends again what you actually know not the school you went to. If you believe your MS cannot land you at a tier one investment bank (regardless of where you actually want to work) then I would consider applying for a top PhD program given you have a passion for a particular subject matter that you could imagine spending 2-3 years on intensively researching.

Teaching: Well, simple, go straight for the PhD program. Not much else to say.

Hobby: If you believe a PhD program gives you more (maybe because of available resources, grants, professors, peers) than just learning on your own then go for the PhD program. Otherwise there are endless ways to further your skill set in quant finance, you could pick up/improve your C++ skill set and writing pricers or applicable algorithms yourself which you could potentially monetize later.

Hope this helped. Sorry I can speak most about the professional track because I worked for 13 years in this field and also underwent an MS program (wont comment on the specific one but it was a door opener plus really pushed me to the limits and actually beyond in what I ever imagined I was capable of doing). I enjoy practicing my skills and being measured competitively vs other traders by the PnL I generate rather than trying to impress others with geek talk.


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