UC Berkeley Master of Financial Engineering Program

UC Berkeley Master of Financial Engineering Program

I am the current student at the Berkeley MFE program (class of 2019). This program is great! Linda Kreitzman, the director of our program, is extremely helpful and dedicated, knowing everyone on the wall street. The program is intense, fast-paced, offering state of the art skillsets both in buy-side and sell-side.
I graduated from this program and found it to be outstanding. Linda Kreitzman, the director of the program, is extremely dedicated and her outstanding effort to place students is truly remarkable. The program provides a foundation for careers on the buy side and sell side and several students have gone on to work as data scientists at technology firms. The program is extremely intense and fast-paced, so be ready. The only weakness of the program is that it is relatively far from NYC, although places just as well as other programs there and is well recognized in international financial centers (London, HK, etc.).
I was graduated from this program in 2013. I think It is a great program offered me with systematical training in Quantitative methods, financial knowledge, analytical skills and market intuitions. The career service is helpful to ensure everyone's internship and full time placement.
I am a graduate of this program (class of 2015). This program is outstanding. The faculty are excellent, and the dedication of the program office to the students is inspiring. My background before the MFE was in analysis of PDE, and I came to the program to build that skill set into one that is applicable in a wide variety of settings in the financial services industry.
I am a current student at the Berkeley MFE program. Joining this program has been one of the best decisions in my life so far. This program brings excellent professors, courses, students under one roof in a intensely packed program. The three terms I have taken till now have brought out the best in me (and has made me so tired as well). I did not know I could do so much. I have learnt a lot and feel confident that with a brand like Berkeley Haas MFE, the amazing learning opportunities, the efforts that I have put in and with the career service that one gets here - I will get job offers that I would like to take up. Most people in my batch do feel this way. Having said that its important to stress that this is a very very intense program and apart from technical abilities and intelligence having the right attitude is also very important to do well in the program. Its very easy to get demotivated because you are tested day in and day out ( whether its assignments, exams or interviews) and its not possible for somebody to do well in everything at all point in time. Accepting the fact that its ok to do average or less than average in some or multiple facets is a fact that many students here feel difficult to deal with.The program is competitive but not as much as I thought before joining. Classmates are very helpful. Further though one competes with classmates for jobs one competes with only a subsection for a particular job because people bring different skills are of varied experience and age in here.
I attended the program in 2014. The curriculum structure is amazing. Great balance between academic vs profesional courses. You get chance to meet and taught be some of the reverred name from industry and academia.
Support from MFE office is very helpful. They keep in touch even after you graduate and make sure that you are happy with your current job. They provide us with feedback on our interview skills and resume even before we reach Berkeley. From day one we get seminars from different organizations telling us what they do.
Other than MFE life at Berkeley in general is awesome, and I am very happy that I decided to do MFE from Berkeley.
Excellent professors, career services and alumni network. First and foremost, the alumni network is incredible, and this leads to better collaboration and better job opportunities. I've had countless cases where alumni of the program from prior years (who I don't even know) have taken the time to discuss their positions with me and assist me with potential job opportunities. There is a dense group of alums at the highest tier IBs in NYC, which makes it far more likely that job applications will be well received. In general, career services are top notch, and Linda's team work late into the evenings and weekends to make things happen for you when it comes to internships as well as full time positions. Finally, the caliber of professors is very high, with many being influential practitioners in their fields or famous academics who basically invented whole areas of the quant discipline. You feel like you're in good hands, and you are.
This is a great program. The program director is awesome; she puts in 200% for the students. The placement record is great. The class is great mix of fresh graduates, PhDs and experienced professionals. There is huge learning from great professors and fellow classmates.
Joining this program was honestly the best decision I've ever made. People ask me all the time what sets it apart. First and foremost, the job placement is unmatched thanks to the program director who apparently never sleeps. She's the kind of person who knows your strengths better than you do, and knows how to sell you to your employer while pushing you in the exact direction you need to be truly prepared. And obviously, it never hurts to also have the extensive alumni network that the Berkeley MFE has built over years and years being one of the first programs.

