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UCLA Financial Engineering program

UCLA Financial Engineering program

What do you think is unique about this program?
The faculty at UCLA Anderson is truly great. Most of the courses are very hands-on, you learned a lot of techniques and skills in solving real-world problems. Many professors come with an industry background, so it's interesting to hear them talk about how what we learned in the class could be applied to real world. I especially enjoyed the Fixed Income class given by Professor Francis Longstaff. His class got me interested in the world of fixed income, and the class material proves to be pretty practical and useful when it comes to my current job in short term interest rate trading.

The Quantitative Asset Management class given by Professor Jason Hsu provides the most up to date material in the asset management industry, including the research method they employed and the latest trend in the industry, as the professor himself works as CIO at an asset management firm. The Computation Finance class is a good combination of learning the derivatives pricing theory and the techniques of pricing those options and mortgage backed securities, which is the critical part to financial engineering. All in all, I was really satisfied with the organization of classes and the quality of the faculty.

The fact that UCLA MFE program is housed under Anderson school is one of the reasons why I chose this program against others, because being in business school gives you more resources in terms of job search, networking with alum and learning finance from a more business world point of view. The guest speaker sessions arranged by school, conversation on finance, and the NY Wall Street orientation street are all very good resources in helping you understand more about the finance industry, and that's something you can only find at a business school.

Career services
In terms of career service, we have a dedicated career director at UCLA MFE. The program works really hard in helping placing every student for summer internship and full time. Given that the program is still pretty young, not many bulge-bracket investment banks would come all the way to LA to set up an on campus recruit for our MFE students, but we have very good connection with local buy-side firms in LA, and the network and reputation is starting to build up.

But no matter how strong the school's brand name is, in the end, job search still comes down to whether you have a solid enough resume to catch hiring manager's attention. As far as I know, we had many classmates who got interviewed by investment banks and big asset management shops, so getting interviews is not a concern. The harder part falls on whether you are well prepared for interviews, and that's something that can only be done by you.
UCLA Anderson has a great finance faculty, who along side a good career service provide a great help in defining your ambition and rigour.

What do you think is unique about this program?
Faculty is great and very focused. Secondly, owing to part of management school, the program provides a overall grooming quite well. It is more like Finance MBA with a great deal of quantitative focus- in my view.

What are the weakest points about this program?
Too many courses in shorter time but this going to be changed from 2013 as the new program will be probably 14/15 months long.

Career services
It is quite good and after talking to seniors and comparing with our opportunities- I feel that placement service has become a lot better and and there is lot more visibility for this program on both- east coast and west coast.

Student body
Through career services predominantly. Moreover various events/trips are organized by career services, which help in building networks. Moreover, since this program is in business school- there is no dearth of networking. This is quite useful.
My Experience:
The reason why I am writing this review is because the UCLA MFE has been underplayed by most applicants as a weak/fledgling program and to increase awareness amongst new applicants about the UCLA MFE and my experience. As a current student in the UCLA MFE 2014 batch, I can say my experience has been absolutely fantastic. Having an undergrad in engineering and an MBA in finance coupled with experience as a programmer, prop trader and a research analyst, I joined the program with a thirst to learn advanced Math & Stats, build and implement models in Finance and move into the buy-side of the financial industry. The information and knowledge imparted in the course was much more than what I had expected and am very satisfied.


About the program:
Since the program spans for only 14 months, it can be extremely demanding, but the knowledge gained in those 14 months is enormous. Students gain a high level of proficiency in subjects like Econometrics, Stochastic Calculus and Computational methods in Finance along with enhanced programming skills in MATLAB, R and SAS.

Job placement:
The career management cell does an excellent job reaching out to companies and everyone has been very successful in securing an internship in my batch. I can't speak about full time jobs, since I am yet to graduate. But looking at the previous batch, I am quite confident that our batch will be well placed. You should also keep in mind that the career management can get you an interview, not a job! It is up to the candidate to impress and convince potential employers of his/her skills and knowledge.


Pros & Cons:
Although, UCLA covers all areas in quantitative finance, the course material caters more towards careers in Asset Management and Hedge funds. If you are looking for an HFT or intense C++ programming or a pure Math finance course then this is not for you. The UCLA MFE is a fine balance achieved by combining the necessary applied Math, Stat and Programming to the field of Finance.


Best taught subjects:
1) Econometrics by Prof. Hanno Lustig: Almost parallel to the PhD level 1 class taught by Prof. Cochrane at Chicago Booth.
2) Fixed Income by Prof. Francis Longstaff: Taught by the man himself. Co-inventor of the LSM method used to price path dependent options which is used by most option pricing models and many more path-breaking achievements.
3) Quantitative Assent Management by Prof. Jason Hsu: CIO of Research Affiliates, which manages more than $169 Billion. What works and what does not from the practical standpoint.
4) Computational Methods in Finance by Prof. Levon Goukasian: Specialist in Portfolio Optimization. After this class you can price almost any derivative security by solving or implementing SDEs and PDEs


My advice to new applicants:
1) Know what you want: It is very important to understand why you want the MFE and what career track you wish to pursue after the MFE. If its Investment Banking associate or corporate finance or general jobs in finance, get an MBA!
2) Be open minded:- A trader at an I-bank is no longer the ideal job! Even if you believe it is, not everyone can get it. Look at other job profiles, the industry is booming with quant jobs in Risk Management and Analytics.
3) Get a CFA level 1 if you don't have experience in finance. The exam will help you answer the most important question, are you really passionate about finance?


