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.
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.
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.
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.