Here is a great student review of the London School of Economics Master in Finance program. Hopefully it helps anyone interested in the program. It is the second one I have posted so make you check it our as well.

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I am sure many people have varying reasons for deciding to pursue a postgraduate degree in finance or a related subject.  That being said, in my experience it seems that a vast majority of those who do generally fall into three camps:

A)  Career switchers who have taken an interest in the finance industry

B)  Undergrads who wish to obtain another year of recruiting, perhaps were not completely sold on their previous offers, feel it will be a resume booster, etc.

C)  Those who obtained an undergraduate degree in an unrelated field, but during the course of their studies realized that they wanted to be in the finance industry, however, perhaps it was too late for them to get involved at the undergraduate level

I fall into the third camp.  I was just another country kid who didn’t know the difference between a bank teller and an investment banker before I went to college.  When I finally grew up a little bit and looked towards what I wanted to do after school, I realized that it was the finance industry that I wanted to be involved in.  Upon further research, it seemed clear to me that the industry was structured in such a way that it would have been hard for me to break in at that stage of the game with no prior internship experience and only a year of undergrad remaining.  Postgraduate studies in accounting and finance was a way for me to get my foot in the door, get a relevant major on my resume and give me the opportunity to participate in FO finance recruiting.

The reasons for choosing LSE were simple:  brand name and best program I could get into based upon my qualifications.  My research at the undergraduate level told me that the most important factor in the eyes of the finance recruiters when it comes to one’s education is the quality of the “name” on one’s resume.  Hence, I went for the best possible finance related program I could get into with no previous finance experience (and the one that was known to have the best recruiting).  LSE’s accounting and finance program provided me that opportunity.  I guess one could say it was purely a “business” decision.

It’s been said before, but I will reiterate, the concept of OCR at English universities is very different from the OCR familiar to American students.  One could say, there is no such thing as “OCR” per se.  LSE brings many quality institutions to campus, and LSE grads are invited to countless presentations given by all the top financial institutions on the street.  That being said, this is where the OCR ends.  These are presentations and presentations alone, and they have no relation to the chance of one getting interview.  It may be possible to meet somebody during these presentations that takes a great liking to you and helps you get an interview, however, this is both extremely rare and is not what they are structured to do; it is merely a bonus for a lucky few.  The presentations, rather, are a signalling method used by companies to attract talent from the best schools in Europe, and, quite often, these presentations are given only at certain “target” institutions (LSE being a prime example of this).

Recruiting is a complex issue at LSE.  One misconception many have concerning studying for a postgraduate degree in finance in the UK, especially one as well represented as LSE, is that it will be a golden ticket to landing interviews.  This is not true and the program is not recommended for those with no relevant background that are using it as a stepping stone to get interviews.  Those who manage to obtain interviews at LSE (a surprisingly low number, considering the impressive name of the school) are those who would have obtained interviews, or at least had the best opportunity at obtaining interviews, prior to attending the program.  Warning:  you will not walk in with a bachelors in education with prior experience in teaching and suddenly start landing interviews because you are a student in one of LSE’s finance programs (many who attend LSE did not know this prior).

Concerning the program, it is very difficult for me to evaluate coming from an American perspective.  The teaching left me a bit dry and I did not feel like attending class was very rewarding.  Classes consist of a teacher simply going over slides that are present in the course materials and, sometimes, taking the time to expand on one or two.  Personal anecdotes are far and few between and the teaching all seemed extremely robotic; that is to say, having a noticeable lack of human touch.  There is clearly a distance between students and teachers and the entire experience is a bit cold, to be quite frank.  That being said, the material is certainly interesting for those with a passion for finance and is very relevant for those with an interest in portfolio management theory, etc.  There are a few teachers who are a bit warmer and charismatic during class, but in my experience this was one out of twelve (a minority based upon a medium sized sample size).  This criticism may sound overly negative and unfair coming from an American perspective as I have since learned that this is the nature of the British education system.  So, my evaluation of the program, itself, should be taken with a grain of salt.

In reading the above commentary, one may think that studying for one of the postgraduate finance related degrees at LSE is a huge waste of money and this is simply unfair.  There are some excellent positives in studying at LSE, not the least of which is the people that you will associate with.  Personally, I found my fellow classmates to be of excellent caliber and from all walks of life.  The first group of people I would recommend LSE’s programs to are those wishing to either expand their network or build one not only in the UK, but all over the world.  In my own experience, not only did I make relationships that should last me a lifetime, but, since my graduation, LSE alumni, some already very successful, have been both very helpful and friendly towards me.