Bottom Line:
I won't be surprised if you see the UCLA MFE ranked amongst the top 5 in the next few years.
I’m a recent graduate from the UCLA Anderson MFE program. I enjoyed it very much and think it is an excellent program because of these reasons:

Courses/Subjects: The curriculum is broad and covers diverse aspects of finance (risk management, derivatives, quant asset management, risk management, etc.). I felt submerged in many aspects of finance and was able to build a deep understanding of the diverse quant models. All professors are outstanding and really teach the ins and outs of finance. They are specialists in their fields and many of them have helped shape the world of finance! Ideally, I would have liked to see even more programming intensive courses to prepare me even better for the job search afterwards.

Career Services: It was great to have a team dedicated to help you find internships and full-time employment. I got advice on cover letters, my resume, interviews, where to steer my career and much more. The school is well connected to the industry and is always expanding its connections through its alumni network and I was able to leverage upon that. I was able to get a foot in the door with several finance companies across the US through the Anderson alumni network to find a job/internship. But remember, it was always up to me, the candidate, to find a job and be as prepared and qualified as possible. It took a lot of hard work. Going the extra mile in my area of interest was what made me stand out and helped me secure a job.

Advice to applicants: the job market in quant finance is highly competitive. It is good to know what you want before the program starts so that you can really focus on that field and become an expert. CFA and FRM certifications help you prepare for the program but programming skills in Matlab, R, Python, C++, etc. are more important to have before the program starts. It’s a real challenge to learn programming skills from scratch during this intense program.

I would highly recommend this program if you are profoundly interested in quantitative finance.
  • Anonymous
  • 5.00 star(s)
I graduated from class 2015 and here is my review:

Good:
1. The program is in business school. Compared with many other MFE programs, it looks decent at least.
2. Really famous faculties in finance area. Some of them even provide personal connections to help students find summer internships and full-time jobs
3. Comprehensive curriculums.
4. Weather and view.
5. Safe. It's in Westwood, close to stone canyon and beverly hills.

Not that good:
1. Need more serious programming training since most candidates didn't graduate from computer science program. Algorithm, Data Structure, Database and Machine Learning are essential for job hunting. As for the programming skill set, we have enough training on Matlab, R and SAS. However, we lack training on python and C++(or Java) which are even more important.
2. If the program could be longer, that would be better. Having 4 classes in one quarter, it's a bit too much. Students need more time to prepare interviews and improve skill sets which are missed in the curriculums.

All in all, it is a very good program. The job placement is very good. The rate of summer internship return offer is pretty high. The ranking of 2015 in Quantnet didn't reflect the true value of UCLA MFE.
About me:
I am a graduate from the 2015 batch, who came in to the program after considerable work-experience in financial sector, to support my career transition from corporate finance to quantitative finance.
I am sure anyone reading this review, by now must have developed a good sense about Financial Engineering programs, in general. They all comprise mainly 3 components: (1) Finance, (2) Financial Computing, and (3) Maths/Stats, with varying degree of each depending on how a particular program is structured.
When I started narrowing down on a program that would be a right fit for me, I had the following criteria in my mind:
>> I wanted the program to be Fast-paced, to help minimize my opportunity cost; but rigorous enough to make me competitive for the job market afterwards
>> Program to be more ‘Finance-heavy’, since I didn’t want to go into roles where I’d be competing with CS majors or Maths PhDs. Plus, this way I could leverage and develop on my existing knowledge and experience of finance
>> It should have sufficiently strong emphasis on Financial Computing and Financial Maths, to help me get the necessary theoretical background along with required hands-on skills, to allow me to hit the ground running
>> Offer a diverse peer group (in terms of academic background, age group, and ethnicity)
>> Program should be from a well-recognized university, and of course have an impeccable placement record

