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Awful A levels but Excellent degree('s). (Quant Analysis) watch

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    Ok so i'm hoping to go into quantitative analysis, my A levels were Physics, Maths, Biology, BBC respectively, I was a naive idiot who put very little effort in and have since changed my attitude. I'm currently on my 3rd year in Theoretical Physics with a 1st year grade average of 80% and 2nd year grade average of 82%, on target to finish my degree with a strong First Class Honours also undertaking a 3rd year project with a strong emphasis in programming. I'm waiting to hear back from UCL, Cambridge and Imperial for Msc courses in Theoretical Physics. Under the assumption that I get accepted and maintain a First Class Msc from one of said Universities what are the chances my crappy A-levels will be used against me?

    Everywhere I look an excellent set of A levels are required along with an undergraduate degree from a top tier university, whats the reality of my situation?
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    I'm pretty much in the same boat. Got pretty bad IB grades (31 points overall with 5 in HL Physics, 4 HL Maths and 4 HL English), but went on to get a 1st in Theoretical Physics at QMUL and a Distinction for my MSc in Physics from Imperial. Currently applying for roles as an actuary, and got 2 rejections before any interviews from Catlin and PwC.
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    You're obviously very clever. I am the opposite, I was smart when I was 18, now I'm a bum but pull in okayish cash. I can't really offer any advice as although I have an idea about quants I've never done the role nor could I do it. But I would try and pull the extenuating circumstances card when applying to such roles. Or maybe try a risk role within the likes of an energy company? Get 18 months under your belt and move to a bank? I have a friend like you, one crap A-Level grade but took the previous route and now works in risk at Lloyd's but I know that's not a quant role.

    It's a shame as maths and physics are proper subjects. I hope the dummy HR folk don't stop you getting to the quant job you deserve.
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    Thanks for the replies guys,

    (Original post by shizzler)
    I'm pretty much in the same boat. Got pretty bad IB grades (31 points overall with 5 in HL Physics, 4 HL Maths and 4 HL English), but went on to get a 1st in Theoretical Physics at QMUL and a Distinction for my MSc in Physics from Imperial. Currently applying for roles as an actuary, and got 2 rejections before any interviews from Catlin and PwC.
    That's a really strong background I think actuary might not be the best option though? As far as I understand it Physics grads are most suited to investment bank type roles or even insurance. Risk analysis seems to be the biggie, in your current situation now that you have your Msc are you completely unemployed and looking or do you have some menial job to fill the void for the mean time? I plan on lodging my CV into every recruitment agency possible during my Msc, fingers crossed I get headhunted or something, I think one of the best options may be to apply to as many finance related graduate jobs as possible and see what comes back to you, it may be that whoever is checking your CV over may not have any immediate use for you but they might know someone who does, that seems to be the general consensus from twofishquant over at the physicsforums lol.
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    You'll be fine. Just apply for any sort of analyst position that'll offer a programming element (SAS, SQL, VBA, C++) and get some experience before then applying for a QA role. Many grads in both insurance and banking have had terrible A levels and better degree results.
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    (Original post by Lengalicious)
    That's a really strong background I think actuary might not be the best option though? As far as I understand it Physics grads are most suited to investment bank type roles or even insurance. Risk analysis seems to be the biggie, in your current situation now that you have your Msc are you completely unemployed and looking or do you have some menial job to fill the void for the mean time?
    Why would someone doing a degree in Physics have some natural advantage when it comes to Investment Banking or Insurance type roles? The maths involved in these roles will be limited to GCSE or at very best A-level.
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    (Original post by Shillington)
    Why would someone doing a degree in Physics have some natural advantage when it comes to Investment Banking or Insurance type roles? The maths involved in these roles will be limited to GCSE or at very best A-level.
    Yeah, specifically I am referring to quantitative analyst type investment bank roles, I suggest you read about this before assuming someone with an A level in Maths is capable.
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    (Original post by Lengalicious)
    Yeah, specifically he is referring to quantitative analyst type investment bank roles, I suggest you read about this before assuming someone with an A level Maths is capable.
    Even then, the maths you learn on a physics course isn't geared towards you then moving into a quant role. The points I'm making are that:

    a.) Just because you've got a degree in a numerate subject does not make you a genius or make you qualified for any job which in some way involves numbers.
    b.) I doubt even Quant Roles in a bank rely that heavily on "advanced maths". I will look into this in more detail tonight.
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    They probably won't check your a level qualifications, but more the recognition (of lack of) at the current university that you are at. however, because your grades are so high in your degree you should get into the msc programme at a really good university, as for quant analysis not an expert unfort
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    I've just come across this, seems very informative:

    http://www.markjoshi.com/downloads/advice.pdf
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    (Original post by Shillington)
    Even then, the maths you learn on a physics course isn't geared towards you then moving into a quant role. The points I'm making are that:

    a.) Just because you've got a degree in a numerate subject does not make you a genius or make you qualified for any job which in some way involves numbers.
    b.) I doubt even Quant Roles in a bank rely that heavily on "advanced maths". I will look into this in more detail tonight.
    I never claimed any such thing, but if you take someone who has spent the best part of a decade studying maths/physics it is not actually the content that will be useful but their approach to problem solving, Although in fact just from my undergraduate degree alone I would have developed a statistical model to stochastically calculate details about rubber polymers. This is the sort of thing numerate people like myself can offer to investment banks that someone from an economics (or similar) background simply cannot. How about I spend 3 years of my PhD studying topological defects in Quantum Field Theory with Monte Carlo simulations? By this point I have a very strong background in programming and am able to design mineral processing flow sheets and contribute to quantitative risk analysis. Something a less numerate person could not do. . .

    I would like to see someone without a physics degree do half the things I mention, not even considering pricing derivatives, stochastic calculus plus a multitude of other things mathematicians/physicists can choose to become experts in if they so desire. I think you will find most quantitative analysts out there are actually physicists anyway. In fact quantum algorithms are going to be a big part of finance eventually since the 2010 flash crash now that they want to assign credit and blame to every single sub-microsecond scale transaction that happens. Lets see someone with a less numerate degree baby sit these wads of complex code which require an in-depth understanding of quantum mechanics.
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    I work in the back (middle if you're generous!) office of a multinational bank so what I will say is more from observation than direct experience. However, it would appear to me that a degree in Physics is at least equal to if not greater than a degree in Mathematics to work in quantitative analysis and people with these degrees are considered the best candidates for the role. Graduates with good degrees in Economics also tend to do okay, especially if they had the aptitude for Physics but chose their degree because it held greater personal interest. Graduates of Economics, Mathematics and Physics could stand around arguing about which degree is best but in all honesty they'll all get you an interview somewhere in your chosen field if they have an upper second class honours degree. There is also a theory that you have to go to a 'good' university too; I think this really depends on the hiring manager you're applying to; those with a foreign background are especially unlikely to care.

    Unsuitable degrees for quantitative analysis will include Humanities and most other Social Science subjects (although solid academic degrees from these branches like History, Psychology and Politics will still leave the doors to the world of finance open, aside from the deeply mathematical roles) and might include Accountancy (a largely 'back office' skill to have). A grey area is law; I find people with law degrees more often in the back office but there is a need for compliance personnel focusing on the work of the front office as well (this is also my area of work, although I focus on regulatory change from the front to back office and I'm definitely a poet, not a quant)!

    No one will care about A-levels if you have a degree, provided they're not so low that they don't meet the entry requirements for professional qualifications. A-level fetishism tends to be an issue for lawyers more than anyone else, because they tend to have the laziest recruiters of all.
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    (Original post by Lengalicious)
    I never claimed any such thing, but if you take someone who has spent the best part of a decade studying maths/physics it is not actually the content that will be useful but their approach to problem solving, Although in fact just from my undergraduate degree alone I would have developed a statistical model to stochastically calculate details about rubber polymers. This is the sort of thing numerate people like myself can offer to investment banks that someone from an economics (or similar) background simply cannot. How about I spend 3 years of my PhD studying topological defects in Quantum Field Theory with Monte Carlo simulations? By this point I have a very strong background in programming and am able to design mineral processing flow sheets and contribute to quantitative risk analysis. Something a less numerate person could not do. . .

