If you’re reading this, there might still be hope.
If you’re thinking of studying finance in the hopes of becoming a day trader or working with investments, please do yourself a huge favour and read this article before you leap headfirst into one of the worst career decisions possible.
This post is going to be quite specific, so if you’re not thinking of doing this, I won’t blame you for skipping this one, although there may be some similarities with your field!
Now that I’ve come out on the other side, I feel as if it is my duty to tell everyone I know that they need to do their research and be sure that the finance qualification is relevant to what they want to do.
This is of course, opinion based on my own experience, and whether you agree or disagree with me, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments!
If I could have written a letter to my earlier self, this is probably what it would look like:
First of all, congratulations! The future version of you has completed a five year double major in commerce, and now has a near-worthless degree!
Not quite what you were expecting?
Well, it turns out that most proprietary trading firms (prop firms) react something like this to graduates with a finance qualification:
A finance grad! They shriek, waving their arms in terror. Another one! Quick, send them the automated email that says we’re impressed but don’t think they’ll be suitable for this role in particular, but we hope that they’ll apply for future roles!
Okay, I’ll admit, that’s not quite what they do, but in general, they’re not too keen on hiring finance graduates unless you have some serious quantitative skill, which you probably won’t learn from your degree.
Even in what would seem to be a traditionally finance-related career, companies are shunning finance graduates and opting instead for graduates in fields you wouldn’t even have considered as the competition!
Instead, they’re turning to engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists and physicists for positions that you should have been fully qualified for!
I know what you’re about to say (because I’m you):
“Wait, what? But why?”
Allow me, future Sanjay with 20/20 hindsight, to enlighten you.
Companies are well aware that finance graduates are basically irrelevant in today’s ultra-competitive business world, but it’s not entirely the students’ fault.
Graduates are leaving universities armed with a degree that equips them with a blunt dagger, to bring to a battle that is largely fought with the latest in drone technology. And there you are, outclassed and outgunned.
Why am I saying this? When you’re studying a finance degree in today’s world, the universities you study at are still largely living in the 18th century, when Microsoft Excel was all the rage and possessing knowledge of this single program was the gold standard.
They’re still proudly confusing students with irrelevant theories that will remain impractical and unused throughout their future careers.
Future you once asked a lecturer why we were learning material that isn’t applicable in the working world. He said: “Because we don’t have anything else to teach you.” That essentially sums up most commerce degrees.
The nature of the coursework means that students never develop critical thinking and problem solving skills that employers value so highly.
My personal favourite is when universities attempt to pass off common sense knowledge as an almost biblical revelation.
To tell you the truth, the most practical and useful business knowledge can be gained by simply visiting a book store and purchasing any of the bestsellers in the field. You can learn from people who’ve actually done it, rather than learning from a textbook written by an author who gained his knowledge from yet another textbook.
I daresay the knowledge you gain from that $14 paperback will be worth far more than any $70,000 commerce/business degree.
As a finance graduate, I am embarrassed to say that I would not have been able to explain to you the basics of how the stock market works or how a simple index fund could earn you returns. I had to figure that out for myself, from books and the internet.
To survive in the business world, graduates require technical skills, like mathematics, statistics and programming. Yet, universities somehow decided that they would shrug of this minor detail and allow graduates to enter the “real” world without any technical skill or practical training whatsoever.
The reality is that quantitive degrees are in demand, because employers value an integral skill above almost everything else: Problem solving.
Move over finance graduates, because the business world is being taken over by engineers, statisticians, mathematicians, physicists and computer scientists.
P.S. I would like to thank my (your future) friend Yoni for the discussion that became the inspiration for this post.
Does this apply to your field as well? Let me know what you think in the comments!