Very competitive program with high quality students and helpful career supports
Per my experience working with students. This is a very competitive program with talented and hard-working students and high-quality teaching faculty. It has a very active and responsive career-supporting team as well.
The cohort consists of a healthy mix of young graduates and more mature students with experience in the industry. This diversity is reflected throughout my experience at the program. Students have prior background in financial mathematics are also allowed to take a certain number of electives from other departments (e.g. the renowned economics program or business school). The new track system allows students to build a more tailored curriculum and focus on areas that they're most interested.
Finding a full time job will be much more dependent on individual skills and efforts.
I graduated from UChicago FinMath in December 2022 and will be joining as a quant strategist at a Chicago prop shop.
Career Development Office
As mentioned in the previous reviews, Emily is an amazing career advisor. Not only does she give excellent interview and career advice, she also provides the moral support that is needed during the recruitment process.
There are some courses in the program that I believe are worth taking:
- Portfolio Theory and Risk Management I
- Options theory/Numerical Methods
- Stochastic Calculus
- Regression Analysis and Quantitative Trading Strategies. This course does have mixed reviews but I personally enjoyed it. It gives you an insight on how to manipulate data and simulate simple trading strategies.
For Seb's programming courses, I believe that they are good if you do not have a CS background. If you do, this course is should be more of a review and grinding Leetcode/Hackerrank will be more helpful (which is pretty much the homeworks anyways).
The program also gives you the opportunity to take courses from other departments. Students should leverage this and take courses such as probability and statistics and machine learning courses from other faculties. I also highly recommend that you take a course from Chicago Booth; some of the courses there are very well taught.
Project lab is a nice touch to the program. It allows students to work with industry employers on a quant project. This experience can be used as a resume boost and be talked about during interviews. Students can also get internships and full time roles from this as well.
Overall, I had an amazing time in the program and will really cherish my 15 months there. I would take the Quantnet 2023 rankings with a grain of salt and do your own research into all the Master's programs. At the end of the day, making it to any of the top programs is impressive and finding a full time job will be much more dependent on individual skills and efforts. Hope this review helps!
I graduated from the UChicago Fin-Math program in 2022 Dec and I am starting my full-time quant trading role at a market-making firm in Chicago in 2023 Feb.
Undergrad -- Finance & Data Science major with a math minor
Full-time experience -- one year at a wealth management firm
What I liked about the program:
- I finished my 4-year undergrad program in NYC and figured that NYC was not for me. I wanted a better blend of a big city but also having some nature / peace and quiet. Since I wanted to become a quant trader, Chicago seemed like the ideal choice being the trading / market-making industry hub, but also having the peace and quiet that I wanted. Its proximity to job opportunities also allows easy networking / coffee chatting.
- The city's architecture is also very nice. There are also a lot of museums that are definitely worth going to.
- The city's rent is much lower than other major cities. (Almost half of NYC's.)
2. UChicago's positive academic reputation
- The school overall is known for its academic rigor, reputable professors, and beautiful campus. With the Fin-Math program, you get access to not just the top-tier Fin-Math courses and professors, but also resources from other programs such as the Booth Business school, the stats program, UChicago Law School, etc..
- Some Fin-Math professors (namely Roger Lee, Mark Hendricks, Seb, and Greg Lawler) are amazing lecturers and have classes that have an amazing blend of theory + practicality.
- There are also out-of-Fin-Math professors (namely Mei Wang in the Stats department) who also teach very good classes.
- There are tons of research opportunities
- There are some times free / discounted social activities (show tickets, Michelin restaurant meals, skiing, etc.) that are posted by the school that's kinda neat.
3. The Fin-Math program's resources
I categorize this program's resources by its (1) courses, (2) career development, (3) other general / life resouces.
- All of the classes taught by the professors listed above are highly recommended, plus the other recommended classes in other reviews.
- You also get access to non-Fin-Math classes like those in Booth, the stats department, and even the law school for Fin-Math credits.
***But since class schedules / professors may change every quarter, it's better to ask Meredith & alumni what classes to take (or avoid..) when the time comes.
(2) career development:
- Emily Backe in Fin-Math's career development office (CDO) is extremely resourceful, kind, and responsible. She can not only give you the perfect interview prep but also lead you to just the right people you need to speak to for your job search, interview prep, etc..
- Other professors (Roger, Mark, and Seb) will also help you with technical interviews. Their interview prep sessions are extremely useful.
- There are also industry professionals (called IPO) helping you with further interview prep.
- The program is designed in a way such that you get to meet students from a class above you during your first quarter at the program. This makes sure you have students to talk to who can tell you about their school + work experiences, and
(3) other general / life resources
- Meredith is the go-to for all your questions. She is fun, resourceful, and knows EVERYTHING about the program and its people. She will give you her most honest opinion (and all the intel she gathered from all the profs & students) on what classes to take or avoid. She will also lead you to any help you may need since she knows everyone... quite literally.
- The class size is fairly large (~100 people per class), which mean there's a larger variety of students from different background, etc. Students are all very nice here -- you can definitly make life-time friends from the program. Also, many students are very knowledgeable and have many years of work experience -- you can always learn a lot from your classmates.
What I didn't like about the program:
1. City's infrastructure & weather
- Many parts of the city, including but not limited to public transportation, road design, how people don't know how to drive, bad DMV systems, etc. are designed poorly and are extremely inefficient (and sometimes have bad service)
- Too cold.. brrr
- High crime rate (esp around school, aka the Hyde Park area)... However, you do have to be careful everywhere (plus most American major cities do have issues with high crime rates, although not necessarily as bad as Chicago's hyde park area..) Just be vigilant and try not to walk around alone in dangerous neighborhoods, especially when it's dark.
2. Career development office's flaw(?)
- For a while during my time in the program, Emily Backe was gone and the program's CDO was near non-existent with very insufficient support. It's awesome that Emily came back but the program's CDO is very Emily-dependent. Hope CDO hires more reliable staff soon so Emily doesn't need to be overworked...
3. Some classes were poorly taught and were a waste of money & time
- These classes are
4. Minor things that don't necessarily concern others
- Fin-Math's graduation for my year was meh ... The merchandise we got included a bag that has very low quality (had 2 holes already after using it once)
- The winter can be depressing with the school almost empty (most students take online classes in the winter). But it get's better in the spring & fall.
- I wanted to give 3.5/5 but QuantNet doesn't let me. Since Emily's back, I'll round it up to a 4/5.
- I didn't give it a 5/5 mainly because of (1) the bad courses that the program offers and (2) the inconveniences caused by the city's bad design / insfrastructure. However, I still gave it a score higher than 3/5 because you still can get what you want from the program.
I graduated from UChicago MSFM last December, and I am set to work as a quantitative researcher at a bank in NY. Overall I am extremely satisfied with the program.
Hard science undergrad. Several years of experience in finance in Asia. Hope my review is particularly helpful for prospective students who are already experienced in some way, as this was my case.
Why I chose this program?
I was admitted to several programs mentioned in quantnet. I reviewed the course lists of each program. UChicago MSFM had a good mix of theory and domain-knowledge courses, and the course choice was flexible. I knew what courses I wanted to take and not, so this was a big plus. If you were in my shoes, you probably would want to take courses that you need instead of a course in which you're going to get an A. So I encourage you to review the course lists. Also, the program allowed students to take courses from other departments, mainly statistics and Booth. I highly benefitted from this flexibility.
Of the programs I was admitted to, MSFM was the only program that offered project lab each quarter. I participated in the project lab in nearly all quarters and was able to gain insight and connection. It was a big differentiator for me because when I graduate, I'd need to work full-time to get a taste of a business I'm interested in (which is a big commitment).
