Since 1994, graduate students in the field of financial engineering have sought their academic training for Wall Street careers at Carnegie Mellon University. That’s when the university, steeped in a history of innovation and collaborative firsts introduced a financial engineering degree that was the first - and currently only - to feature a cross-campus partnership among business, math and I.T. disciplines. Today, the Carnegie Mellon MSCF program has been a constant source of recruiting talent for Wall Street and London firms seeking to fill jobs.
Though there are now several competitors, what sets Carnegie Mellon apart is its highly specialized, cross-disciplinary curriculum—the result of unique collaboration between four of the school’s renowned colleges representing statistics, finance, math and computer science.
“In our opinion, this standard of integration is a significant advantage for graduates,” says Rick Bryant, executive director of the Computational Finance program. “This isn’t a one-dimensional math degree or finance degree. Our unique curriculum merges quantitative finance with financial management and a significant computer technology component, something many of our competitors don’t offer.”
Many programs recently launched at other universities are pieced together with courses created for students in math, business or engineering programs, an approach that enforces silos between multiple disciplines instead of integrating them. For example, by comparison, Carnegie Mellon's Stochastic Calculus for Finance was developed specifically for MSCF students based on needs of the market. Ironically, it is not a course available to students in the Math Department. Optimization in Finance, Statistical Arbitrage, Simulation Methods of Options Pricing, and Linear Financial Models are all similarly designed for a specific MSCF academic objective, not an "assembly" of different courses at different schools.
“Over the past few years, we have made important changes to our MSCF program to keep current with what’s going on in the industry,” says Bryant. “We introduced the summer internship, an opportunity that is unheard of at other schools. But the biggest change has been in the finance component of the program.”
This fall, Tepper is offering several brand new courses further targeted to the specialized niche careers students are pursuing. “We added Introduction to Fixed Income, Financial Products and Markets, and Macroeconomics for Computational Finance. We also added Introduction to MSCF Finance, a basic finance course that has morphed to be more quantitative in nature. Derivatives Accounting will focus on the accounting issues specific to the derivative instruments on corporate books,” says Bryant.
Another new required course, Presentations for Computational Finance, will help students develop the critical presentation and communications skills necessary for success. “We used to offer an optional presentation course, but decided it was a critical aspect of career growth,” says Bryant. “We saw a dramatic improvement in how well the students presented their ideas and sell themselves once they completed the seven weeks of instruction. Good communication skills are vital in any industry, and our decision to focus on the hard and soft skills has been to our students' advantage."
“Finance is a big world, and our graduates are going into a very small, highly focused part of it. The changes we’ve made to the MSCF program were designed to provide a customized curriculum geared just for the four or five career paths they’re heading toward.”