Overall experience with the program:
Having been through the program, I am happy that UCLA Anderson’s MFE program checked all the items on my list!! Here is how…
>> The program in its current avatar is quite compact at ~13 months, including a 3 month internship
>> The program is housed/owned/driven/directed by the Finance department at Anderson. Which is awesome!! As you must have gathered from other reviews, Anderson’s finance department has historically been one of the strongest in the country and continues to be so. And the faculty loves teaching the MFE program, since the curriculum is more advanced (then say an MBA program), allowing them to share more of what they know.
The curriculum comprises courses with strong theoretical emphasis, such as fixed income markets by the man himself, derivatives, credit modelling, empirical methods, risk management etc. Don’t get me wrong, when I say they have a relatively stronger ‘theoretical’ bent, because they are still enough hands-on programming assignments (fitting short-rate models, forward-rate models, 2 factor/ multi factor, MBS modelling, calibrating cox-process, time-series modelling etc. etc.), which give ample talking points in an interview
>> While financial computing, in a way, gets covered throughout the course by way of in-class examples and coding assignments, there is a dedicated course taken by Prof. Levon, who comes with a strong background in mathematics and finance, and makes certain that you are very comfortable working in MATLAB by the end of his course.
>> Anderson is a strong brand, on account of its MBA program, with a large and strong alumni base, including industry leaders, such as Larry Fink (Blackrock) and Bill Gross (ex-PIMCO)

Along the way, there were also a couple of pleasant surprises in the program:
>> Course work by Prof. Jason Hsu, where he not only covered the literature on well-known equity anomalies (making sure you know the language of the industry in case you walk into an Asset Management role), but has designed the course to be so hands-on that by the end of it I was comfortable working with equities data and replicating results from any academic paper. The skills learnt in this course were directly applicable during my internship.
>> Course work by Prof. Olivier Ledoit, who is this super smart guy, teaches a course on how to beat markets by way of statistical arbitrage – again a highly hands-on course, by the end of which, you have a working stat-arb model. (There is a reference to him in the book ‘The physics of wall street’, in case you’ve read it)
>> MFE students are allowed to attend finance seminars, where academic researchers and PhD job-market candidates from programs across the country, present on their research. It is a great way to learn about current research areas.

What this program is not
Now one thing that this program is NOT, is it is not a PhD program. So even though, the course-work is rigorous, the program simply does not afford the luxury of time to teach or study these topics in as much detail as a PhD would. Mind you, almost every subject which is taught can be made into a research career in its own right. So, if you are looking for that level of depth, any financial engineering program simply won’t make the cut!! Which is why some students go on to do a PhD. However, it does provide you with enough of a foundation to learn and explore further on your own.

Career services/ Job prospects
No review can be complete without a comment on career services. I think the stats published on the program website speak for themselves. All I’d like to add is, the program enables you to explore careers across spectrum – asset management/ hedge fund/ sell side strats/ risk/ fintech/ consulting/ third-party providers of tools/ regulator/ exchange (and others I cannot immediately recall)

Another thing that many students question when considering this program is – how effective is the program in placing students on east coast? Again, I’d advise any prospective student to look this information up first-hand on LinkedIn. You’d be surprised how many students end up working in NY. While the official stats for my batch are yet to come, I’d imagine around one-third have their clocks set on EST.

Bottom line
Anderson’s MFE program is one of the best programs with its unique areas of strength. Housed under the Anderson business school and driven by finance department, it has been designed to be compact, rigorous and yet well-rounded. Plus, it happens to be in one of the coolest cities to not just study, but also work in.
About me:
Graduate from 2014 batch working in asset management.

About the program:
Faculty:
Faculty is great and world class.
Job Markets:
Unique value proposition in the Job markets in So Cal area. Most of the students in my batch got into risk management, valuation and asset management business. On the target lists for most buy side mutual funds as UCLA Anderson ranked top in asset management. Sell side (wall st.) recognition becomes stronger in recent years through alumni connections but still hard to compete with other ”Ivy League” schools. So if you are targeting BB banks, not the program for you unless you are recent wall st job leaver or PhDs!
Classes:
Relative easy class as comparing to PhD level classes but with a lot of hands on experience. Small group projects every quarter. A lot of finance papers to read. I personally found it great and this helps me a lot in my current job reading some sell side research papers and develop trading strategies.
Life:
Sun, beach, palm trees and chill only if you got an offer right after the summer intern (Joking). 15 mins drive from Santa Monica beach! 5 mins drive from Beverly Hills! And no winter!

To sum up:
Great program and definitely undervalued in recent Quantnet ranking.
About me:
Graduate from 2016 batch with work experience in Banking and Risk Management. Currently working in Financial Services/Accounting.

Program Experience:
Personally, I found the UCLA MFE experience satisfying and enriching. Having considerable experience in the field of banking, I was expecting to gain skill-sets for asset management and other industries such as consulting, Fin-tech. MFE courses and projects gave me the flavor of most of the career paths available for a financial engineer.

Some Plus points:
Faculty:
UCLA MFE faculty is world class. It was amazing and very exciting to learn from professors such as Prof. Rossi, Prof. Schwartz, Prof. Longstaff, Prof. Goukasian and others. Classes such as Fixed Income, Computational Finance, statistical arbitrage taught me practical application and issues with theoretical finance concepts.