Roger Lee: taught option theory and pricing methods. Anything Roger teaches, I highly recommend you take because he is amazing. He can explain complicated concepts in a crystal clear way. Initially, I was not enthusiastic about his options class because I thought I was already familiar with the materials. But I did not regret taking his course. He cleared out all of my bogus mathematics and replaced my complicated solutions with simple solutions. I glimpsed at some of his research papers. Even though I cannot produce this quality research, I could still appreciate his amazing ideas (if you are interested in the topic, you don't need to for exams). What some financial mathematics professors prove with long long lines of hard algebra, Roger, with his brilliant ideas, can prove in much fewer lines.
Mark Hendricks: taught portfolio theory and credit. Mark is a very good teacher and a nice pleasant person. He really cares about students and would go out of his way when you have something to discuss. He emphasizes explaining in words our understanding, which is what you need to do in interviews.
Seb Donadio: taught Python and C++. Seb is probably going to be your memorable professor. One of the most intense courses for me. Even though I was familiar with the languages, I spent a lot of time on assignments and projects. Instructions need some work because they can be vague and confusing, but I encourage people to take his courses to get the full experience of MSFM. The strength of his courses is the domain knowledge he shares. He is a highly experienced professional and doesn't mind sharing what he knows. I appreciate that I learned not only more about the languages but also how they are used in the financial industry. I found his courses very helpful in interviews.
Gregory Lawler: taught stochastic calculus. He is a distinguished scholar and a very good teacher - a must-take for quant finance wannabes.
These are the courses nearly everyone takes, and you can choose the rest of the courses from both the Financial Mathematics department and other departments. You don't want to stack up too much in the Fall quarter due to recruiting. Other quarters can be as hard as you want them. Generally, I am happy with nearly all the courses I've taken.
One of my favorites in the program. Emily Backe was a world-class career consultant (no longer part of CDO anymore, promoted for the better good of the program - but she is still here). She is extremely caring and knowledgeable. The CDO had ample industry knowledge that helped me navigate my way. They did not provide just generic career advice.
I am extremely happy with the knowledge I gained in the program and the career outcome. I'll stay in touch with people I met in the program. Not really understanding why UChicago's ranking is so low on the quantnet ranking table, though I cannot speak of other programs I didn't attend. But in my personal opinion, the ranking is irrelevant to individual success (as a potential quant finance wannabe, you shouldn't take information as is anyway). I hope the prospective students find a program that suits them most. Wish you success.
One of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.
I recently graduated from The University of Chicago's Financial Mathematics Program in December 2022. I will work as a quantitative analyst of a top custodian bank in US.
Previously I worked six years as an economist and strategist for a leading financial institution in Asia. My motivation ,target and goal is to learn most top-notch quantitative skills from math to programming to utilize extensive datasets and to provide more convincing investment ideas.
Career Development Office(CDO)
Emily is the most professional, committed, compassionate, enthusiastic, kind, nice, sweetest and the most responsive and the most supportive and the most helpful professional in this program. She CARES student and knows all the answer to the career questions that graduates had. Without her help and support, I would never be able to secure the job offer.
During the interview process, Emily followed up with my job hunting and provided professional and instant response. What Emily offered is the industry standard. Emily provides insightful guidance and customized advice based on different personal background. Regarding to career path choices, there is a lot to consider. Emily will discuss with you all the opportunities and let you know the possible outcome. Emily is there for me when I had to make life-changing decisions.
Career Development Office provides world-class career service and helps with resume writing, LinkedIn updating, Technical Interview Seminar and Mock Behavioral interview Lab.
Meredith is always there for students to talk to and share everything from visa consultation, course selection, course registration process, to accommodation for exams. She is extremely helpful with any concern or question that I had.
Meredith organized our events and classes from architectural boat tour to painting class. She is extremely involved with our cohort. The University of Chicago's Financial Mathematics Program seemed more intimate because our cohort felt more like a community.
There is more to come. You will have the flexibility to choose fixed income and time series courses from the Booth and math & stat courses from both department.
Roger Lee : Mathematical Foundations of Option Pricing/Numerical methods
Professor Roger is not only smart but he also makes sure every student understand the materials. Roger had a magic and a great way of getting everyone understand the hard Math concepts.
What Roger teaches is not only the theory and but also the real world application of it. Roger will go over brain teasers and interview questions that students have seen during interviews at top firms.
Mark Hendricks : Portfolio Theory and Risk Management I
Professor Mark CARES students and is extremely dedicated to his course. Mark designed the homework rigorously and guided students to figure out the thought process. Mark combines python programming applications of portfolio theory using Harvard Business Case study approach in homework and for discussions. That really helps students to understand the real-life applications and essence of quant portfolio theory.
Professor Mark will also prepare statistical interview questions from time series, regression to financial markets analysis like fixed income. Based on my interview experience with banks and funds, most of the questions had been discussed thoroughly in the class and in the seminar/workshop.
Gregory Lawler : Stochastic Calculus
Professor Lawler is the best and the most respected mathematician contemporarily and the pioneer in the stochastic field such as probability and random processes. His lecture is easy to understand and his course is fun and interesting.
Chanaka Liyanaarachchi : High Performance Computing
HPC is the most useful programming course that I took in The University of Chicago's Financial Mathematics Program. Professor Chanaka will dive into various applications from OpenMP to CUDA. We will have the opportunities to have exposure to modern technologies.
Jon Frye : Portfolio Credit Risk: Modeling and Estimation
Professor Jon is the economist and risk specialist from Chicago FED. The lecture that Professor Jon taught in class is industry standard from PD/LGD to vasicek credit risk model. The homework that Professor Jon gave is to ensure students understand the risk management inside and out.
The project lab that I did with my cohort did help me secure the job. We will be able to be in touch with the current developments in finance through their relationships with practitioners.
I had true friendship for life when I was in the University of Chicago. I would say that they were my family. Most students are very friendly and willing to help.
The University of Chicago's Financial Mathematics Program
The program has a great team of dedicated professors, career and academic counselors, classmates and students. Its reputation in the quantitative finance industry will open doors for you and you will realize how much you have learned and grown during the 16 months. I would describe this program as the most challenging and most rewarding academic endeavor of my life, and would recommend it to anyone with a passion for learning more about the quant side of finance.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
The University of Chicago's Financial Mathematics Program changed my life. This is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.
I graduated from the program in December 2022 and will be joining a mid/large size prop trading shop in Chicago as a quant trader. Looking back to the 15-month journey in Chicago, I found UChicago did a tremendous job in helping me build my career path and explore job opportunities in quant finance industry. Here are some highlights:
Students in the program come from various background. The onboarding process and started 2 months prior to the official start date in order to get everyone to the same page.
This experience helps the most for those who have less experience or knowledge about the industry to get ready early for the short and competitive recruiting season.
The career office is the strongest support for students’ recruiting. It’s very impressive when you realize there are only 3-5 people supporting over 100 students with their job search, organizing various career events, always replying to everyone’s email promptly while thoroughly, providing personal counseling any time one needs and continuously updating individualized recruiting strategy.
The support and resources I received from this group of people is invaluable.
For those who had limited work experience, this is your best chance to get industry experience on your resume. For those who have had experience, this is a good chance for you to work on some solid projects that industry values or even an official offer.
Like everyone else on this review section, project lab added a lot to my experience. To make it simple, comparing the numbers of interview I received before and after I have a project lab experience, it is obvious to see its value.
In addition to the program itself, location is what I considered the best factor for choosing your school, but the decision criterion might differ for everyone.