Beyond that, the program really crams your brain with experience, and not just via the internship (which boasted 100% placement when I was there). Most of the curriculum is group work, and you really learn how to work with people, and more specifically, with the types of people you'll be working with in quant finance or data science.

It's not an easy program. It's really geared for those that are thirsting for the challenge of their lives, but it's a challenge that will transform you. Any Berkeley student will tell you a different way their life was changed. For me, beyond all the skills, it was really understanding my strengths-- how I stood out in the context of all these brilliant minds, both in the program and during the internship.

Overall, it's the program that will test your limits, raise them, and set the course for rest of your life.
Amazing program that will change your life. You might not get much sleep during the quick one year duration of the program but the benefits are worth it. Subjects are taught by great, world class pioneers in the field. Everything is taught from a very practical perspective.
Last but definitely not least, my hat's off to Linda for being the best at what she does. Because of her my class has reached 100% placement before our internship period started.
Great program with a great team at the helm. Linda had managed to put together a perfectly balanced program with great professors, theoretical and applied classes and an amazing careers department. From day 1, you're in an environment that pushes you beyond your limits and prepares you for a career in the best institutions. The careers department understood right away what my goals were and worked hard to get me in front of the right people as the right companies to get my dream job. I couldn't have asked for more. My fellow students were also amazingly smart and I learnt as much from them as I did from the classes. The Berkeley MFE put together a group of students and an environment that fosters collaboration and you can see it with all the competitions that Berkeley teams win every year. The program is extremely intense since it's condensed in 1 year so you have to be ready to work really hard, but it's really worth it.
GREAT program with GREAT job placement! It is definitely the BEST. The one-year program is highly efficient in terms of course work and job searching. Everyone is expected to spend two months on 3 courses each quarter, and the contents are compact and useful for real finance industry. The curriculum covers nearly every important topic in finance, from fundamental mathematical theory to practical industrial techniques, taught by well-known professors and industry managers. Although the schedule is intense, every student of UCB MFE is able to do a 3-month internship at the most prestigious financial companies such as Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Blackrock, Barclays, etc. Also, the most important thing is that the EVERY student can be place if you check the placement history, and most of them ended up with great full-time offers afterwards. The strong connection between UCB MFE and industry is out of your imagination, and their top career service has already made its name all over the world.
I sought out an MFE program to switch out of the insurance industry -- and I firmly believe U.C. Berkeley's MFE program has not only helped me achieve that goal, but also went above and beyond in guiding me in the right path.

The program's one-year curriculum makes it particularly intense, and with quarterly schedule, the pace can be mind-bobbling sometimes. Having that said, that type of intensity certainly helped me prepare in going into investment banking!

The faculty is world-class, with some from U.C. Berkeley but others invited from renowned universities in the U.S. and around the world. Although some courses can seem not too useful, there are a number of elective choices you can make to better fit your needs/goals.

Perhaps the highlight of the program is the 3-month fall/winter internship that is truly unique among all MFE programs. Potential employers -- well-renowned investment banks, hedge funds, asset management firms, etc. -- recruit directly from the program, and because of the fall/winter schedule as opposed to the summer, your competition is basically limited to your own classmates instead of with other schools. That type of setup doesn't mean you don't need to work hard, but rather the transparency in the internship search process makes it an openly collaborative one instead of that shrouded in secrecy and opaqueness.

No mention of financial engineering programs would be complete without speaking of U.C. Berkeley MFE's program, and in fact, it is undoubtedly one of the best -- if not the best -- program out there!
Berkeley's MFE is one of the best Master in Finance in the US.

The asset of this program are its excellent academic level and its top placement statistics.
Students learn there the all they need to be successful as a quantitative analyst: the program explains the nuts and bolts of complex financial products as well as how to use programming languages to price them efficiently.
I graduated from this program in March of 2009.
I had an undergraduate and Master's in Computer Engineering prior to joining this program. While I discovered this program accidentally, I was thoroughly impressed by how thorough the admission process was. The admission committee actually guides you through the process and suggests remedial measures to improve upon the experience.

