Quant, or quantitative analyst, is a person working mainly in a financial institution, for example, in an investment bank, a software company or a hedge fund. The main responsibility of a quant is to research, design and implement mathematical or econometrics models for derivative valuation, risk analysis, or trading strategies generation. Quants are therefore core employees due to their large influence on the growth of a firm.
How much should a candidate learn before becoming a quant? There is however not a certain answer, the depth a quant’s knowledge varies a lot across companies, for example, a front office desk quant has to be good at mathematics and have a strong market sense,since (s)he works directly with traders; a quant developer needs to master programming languages as (s)he must code scripts very quickly and precisely all the time; a statistical arbitrage quant aiming at finding trading signals based on historical data understands econometrics and statistics very well. Generally speaking, an ideal quant candidate should have knowledge on finance, mathematics, statistics and programming more or less.
What degree is expected to be a quant? Usually a PhD is a necessity to find a quant job, some jobs even require candidates graduated with hard-core majors, for instance, physics or pure mathematics because nowadays financial institutions are becoming progressively more mathematical. However, there are some quant jobs open for masters, especially for those people with a master degree in financial engineering (MFE), although those jobs are not straight quantitative but mainly about risk analysis or trading support, they are indeed good choices for starters.