Chicago being the biggest hub for prop trading firms in the world has the natural competitive advantage for you to break into the industry. As someone who aimed to get into prop at the beginning of the program, this is absolutely helpful. Not only for job search, but also after you join the industry, you’ll be surprised about how many UChicago alumni you will meet during work from your company, your counter parties, and your brokers.
Crime rate, weather etc. being the negative factors for the location do not bother me the most. I do envy the nice sunshine on a winter day on the west coast, but I guess that’s why have breaks and vacations.
I graduated from UChicago's MSFM program in December 2022 and will work as a Quantitative Equity Trader in the emerging markets pod at a leading mutual fund.
My background was in Economics and Finance, and I had some experience in Quantitative Research. My goal from this master's program was to learn everything I could to become a better quant and discover the things I didn't know or was ignorant about in quantitative finance.
The quant net ranking has s strong bias towards programs in New York and the primary east coast cities. The ranking system unfairly makes UChicago seem like a weak choice when looking at schools. Take the rankings with a grain of salt. Judge each program based on the coursework they offer and the quality of the research the school and program do. By its very nature, the school and the MSFM program require you to be able to do the work and also to research why you want to do it. When I speak to many people in the industry, the program garners commanding respect from everyone because those who know, know. The expectations employers have from graduates of this program are sometimes overwhelming, due to the ecosystem the program has built, from the faculty, staff, and support staff whose goal is to see every one of their students succeed.
If you are looking for a program that spoon-feeds you or a quid pro quo relationship, my advice doesn't apply. This program is for people who are committed to working hard, questioning everything, and working with their cohort to solve problems.
As a quant, I need to back these statements up and show that this process is repeatable and does achieve the desired results. This result is entirely up to you and depends on how hard you work.
The three pillars of this program are its faculty, staff, and support staff.
Professor Roger Lee is one of the most sought-after people in understanding and building options and strategies for both exchanges and funds. His classes, which you will take in the Autumn and Winter Quarter (Options pricing and numerical methods), are enlightening. He has a way of conducting the classes that make you think and understand everything he teaches you. It is measured, every word is relevant, and if you listen to the zoom recording or read the transcript, it is uncanny how precise each word is and how it makes you understand the most complicated concepts in simple terms. When doing your interviews, the interviewers ask many questions related to options. If you understand both of Professor Lee's classes, you will make it to the final round.
Professor Mark Hendricks is another one of those professors who have this knack for distilling knowledge very eloquently. He teaches the Portfolio Theory class and the Corporate Credit and securities class. Even if you don't come from a finance background, you will get up to speed within the first few weeks. His course teaches the basics you need and then gets you to apply those basics to solving and figuring out real-world problems using case studies. He guides you through the thought process and embodies the philosophy of teaching "how to think," not "what to think." He is also one of the best resources in the program to ask for some guidance on interviews or a general chat. No matter how busy he is, he makes the time, which is the dedication you get from this program.
Finally, Python by Seb. You will know where the term "where fun goes to die" originates. These courses are intense but essential if you want to do technical roles in the industry.
The other courses I recommend are from the Math or Stat department. Take advantage of the fact that it is one of the world's best math and stat departments. The professors are simply exceptional. I was fortunate enough to take a Multivariate Statistical Analysis class taught by Professor Mei Wang. This class was one of the best classes I took at UChicago; she taught me all the necessary statistical methods and tools.
The program, from the get-go, starts helping you with your search for an internship. Emily Backe, the program's chief of staff and previously the director of the career development office (CDO), was instrumental in helping me get my internship and a full-time job offer. The CDO provides resume reviews and technical and behavioral workshops, and they act like a sounding board for all the frustration one goes through during the recruiting process.
The special glue or "X-factor" that makes this one of the best programs in the world is the support system we have which is taken care of by Meredith. She is the one who knows everything or will guide you to the right person who can help you. She helps navigate all the logistics of getting your visa, guides you through the program, and advises on what courses to take. She helps organize our classes and events and is an excellent sounding board for all related and not related to the program.
The program was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It was tough and not to mention frustrating at times. The friends you make here will last a lifetime and help you in almost anything; in essence, you gain a family. The city of Chicago is very vibrant and also helps in being very accommodating to students. If you love to learn and put in the effort and hard work, this program is for you. Coming out of the program and looking back, you will see how far you have come and how well this program prepared you to tackle all the challenges you will face, personal or professional.
- Computer Science undergrad with a few years of work experience as a software engineer.
- Started working as a Trader after graduation in December 2022
- UCLA and UC Berkley MFE
- Chose UChicago MSFM due to close proximity to many trading firms as well as lower overall cost.
Overall I believe the program has a mixed bag of experiences that bring my rating of the program to a 3.5/5. There are some truly exceptional portions to the program as well as a few downright terrible classes/professors that make you question if you're wasting your time and money.
- The program begins 2 months before the official start date. It begins with an August review that brings students to a base level of understanding required in the program. The program attracts students from a wide range of backgrounds and not everyone is fully equipped with the resources to delve into the material. The topics cover a wide range such as regression analysis, probability, programming etc. This time is both useful to brush up on material you may not have experience in as well as prepare you for the level of coursework once classes start.
September launch provides more classes as well as opportunities to meet other students and alumni. There are social gatherings to acquaint incoming students and also workshops and seminars to help you in your job search.
- The first quarter the probably the best part of the program. Roger Lee and Mark Hendricks are both phenomenal professors/lecturers and all three suggested classes (Portfolio Management, Options Pricing and Python) had a lot to teach. This three classes combined with the job search provided a very rewarding first quarter which left me with very high expectations with the rest of the program.
- The support staff are also extraordinary. Meredith and Emily are the two main callouts that come to mind. Meredith is always available for you to talk to, whether it is personal or professional. If there is anything that you need to have done, she is the go to person. Emily is likely the best career advisor I ever worked with/will work with. Saying that she goes above and beyond is honestly an understatement. I genuinely don't know how she was able to make the time to answer everyones questions. She makes sure to understand each student's unique situation and provides insightful guidance even when you yourself may be unsure on what you want/need.
- The program provides flexibility in what electives you want to take. You have the option to take classes from Booth and Stats departments within UChicago.
- All the classes (bar a few where professors forget) are recorded start to finish and uploaded online. This allows you to rewatch to see portions that you may have missed as well as play the video back at 2x speed to review.
- Being located in Chicago it's easier to meet/see many of the trading firms that are located there.
- There were a few months where Emily temporarily left the program. This along with a few other changes in the Career Development Office (CDO) were very noticeable. However, now that she's back, maybe things will be back to normal (though she's not in the same role).
- Too many classes that are not worth taking. Further details below.
- Chicago winters and crime
Courses to take: Modern Applied Optimization, Bayesian Stats I and II, Microstructure, Stocalc, Numerical Methods, Portfolio Theory, Option Pricing, Python
Classes to avoid:
- Regression Analysis and Quantitative Trading Strategies with Brian Boonstra: Overall this class taught me very little. It was largely a project class that are focussed on teaching you how to manipulate and display data. The "trading strategies" are incredibly basic and something that you could teach yourself by looking at wikipedia. Grading made no sense as they would often times give you an 80 with the only comment being "Great work". The lack of feedback gives you no opportunity to learn nor the willingness to try on future assignments. This class was likely the biggest disappointment I had in the program as the reviews made it seem like it would be a great class.
- Probability and Stochastic Processes with Jostein Paulsen: The material in this class was actually great, it was just taught very poorly. Partly due to the fact that there was too much material for a 50 credit course, partly due to bad a bad professor. This class could be very valuable if they rework it to be a 100 credit course with more depth.