Program Structure:
The program schedule is very hectic and definitely not for the weak-hearted. The program is supplemented with weekly finance seminars and group activities that helped us widen our knowledge base and perspective. Courses such as Computational Finance, Fixed Income, Quant Asset management provided a lot of hands-on experience for financial model building, model validation/calibration, valuation, and backtesting, which was immensely helpful in our internships. The majority of courses required coding in R/Matlab or Python.

Career Services:
UCLA MFE has the dedicated career service. I felt that career service is understaffed considering the total number of students and the vast variety of career paths. Career services regularly provided us with openings/opportunities with frequent workshops on skill enhancements and guest lectures from successful finance professionals. This year most of the openings were in Risk, valuation and Fin-Tech. There were opportunities for networking with LA-based firms in the form of guest lectures/seminars/events. But it definitely takes effort from student side as well to get a job/internship. In my batch, Students with good tech skills (programming) found it easy to secure an internships/jobs in an early phase. Most of the top banking internships get finalized by Jan/early Feb, so it might be hard to target these internships as most of the relevant courses are taught in 2nd and 3rd quarter.

Los Angeles:
There is no place like LA. More I traveled to other places, more I loved LA. Amazing weather, amazing neighborhood (Beverly/Hollywood) and a great campus.

Some things which can be improved:
Career services team is bit understaffed and sometimes it is too much work to handle full-time jobs and internships of 2 batches simultaneously.
Less exposure to Python which is now used almost in every quant role.
There is less flexibility with electives and program structure.


Final Verdict:
UCLA MFE is definitely an amazing program and greatly undervalued in Quantnet rankings. The program is very receptive to feedback and some of the changes that we suggested are already being incorporated. I am pretty sure that with a growing alumni network and proactive changes, UCLA MFE will be one of the top programs in next few years.
About me: graduated recently from 2016 batch. will start my job in Jan in complex securities valuation.

My colleagues have already given a comprehensive outline of the program. I am going to add what I think makes UCLA MFE Program special and what needs to be improved.

What’s special about the program:
1- The admission process is one of the best: smooth, professional and friendly. Depending on your background, there will be one or two rounds of interview.
2- It’s a business school! Having access to such a rich network is extremely invaluable and goes a long way for job placement. (As a rule of thumb, programs offered by business schools usually require GMAT rather than GRE) Networking is an essential part of job placement.
3- It’s Los Angeles! If there is a heaven on earth, LA is it! Great Weather, Friendly people, lots of space, delicious foods, diverse culture. these will smooth your transition into a new country and improve your quality of life while studying.
4- Considering the variety of jobs looking for MFEs and extreme competition to get those, it is really beneficial to know what type of job you are looking for upon entering such program and to create your own brand from the very first day. UCLA MFE prepares students best for quantitative asset management, valuation and advisory, data analytics, risk management and statistical arbitrage roles (which mostly have python/R/Matlab as core programming language.) If you are specifically looking for jobs requiring C++ such as High-Frequency Trading, then it may not be a good option.
5- Faculty is definitely an advantage. Even mentioning that you have worked on your applied finance project with well-known names in academic and industry such as Professor Longstaff makes you stand out among other applicants in an interview. Professors such as Daniel Andrei, Levon Goukasian are so dedicated that you can reach them anytime with your questions (even after graduation).
6- It’s 13 months! (it can be an advantage or disadvantage!!) a trade-off between higher program intensity and lower cost of living and opportunity cost.
7- This program helps you to build on top of what you already have: if you do not know anything about derivatives, it will teach you the essentials. If you know the basics, you can get an in-depth knowledge of derivatives. And if you are already an advanced user of derivatives, you will have a chance to work on various models, understand their dynamics and hone your coding skills. So COME AS PREPARED AS YOU CAN!

What can be improved:
1- Career services: Considering the number of students, career services department is understaffed. The program deserves an image and footage at least as good as the program itself. Career services team needs both HR and technical members to introduce the program and its students’ qualification. A well-structured program without a proper marketing and presentation.
2- The program should have started earlier in October (which is starting now with the current batch) to equip candidates with requisite math, statistics, programming and finance essentials in the first quarter. We needed more time to digest all the materials in the econometrics course in our first quarter.
3- More flexibility on electives.

Going back, I would definitely choose UCLA MFE in my top three. If I could bet on school future rankings, I would go long this program as I believe it to be greatly undervalued in quantnet ranking.
I am a recent graduate from this program (Dec 2017). I highly recommend this program to serious students of Quantitative Finance and Financial Engineering.

The program picked us up from a very basic level of knowledge - basic regression & portfolio theory and over back breaking homework and quizzes brought us to the level of cutting edge research in the field.