    I would like to see someone without a physics degree do half the things I mention, not even considering pricing derivatives, stochastic calculus plus a multitude of other things mathematicians/physicists can choose to become experts in if they so desire. I think you will find most quantitative analysts out there are actually physicists anyway. In fact quantum algorithms are going to be a big part of finance eventually since the 2010 flash crash now that they want to assign credit and blame to every single sub-microsecond scale transaction that happens. Lets see someone with a less numerate degree baby sit these wads of complex code which require an in-depth understanding of quantum mechanics, i would be thoroughly amused watching them squirm.
    oh how you come across as an arrogant turd. I bet in real life you are dumb as ****. Fact: Smartest people are usually the most modest ones.

    Now get off your high horse already.


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    (Original post by Lengalicious)
    Ok so i'm hoping to go into quantitative analysis, my A levels were Physics, Maths, Biology, BBC respectively, I was a naive idiot who put very little effort in and have since changed my attitude. I'm currently on my 3rd year in Theoretical Physics with a 1st year grade average of 80% and 2nd year grade average of 82%, on target to finish my degree with a strong First Class Honours also undertaking a 3rd year project with a strong emphasis in programming. I'm waiting to hear back from UCL, Cambridge and Imperial for Msc courses in Theoretical Physics. Under the assumption that I get accepted and maintain a First Class Msc from one of said Universities what are the chances my crappy A-levels will be used against me?

    Everywhere I look an excellent set of A levels are required along with an undergraduate degree from a top tier university, whats the reality of my situation?
    I would only see you having a problem if you went straight to the big banks as they are often known to recruit from specific institutions and results groups.

    What uni are you currently at?


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    (Original post by rock_climber86)
    oh how you come across as an arrogant turd. I net in real life you are dumb as ****. Fact: Smartest people are usually the most modest ones.

    Now get off your high horse already.


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    I'm sorry if it comes off as this to you but I'm simply getting a point across as his statements were fairly naive, he was implying that someone with a Physics degree is no more capable of working as a quant than anyone else. I think you should consider the facts, being a quant requires a numerate person, this does not however mean that someone with a numerate degree is any more intelligent than anyone else with any other degree. I am not claiming this, I was just annoyed with his statement so needed to get the facts straight.
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    (Original post by AW1983)
    I work in the back (middle if you're generous!) office of a multinational bank so what I will say is more from observation than direct experience. However, it would appear to me that a degree in Physics is at least equal to if not greater than a degree in Mathematics to work in quantitative analysis and people with these degrees are considered the best candidates for the role. Graduates with good degrees in Economics also tend to do okay, especially if they had the aptitude for Physics but chose their degree because it held greater personal interest. Graduates of Economics, Mathematics and Physics could stand around arguing about which degree is best but in all honesty they'll all get you an interview somewhere in your chosen field if they have an upper second class honours degree. There is also a theory that you have to go to a 'good' university too; I think this really depends on the hiring manager you're applying to; those with a foreign background are especially unlikely to care.

    Unsuitable degrees for quantitative analysis will include Humanities and most other Social Science subjects (although solid academic degrees from these branches like History, Psychology and Politics will still leave the doors to the world of finance open, aside from the deeply mathematical roles) and might include Accountancy (a largely 'back office' skill to have). A grey area is law; I find people with law degrees more often in the back office but there is a need for compliance personnel focusing on the work of the front office as well (this is also my area of work, although I focus on regulatory change from the front to back office and I'm definitely a poet, not a quant)!

    No one will care about A-levels if you have a degree, provided they're not so low that they don't meet the entry requirements for professional qualifications. A-level fetishism tends to be an issue for lawyers more than anyone else, because they tend to have the laziest recruiters of all.
    I hope this is true, however, have you made the observation as to whether those with Physics degrees have a PhD or a masters degree? This is my biggest dilemma, whether or not to just finish my masters degree and look for work or carry on to do a PhD.
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    (Original post by Goods)
    I would only see you having a problem if you went straight to the big banks as they are often known to recruit from specific institutions and results groups.

    What uni are you currently at?


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    Well currently my University is only ranked top 30 but that is because of my poor A level results, I currently hold an offer from Imperial College, so I will be studying for my masters degree over there from October 2014. I know IB's recruit heavily from Imperial right, so I might be able to get my foot in there without having to go through the rigorous application process that may filter my A levels?
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    (Original post by Lengalicious)
    Well currently my University is only ranked top 30 but that is because of my poor A level results, I currently hold an offer from Imperial College, so I will be studying for my masters degree over there from October 2014. I know IB's recruit heavily from Imperial right, so I might be able to get my foot in there without having to go through the rigorous application process that may filter my A levels?
    The quant i did work experience with at the EBDR said imperial was good (his son did aeronautical engineering there so maybe he was biased, He had a physics phd from Harvard and degree from Warsaw (Poland)) he said internships or placement during holidays were the easiest ways to get jobs and experience is always valuable. If you want to become a quant you should probably be applying for them this summer thats why the uni you are at now is important as they will look at it as well as your A levels in that application, it might put you behind but not out of the running id think so still worth a try.