- Applied Algorithmic Trading with Christopher Gersch: The homeworks were again graded completely arbitrarily with no feedback. The final project also had no feedback and seems to be graded based on entertainment value. It's not a difficult class, but just doesn't provide much educational value.
- Blockchains and Cryptoassets for Finance with Brian Boonstra and Co.: Material was not very informative and some of the homeworks seemed like they were designed for a middle school class.
- There are other classes that I heard bad things about through word of mouth, however since I didn't experience them personally, I won't comment on them.
Tips going in:
- Study the Green Book ("A Practical Guide To Quantitative Finance Interviews”), prior to the program if possible. As Emily and others will tell you, it is never too early to start interviewing.
- Keep track of places you're applying and apply far and wide. Keeping track of your applications during the internship process if very helpful when deciding where to apply come full time.
I graduated from UChicago's MSFM program in December 2022 and will be working as a Credit Risk Modeller with one of the top bulge bracket banks in the USA.
My background was in engineering from a top-tier institute in India and I had some work experience in risk management. My goal with the master's was to shift to a more technical role and the program helped me immensely in this endeavor.
In spite of the lower quant net ranking, the U Chicago MSFM program has a few key advantages over most of the MFE programs being offered by other universities. We have one of the best career offices (CDO) out of any university and they help you start applying for internships the minute you accept the offer. The previous director of CDO, Emily is a superhuman and one of the best in the industry, currently, she is the Chief of Staff. CDO provides resume reviews, technical and behavioral workshops and they act like a sounding board for all the frustration that one goes through during the recruiting process. The amount of in-person events with companies in Chicagoland has also increased since Covid.
Academically, the program is rigorous and there is a lot to learn but it is never overwhelming, MSFM allows you to mold your experience according to what you need. The professors are industry-focused and are very patient with students.
Some of my recommendations are:
- Courses by Professor Lee (Option pricing and numerical methods). Professor Lee is the director of the program and his courses are super useful in interviews. He makes sure to cover all the required mathematical principles without making it seem overwhelming. It is critical that you take Professor Lee's courses if you want the full experience.
- Bayesian Inference and Machine Learning I and II from Gordon Ritter. Professor Ritter is one of the best quants in the industry and he has a very unique and insightful way of approaching problems, these courses are a must.
- Python and C++ by Seb. You will know where the term "where fun comes to die" originates from. These courses are intense but absolutely essential if you want to do technical roles in the industry. They helped someone like me with almost no programming background secure a very technical job.
- A course from the math/stat department. UChicago has one of the best Math departments in the world and while rigorous, the courses are great for getting your fundamentals right. One of the best ones for quant finance is the Stochastic Calculus course by the man who literally wrote the textbook for it - Professor Lawler.
- Courses to avoid: Any course by Prof Nygaard.
The program has a great support system too, Meredith takes care of everything and can solve any problem you throw at her, administrative or personal. She personally helped me navigate all the visa complications an international student has to face
Overall, I would say the program is fantastic if you want to delve deep into the world of quantitative finance. You'll have one of the best career offices in the country and the technical and soft skills you'll pick up will help you shape your career according to what you want. It helps that the university is based in one of the best cities in America.
Graduated from UChicago MSFM in December 2022. Started working as VP in Quant Research role at one of the largest banks.
Engineering from top Indian institution + 10 years’ work experience at Banks in Financial Markets/Derivatives Structuring + CFA
UCLA MFE, Georgia Tech QCF
Choose UChicago MSFM because of the University reputation and the impressive communication with the program staff during my application process.
My top takeaways from the UChicago MSFM Experience:
1. Career Development Office – UChicago probably has one of the best Career Development Office (CDO) amongst all Quant Finance programs. Emily Backe was leading the CDO till last year and she is the Chief of Staff for the program now. She is simply superb at managing student career aspirations and has institutionalized multiple professional development tools. CDO helps with all career needs like resume building, LinkedIn profile updating, mock technical and behavioral interviews, networking opportunities, relevant job posting feeds and a lot more. You get personalized attention and can speak with Career advisors and alumni from the industry at any time. I personally kept meeting my career advisor multiple times during my summer internship search and she connected me with many of the program’s alumni from the industry.
2. Core Course Curriculum: The curriculum is structured to get you fully prepared for summer internship interviews right from the beginning of the program. Before the official start in the fall quarter, there is a month-long Review on Regression, Python, Probability and Stochastic processes. This helps you navigate for your interviews and continues seamlessly into more advanced course works in Option Pricing, Portfolio Theory, Quant Trading Strategies, and much more during the program.
3. Faculty: The core faculty of Roger Lee (Director and Instructor for Option pricing and Numerical Methods), Mark Hendricks (Instructor for Portfolio Theory and Fixed Income), Seb (Instructor for Python and C++) are all veterans in their domains and cover the topics like none other. There are newer electives in Bayesian Machine Learning and Crypto Assets taken by some industry professionals who are best in their fields.
4. Support System: MSFM is extremely intense where you are expected to learn and perform every day. The coursework becomes challenging quite quickly and you are also required to engage in summer/full time job search. But during my coursework, I never felt stressed out or broken down because of the cohesive environment at institute. Meredith, Director of Academic Services and Administration plays such a huge role in this by helping you at every step. She would advice you on any matter, personal or professional and helps you choose courses according to your aspirations and capabilities.
5. Concentrations and Ability to Tailor what you get from the program : There are multiple opportunities to tailor your course work as per your career aspirations. You can choose your courses to get a concentration in any of (1) Data Science, (2) Trading, (3) Derivatives and (4) Computing. Each of the concentrations have some courses that are taught by well-known industry professionals.
On the whole, the program is fantastic, and everyone takes away so much from it. I personalized gained everything I was looking for – A great career path, a wide and diverse professional network and above all, an excellent learning experience that would go with me for life.
I graduated from UChicago Finmath program in December 2022, and I will be joining a market making firm as a quantitative trader this year. I would say the program helped me a lot in gaining experience in the quantitative finance field and preparing me for the next stage of my career path.
I studied actuarial science and mathematics during undergrad in the states, and straightly joined the MSFM program after my graduation. I am not a typical candidate for quantitative finance. I made up my decision to change my route from actuarial to quant finance in my junior year after I had a few experiences during summer internships. It was also a big challenge for me to change my career path. Without the solid background in some areas of quantitative finance, I wanted to get into a program which will help me strengthen my knowledge to catch up with everyone else in the quant finance field. I applied for many programs and finally chose UChicago due to the reputation of its rigorous academic environment.
The program officially starts in late September each year. However, before the written date, there are two important mini program for everyone to better fit in. The first is called August Review. During the 4-week long mini program, professors and Instructors will help students of different background to catch up new or old knowledge to some specific areas in the field such as probability, linear regression, programming, etc.
There it comes the September Launch. This is another 4-week long mini program to getting deep into some topics of python programming, linear regression and the entire market in general. Since the job hunting season starts mainly in August and September, there will be several workshops and seminars for interview preparation, either technical or behavioral. Instructors and CDO staffs will help all students to improve themselves and get ready for different format of interviews. This is the most significant season for every student as well as for the entire program. Whenever you have any difficulties, you can always find someone in the program for help. For academic side, you can find Mark, Seb, and their TAs, etc. For job hunting or life-related issues, Emily, Alma and Meredith will be in the Finmath building for you to visit.
Courses and Workload:
I believe most people have heard the fame of academic rigor of University of Chicago. Maybe many of you who is interested in the program have been told that the first quarter is the most challenging quarter. However, I don’t think so. It really depends on how much you devote on your future and on your self-improvement. If you want to study hard and get a good job in the states, I would say most of the quarters are quite challenging. You need to be prepared to work from 7am to 12am for seven days each week if you have a clear direction in the field. For example, as my background and my interest in math, I focus on buyside trading companies for my future career. I spent a lot of time on math problems in the first few quarters in addition to the schoolwork. When you look back into those times in the future, I believe your efforts are worthwhile and will pay you back well.