Below is my expanded rating of the various aspects of this amazing program:
1. Curriculum - 4.5/5 Great depth offered in the area of equity and derivatives, but only 1-2 courses in Fixed income and credit
2. Duration - 5/5 My program was 13 months long - ideal for someone wanting to get back to work quickly
3. Faculty - 5/5 It is an honor to be taught by Prof. Schwartz, Prof. Longstaff, Prof. Lochstoer, Prof. Panageas and Prof. Kraft.
4. Workload - 5/5 Almost kills you, but ends up making you much much stronger.
5. Industry exposure 4.5/5 - The program director and admin staff go to great lengths to invite professionals to share their insights with us and organize visits to various financial centers to interact with professionals. These interactions greatly helped determine what I wanted to do as my career.
Positive Quantnet reviews from the previous years greatly affected my decision to choose this program back in 2016. A year later after graduation, I can confirm I made the right decision.
The curriculum is intense and rigorous. The program adapts its curriculum reflecting current market situations and practices. The AFP projects are carefully selected and reviewed by industry participants and professors. The projects certainly help one to stay on top current expectations and practices of current financial market. Although the stress of class schedule and home works is overwhelming, perseverance certainly pays off.
You are mostly on your own in terms of career search. But the program usually provides necessary counselling. It also arranges networking events and career trips in major financial cities. For many of those who don’t have enough experience in their resume, a great internship experience is vital. For many, securing an internship is very tough. But the Executive Director of the program will very frequently check on your internship search, motivate you not to give up and will continuously push you to the right direction. In my opinion, this was very helpful for my own career search.
Lastly, I loved every aspect of LA. At least for me, the events , the surroundings and the people always affect my wellbeing. Only a few miles away from the beach, I couldn’t ask for a better location.
Overall, my experience was great!
I am currently a student graduating in December 2018. The program recently got expanded to 15 months, I am just one quarter in the program. I am going to give you all of the honest reviews, what I like and what I don't like - trust me there's no lying on Christmas.

Things I like:

1. The education quality is absolutely great. I probably learned more material than my entire 4 years of undergrad. Professors love their subjects, treating every moment of teaching you with great enthusiasm. Class are competitive - you really have to work hard to get an A if that's your standard.

2. The career office, they are trying hard to help you. Yes, I am still looking for an internship, but I don't think spoonfeeding you an internship position is part of the responsibilities of any program. When you see those negative reviews about the career offices, they are probably dreaming of landing an internship without going through interviews- Nah too unrealistic. We have interview workshops regularly, networking events, open houses regularly. Rest is on you.

3. A lot of support - I can talk to program executive director anytime I want. She will work around her schedule to meet me one-on-one. The career advising associate director lent me her office for my phone interview once. Tell me how many programs do that!

Things I don't like that much:

1. Not that much flexibility in course selection. More electives would be great. I really enjoy data analytics, I really hope I can take more machine learning courses. But anyway, I am learning it online by myself, it is all good.

2. Possibly locations, maybe we are at a little disadvantage of locations compare to programs in New York, but it's not a killer. We just have to have a little more phone interviews than those people in New York.

3. We could have the program start a bit earlier. Big banks/tech companies recruit early in September, but our program starts in late September. I have to walk into Morgan Stanley test without learning stochastic calculus - not a fun experience.


Ok, what I am trying to say is, this program way exceeded what I was hoping for. I did not have a great experience during undergrad, this program is all I could hope for. Now it's up to me to make the most out of it.
  • Anonymous
  • 5.00 star(s)
I graduated from the UCLA Anderson MFE Program in December of 2018, and enrolled in Fall of 2017 directly following my undergraduate studies. It was a challenging program for me, because I did not have an extensive programming background and my mathematical abilities were not the strongest. However, I had other strengths in my application that the admissions committee considered, and by their faith and trust in me I was admitted.

Not surprisingly, the program was a challenge for me. After the first quarter, I was automatically placed on academic probation as I did not meet the GPA requirements in order to stay enrolled in the program. Once this happened, the Executive Director, Elisa Dunn, immediately reached out to me in order to help me work through this challenge. We spoke together extensively and we devised a plan that I would execute in order to improve my grades. With the help of Elisa and through hard work and determination, I was able to improve my grades and get off academic probation.

Later in the academic year, I encountered a different challenge. This time, the issue was related to the UCLA administration (unrelated to the MFE program) and this threatened to jeopardize my ability to stay enrolled in the program and graduate. I reached out to Elisa again for help, because I had few other people who could help me in my complicated situation. Again, Elisa worked tirelessly to help me resolve this situation and did everything in her power to advocate on my behalf to the university. With her backing, I successfully overcame this obstacle too.

In addition to Elisa, the rest of the staff, including the head of admissions, Leanna Cortez, and the director of career services, Sheila Benko, are incredibly helpful in supporting and advocating for their students. They are truly on your side and want more than anything to see you succeed. Your performance, good or bad, reflects profoundly on them. As a result, there is a true alignment of interests in the program. I was taken aback by the depth and breadth of the lengths to which the entire Anderson MFE staff will go to help you.