    Nb all i've done is a weeks work experience and im upper 6th so take anything i say with a pinch of salt

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    I can't state categorically whether a PhD will be useful although my hunch is that unless what you do is 100% relevant to quantitative finance it probably won't be very helpful. Generally speaking, a PhD tends to be seen as the professional qualification of career academics; I say generally because if you spend two or three years building the most efficient, reliable, quantitative analysis tool the world has ever seen to get your PhD, understandably you might have been thinking of a career in the field as your end goal!

    Or, take another perspective. You want to work in quantitative analysis. Does your future employer want you to:

    A) Get two-three years work experience as a quantitative analyst;

    B) Get a degree relevant to QA (e.g. PhD or another Masters);

    C) Get a Theoretical Physics PhD with no practical application to your future career.

    I would say definitely A, possibly B and probably not C (although they probably won't discriminate against you for it either).

    A third perspective now. Physics undergraduates with high marks are highly sought after because they hold one of the hardest undergraduate degrees there is to get and they have practical skills in mathematics and logic. You're more than forgiven for not having a finance degree. Then you get a masters, which is still a bit harder to get than a Masters in Finance. Employers start salivating at the thought of recruiting you. Then you do a PhD which demonstrates your awesomeness but probably doesn't alter their already rampant desire to employ you. You're also studying at a level where Quant Finance PhDs have caught up on the employability stakes. So you could even waste two years as a result, unless you really want a PhD (actually, unless someone really wants a PhD for the pure academic interest, there's a theory that they couldn't sustain the motivation to finish it).
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    (Original post by AW1983)
    I can't state categorically whether a PhD will be useful although my hunch is that unless what you do is 100% relevant to quantitative finance it probably won't be very helpful. Generally speaking, a PhD tends to be seen as the professional qualification of career academics; I say generally because if you spend two or three years building the most efficient, reliable, quantitative analysis tool the world has ever seen to get your PhD, understandably you might have been thinking of a career in the field as your end goal!

    Or, take another perspective. You want to work in quantitative analysis. Does your future employer want you to:

    A) Get two-three years work experience as a quantitative analyst;

    B) Get a degree relevant to QA (e.g. PhD or another Masters);

    C) Get a Theoretical Physics PhD with no practical application to your future career.

    I would say definitely A, possibly B and probably not C (although they probably won't discriminate against you for it either).

    A third perspective now. Physics undergraduates with high marks are highly sought after because they hold one of the hardest undergraduate degrees there is to get and they have practical skills in mathematics and logic. You're more than forgiven for not having a finance degree. Then you get a masters, which is still a bit harder to get than a Masters in Finance. Employers start salivating at the thought of recruiting you. Then you do a PhD which demonstrates your awesomeness but probably doesn't alter their already rampant desire to employ you. You're also studying at a level where Quant Finance PhDs have caught up on the employability stakes. So you could even waste two years as a result, unless you really want a PhD (actually, unless someone really wants a PhD for the pure academic interest, there's a theory that they couldn't sustain the motivation to finish it).
    I suppose there are many perspectives to this as it really does depend on the employer and what they want in their employee, The way I would be going into the PhD is like you say, with a career in mind at the end of it. So I would certainly choose a field in which most of the stuff will be applicable to quantitative finance. My worry is not so much, if I get a PhD will I be employable because I think its ridiculous to even suggest that I wont, it's more of whether its necessary or not, you say that at PhD level those studying Quant Finance would have caught up in employability, that is true, but I would still be competing against these same people even if I only studied Physics to Masters, so I imagine a PhD is absolutely necessary. On the other side of things finance could be a disaster 5 years from now, if I'm stuck with a PhD in quant finance i'm not much use to anyone apart from IB's, with a PhD in Physics at least I could work elsewhere fairly easily, I suppose I wouldn't want to be constrained in the future.
 
 
 
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