Though there may have some exception from my personal experience, most of the courses are helpful and instructors are great guys to ask questions. I will recommend a few courses below:
- Both courses (Option pricing and Numerical Methods) from Professor Roger Lee. I would say Roger is one of the smartest people in the program. He explains everything well and the pace is acceptable for most students.
- C++ and Python from Seb. Many students in the program have been tortured in the first few quarters with Seb. The workload is extraordinary, and you need to work even harder for understanding all those things. However, from my personal experience, Seb can offer you many useful suggestions for life and job hunting. It is a good idea to find some time talking with him and sharing your own point of view. Back to the contents. Though I will not say Seb is a perfect teacher, you will realize in your future life and work that he tries to give you all the useful materials and skills that will help you succeed in the field.
- Some stats courses from the stats department. UChicago is famous for econ and stats department. I strongly recommend Finmath students to take some stats courses. The workload might be high, but you will notice the significance of those courses.
- Bayesian and Machine Learning I and II from Gordon Ritter. Professor Ritter opens a quant trading firm in New York and focuses strictly on reinforcement learning. The courses can give you some background math knowledge on the area and broaden your road for quantitative finance.
- Stochastic Calculus from Professor Gregory Lawler. If you are interested in math, please listen carefully to this course. Professor Lawler is one of the best math professors in the department and you will understand why I say that after you have a few interactions with him.
Career Development Office:
CDO definitely adds points to the entire program. The staff organize useful workshops and labs for interview preparation. They also have a close connection with alumni to provide useful suggestions to current students. Emily and Alma are the two close advisors I usually talk to. They work hard for the students in the program to get the jobs they want. Honestly speaking, my summer internship opportunity was from the CDO resume book.
This is one of the best programs in the world of quantitative finance. With abundant resources and training, you can utilize them to achieve your goal. Of course, your hard work plays a more important role. Your diligence is the key to your success. The program provides a great platform for you, and how you use the items on that platform will direct your way.
I graduated from UChicago's MSFM program with Financial Computing concentration in December 2022 and I'm an incoming Quantitative Researcher of a bulge bracket bank in USA. The coursework is super intense and lives up to UChicago standards of education. Highly recommended course for Quantitative Finance aspirants.
I did bachelor’s in engineering and finance from a top tier institute in India. I had a CFA and few years of experience in investment banks back and middle offices. Objective to do Quant Finance was to get into buy side or sell side Quant Research. I applied to UChicago by seeing few reviews on Quantnet and looking at the flexible curriculum. I did know the brand value of the school but was always apprehensive of the ranking published by Quantnet. I did get admits from other good universities but chose MSFM at UChicago mainly due to merit scholarship, location, and brand value.
I really liked that UChicago’s MSFM program has 3 main components Core Courses, Computing courses and Elective courses. After you finish 600 of 1250 units in Core and Computing you’re free to organize your curriculum as per the specialization you want. Students picked up courses from computer science, Chicago Booth, Stat, Analytics department as well. I have myself taken courses such as Big Data and Time Series from Booth and Analytics department respectively. UChicago FinMath curriculum builds up confidence required for a quant in the finance industry as you progress in the course. The Project Lab is a like a cherry on the cake for the program. It gives so many industry contacts and would let you work on industry live projects in Quant Trading, Quantitative Consulting, Quant Research etc.
#1: Options and Numerical Methods: These courses are taught by Roger Lee. His method of explaining complex equations and pricing of options including MC Simulations is fabulous.
#2: Python: This course is taught by Sebastian Donadio. This course is the most rigorous course I have come across. The initial sessions start in September review and go on till December. All the assignments, exams and projects are on HackerRank and imitates most of the first few rounds conducted by the top tier Quant Hedge Funds, Trading firms and banks. I was an amateur in Python and coding and I was able to write well-structured code by the end of the class. Students find his course very tough, but I would say looking back I’m glad I was Seb’s student.
#3: Portfolio Theory: This class is taught by Mark Hendricks the Associate Director of this program and is very well designed. The course follows HBS case study approach with python programming applications of portfolio theory. The course is top notch, and I was inspired to try Portfolio Management atleast once in my career. Hence my summer at a Quant Fund.
Other Course Recommendations:
For becoming Quant Dev: Advanced Programming in C++ taught by Sebastian
For becoming Quant Trading: Quant Trading and Regression Analysis by Brian Boonstra. Each assignment takes 4 days to complete and is lengthy. Formulate real time Quant Trading strategies along with performance in this class.
Stochastic Calculus: This course is taught by Wolf Prize winner Greg Lawler. He’s very good with probability and random processes. His teaching is fantastic and easy to understand. I audited his courses as I already had too many in my bucket.
As mentioned in the review earlier, the course work is intense and overwhelming for the first 2 quarters. The first quarter is the most intense with 3 new courses in 3 different fields with Python taking the most amount of time. Internship search with these courses was very difficult but you’ll slowly find your pace and path. Collaboration and teamwork with classmates is the key to encounter such a high workload.
I picked up Project Lab in 2 quarters and they were a talking point in all my interviews. I sold those projects as it was quant heavy and industry relevant. I infact got a full-time opportunity with a Project Lab firm. I have seen many Projects Lab interns getting converted to Summer Interns and Full-time employees.
The kindest, most encouraging, and most helpful individual in this program is Emily! She is wonderful and compassionate, and she provides the best professional assistance ever. I adore her and I’m glad she is back to the program after leaving it for a short tenure. They’ll organize many behavioral and technical workshops for preparing you for interviews. Infact FinMath Alumni themselves take interviews for these workshops. The CDO even collects resumes for the Resume book and passes it on to many firms that they partner with. Many of my friends and classmates got summer internships offers including me due to this.
Greenbook is bible for technical interviews. READ IT before you come for the program! August review is very difficult to follow because you might be moving b/w cities and countries in some cases. But make sure your foundations are strong in coding, math, finance. You might also feel more comfortable in the program if you have couple of years of work experience in the finance industry. Also, Meredith is the mother for this program, she knows everything about the program and latest events. Any questions and problems Meredith is always there!
I’m glad I chose UChicago for pursuing my masters which is the world’s top 10 universities. Without a doubt its worth your time. I value all that I learned from this program.
I graduated from UChicago's MSFM program in December 2021 and am an incoming quant researcher for a multistrat hedge fund. I am extremely satisfied with this program and would heavily recommend it to anyone looking to further their education or get into the quant finance industry.
I studied math and economics in undergrad and have a MA in economics from a top program. I wanted to pursue a PhD in economics, but after the MA program, was no longer interested, but still looking for a quantitative career that was fast paced and empirically driven. Quant finance seemed like a good fit, which led me to UChicago.
The primary reason I chose UChicago's FinMath program was because of the placements. By having consistent placements in hubs like NY and Chicago, employment by some top firms, respectable reported salaries, and high employment rates at graduation, I knew my goals and the programs outcomes were well-aligned. Beyond placement, the University of Chicago is a renown university for multiple disciplines and a great learning environment. Furthermore, a dedicated career office (CDO) to the FinMath program allowed for one-on-one advising and guidance throughout the program, offering tips on preparing for interviews, searching for jobs/internships and networking.
Technical Skills Acquired
Python is the primary language used in most of the courses offered. The program starts with foundations, and effectively builds the skills acquired to be sufficient in industry. Coming from an R background, I found the learning curve steep, yet manageable. The courses give great exposure to Jupyter notebooks and IDEs like PyCharm. C++ is a secondary language for students interested in more of a quant developer's track, and few classes (primarily electives taught through the stats department or business school) are taught in R.