Aside from the incredible staff, I want to make particular note of my incredible experience with the Anderson alumni. What is special about the Anderson experience is that you are exposed to a business school legacy that goes back over 80 years. As a result of this legacy, I was able to meet with Anderson alumni (MBA and MFE) in various cities around the world, including New York, San Francisco, and Sydney (yes, Australia!). I found that upon emailing alumni using the Anderson alumni database, almost all were willing to meet with me at a moments notice and eager to help. It is this common bond among all Anderson alumni that is perhaps my most favorite aspect of the school.

It goes without saying that the faculty, courses, and students at UCLA Anderson are world class. That is why I have focused my review on the people in the administration and alumni community who truly made an impact on me.
I am a UCLA Anderson Alumni from the MFE program class of 2016. Overall the program was stellar. Excellent professors and great guidance for our careers. We had industry professionals come give talks on a weekly basis. The staff was great as well. Elisa Dunn — the Executive Director of the MFE Program — was extremely helpful in assisting me to learn about various industries, develop my career and get a feel for the quant industry as a whole. Leanna Cortez — the Associate Director of the MFE Program — was also excellent in guiding the program and coursework. All the staff were professional and there to help. The professors were phenomenal. A lot of them have invented the knowledge they were teaching and were super clear and concise. In terms of landing a job, some people think that the career services should hand them a job. But that's not how it works. They were there to give the students opportunities and it was always up to the student to take advantage of those opportunities. I do agree with other posts with respect to Python over R and I think this is one of the parts in the MFE program that they definitely need to change. When I graduated companies only wanted Python and not R. It really helped to understand the theory and having gained the ability to program helped too. There is no way I could have gotten to where I am today without having this experience on my resume and learning the skills that were taught during the program. Highly recommend this program to advance your career and get into the company of your dreams.
Jason C. Mercurio
I’m proud to be the UCLA Anderson MFE alumni.
I would not trade my MFE experience @ UCLA for anything else, and let me tell you why:
(1)well structured classes. From basics to extremely complex concepts - everything will be covered. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to test your knowledge working on various problem-sets. It’s laughable to read complaints about Fama-MacBeth and Accounting below. I’d bet those folks just never built a single trading strategy.
(2)team work. Significant part of home assignments are done in small groups. This allows exchange thoughts with peers, improve understanding of material (incl. Fama-MacBeth;) ), and strengthen soft skills that most quants are missing.
(3)ability to provide constructive feedback and be heard. If something is not right, just let administration know. They are there for you to help and make things right. Never hesitate to schedule a meeting with the program’s Executive Director or Career Advisor to discuss suggestions, go through your resume, practice answering interview questions or get advice on job/internship search process.

I’m thankful for help and endless support of members of faculty and administration.
It’s a true honor for me to be part of strong and successful UCLA Anderson MFE family!

Irina (Class of 2017)
Faculty:

The professors and faculty are world class. From Peter Rossi, to Francis Longstaff, to Ivo Welch, I've never had the privilege of learning from a more accomplished and well-respected group of people. The level of care they put into each of their lectures was abundantly clear and was leagues above what I experienced at my undergraduate university. They were easy to chat with, always accommodated time after class for additional questions, and, in my opinion, the main reason someone should attend UCLA's MFE program.


Coursework:

The coursework was expansive and quite rigorous. However, there is simply too much information to try and squeeze into a 15 month program. As a result of this squeeze, you feel like you're trying to drink from a fire hose. The flip side of this is that you get excellent exposure to a bunch of different subject areas in quantitative finance and, if you didn't truly have enough time to learn it the first time, you have the tools/materials/means to review it later.


Career Services:

A lot of the posts here are being hard on the MFE's career services, in my opinion. While it took me a nerve-wracking amount of time to obtain my summer internship (got my offer in late March), this wasn't because of a lack of opportunity. I must have had six or seven opportunities before winter break and I simply didn't perform in my interviews. While these were very competitive positions (Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, etc), it's not the career services' fault that I fell short. I suppose I could say that I wasn't properly prepared to interview but that falls more on myself than the MFE program. A counselor can only take you so far before you have to take responsibility for your own career.


MFE Office / Administration:

I can't thank the lovely ladies in the MFE office enough. Leanna and Elisa were always there to listen to my grievances, help me with petty (and major) problems, and guide me through the program. The amount of students, current and prospective, they have to manage is astounding and they each deserve a raise for all the work they put in.


- Class of 2019 -
  • Anonymous
  • 5.00 star(s)
I am an alumni from the 2017 batch.

Faculty:
As it has been mentioned before, the faculty is top notch. Profs Longstaff, Ivo Welch, Lars Lochstoer, Peter Rossi are world class professors.

Structure:
It's a very packed degree, with a lot of things to digest in very little time + a summer internship. In my opinion, it's easier to absorb all the knowledge with previous experience either in finance, math or coding. Probably 2 out of the 3 would be enough to have a strong experience in the program.

Support system:
There is a good infrastructure around you. Industry professionals are invited to speak every week or so, you get mock interview sessions, resume preparation sessions, quantitative interview preparation sessions, networking events and so on. I've stayed in touch with the MFE Office and always received all the support I've needed.