Every one of the reviews here mentions how intense the program is. They are all correct. However, nothing prepares you for this. In addition to the academic component, you also get a lot of detailed career guidance starting from your resume all the way to the firms to target based on your interests/experience etc.

The learning is constant and it is in the form of challenging projects, great teaching, and tough assignments. When you finally reach the end of the program, you will be surprised by how much you have learned.

The focus of learning is in truly understanding the subject matter and not just giving you the ability to prove mathematical proofs.

Owing the fact that the program is part of UCB and Haas and the admission process is challenging, the very best in the world end up in this program. This makes learning from your peers a big part of the learning experience.

As I mentioned above I graduate in March of 2009, perhaps, the toughest job market on record and was easily able to find a position before graduation.

There are many more reasons to join this program, but those ought to cover the most common ones.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I have a Bachelors degree in Engineering and an advanced degree (masters).

Did you get admitted to other programs?
Yes and also got admitted but chose UCB.

Why did you choose this program (over others, if applicable)?
First its within Haas Business school, most quant programs were in engineering schools so I felt they would be significantly lacking on the business side of the education, so having the program in the business school was a huge plus for me. Other factors were the reputation, one year to complete (two year programs were too long and expensive) and the placement records.

Tell us about the application process at this program?
I applied got a very technical interview (brain teasers, statistics, maths – probability, derivatives: integrate this, economics and current finance related news and events) and it was very well structured, then one other more relaxed behavior interview and got admitted.

Does this program offer refresher courses for incoming students? How useful was it?
Yes. C++ and 2math courses. If you successfully complete them you should have a good foundation for the program, but it was just a lot of work and plenty assignments involved.

Tell us about the courses selection in this program. Any special courses you like?
Solid course selection from derivatives (even an advanced derivatives course if you want to knock yourself out), empirical, fixed income, credit risk, etc. My best course was the equity and currency market, specifically equities portion – active portfolio management taught by the godfather himself Ron Kahn. The currency portion by Michael Melvin was great too.

Tell us about the quality of teaching
Most of the classes were top notch, Johan Walden’s teaching of derivatives – excellent. When you are taught by people who know their stuff inside out, its really great. With that said of course one or two classes were just ok, nothing special but most were a solid learning experience. The program is usually quick to correct issues with courses, once the half way evaluations are out.

Materials used in the program
Lecture notes were provided but I’m a huge fan of textbooks so I used a lot of text to supplement the lecture notes.

Programming component of the program
Most of the programming is done in Matlab, especially for group courses but individually you are free to use anything you like. Most people use: Matlab, C++, Java, R, Python, VBA etc, really unless specified otherwise, you can use what you are most comfortable with. Towards the end most people had switched to the language required by their jobs: Python, R, etc.
Some compulsory courses are very programming-heavy: Empirical Methods, stochastic, Fixed Income and Quantitative Methods in Derivatives Pricing.

Projects
The program does a good job with projects. In the first semester projects are brought in from big name financial firms (i-banks, hedge funds, rating agencies etc) and students apply to work on the projects, individually or in groups. This is especially great for people without direct finance experience to get something under their belt and it really helps to be able to talk about them during interviews, heck some people even got internships from working on projects.
Individual projects are also allowed later in the program and a final applied finance project is a requirement for graduation.

Career service
In two word – Exceptional & Unparalleled!
I’m going to deviate for a second here and say it’s a bit sad UCB MFE’s are possibly too busy to post reviews and it makes the program not so popular on the internet community, definitely not the same in the finance community, with that said I can’t for the love of my life understand how the program is ranked on quantnet, it definitely should be number one or at worst second. Why? Amazing business school, placement record, starting salary, exclusivity (really important), and a target school (I can’t even over-emphasize this especially for international students).

