Prior to completing my PhD degree, I used to hear, rather very often, that working in finance is the most non-academic viable career option for newly-minted PhDs in theoretical physics. But, now that I am actively searching for such jobs (any job, to be precise), it appears that employers in finance expect qualifications that practically all newly graduates like me lack. I might be wrong on this, but I don't know of anyone using SAS or R in their PhD research in theoretical physics. So, I was wondering what else is out there available to a newly graduated PhD with mostly a pen-and-paper background in theoretical condensed matter physics.

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    Although basically true there has been an exponential rise in specialist quant finance Masters and PhDs in recent years. Someone with just a PhD and little computing experience may struggle. You could consider doing a Masters in Financial Engineering or Quantitative Finance but only if you can get into a good program. There's a lot of pressure for jobs and the quality of the school is more important than anything else. The website www.wilmott.com is a popular forum for quant finance. You can search for similar questions there. Aug 11, 2014 at 11:56

2 Answers 2


Regarding Finance, perhaps you should instead look for Quantitative/Mathematical Finance (quant) jobs. I think non-mathematical finance jobs do require different skills (though I don't imagine them being more difficult than QF jobs).

Many physicists become quants. You may want to try looking up Emanuel Derman to see his books if you might be interested in reading them and the Wiki pages on mathematical finance to see what kind of math is involved.

I am a grad student of QF now and we are learning SAS, R, Brownian motion and Feynman-Kac theorem. (at least the latter 2 are) Basic for you (theoretical) Physics people, I presume?

Edit: Regarding the mathemagician's comment, I've read some job openings for quants. There's no specific mention of having a degree in QF. They are just looking for master's/PhD's in quantitative disciplines. I recall one mentioning master's in Math, Physics or Engineering as a prerequisite.

Finance is relatively easy to learn. You don't need a QF degree to be a quant. Try checking out Hull's Options, Futures and Other Derivatives or Bjork's Arbitrage Theory in Continuous Time, but please be patient with the cute math you may see.

Other sites to check out are the quant stackexchange (save it from beta please) and quantstart.com

Edit 1: Regarding guest's answer, why don't you work a technology company or something?

Edit 2: teaching highschool/secondary school?

My knowledge of Physics is only up to Vector Calculus (or Partial Differential Equations if you want) and basic Analytical Physics so that's all I got haha


Two options I am aware of:

  • The electronics industry. Sometimes they hire condensed matter theorists who can help them design better products. I know one theorist at Segate who works on better hard drive designs.
  • Finance. Most, but not all, jobs will require programming experience. If you have not gotten any programming experience in a theory PhD I would consider your research strategy highly unusual. Theorists probably lack experience with R and statistics, but if you understand basic computer science concepts it should not be hard to learn these things on your own.

Finally, consider academic/education positions.

  • Suggested edit: Change Finance to Mathematical Finance
    – BCLC
    Aug 30, 2014 at 23:24
  • what's an example of a 'basic computer science' concept here please? i don't recall i encountered any computer science in mathematical finance though maybe you're including computational finance.......which would explain why you did not agree with my suggested edit
    – BCLC
    Feb 1, 2021 at 14:23
  • btw re the last line...education is not necessarily academic right? sooo...yeah OP never said no education...
    – BCLC
    Apr 23, 2021 at 15:54

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