For some of the students (me included), learning to connect and network takes some time, and it's hard to do this while staying afloat in your coursework. It's a very demanding 15 months but it's an experience I would definitely recommend!
All Faculties are world-class, Anderson is also prestigious and owns great resources and industry connections. The course is well-structured and provides practical projects align with the materials. Also, the program are heavily focus on students, any voice from student will be seriously considered and provide supports. You can see the program is trying to be better in every aspect. All in all, it's a great program and provides competitive edges for students to further their careers.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
A master of electrical engineering with 7 years of working experience in various disciplines of engineering (research, design, implementation, testing).
I studied full-time in the program from 01/2009-12/2009.

Did you get admitted to other programs?
No.

Why did you choose this program (over others, if applicable)?
I was on the "on hold" list of UCB and I gave up pursuing UCB once I received admission from UCLA.

Tell us about the application process at this program
It was an inaugural program, the online application was short and easy, and collected only the basic info. I saw the second year application it was considerably more formal. The phone interview came about 3 weeks after completing the application, and the final decision was about 1 week after the phone interview. The phone interview was 30-minute of soft-questions (why UCLA, why MFE, why then, etc)

Does this program offer refresher courses for incoming students? What do they offer and how much it costs?
The only thing available for us at the time was a Matlab refresher during the first week of the program. I did not attend so I cannot comment on it. The program faculties constantly polled the class for ideas of refresher classes for future students, unfortunately being in the first class I did benefit from them.

Tell us about the courses selection in this program. Any special courses you like?
The courses selection is modeled on the UCB curriculum, but minus the electives. The professors work with one another to make sure there are little overlaps and as much info was presented as possible. Most core infomration and difficult classes were front-loaded in the first two quarters before our internship, and the last quarter was relatively more managable. I wish I had a little more flexibility in the last quarter for electives, after acquiring the core info and completing an internship. I liked the ungraded seminar class, experts in the industry were invited to give a talk on a quantitative finance topic once a week. I did not enjoy every speaker, but it was informative to hear the other perspective from non-academic practitioners.

Tell us about the quality of teaching
I liked most of the professors in terms of teaching, and most of them were very accessible after class. I appreciated that the school for hiring reputable experts from other universities for some classes (Giesecke from Stanford, Jorion from UCI), even though there are other capable teachers at UCLA. The TA's were certainly very helpful for our learnings. There were quite a few PhD students from the finance or economics departments with quant finance master, and they were very capable and willing in helping us.

Materials used in the program
Most materials were professors' personal notes. None of the classes closely followed a particular textbook.
References suggested: Asset Pricing by Cochrane
The Econometrics of Financial Markets by Campbell
Stochastic Calculus for Finance by Shreve
Options, Futures and other Derivatives by Hull
The Handbook of Fixed Income Securities by Fabozzi
Fixed Income Securities Tools for Today's Markets by Tuckman
Quantitative Equity Portfolio Management by Chincarini
Value at Risk by Jorion
Financial Risk Manager Handbook by Jorion

Programming component of the program
Other than the accounting, corporate finance and intro to investment classes, heavy programming was required for all school work. The program did not teach programing, and did not have any requirement on the language chosen, as long as we could get the work done. The most common tools we selected were Matlab, Excel and SAS.

Projects
About 80% of all school works were done in groups. Most projects required understanding the objective, setting up and executing (usually require programming), and producing a light report.
Examples of individual projects:
Pricing various options computationally Examples of group projects: Empirical and statistical analysis to confirm findings of some famous papers/studies
Constructing and backtesting equity portfolio with various kinds of properties
Calibrating term structure models and pricing fixed income derivatives
Building intensity-base and structural models and assess default probabilities and CDS value at risk

Career service
A career office designated for the MFE students. Various kinds of workshops are provided (resumes, cover letters, networking, interview workshop, personal coaching, etc). The career office also reached out to potential employers on behave of students and worked in line with students personal goals. A couple professors with industry connections also helped bring in opportunities.

Can you comment on the social interaction between students of different ethnics, nationalities in the program?
60% of the class are international students. No doubt people grew up from the same countries tend to be closer, but there isn't an obvious barriers between ethnic groups. Overall the whole class engaged with one another very well without conflict.
The program assigned study groups some what randomly at the beginning of the year, people of all races were mixed together. I was not aware of any problem among the groups, and we chose to stick with the original groups til the end of the year.

What do you like about the program?
I enjoyed the small class size, diversified student backgrounds, and the fact that a lot of our work were done in groups. Overall it was a great environment to not only learn from school but also from each other.
I liked the cares and willingness shown by the administrative and career service directors to work personally with individual students. They were prompt in helping us and answering questions during the application process and throughout the year.
I also appreciated their continuous communications with the student organization to get our feedback and their effort in improving the program.