The initial Fall Quarter is by far the most challenging quarter and I believe all subsequent quarters are as difficult as you would like--there is a lot of flexibility.
The program offers a short-term applied research project sponsored by companies facing actual quant problems. I found this to be extremely interesting, and offered a realistic application of the theory and skills that I had developed over my time in the program. It also was a great opportunity to hone softer skills like teamwork and communication.
I am going to piggyback off of one of my classmates below. In general, all of the required course (portfolio theory, option theory, stochastic calculus, and python, and quant trading) are all exceptional classes. For added color:
- Seb Donadio's Python and C++ courses. Python is required, and will be challenging even to experienced python programmers. The C++ class is helpful and takes a similar approach as Python. Seb really cares about the students, and is very approachable.
- Roger Lee is an outstanding teacher. The theoretical option pricing course is great, and the Numerical Methods to option pricing is even better.
- Brian Boonstra’s Quantitative Trading Course is taught by an actual quant who has plenty of years in industry and teaching. Lectures are lively and problem sets are challenging.
- Multivariate Data Analysis is a deep dive into unsupervised learning, covering everything from PCA to state of the art techniques.
This program deserves a wholehearted recommendation. Besides everything outlined above, I am compelled to comment on my cohort. I was throughly impressed by some of my classmates in terms of their intellect, experiences, and goals. They are outstanding scholars and these great friendships provided the camaraderie required to get the most out of the program.
I am a current student at the University of Chicago's MSFM program. I will be graduating very soon in December 2021 and will be joining an asset management firm as a quantitative strat. I had noticed during my own application season back in 2019-2020 that many of the reviews about this program are quite old, dating back to the early 2010s. So, I thought to pen down my own experience, which I believe could be much more useful to the prospective students.
Amazing program with relevant and rigorous courses. Instructors are helpful and industry experts within their respective domains of quant finance. Outstanding career services. An additional bonus of Chicago being an international hub for finance, especially for proprietary trading shops.
University of Chicago is renowned for its mathematics, economics, statistics and the Booth School. Hence, it has a solid brand value and great connections with reputed firms all over the land.
Background- I’m an international student from Asia having an undergrad major in economics and statistics from a top-5 university in my country. Prior to coming to the US, I had worked for like 2 years, much more related to economics than quant finance. I wanted to work in the quant finance industry rather than just economics + statistics. I had applied to Financial Engineering programs in the US and received admits from UChicago and a few other good schools within the top-8 of the QuantNet rankings. In the hindsight, it has been a wonderful experience. No regrets at all.
Program- Before the program starts, there is a 3-week refresher session called ‘August Review’. Topics related to regression, probability, statistics, etc. are taught. It serves as a revision refresher for those who have studied these topics earlier and serves as a great learning toolkit for those students who don’t have much experience with these topics. Since many of the firms start their internship recruitment in late August, hence I believe ‘August Review” does a great job of brushing up important relevant topics for the internship interviews.
After the ‘August Review’ comes the ‘September Launch’, which is a 4-week long session in which modules related to python programming and financial markets are taught rigorously in quite a depth. Just to remind you, this is still a pre-program phase. I believe ‘September Launch’ is an amazing way to prepare the students for the main program, particularly those students who don’t have much prior experience with Python programming and financial markets. Technical interview labs with different professors are also held during ‘September Launch’ which explicitly train students for the crucial fall internship recruitment season.
So, ‘August Review’ and ‘September Launch’ together prepares students for the main program by equipping them with required skills in Python, financial markets, regression, statistics, etc., and also for the fall internship interviews. Without these two sessions, it would be much more overwhelming for the incoming students to handle any rigorous Financial Engineering program and also the internship interviews which start as early as September.
Courses- First quarter (fall) has three main important compulsory courses: Portfolio Theory and Risk Management taught by Mark Hendricks, Option Pricing by Roger Lee, and Python Programming by Sebastien. Portfolio Theory taught by Mark Hendricks is an amazing and quite important course. Mark has balanced it perfectly between theory and applied practice. There are many real-life quant finance case studies in homework and for discussions, which really help to understand the real-life applications of quantitative portfolio theory. Mark cares about his students and is quite dedicated to his course. There are instructor hours, instructor reviews, TA hours, extra hours, and other resources designed by Mark to ensure students understand the quantitative portfolio theory and risk management inside and out.
Option Pricing courses by Roger Lee are just outstanding. I simply don’t have enough words to do justice with how good his courses actually are.
Python and C++ courses taught by Sebastien are rigorous (as they should be) and the learning curve is very steep. There is simply so much to learn in his two courses, it’s amazing. I came into the program as a beginner in Python and C++ and at this point, I feel pretty comfortable in both of them.
The quantitative trading strategies course taught by Brian Boonstra is again a rigorous course that involves lots of assignments, handouts, and videos. You could be a trading novice prior to entering his class but if you do the class sincerely you will step out equipped with sufficient tools required to start constructing complex trading strategies.
Financial Time Series Analysis class taught by renowned statistician Rue Tsay from the Booth School is an amazing class and is quite important in the quant finance industry.
The program also offers classes in Forex and Fixed Income derivatives, machine learning, and deep learning, market microstructure, multivariate data analysis, etc. There are also the classes in probability and stochastic calculus taught by respected mathematician Gregory Lawler.
Career Services: The Career Development Office (CDO) at the UChicago MSFM is one of the strongest pillars and a big plus point of the program. I remember when I was applying to the Financial Engineering programs back in 2019-2020, I came across some reviews on the QuantNet which were skeptical of the career services at UChicago MSFM. Speaking as of 2021, trust me, the CDO at this program is WORLD-CLASS, amazing, and more than what a financial engineering student would ask for. Emily, Danny, and Alma work hard with students to ensure that the students land the jobs they want. My career advisor was Emily and she left no stone unturned to help me during the entire program. From helping me significantly improve my job search process, working on resumes and SOPs to multiple interview practices and feedback, Emily and CDO were always there to assist.
The Industry Perspective In-Residence (IPR) is a great initiative by the MSFM program, whereby a seasoned practitioner from the quant finance industry is available for technical interview practice and general consultation within the university.
In a nutshell: Great program, outstanding career services, rigorous and relevant courses, helpful and expert instructors. No regrets, just awesome memories!
I graduated from UChicago's MSFM program in December 2021 and I'm an incoming Quantitative Trader of a Chicago-based prop trading firm. Overall, I loved this program! There is no way I'd be where I am without it. It thoroughly prepared me professionally (internship and job search) and technically (courses and projects). If you want to be a non-PhD quant, this is an awesome program!
I studied math, statistics, and computer science in undergrad from a Big Ten school. I was primarily interested in machine learning or a statistics PhD, but found quant finance very interesting and learned that a PhD is not necessary to be an applied quant. Having little finance background, I thought a quant program like this would be an awesome start. I applied to many schools, but my final choices were UChicago's FinMath program and Columbia's Mathematical Finance program. Both are awesome programs, but I haven't regretted my choice of UChicago for a second!
UChicago has an amazing reputation in econ, math, and statistics. The FinMath program also thoroughly used Python, Jupyter notebooks, and C++, which wasn't the case at every other quant master's program. They also are very up-to-date on machine learning and statistics which I liked, since this was my background. But a main differentiator was the career development office (CDO). CDO THOROUGHLY prepares EVERY student for interviews. Whether it's networking, preparing for technical interviews, or just organizing your search process, they are excited to help you individually. UChicago's Project Lab is also a differentiator; this was an awesome opportunity to get some quant finance on your resume and is built into the program. This was useful for me since I was new to finance.
