Are Donald Trump’s insular policies likely to deter a whole generation of international students from pursuing Wall Street careers? Maybe not, but it’s going to make it harder for banks to justify hiring non-U.S. citizens. We spoke to a Chinese student, who we will call “Neil Jung”, who is studying at the Brandeis International Business School.
He has passed the first two levels of the CFA and is currently studying level three. A Dean’s Scholarship recipient, he is studying to get his Master’s in international economics and finance, with a focus on asset management and risk assessment. His GPA is 3.75, and he is set to graduate in May. Jung’s first choice is to work in the U.S., but since Donald Trump won the presidential election, his future in this country is very much up in the air.
Pessimism among international students
In the post-election whirlwind as Trump’s cabinet nominees are revealed, is he more pessimistic about his prospects here in the U.S. and his ability to live and work in the country long-term?
“I don’t follow politics as much as some of my peers do, but I think pessimistically about the impact of the president-elect, because I believe there will be an even harsher environment for employment of international students [here in the U.S.],” Jung said. “The immigration policy will be even more unbearable for international students.”
Get a job or another degree?
Rather than focusing his efforts on securing a job after graduation, hoping to find an employer who will sponsor his visa application, Jung is applying to computational finance and financial engineering M.S. programs at Carnegie Mellon, Stanford and Columbia to tap the three-year visa extension granted to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students. Under the current system, that would mean he’d get three go-rounds in the lottery to get a work visa.
Trump card or wildcard?
Jung already faces an uphill battle. All he can do is hope that the Trump administration doesn’t make it even more difficult for him to find and keep a job here.
“Employers think, ‘If you can only stay for one year [on your current student visa], then why should I bother taking you into our program and training you for several months?’” Jung said. “They prefer candidates who know how to manipulate data, data science majors – those candidates are irreplaceable.
“For business school students, they can find people of similar capacity who are U.S. citizens, but for data scientists and students who know a lot about technology, they can’t find enough capable candidates, so they have to look outside of their original scope of U.S. students,” he said. “It is a deteriorating job market for international students [in the U.S.]”
Target schools vs. non-target universities
The other issue Jung faces is the different degrees of difficulty in securing a graduate job coming from a target university versus a non-target school. It is not lost on him that big, prestigious financial services companies tend to only recruit students from the Ivy League and other name-brand schools and won’t hire from lesser-known schools, regardless of their ranking or how good their programs actually are.
“My program at Brandeis, it’s quite fulfilling – the curriculum, the professors and other faculty members, the teaching environment are all top-notch,” Jung said.
Ambitious despite the odds
Despite the many challenges that Jung faces, he is setting the bar high for his career aspirations.
“I want to work at a top-tier bank or asset management company, like Goldman or BlackRock, doing quantitative research, testing investment ideas and strategies and taking a scientifically substantiated approach to investing,” Jung said.
Immigration prospects are likely to be bleak for business school students under Trump, but they will be better for students who study science, math and those sorts of disciplines, Jung believes.
“Students with more hard technical skills are more welcome [here in the U.S.], whereas students with more soft skills, people and interpersonal skills will face a more competitive environment,” he said.
What will he do if he’s forced to leave the U.S.? Hong Kong and Singapore are next on his list, followed by China, his country of birth.
Europe is last on his list.
“I don’t think I can land a job there,” Jung said. “There’s still a visa issue, and you don’t get the privilege of working in Europe if you’re not an EU citizen.
“Singapore would be more difficult to find a good job than Hong Kong, but easier than Europe,” he said.
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