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The Syracuse University Master in Finance Program is close to my heart as an alumnus of Syracuse way back when. They program has grown some since I attended for undergrad and I am lucky enough to have a review from a recent graduate. I hope this helps in the decision process for any of you considering the program.

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1)     Why did you decide on a Master in Finance degree? Why the Syracuse program in particular?

I started working as a Market and Liquidity Risk Analyst right after my undergrad. Although this wasn’t my preferred role, this was the best finance-related job offer I received in undergrad. This job basically inculcated in me a very strong interest in finance and in particular in financial markets and investments. And I felt that I needed to do another degree particularly in finance. Moreover, I guess most of us want to get done with education as early in our lives as possible.

Since I only had one year of work experience, I could not have applied to most MBA programs in the country. However, that’s where the MSF steps in as it accommodates students with lesser amount of work experience. Moreover, I really wasn’t interested in doing an MBA in which I would have to take numerous courses other than finance to fill up credits (such as marketing, supply chain, corporate law, etc. –> I had taken all this in my undergrad already).

I applied to a number of schools in the US. Although I got accepted almost everywhere I applied (I targeted second tier schools), Syracuse University offered me a decent aid package. Moreover, they also I believe have one of the most cost effective graduate degree programs in the country (apparently they won an award for that). Lastly, I had family in Syracuse, NY so I definitely saved on rent.

 

2)     Pros/Cons (if any) of the degree and Syracuse experience?

As it turned out, the pro was definitely that I was able to finish my degree in one year with minimal amount of expenses. If I compare myself today to a year from now, I have definitely learnt quite a lot. In particular, some of the courses in financial modeling, investments, derivatives, corporate finance, financial statement analysis and econometrics are quite good.

Most of the faculty is very good, dedicated and hard working. In fact, one of our professors used to be the Chief Economist at the CFTC. The program was also challenging with lots of experiential learning exercises (stock trading games, options trading games, projects such as developing full fledged Excel and VBA based financial models, doing financial research in SAS, etc.). Moreover, the program is expected to gain traction in the future since they have just hired a dean who has been a finance professor at Michigan. Previously, most of our deans have been associated with fields such as marketing and information systems management. But this new development has been made with the aim of improving the finance programs.

There have been a few cons though. The program does not have great traffic for employers. In fact, I happened to go to all career fairs and did not find more than 5 or 6 companies at every fair who were willing to hire international graduates in the Master in Finance program although the situation was definitely better for US citizens. Therefore, job wise it may not necessarily be a great prospect if you are an international student.

Some of the companies that come to hire are JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, the big four accounting firms, and a few others who are looking to fill positions in their Finance departments (Lockheed Martin, GE, etc.). But again, most positions are for US citizens and undergrads.

The MSF also runs on the back burner of the university’s MBA program which is the case in most schools, i.e. the MBA program will often dominate the MSF program as the masters in finance  is a relatively unknown degree for many employers. The other problem I experienced was the lack of diversity in the program. Out of 60 odd students, 90% were from China while the remaining from the US and one or two from other countries. This is a problem especially for Chinese students who are looking to interact with Americans in order to improve their English skills, etc. Naturally, as a result, most Chinese students struggle in developing their communication skills which could also be the reason why employers don’t know much about our MSF yet.

 

3)     Who would you recommend an Master in Finance to?

If you are looking to specialize in finance (having already taken finance in undergrad like I did), I think the MSF is a brilliant option. Like I said, even though I had studied finance before in undergrad, but the MSF is on another level altogether. Moreover, the program I did was more like a shortened MBA but focused towards finance (without having to go through all the needless courses in MBA). Infact, I can safely say that our MSFs are much better in their finance skills compared to MBAs in finance.  That’s why I found it ideal for me at this time. I also think if you majored in something other than finance, then the one year MSF is a good starting point to enter into the field. It is a quick way to learn about finance without spending too much money on an MBA.

However, be careful about the program you select especially considering its job prospects, the companies that come to hire, which positions they hire for and what are they looking for (undergrads? US citizens?). I think this is one area that business schools themselves do not make it clear on their career websites. You should definitely inquire about it though since it is important.

4)     Anything else. Feel free to talk about recruiting, groups you were involved in, Syracuse, job search, etc. Anything you want.

I would just like to add here that I think job search is a different animal altogether. And unless you are from maybe MIT or any other top MSF program in the country, you will still have to get jobs through networking. LinkedIn is a great tool and that’s how I got most of my offers.

 I would also like to point out that the business school building is state of the art with access to Bloomberg, Capital IQ and many other modern tools used in the industry. There is also an investment club that goes by the name of Orange Value Fund which is a good place to learn how to invest. The student-run club manages a small value fund.

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Here is a link to the Syracuse University Master in Finance program