This program is rigorous, but I don't think it would have the reputation it does without rigor. However, I would not say it was overwhelming or excessive. Fall quarter is definitely the most intense, but this is mostly due to the interview process. The remaining quarters can be as intense as you want; I took lots of courses in the winter and spring quarters so my final quarter would be quite light and I liked this. This program is not easy, but I think it's very fair and teaches useful and interesting things.
Career Development Office (CDO)
One of the best parts of the program. Every aspect of the interview process (general landscape, technical prep, networking, etc.) is formally and informally covered by CDO. I couldn't have done well in the interview process without them! Surprised to hear some other quant program's career offices do so little. FinMath CDO starts working with you before the program even starts. They start by perfecting resumes and cover letters. They also suggest thoroughly reviewing the Green Book ("A Practical Guide to Quantitative Finance Interviews") before you arrive; this is crucial to do! During the program, they offer tons of workshops on technical interview prep, behavioral interview prep, and networking. They also are open for 1-on-1 meetings whenever you want. They also have a rich alumni network so you can know what to expect on your interviews.
Perfect for someone new to the industry. This is a company-sponsored project that you work in a team on. Each project has a supervisor and you report weekly or biweekly to your company. There is also a final presentation. This is an EXCELLENT thing to talk about in subsequent interviews as well.
- Any course with Prof. Roger Lee. He is perhaps the best teacher I've had, and I've had a lot of strong teachers! He taught Option Pricing and Numerical Methods (computational sequel to his Option Pricing course). Medium workload for both.
- Prof. Greg Lawler's Stochastic Calculus Sequence. Stochastic calculus is not strictly necessary for modern quants, but I found this course extremely interesting and useful. Prof. Lawler is a highly respected mathematician and a great instructor too! Medium workload.
- Seb Donadio's C++ Course. C++ is extremely useful, and Seb will push you to become quite comfortable with it! He really cares about his students. Medium to heavy workload.
- Brian Boonstra’s Quantitative Trading Course: rigorous intro to quant trading and lots of practice coding up backtesters in python. This was perhaps the most intense course (for me) in the program, but I got a ton out of it. Boonstra is a highly respected quant.
- Ruey Tsay’s Time Series: very solid course taught by a very respected statistician. Medium workload and excellent time series content.
This is an amazing program and I'm so glad I enrolled! And make sure you review the Green Book before you arrive!
I graduated from UChicago's MSFM program in December 2020 and I'm an incoming Quantitative Trader of a Chicago-based prop trading firm. Overall, to rate this program, I'll definitely say this program gives me so much help in studying and job hunting and it's totally worthwhile to choose this program to strengthen yourself in all kinds of perspective if you wanna dig more into this area.
I learned math and economics during undergrad in the states. Honestly I don’t see myself as a typical candidate for MSFM (lack of related intern experiences and was not sure if I really wanted to be a quant in the future etc.). I mainly focused on applying for stats/biostats/applied math graduate programs during application season and I managed to get into big names such as Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Duke etc.
I’ll definitely say UChicago has always been my dream school. I’m a math and economics student and without any doubt UChicago is like heaven to me. When doing all kinds of researches, I looked into the curriculum of this program and found out that all of the courses are pretty useful for my future study/career. To be a quant, you need to be good at math, coding, machine learning and also all kinds of financial products. MSFM offers a bunch of good courses in all those aspects (Python, C++, Machine Learning, Options, Fixed Income, Matrix Decomposition etc.). At that time, I was intrigued by those courses and also those well-known professors (Lawler, Roger Lee etc.). Besides what I mentioned above, the Project Lab also attracted me. I didn’t really have that confidence while applying since I’m not sure if I’m gonna secure an offer after graduation so being able to attend the project lab is a secure move and I thought it would add more colors into my resume.
I’ll admit that the workload of this program is pretty huge, which is a good thing for me. At the first quarter, we got four compulsory courses (with a log of dues, exams and projects) and all kinds of workshops to attend in order to prepare ourselves for job hunting. In the meantime, it was the hiring season and with tons of interviews coming, it was crazily busy at that time. But all the courses did teach us useful stuff which could be encountered during quant interviews. After the first quarter, we got much more time to free solo by our own and this is the time for us to choose free elective courses that we’re interested in.
Definitely shed some light of how this industry works. If you’re someone who doesn’t have much experiences in quant trading, project lab is a perfect starting point. Every project lab has a supervisor and several teammates (your peers) and you guys will report weekly or biweekly to the company and there will be a final presentation at the end of each quarter. This is a good chance to face the real challenge in this business (messy data, unclear information, bad communication etc.) but once you conquered all those trouble, you’ll definitely learn a lot.
Roger’s Options and Numerical Methods (those two are my favorite, such clearly-illustrated and useful courses), Seb’s Python (super useful but huge workload), Brian’s Regression Analysis (good chance to practice coding, project-based, huge workload), Tsay’s Time Series (good professor, super useful course), Lim’s Matrix Decomposition (useful and important linear algebra course, love it)
Emily is definitely the sweetest and the most supportive and helpful person of this program!!!!! I love her so much and she’s always so nice, patient and definitely offers the best career service ever. I’ve heard that some schools’ career offices offer no help at all but at MSFM, they do everything they can to help you. Before officially enrolled in the program, you’re required to send resume and cover letter to them for several versions of revision. And then, during September review, they’ll organize a tons of workshops for preparing interviews and networking. Also, before every interview, if you talk with them, Emily will give you some questions that other alumni encountered before to help you prepare and they would love to mock interview with you. Emily follows up with my job hunting during the whole 15-month program and I’ll say, without her support, help and encouragement, I would never be able to truly believe that I could slay those interviews and got my offers.
Definitely worth your time. Appreciate everything I gained from this program.
I graduated from the program in December 2020 and absolutely loved it for multiple reasons. The program is strong academically and rigorous yet is ultimately very rewarding.
I joined the program straight from undergrad where I studied applied math and statistics so I only had internship experiences prior to starting. In general, students join with very different backgrounds (economics, engineering, physics, math, stats, finance, etc.) and some at different points in their careers so I would not say anyone is really at a disadvantage or wouldn’t be able to succeed in the program given their background (assuming program requirements are met). In fact, the finmath (UChicago financial math program!) faculty do a great job helping all students catch up and review any important material during September Review (prior to Fall quarter).
The application is fairly straight forward. You need letters of rec, an essay (why the financial math field? why uchicago?), and a video interview recording of you answering some questions (this is also nothing to stress over and although I don’t remember the exact questions asked, they were fairly general and nothing out of the ordinary, more or less something along the lines of “why do you want to join this program?”).
I was ultimately deciding between a few different programs and UChicago. While I obviously chose UChicago, I never once regretted it. I think a few important things to think about if you are applying or deciding are 1) prestige (I hate to say it but it’s true in this field) 2) location 3) experience visiting or meeting students or faculty from the program. For me, UChicago covered all these three categories fairly well and I can confidently say this after graduating as well as after experiencing the application and interview process for internships and full-time positions. The University of Chicago itself has a great reputation and the Financial Mathematics program even more so, so applying pretty much anywhere gives you a leg up. Furthermore, the program being in Chicago is great since there are numerous trading firms (who hire many students) there and also a great chance to actually see some of these firms in person as the finmath program organizes “field trips” for students to meet quants and traders at these firms. One thing to note, given many firms/banks in this field are in NY, the fact that the program is not in NY is a question that has come up quite a bit when I have talked to prospective students. I have never seen this as an issue or as a disadvantage when applying to jobs or going through the interview process with companies in different states. I guess the only downside is you might have to hop on an extra flight for an interview but that’s not always so bad. Finally, the actual experience when visiting or talking to students/faculty is crucial! I had some questions prior to accepting and Meredith who is the director of student and faculty services at finmath along with some current students at the time did an amazing job guiding me through these which gave me a great sense of what the culture of the program would be like. This is also important because after all, these are the people you will be going to for help with career advice, course work, research, etc. so I would say that these interactions should be a top factor in your decision making.
