College degree help

Discussion in 'Professional Trading' started by JA_LDP, Jan 13, 2006.

  1. JA_LDP


    I am a finance sophomore at Michigan State with a 3.5 gpa (working to get it up around 3.7 by graduation). I had a roth ira with Edward Jones for a couple years and this past summer I became aware of T/A and realized I can manage my own money much more effectively. I transferred my 5k account to optionsxpress. Since then, I have been reading everything I can (including ET everyday). So far, I have been swing trading and have had losses on a few trades but profits on several others. I use Metastock EOD.

    I am extremely interested in the markets and I’m thinking about trading professionally as a possible career (or some sort of fund/money manager). From everything that I have read, the best courses to take are math (including physics), programming and then maybe finance courses. My advisor wants me to major in finance but take a few extra accounting courses so I can get an M.S. in accounting. It seems to me that unless I want to be a CPA, which I do not, all the advanced accounting courses are pointless.

    I have already taken a ton of business courses and want to continue with finance. Would it be wise to double major in finance and say computer science or something else in the engineering college or would I be wasting my money and time? Other than a proven profitable track record, which degrees are best for getting a trading position with a firm? Also, if I major in engineering, which degree program in the engineering college is the best for someone with similar aspirations? Mechanical, electrical, computer engineering or computer science.

    Thanks a lot. I appreciate your responses.
  2. hoezx6r


    finance and comp sci is a great combo. also, the accy classes won't hurt if you have time for them - alot of types of OTC derivatives, for example, are heavily influenced by accounting issues. just depends on what type of trading you really want to go for.
  3. You act like its easy to an engineering degree lol. Assuming you are smart enough and have very good problem solving skills expect to spend most of your time doing homework that will account for only about 10% of your grade. I have a degree in mechanical engineering from Ohio State. I don't know anyone who switched from business into engineering but I knew plenty of guys who switched out of engineering into business. I even had one cocky professor who claimed one of his midterms was so easy that anyone who didn't do well on it should consider switching into business.

    I had to do a lot of Matlab programming and data analysis when I was in school and I now use that to analyze the markets and back test my systems.

  4. Amen to that! Lots and lots of homework, so you don't see the light of day. Getting my MBA was a breeze compared to my civil engineering undergrad.

    Sounds like the academic advisor is giving solid advice. My regret in life is that I didn't follow my heart with my undergrad, and now I make too much money in engineering to take the paycut necessary to go into I do business on the side. I too would love to be a trader. I love doing comic or coin shows and getting out on the bourse floor. FWIW, I learned more about negotiating at those shows than any college course could have taught me. FWIW, don't underestimate what I am doing...making a solid paycheck, to anchor my sideline investing interests. You don't have to be a finance major, or even go to school to be a good trader, but it helps to have a nice paycheck.

    If it were me, I would build the best resume possible, and then get a job doing what you want to do before you're accustomed to a high salary. I've found that the degrees (especially multiple degrees) get your foot in the door, but what is in your heart is what makes you successful. I went into consulting because I'm an OK engineer, but a great marketer with a deep understanding of my clients needs...mostly banks and developers.

    I would get an undergrad in Finance sprinkled with a little accounting. But I'd also get a Masters in something, possibly economics or marketing. Try for a Masters in an area that will give you a very broad base to work with (i.e., not finance). If I needed a fallback position for what you're trying to accomplish, a law degree would kick butt instead of a Masters and it would be way more useful for working deals than an engineering degree.

  5. elcap73


    Finance/Comp Sci or finance/Comp Eng would be pretty killer combos. Add an MBA and your in pretty good shape.

    But if I were you, I would do this:

    Go to your alumni association office. Track down a few active alumni who work in the industry for a big name firm. Call them, or write them or whatever...establish contact and let them know your interests wrt career.

    Ask them how they got into their current position and try to get them to put you in contact with someone who actually does the job you are interested in...for example, if your alumni contact is say a broker at Merrill, but you want to be a trader, see if they can put you in contact with a trader in their firm willing to talk to you about preparing academically and what they really look for in hiring.

    Even if you get nowhere with this appoach, it has value. You will be forced to start networking, and this is one of the most important things in professional life, as you will find out. Professional networking is almost an art and will open far more doors for you than credentials ever could.

    And, this approach could yield very relevant information. Often the things a career counselor or advisor THINKS is the proper prep for a particular field is not in line with what the folks making hiring decisions for firms are looking at. You may be very surprised at the relative weightings given.

    Good luck to you.
  6. JA_LDP


    Matt- Sorry, I didn’t mean to come across saying engineering is easy. I have a few friends in comp sci, electrical and mechanical engineering and I know how much work it really is. I’m just willing to do whatever to build my resume and give myself a good opportunity to do get a job in what I really want to do.

    elcap- That is very good advice and I can’t wait to start tracking down alumni.
    As of now I am looking at:

    B.A. in finance
    B.S. in computer science

    Grad school
    M.S. in accounting
    M.S. in economics
    M.B.A. with a concentration in financial markets

    Thanks a lot. You guys have been more than helpful.
  7. Catoosa


    I got a mechanical engineering degree in 1967 and then spent 18 years working in the design and manufacturing of nuclear power systems. There were about 100 engineers in my group. Of the 100 engineers, 3 were hired by what is now UBS to work in market related function. I know these three individuals well and know about their success with what is now UBS. They all three have made many times more money within UBS than they were going to make within the engineering firm. Most of the 100 engineers moved on to other things such as their own businesses. I went into a side line business while still in the engineering group and eventually left engineering to pursue my business full time. The engineers that left the firm to be lawyers, work within the financial markets, or start their own business also did very well.
  8. JA_LDP


    Well crap. If I double major, I will basically be starting over with computer engineering and it would take me 4 or more years to graduate.

    Would it be worth my time to do this? Take an extra 2-3 years of math and programming and add computer engineering to a finance degree?
  9. Catoosa


    I know what I would do. I would get the degree of my choice and get on with making money for all of the years of study. One can always go back to school at a later time or change the field of work.
  10. There appears little reason to major in compsci or computer engineering. You will be competing with the rest of the developing world on price/salary when you graduate and during the degree program you will be asked to prove that you are better than most practicing engineers / scientists. An extreme disconnect between the degree and current and future employment.

    With your backbround I would follow your advisors advice: Prepare for the CPA exam qualifying requirements by taking more accounting classes and I would take a few law classes to perhaps get a law degree in addition to the CPA.

    Technical jobs - even the business support roles - are largely headed to lower labor cost centers.
    #10     Jan 16, 2006