Recruiting: How to Get into Proprietary Trading
Most traders at top firms have a background that looks something like this:
- Education: Undergraduate or Master’s degree in math, physics, statistics, computer science, or engineering from a top school, or, potentially, a lower-tier university with a solid technical program (e.g., a public state school in the U.S. with a good engineering ranking). Good grades help, but they’re not quite as important as they are in IB recruiting.
- Experience: Most traders hired into entry-level roles come directly from degree programs with little-to-no full-time work experience, but they’ve usually had internships in trading, asset management, or something else related to the public markets.
- Qualities: Entry-level traders need to think quickly, stay calm under pressure, have a thick skin, and quickly correct their mistakes. If you get stressed out easily from deadlines and other time pressure, this is not the job for you.
There are exceptions, and English Literature majors and students from non-target schools get in as well – it’s just more difficult and requires more networking.
To be an “ideal candidate,” you need to show that you’re hungry to succeed in trading.
Drive and raw ability tend to trump credentials and GPA (up to a certain point).
As an undergrad, focus on the following points to break in:
- Build a track record – Get internship experience, trade your own account, and learn the mental math, probability, and programming that they’ll test you on in interviews. C/C++ and Python are the most useful languages, but specific languages matter less than the concepts.
- Network – Especially if you’re at a non-target school, find prop trading firms on LinkedIn, look up professionals there, and email them to introduce yourself and ask about their careers. All the normal networking and informational interview advice applies.