What DON’T you like about the program?
There were times it showed that the school was not fully ready for this new program. E.g. some career service workshops came in the last quarter but we could have benefit more if they were presented earlier, professors were not very clear on what speed and difficulty they should be teaching at, and one class was taugh by multiple instructors and it lacked continuity.
Another thing I would like to see improvement is the flexibility of the curriculum. The curriculum was fixed and there was no elective to choose from.

Suggestions for the program to make it better
I would work harder to promote the program and the MFE. I want to see more effort and result in promoting it to the industry. Financial engineering is not new, maybe some HR representatives understand what is MFE about, or UCLA MFE just didn't have a reputation.
It seemed to me that we were never being considered for positions that were traditionally held by MBA, even though we might be qualified. It bothered me a bit.
My personal experience with Deutsche Bank (I have friends working there who spoke to the HR) -- I was rejected for their analyst internship because I over-qualified, and I was rejected for their associate internship because I wasn't a MBA nor PhD. So where do we stand?

What are your current job status? What are you looking for?
I am current still seeking opportunities. I prefer to work in portfolio analytics and management or trading strategies R&D.

Other comments
A lot of the details of how the program is run are very likely to be adjusted a lot in the first few years. Experiences from the first year students may not be very applicable for future reference. Changes I'm observing (but was not told directly): Refresher classes are coming 2nd year students have more working experience, the reason could be a different pool of applicants or a different selection criteria Career service office is now better prepared and beginning to have some relationship with certain recruiters
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
PhD, worked in logistics and management consulting for 2 years, GRE (2250), GMAT (710)
I studied full-time in the program from 01/2009-12/2009.

Did you get admitted to other programs?
I only applied to UCLA MFE as I was based in LA

What alternative sources of info you used to learn more about the program?
Quantnet, Global Derivatives, Vault, lots of online research on MFE programs in general as this was a new program and not much information was available

Tell us about the application process at this program
Application packet submission (including GMAT scores, essays, transcripts etc) followed by telephone interview

Does this program offer refresher courses for incoming students? What do they offer and how much it costs?
They didn't offer one when we started - however, I know that there was one in the pipeline for the next incoming class

Tell us about the courses selection in this program. Any special courses you like?
Credit Markets, Computational Methods, Fixed Income Markets, Quantitative Asset Management. My personal interest was in credit markets as well as asset management. These courses were well-organized with lots of information, assignments and practical examples

Tell us about the quality of teaching
We were lucky enough to have some of the finest minds in finance such as Francis Longstaff and Eduardo Schwartz as teachers. They have not only produced great research but are fine teachers as well - well-organized, lucid and give a very nice bird's eye view of the field. Another teacher deserving special mention is Kay Giesecke, who came down from Stanford to teach Credit Markets - he was able to take some very complex subject matter and make it very accessible for us.
A couple of teachers weren't so well-organized - hopefully these could be attributed to teething troubles for them in the first year of the program.

Materials used in the program
Most of it was standard to MFE curricula everywhere - Shreve for Calculus, Fabozzi for Fixed Income etc. We got excellent notes from Schwartz, Longstaff, Giesecke and Lustig for their classes which were invaluable.

Programming component of the program
Mostly Matlab, although most of us had some C++ familiarity. No dedicated programming course (seems a waste of time and money in an MFE no? ). We spent a lot of time programming - all our assignments required significant amounts of progamming

Projects
Lots of derivatives pricing, interest rate modelling, CDS models and pricing. Both individual and group. We didn't have industry mentoring, however we did have industry practitioner seminars and our internships

Career service
We have a dedicated career services professional exclusively for the MFE program. We had on campus interviews and interviews scheduled through the career office. However, given that the program was brand new and given that our career services person had previously not worked in finance recruiting, our career services were certainly not as good as they could have been

What do you like about the program?
I liked that it was based in a business school - our faculty teach MBA curricula and consult in the industry - so they have a very good combination of theoretical knowledge and real world wisdom. I really liked our class - we were a small class and hence it felt very close knit. Everyone was always sharing their knowledge and skills with others.

What DON’T you like about the program?
I don't like the price tag - we paid business school prices for the program, we would have paid a lot less if the program was based in any other department. Also, given that we were the introductory year, a lot of the rough edges hadn't been smoothed out - the lack of a prep course for instance.

Suggestions for the program to make it better
Organize a prep course - programming, statistics, and advanced calculus. Organize more industry networking opportunities. Less emphasis on programming and modelling and more emphasis on the big picture in finance (this is a personal peeve of mine - there's way too much emphasis on the engineering and not enough on finance in MFE programs)

What are your current job status? What are you looking for?
Working for a distressed debt hedge fund

Other comments
My advice would be think beyond merely being able to code fixed income models efficiently and think of the ways in which they work. Think beyond being a glorified programmer and develop an interest in finance as a field (way too many refugees from the physics job crisis in quant finance - people who don't really care about finance and obsess over coding and modelling)
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