A second group I would recommend LSE’s programs for are those who perhaps have  a relevant finance background, but lack that brand name to put them over the top.  There is no doubt that LSE puts it graduates on the upper level of prestige, which could be the difference in getting a look from a top firm or having your resume thrown into the “impressive, but…” pile.  Obviously, this effect is lost on those who have already graduated from a Harvard or a Berkley (which tends to be the background of many LSE students), however, a previous non-target could see substantial benefit.  Furthermore, as could be said with all “target” schools, for those that do not benefit from recruiting during their studies, the long-term benefits of having that school on one’s resume should not be understated.

In summation:

– Terrible for those without a related finance background / internships as a very limited number of students obtained interviews, and, subsequently, even less obtained offers.  This was the most disappointing aspect of the school as obtaining an offer was the number one reason most people decided to fork over $40,000 and a year of their life to attend.  By limited number, I would say that 1 in 3 (more like 1 in 15 for those without a relevant background, very rare) obtained an interview of some sort with an FO division, and probably 1 in 7 wound up with an FO offer (this is a very unscientific estimate, of course, take it for what it’s worth).  Therefore, the impact of obtaining an LSE qualification on landing a job was negligible and “OCR” in the traditional sense is non-existent.

– The quality of the education was disappointing for some, however, this was not a concern of most students as most were there to simply land an FO role at an established firm (not necessarily a BB).

– Provides an outstanding network and should lead to very rewarding relationships

– Can be the missing “prestige” element for those with a decent background in the finance industry looking to get over that hump and get noticed by the top firms.  For those that do not obtain jobs right away but get into the industry at a later date, this “prestige” or “pedigree” element should be helpful in either switching firms or moving up that ladder.

I’m sure it’s been said before, but an MSF is not a golden ticket, and the LSE is no exception.  Do not have unrealistic expectations as it is not as useful for career changers as marketing would have one believe.  These degrees, while prevalent in Europe, still have not taken the place of MBA’s when it comes to providing a forum for firms to locate talent, and, instead, still remain a bit of an after thought for most companies.  Proceed with caution and make sure you really know what you are getting into.  The sad truth of the matter seems to be that a majority of those that study for an MSF are either those who don’t need it for recruiting or those that cannot benefit from it.  It is very rare to find that perfect middling candidate for which the MSF is a perfect fit.  Furthermore, be wary of different finance related MS degrees popping up as the popularity of the MSF continues to grow among students.  LSE, alone, just recently introduced its new MS Private Equity degree, which should be no surprise as LSE has continued to introduce new MS degrees every year.  This is widely regarded to be ploy by the school to allow it to take in more students (more $), yet keep admission rates low (maintain prestige).  Phenomena like this will only make it more difficult for potential candidates to land interviews and jobs as the MS talent pool becomes even more watered down.  There is no difference between these programs in the eyes of recruiters, despite what may be different admission rates.  A candidate in the MS Finance will be seen in the same light by a firm as a candidate with an MS Finance and Economics.  Firm’s do not have the time nor the care to learn about every different program of every school, much less different admission rates, etc.  To them they see “LSE – degree related to finance” or “target school – MS in finance related area.”  There is no noticeable evidence of better recruiting rates from different MS programs from the same school.

I understand the dream of wanting to work in a role in the finance industry.  For those of us who came from humble circumstances and spent our lives in the pursuit of our ideals, FO finance seems almost too good to be true when it comes to settling upon a career.  I understand the overwhelming urge to do “whatever it takes” to land a role in this ultra competitive industry, believe me, I’ve lived it.  Some may read this and think, “well even if it’s a shot in the dark, even if I only have a 5% chance of getting a job through an MSF, it’s worth it, because it’s my only option.”  Believe you me when I tell you that these institutions prey upon this mentality.  Be smart, be vigilant and most, importantly, be patient.  There are better ways to get into the industry, even if it is a roundabout way at first.  It can be nerve racking wondering if you will ever have the chance to land a FO role, but believe me when I say that persistence pays off, I have seen it time and again.  If you are willing to put in the time and the dedication, you will land something, it just might be a few years down the road and after B-School.  The MSF benefits a very specific candidate, and I would strongly recommend against throwing down thousands of dollars and, more importantly, throwing away a year of your life for a shot in the dark.  If you are a candidate that meets the criteria for those that an MSF would benefit and feel that it is for you, then by all means, do it, you will not regret meeting the outstanding minds that you will along the way.

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Here is a link to the London School  of Economics Master in Finance program