I get asked frequently what someone should look at when comparing different master in finance programs. Since things are kind of slow I figured I would put a post up on what I would look for in comparing programs. Hope this helps.

What to look for when comparing MSF programs?

1) Placement information

–  This is probably the most important thing to look for. Some schools offer really detailed info, some not so much. Of course, the more the better, but there has to be something there at the very least. You are paying a good amount of money plus not working for a year, you should really know what the degree is going to get you.

2) Brand

– An MSF is a great degree, but it is also another name on your resume. The one year you spend will give you the chance to network with an entirely different alumni base and build connections at that new school. Is it going to be worth it? I went to Villanova for a lot of reasons, but one of the big ones is because it is well known in the area I want to work. I researched where alumni are located and what industries they work in. Anyone who talks to me will here me repeatedly say that the MSF degree is regional. This means that if you want to work in California you probably shouldn’t get a MSF from Boston College. Ohio State is a new MSF program, but everyone knowns OSU. These things are important when it comes to networking or striking up a conversation.

3) Cost

– The MSF really is your last shot until your MBA (if you dare go back to school again). Whatever happens, you are going to have to work after you are done. I think cost needs to play an important role in your decision.

4) Program Set Up

– There are three types of MSF (MSF only, MBA hybrid and a mix of the two). The program at Villanova is an MSf only, full cohort. The one at Ohio State is going to be a mix. The program at Syracuse is an MBA hybrid.

Each has strengths and weaknesses. MSF only cohorts are great because you are only in MSF specific classes and most everyone has a base knowledge. The finance tends to get more in depth and everyone has similar goals. Bad side is you do not get exposure to MBA’s who tend to have more experience and life knowledge.

MBA hybrid allows you to take classes with MBA students, but still focus all on finance. This is great in the aspect that you get to network with MBA’s while still focusing on a specialized subject, but MBA classes tend to offer more of an overview on many topics vs a deep dive on a few.

A lot of schools offer a mix which is a nice balance and allows a school to satisfy a variety of interests that you cannot always touch on in a lock step program. Ohio State is taking advantage of their MBA brand as well as offering 4 unique specializations. Vanderbilt offers something like this also. You do give up camaraderie by splitting a group up, but in exchange you get more flexibility.

Keep these things in mind when looking at programs.


www.quantnet.com – Andy focuses only on MFE programs and he does it extremely well. His forum is pretty high level so anyone interested in seeing what financial engineering is like should go and poke around. He is very active on the site and a great guy to talk to.