Back to career services – The careers team headed by Linda is amazing, they work day and night to move heavens for you, how? For my internship I must have got close to 10 interviews, and they all seemed to all happen at once. People shouldn’t even need that many but I never said no to an interview even if I didn’t want the company. Fulltime was just as many firms. The most random thing is the class receiving emails on Saturday at 2am of Linda saying this job is available, apply – I’m like doesn’t she take the weekend off or sleep!!! But I definitely do appreciate her efforts and the teams effort – they are really the best.
One other thing is you get calls from jobs you never applied to because your resumes are sent to every top company possible and the programs deep connections means someone is almost always calling. If you are not getting calls, have someone look over your resume or work with the office because something is wrong, even people straight out of undergrad with no experience had lots of interviews! The careers service also negotiates salaries if needed!
The placement record is available on the website and its great, I know there was a debate a while back about it validity and I can now attest to that, I got way more than the average for the internship and for fulltime as well, again the beauty of averages and median is half are above and the other half below, strive to sell your skillset and you should be compensated well for it (an insight - I actually tripled my salary after the program, and I was making decent money before I joined). One of the big banks is even rumored to give sign on bonuses that makes it seem like it paid for your whole tuition (must be nice!). I ended up at a big ibank, so I’m more than happy. At the end of the day two things mattered to me prior to joining the program – Knowledge and end up in a great well paying career, both were achieved.

Can you comment on the social interaction between students of different ethnics, nationalities in the program?
I think it is still the most diversified MFE program on the market, countries represented 20+ across every single continent (again not blaming quantnet rankings but you see a theme here?) However lots of people flock to people from the same countries initially because they are shy, just more comfortable etc. But nothing a few social events (beers) can’t shake up.

What do you like about the program?
It met my goals and objectives.

What DON’T you like about the program?
Off cycle makes it hard to get into some graduate programs, shouldn’t be a problem as a good number of students still end up in ibanks like myself. I would like to see better GSI/Graduate instructors to complement the class lectures. Some people say its in the west coast so it limits placement in new york (this wasn’t the case for me, I interned and I’m working full time in the east coast).

Suggestions for the program to make it better
More interaction with the MBAs (I know this is hard because we don’t have the same timeline) and maybe more electives.

What is your current job status? What are you looking for?
Employed at a large i-bank in the east coast - solid title, solid pay.

Other comments
Damn! The program is too intense, can we please turn the second semester down a notch and not try to boil the Atlantic ocean?
On a side note there is loans for international student which is really a huge plus and doesn’t need a co-signer or credit history. I had gone thru hell to secure a loan elsewhere before I became privy to this information :( (I wish I knew I could get a loan without a co-signer before I joined) I didn’t end up using it, but a lot of international student did use the loan services.

Thanks to quantnet for the knowledge pre-application, during and post. It only felt right giving back to the quantnet community by sharing my experience during the program. With that said the quantnet ranking still bothers me, it should be definitely higher. I am interested in how the next ranking looks.
Sorry for any typos, I couldn’t proof read before posting.
– TheQuantFifteen.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Joined the program right after completing undergraduate with no finance experience. I studied full-time in the program from 3/2008-3/2009

Did you get admitted to other programs?
Yes - applied to another major program, got accepted.
Why did you choose this program (over others, if applicable)?
1 year accelerated program, required internship, more focus on finance than some of the other programs, and a 100% placement record for the program.

Tell us about the application process at this program
Application process was straightforward. The admissions staff was quick in responding to questions and the application to decision took lot less than I anticipated. I was interviewed by Linda K. (the executive director) during the process and after being admitted, she even advised me on what I could do to get the most out of the program.

Does this program have refresher courses for incoming students? How useful was it?
I only took Math course. I was pretty good at math and didn't want to take it (the admissions committee required that I take it before joining the program), but some of the topics covered in the refresher helped a lot. The pre-program courses were geared toward MFE admits which made some of the math in the program a little easier, even for me. Also, the webcast of lectures was a great feature.

Tell us about the courses selection in this program. Any special courses you like?
The MFE program covers a broad range of courses covering everything from basics to complex securities in the fixed income, and equity asset classes. The courses do a good job of covering basic materials, for those who might need a review, to advanced modeling and derivatives pricing for those interested in the most quantitative side of the program. The program is well designed for preparing students to solve different problems by giving a broad set of tools.

The curriculum was somewhat more flexible than the website might suggest as students got a special course in advanced modeling on request in the last term. There is also an option to get credit by assisting some professors in their research (aside from the applied finance project) or working for a firm if the project is considered rigorous enough.

