How to Become a Financial Engineer

Many financial engineers work on Wall Street, creating models for securities trading or risk management.

Many financial engineers work on Wall Street, creating models for securities trading or risk management.

Financial engineers, sometimes called quantitative analysts or "quants," are finance gurus that create financial models and analyze data for some of the world's biggest and most influential companies. Becoming one isn't easy: Financial engineers spend many years studying math, finance and computer science before ever applying for a full-time, paid job in the industry, but the rewards can be big. Financial engineers in New York City earn an average of $119,000 per year.

Choose a relevant undergraduate major. The biggest portion of financial engineers have an undergraduate degree in mathematics or engineering. Other common undergraduate majors are physics, computer science and economics. A few universities now offer financial engineering undergraduate degrees, but there are plenty of financial engineers with undergraduate degrees in unrelated subjects like the liberal arts. No matter what major you go with, take courses in statistics, calculus, linear algebra and computer science, especially those computer science courses that build your programming skills.

Participate in internships all the way through your undergraduate and graduate studies. The easiest way to land a great job straight out of school is to get to know human resources and financial engineering staff during an internship. You probably won't be able to get an internship as a financial engineer while an undergraduate, but you can get an internship in the finance field, which will make you stand out to human resources managers when you look for your dream internship during grad school.

Enroll in a graduate program in financial engineering or a closely related field. Most companies are looking for financial engineers with a masters or doctoral degree in financial engineering or a very closely related field like mathematical finance. To get into a good program, you need a strong undergraduate GPA and solid understanding of calculus, algebra, statistics and programming. If you're not sure which schools have financial engineering programs, check out the list of programs maintained by the International Association of Financial Engineers.

Network with other financial engineers. Networking needs to start on your first day of undergraduate studies. Join campus math, engineering, finance and Greek organizations to start or grow your list of contacts. Off-campus, join professional organizations like the International Association of Financial Engineers. Students and professionals can join the IAFE and network with other financial engineers at seminars and conferences. This also helps you stay up to speed on the latest issues that affect financial engineers and the finance industry -- issues that are more than likely to come up in grad school and job interviews.

 

About the Author

Jon Gjerde worked as a journalist in northern California where he covered topics ranging from city, county and tribal governments to alternative transportation. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from University of California, Davis.

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