Everyone from derivatives traders to hedge fund managers want to predict financial market outcomes. Who wouldn’t bet on a sure thing? The reality is that no one can really guarantee where the stock market is headed. But don’t think people aren’t trying.
Financial engineers are the folks that just might figure it out. They design sophisticated financial models used for both forecasting and valuing the growing variety and complexity of investment instruments, like derivative options and futures. Companies are shelling out six-digit salaries and hefty signing bonuses to master’s students with the quantitative aptitude and computer programming acumen necessary to succeed in this niche job market.The Master in Science in Financial Engineering program at Baruch not only maintains an up-to-date interdisciplinary curriculum, but also provides students with a one of a kind support network. Professors, fellow classmates, and even alumni invest in the students’ success. “We’re like a family, we even have parties,” says program director Dr. Dan Stefanica.
Baruch offers a program matching computer programming savvy with mathematical expertise. Courses combine elements of financial and computer engineering through the use of applied mathematics. Though there is no GPA or GRE requirement, the program is highly selective. With a 25 percent acceptance rate and 15 percent drop out rate, completing the program is no easy task. The stress, and occasional seven-hour exams, can be overwhelming. Still, this intensity may better prepare student for life in the real marketplace.
The program only costs $9,000, compared to the average starting salary for a program graduate, which is $81,000. According to their academic websites, the current cost of program equivalents at NYU, Columbia, and Carnegie Mellon are $40,000, $35,000, and $60,000 respectively. Students enrolled in this program know that they are getting a great deal, as 12 out of 12 students surveyed said price was the number one reason they chose Baruch.
In turn, when students graduate they are compelled to give back to Baruch. Phat Loc, who graduated from the program in December 2003, initiated a mentoring program between alumni and students. Loc’s benevolence was common while in the program. His altruism has been emulated by his peers and is now a part of the program’s dynamics. Four years later the quality of the students remains the same.
Another instrumental figure in facilitating student job placement is faculty member Dr. Sylvain Raynes. Of the 16 fall ’05 graduates, seven were placed as a direct result of Raynes’ efforts. Aside from being a master of structured finance, he is highly regarded in the industry.
“Once you’re in their office, answering their questions, everything on the resume is meaningless,” says Ben Birnbaum, a full-timer set to graduate this fall.
No example better illustrates the program’s quality than the success of Bharath Govindarajan, who placed second in The Interactive Brokers Collegiate Trading Olympiad this winter. He built trading models that grew 80% in only ten weeks.
Although the masters program is housed in the Weisman School of Arts & Sciences, students must take courses in the Zicklin School of Business as well. Zicklin has been somewhat of a big brother type in aiding both student and program needs and offering assistance where necessary.
Though only about a thousand professionals graduate with degrees in this field, as technology capabilities grow, so will the need for professionals with superb math, finance, and computer skills. So if you excel at math or just love it and are interested in pursuing a career in finance, this program may be for you.
At a school where the majority of the student body come from middle-class backgrounds, programs like the Master of Science in Financial Engineering program make it possible to break class barriers. “The American Dream still works with this program,” says Stefanica.