Tell us about the quality of teaching
We had a lot of classes taught by leading practitioners in their fields - Longstaff for FI, Kahn for Equity, Rubinstein for the fundamental concepts. A lot of our instructors were really good at teaching and explaining the concepts. Just like any other program, not all instructors are good, but all of them were helpful and usually accessible (even on appointment basis for those working in the field). There were separate help sessions conducted by the GSIs (TAs) and they were also very accessible.

Materials used in the program
Some professors had their own notes prepared for the lecture. Some relied on the textbooks (sometimes written by themselves). Sometimes it's great, or sometimes it's not required as much, just depends on the instructor's style of teaching. Hull book isn't used but people are expected to know the basics and even refer to those if necessary.

Programming component of the program
There's a fair amount of programming for derivative pricing courses. C++ is preferred for option pricing, but not required. Matlab is the other language used the most. People can use VBA or SAS, but usually it's not very common. There's usually at least one class in each term that requires programming.

Projects
There's group projects in a lot of classes, beginning with empirical finance in the first term. Most projects are group projects (with a big exception of the final Applied Finance Project), to be done in groups of 3-4 students. Projects are a big component of the final grade and can be quite demanding. I found most projects were a great way to apply the techniques learned in that (or even other) course.
Some project examples were designing and pricing a complex derivative, doing econometric study, evaluating and hedging risks in a trade etc.

The Applied Finance Project is done individually and is expected to be the toughest and biggest project in the program, akin to master level thesis.

Career service
The program was very helpful in finding opportunities for the students and placing them for both internship and full-time jobs. The executive director (Linda K.) has a lot of contacts enabling her to find a lot of opportunities for the students. Even though the internship is from October to January, a lot of firms, big and small, have special relations with the program to offer internships during that time.
The staff works regularly with the students to place them, helping them with interviewing skills, resume critique, etc. Students also have access to a consult to do mock interviews with or to get help on cover letters or other writing material. Even in 2008, amid the financial crisis, most of the students got internships and full time jobs. They also helped negotiate a lot of offers if the employer offered a job with low salary. The career service doesn't just stop at graduation either - alums can go back and get a lot of help if they are looking for a new job.

Can you comment on the social interaction between students of different ethnics, nationalities in the program?
The program had a lot of international students, mostly from China, SE Asia and India. There were a few Europeans as well as some from other cultures. The students do form their own groups but being in groups forced students to study with others.

What do you like about the program?
I think having students from different backgrounds is one of the biggest positives of the program. While the curriculum is well structures and instructors are very good and know their materials, interacting with others in your class makes it a great learning experience. There were people with no experience at all, people with PhDs in science or engineering, or even people with a strong background in finance. Bouncing ideas back and forth between different people meant a great learning experience for everyone.
The students were also helpful when it came to getting internships and jobs. Even though everyone in reality was competing with each other to get a job, most students helped each other out by prepare them for interviews. The career service offered by the program is also top-notch.
The program is extremely intense and prepares you well for the real world.

What DON’T you like about the program?
I wish we had a longer break during the program, since a good chunk of the 1 week break after each term was used up doing projects.
Also, scholarships would've made it a bit better financially, although considering it's only one year, it's a lot cheaper and better than other programs.

Suggestions for the program to make it better
Make sure students know that the staff is available for any help and guidance and encourage them to make use of it as much as they want.
A lot of students start the program expecting they'll become a trader right away and make millions in their first year. If you don't have much experience, the odds of that happening are against you (except maybe in High Frequency trading shops) and students need to know this. Instead people will have to work their way through to get in that position, and the program helps out with that to ensure you achieve your goal.

What are your current job status? What are you looking for?
Working at an asset management firm as an analyst.