The courses offered at the program are very thoroughly planned out and designed to help you succeed. For instance, the first quarter of the program you take core courses in options pricing, stochastic processes, portfolio theory, and python. These are important because this is exactly what most interviews cover so you jump into the program really just being fed information that you will then be asked about in an interview. Fall quarter starts in early October or late September which is a bit unfortunate since that is the peak of the recruiting season for internships. However, finmath does a great job dealing with this since the career development office starts interacting with students during the summer with study tips, resume and cover letter review appointments, etc. pretty much getting you ready for September Review. September Review is an additional part of the program that while is not mandatory is STRONGLY recommended and for a good reason. Almost every day in September there is a review session or workshop (technical and non-technical) that is helpful in preparing you for classes and interviews. During this month, many activities are also organized that allow you to meet your fellow classmates, alum, or even quants or other professionals from different firms. These are all great opportunities to network and possibly learn more about where you want to apply. Fall quarter I would say is the most hectic as you are trying to juggle courses along with applying to jobs, studying for interviews, and finally actually interviewing which can all be a lot to handle together. If you are deciding between programs, I can confidently say that this is probably true for all students regardless of the school, so choosing a program where you think you can get the most help and support in this process is vital. I think what’s really helpful at finamath is that the career development office and faculty know and understand this which makes everything slightly easier to maneuver (Meredith is also a great cheerleader for everyone in this process throughout the entire year!!!) . Furthermore throughout the program, it really feels like the faculty is there to help you and really want the best for you which is a great environment to be in. I won’t go into too much detail about other courses, but some of my favorites or those that I found to be very helpful aside from the first quarter courses I mentioned are: FINM 33150 - Regression Analysis and Quant. Trading Strategies, FINM 32700 - Advanced Computing for Finance, and FINM 32000 - Numerical Methods.
Finally, project lab is definitely one of finmath’s selling points. Project lab is an opportunity for students to join a project each quarter (most students only do 1-2) with a partnering firm. This is kind of like a group project (4-5 students) in internship format that occurs during the quarter. I know students who have loved their projects and those who have not so I think it’s definitely a hit or miss depending on what firm you choose, how engaged the professionals from the firms are while working with finmath students, and of course, the topic of the project lab. However, it's a great experience to add to your resume or even get a paid summer internship /full-time job from. Lastly, many of the finmath faculty are working professionals. This means they bring a lot of what is being practiced in industry to the classroom. They are also all a great resource for questions regarding careers and research projects or really anything you may be curious about.
Career Development Office:
AMAZING. I really couldn’t even imagine how helpful a program’s career development office could be prior to attending UChicago’s finmath program. Students are paired with one of three finamth counselors at the start of the year and this is the person you can go to for everything career related. It is really easy to get appointments when necessary so if I ever had questions prior to interviewing somewhere, I could always schedule an appointment with my counselor. The CDO is more of a network that keeps growing every year, learning more and more about other companies, the interview process, and gaining valuable insight that they then share with students. Furthermore, they organize countless workshops throughout the year that help with interview prep. A common example of such workshop is a faculty member (often times Roger Lee or Mark Hendricks) going over brain teasers or interview questions that UChicago students have seen during interviews at top firms.
While there aren’t many weaknesses I that I can think of, I think that a few of the electives offered are not taught in the most practical manner or could be updated. Furthermore, the programming courses (other than those taught by Sebastien D. - Computing for Finance in Python, Advanced Computing for Finance) could be improved and some more advanced techniques (ex: advanced machine learning techniques) that are currently used in the field should be introduced. However this may be the key difference between financial engineering and financial math programs so I guess a matter of preference.
Random things I wish I knew about the program before joining:
- Financial Math at UChicago literally has its own building which is very cool! Inside is a lecture hall (where you take most of your courses throughout the program), study rooms, a computer lab, and offices of most of the faculty.
- Most courses are during the evenings! Usually 6-9 pm so it’s definitely something to get used to but also gives you time to interview, work, or do other things during the day.
- Not a lot of information is given about September Review but it essentially is an entire month of different events ranging from company talks, socializing events, and finally most importantly review of different topics that students should be refreshed on prior to starting.
Chicago is a very fun city to be in so definitely a great place to go to grad school.
- I think every single finmath student will tell you this but buy the green book ("A Practical Guide To Quantitative Finance Interviews”) in the summer prior to starting this program or any other financial math/engineering program and start going over questions and brainteasers from it. This will save you so much time during Fall Quarter and make your life so much easier.
I am a December 2020 graduate from the University of Chicago’s Financial Mathematics (MSFM) program. Before joining the program, I had a BS in Actuarial Science/Statistics from UIUC. Then I worked in banking and risk management for a few years. The main reason that I applied for the MSFM is that I want to switch my career to a more challenging and rewarding job. I learned about the program from some of my UIUC classmates, who attended the program after graduating from undergraduate.
The program officially starts at the beginning of September each year, and you will go through a month called 'September review', where you will be given reviews in subjects, including Math, Statistics, python programming, and data analysis. In the meantime, Career Development Office will organize a lot of job search-related training, including networking, interview skills, communication skills. It is gonna be very INTENSE!!! So be prepared.
After the sep. review, normal classes will begin. Life is still very tough from Oct. to Dec. as you will need to take classes (hw, exams) and search for next summer internship (apply jobs, interviews prep.). If you are lucky enough to land an internship, life will be easier for you during the winter and spring quarters (Jan. - Jun.). Your last quarter starts in Oct. and the full-time job search should start around Aug.
My overall experience in the program is very positive. I have achieved my goal by attending the program. I currently work as a bond trader after graduation. I would highly recommend the MSFM program at UChicago to anyone who is planning to pursue a career in the quantitative finance industry or any positions that require quantitative skills
The curriculums of the program are well designed and cover broad ranges of topics with the goal to train people to become well-rounded quants.
My favorite classes are Roger Lee's Mathematical Foundations of Option Pricing and Numerical Method, Chanaka's Computing for Finance in C++, and Seb's Advanced Computing for Finance in C++
3. Career Development Office (CDO)
One of the biggest advantages of the program and UChicago is its location. The city of Chicago has a huge Job market and is a trading harbor. There are many prop trading firms, hedge firms, asset management firms. In addition, most of the firms maintain close connections with the program and they will host info. sessions on campus (some companies even invite students for an office tour).
I have to say CDO is doing a superb job at helping students with job search, resume and cover letter reviews, networking with employers and interviews, etc. CDO will offer tons of workshops to cover every aspect and step you need to take to land a job and help you practice interview questions. In addition, CDO advisors are super helpful and always available when you need help.
If you never have experience searching for jobs and doing interviews, I think you will benefit the most by attending the CDO workshop and make sure you participate and practice your communication and interview skills with CDO advisors.
4. Final advice
If you have 3-4 months free time before Sep. Review (start of the program), you should use this free time wisely to study Green Book and practice programming questions on Leetcode to get ready for technical interviews. Once you start the program, you will have very limited time studying those time-consuming materials.
Be mentally and physically (make sure you sleep well) prepared for this intense adventure. It is a marathon, so stay positive and keep working hard. You will eventually get through!