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What is currently most desired in candidates by employers in quantitative finance/algorithmic trading? Strong quantitative academic background, for example, MSc/PhD in Physics, Engineering, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Finance or solid practical skills in C++, Python, R used in the finance context and applications of machine learning and AI in finance?

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Ideally Both :) But it depends somewhat on your role as a quant. You don't necessarily need the same skillset in risk management as in financial engineering or quant developement. Hence the answer will depend.

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I totally agree with Vanity, but I would add that it really depends on the employer, and especially at the entry/junior level! Some want a strong quantitative academic background and are asking for an adequate knowledge of programming skills. Others, insist on the practical skills and care less about the academic/educational background (as long as you can prove that you have a certain level of numerical/quantitative knowledge).

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