Other comments
Even though Berkeley is far from NY, the students have a lot of opportunities to work in New York, although some people decide to stay in the Bay Area because of the weather.
The whole class gets a budget to organize social events such as pub nights, weekend trips (e.g. Lake Tahoe) and other fun activities.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I hold a Bachelor's degree and have a little experience in finance
I studied full-time in the program from 3/2009-3/2010

Did you get admitted to other programs?
No

Why did you choose this program (over others, if applicable)?
The program's reputation, situation within a business school and placement record sealed the deal for me.
Tell us about the application process at this program
I applied just before the very last deadline. Within a couple of weeks I had had a 10 minute "interview" with the program director and was granted admission. Communication throughout the process was excellent and I have no qualms with any aspect.

Does this program offer refresher courses for incoming students? How useful was it?
I enrolled in all three of the pre-program courses: math, statistics and C++. Having never had any exposure to C++ before, this course was challenging but nonetheless valuable. The value of the others came as much from a reminder of the hard work required in education as for their content specifically!

Tell us about the courses selection in this program. Any special courses you like?
The program covers all major asset classes bar commodities. Although there are only a handful of opportunities to be selective with regards to module options, there is enough variety to keep most people happy.
Mark Rubinstein's course on derivatives was brilliant. He was energetic, enthusiastic, knowledgable and even had the best set of lecture slides I have ever seen. Where other programs may produce students who know mathematical option theory well, I believe that not only do I now have this but that I can also "feel" options.

Tell us about the quality of teaching
The overwhelming majority of the teaching was top quality. I congratulate Alexei Tchistyi for successfully teaching me stochastic calculus (something I originally thought may be an impossible task for anyone!). Further excellent instruction was delivered by individuals such as Domingo Tavella, Richard Stanton, Suneel Udpa, Jeff Shen and Michael Melvin, and the contributions from the GSIs were invaluable.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that there was a problem perhaps with one course early on which soured the first impression of the program. The response from the program office however has been very encouraging and the material was re-covered by the likes of Rubinstein, Ron Khan and Hayne Leland. Future applicants need not worry as the issue has been comprehensively rectified.

Materials used in the program
I have tended to prefer to use the lectures and notes provided during the courses so I'm not really in a position to comment on the quality of the backup reading material.

Programming component of the program
At different times I have used C++, Matlab and VBA for homeworks and projects. Most students settled on a language of choice (usually Matlab but in some cases C++). A few of the compulsory courses are very programming-heavy: Empirical Methods, Fixed Income and Quantitative Methods in Derivatives Pricing.

Projects
There are a number of group projects and a liberal smattering of individual projects. Topics vary, and include the creation and pricing of new derivative instruments and the design and backtesting of trading strategies.The Applied Finance Project has been referred to as the "final exam" for the MFE program, and is an individual project attempting to answer a topical quantitative financial question using the quantitative techniques taught in the course.

Career service
Exemplary. At one stage during my internship search I was emailed out of the blue by a trader at a leading Investment Bank requesting an interview for something closely resembling my dream job. I had not seen the position advertised anywhere else - he had apparently just received my resume from the program office. This is the kind of opportunity not afforded by other MFE programs lacking dedicated placement teams. In the end I interned at a different bulge bracket IB in New York after having turned down another offer elsewhere.

Can you comment on the social interaction between students of different ethnics, nationalities in the program?
There are bound to be friendship groups amongst people sharing common first languages, but at UCB these were easily pierced. I will leave the program with 62 new friends, ALL of whom I feel I know well and have interacted with socially outside the MFE program.
What do you like about the program?
The commitment to placement is second to none. The program director works day and night for her students and the reaction to student feedback is swift and decisive.

What DON’T you like about the program?
Because the program is off-cycle, some students find it difficult to get on to companies' graduate programs which run from July/August.
Suggestions for the program to make it better
Each concern I have had during the program was raised to the office, and each has been acted upon already.

What are your current job status? What are you looking for?
I have turned down one full time offer from a bulge bracked IB and will wait patiently for my dream job. I am quite sure it is not far away, given the efforts of the placement team on my behalf.

Other comments
Side note: my bald spot appears to have shrunk during the MFE program. Perhaps there is some kind of "inverse-stress" aspect at work from the knowledge of having made the right decision in joining the program!
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Some financial experience, but not a lot.
Did you get admitted to other programs?
Only applied to one other masters program, and got rejected.

Why did you choose this program (over others, if applicable)?
Initially, professors like Rubinstein and Longstaff made the program attractive. Longstaff left, therefore so much for that. I had studied Rubinstein's model before and was quite intrigued by the guy, But the decision was mostly made because it's a one year program and I knew ex-ante that the quality of incoming students is very high. Location was also a consideration.
I studied full-time in the program from 3/2009-3/2010

Tell us about the application process at this program
Quite disorganized. Many of my classmates found out they were accepted only one or two weeks before starting. Very expensive entry fee and security deposit.

Does this program have refresher courses for incoming students? How useful was it?
C++ was too fast and almost never used during the masters (MatLab used for almost all classes). Perhaps it should be offered at the end, given that most jobs do require C++
Math refresher was excellent, very practical. Well worth the money. I took the course remotely and had no problem following the material.
Statistics course overlapped a lot with Math course. Of the three, it's the one you could do without.

Tell us about the courses selection in this program. Any special courses you like?
No one can beat Rubinstein to teach you about derivatives. He is an old-school teacher who cares more about the intuition than the math (the way it should be, in my opinion). You are learning from the guy who developed CRR, he knows the topic inside and out and can respond to any question you may have.
Electives are not many, but remember, this is a one-year program and a there is no time to diversify a lot.
Credit Risk Modeling was very practical. I thought it was a useless course until I found myself impressing my internship colleagues with cute little bits of information.
There is no course on commodity trading, which is a shame, and this year's High Frequency Trading seminar looks like a fast and somewhat slapdash attempt to catch up with the times.

Tell us about the quality of teaching
There is a high variance in the quality of teaching. Besides the in-house teachers, who are very good, there are others that are brought in from the private sector to complement the program with a practitioner point of view. This is where the variance originates.
BlackRock is the largest sell-side firm in the area; thus they provide many of the private-sector professors. Most of them are very good (Melvin, Grinold are gurus of their field), some of them do lack on experience as teachers and were easily intimidated by some of our more incisive classmates.

BTW, the caliber of the cohort is quite high; some of my classmates are attack dogs that smell fear on professors and prey on them without any prejudice. Suits them well.
As I mentioned before, the in-house professors (Haas faculty) are top-notch: Wallace, Leland, O'Brien, Stanton. Just look at their CVs. Leland goes through dynamic asset management with authority. You expect, at a minimum, that teachers are confident at what they teach, even if it's boring or irrelevant. There is no shortage of confidence here.

Materials used in the program
I'm too lazy to write the list. Two things stand out: Hull is not used, and Wilmott's books are only suggested readings (I loved the Wilmott book, and thought that I would be the best in class just because I read it before starting the program).
Most professors bring their own stuff. As with all teaching materials, some of it is very good, some of it is useless. No different from any other place.

Programming component of the program
You make it as programming intensive as you want. If you are into the heavy programming, there is no shortage of projects, classes (Advanced Quantitative Methods) to knock yourself out. At the very least, you leave the program knowing Matlab very well.
Other languages, such as SAS and R are allowed but no one really uses them. Matlab seems to be the current lingua prima of financial analysis (not financial development, that is C++) .

Projects
Most are group projects, except for one final project (graduation requirement) that has to be undertaken alone.

Career service
So everyone wants a job in Wall Street. We are not Ph.D students here looking for tenure. And you WILL get a job after this program. Yes, there is this obnoxious fetish for jobs that permeates the MFE office and students, which forces us to do stupid mock interviews, re-do resumes n times and apply to jobs with 2-hour deadlines. This environment easily makes people jealous of others who seem to get more interviews than you, because the office is very open in letting you know who is getting what.
But I guess that is a small price to pay for having access to what is perhaps the best career service in the business. I am not overstating this, the placement office works day and night trying to place you, no matter how bad you are interviewing.
At the end of the 3rd quarter, people who wanted internships had internships, and people who didn't want internships simply stopped interviewing.
I am not in the top quartile of my class; with luck I close to the median. And still I have interviewed with about quite a few number firms, including two large American banks (yes, that one that starts with a G and ends with an s, for those of you who want to work there) and several well-known European banks.
The program opens the doors; it's up to you to get in.
If your priority is learning above placement, I guess you have other options: go for the Ph.D or go for a more theoretical masters program.

Can you comment on the social interaction between students of different ethnics, nationalities in the program?
More than the nationality or ethnicity, the relevant variable here is age. We have classmates who are as young as 24 and as old as 40, so groups seem to form around age groups. Ethnicity or nationality seem not to be a problem inside or outside the classroom.

What do you like about the program?
I always felt quite smart wherever I went. I don't anymore. The ability of my classmates to find insightful questions where I thought that certainty was complete is just amazing. More than anything, it's the quality of the cohorts year after year that makes this program special. Of course, that also means egos run a muck. But in finance that is the rule, not the exception.
Access to Bloomberg is easy, the computing facilities are top-notch and libraries have all necessary material.
Many graduates decide to forgo the New York life after experiencing the Bay Area. I don't blame them.
It's a one-year program, so at the end, your student loan debt will be much lower than an equivalent two-year program.

What DON’T you like about the program?
It's a one-year program. You are supposed to learn all about fixed income in two-and-a-half months. Same with derivatives, credit, mortgages, and so on. It feels not like drinking water from a hose, but rather like drinking champagne from an open hydrant. You wonder if perhaps it wouldn't be better to take it easier and go a bit slower on the subjects. You use your weekends and holidays here to study, and still, you feel like you missed a lot of stuff.

Suggestions for the program to make it better
I don't like the March starting date. It's rainy and most companies do their hiring for the end of the summer, so you feel you are always either too early or too late. And yet most companies come to Berkeley despite the wacky schedule, so they probably trust the program so much that they are willing to hire off-season.

What are your current job status? What are you looking for?
Have a job offer, a good one that I prefer to not to disclose. But I am still interviewing.

Other comments
Weather in California provides more utility units than any option in the Northeast, especially this time of the year. Living in Berkeley is an experience that everyone should try.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I studied science/engineering and worked in the engineering field for 2-3 years before undertaking the MFE program. I studied full-time in the program from 3/2009-3/2010

Did you get admitted to other programs?
No

Why did you choose this program (over others, if applicable)?
Housed in business school. Accelerated 1 year program. Embedded internship

Tell us about the application process at this program
Comprehensive application followed with phone/in-person interview.

Does this program offer pre-refresher courses for incoming students? How useful was it?
Yes, preparation programs were offered in math, statistics, and computer programing. These courses were useful to prepare for the program

Tell us about the courses selection in this program. Any special courses you like?
There was a financial innovation course that was taught by a professor who gave interesting insights and perspectives.

Tell us about the quality of teaching
Most of the instructors are working practitioners. Thus, class schedules are arranged to fit their schedule and often require late evening or weekend classes. Furthermore, availability of practitioner instructors is essentially non-existent.

Materials used in the program
Poor choices of text books. We used a pre-print edition for one text, it was full of typos, notational errors, and did not include a table of contents. Course books were essentially useless during the MFE study and you are dependent on instructor's lecture notes.

Programming component of the program
Mainly matlab. Although students have the flexibility to use whatever they wish in most situations. Most courses are very programming intensive. More effort is spent on coding than learning underlying financial concepts.

Projects
There is a applied finance project that all students must undertake. It is an individual project designed to hone the students ability to attach a real-world financial problem.

Career service
The MFE office helps secure internship and full-time positions.

Can you comment on the social interaction between students of different ethnics, nationalities in the program?
Great diversity in ethnicities. Although, most people still work/socialize with their own ethnicity. This is particularly true for foreign students (i.e. no other academic study in US).

What do you like about the program?
Interesting curriculum.

What DON’T you like about the program?
Too much useless material. Program administrators are generally unprofessional in their duties. Genuine learning takes a back seat to internship, employment statistics. Too expensive.
Suggestions for the program to make it better
Better instructors and design of course curriculum.

What are your current job status? What are you looking for?
No current full time job offers. Open to most all fields.
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