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COMPARE CMU Certificate in CF vs CQF program


New Member
Howdy all!

I'm looking to move from a risk management role into a more quant role in the next few years (the sooner the better of course!).

I am looking at two different options for adding to my education and I hope some of you have some opinions on the subject that you can share.

I'll start a bit with my background. I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1997 with a bachelor of Journalism and a minor in business. My first job was as a Financial Adviser with Morgan Stanley from 1997 to 2001. during that time, I earned an MBA from Southern Methodist University. After that I went to my current firm (a large bank), where I worked as a Portfolio Manager within the trust division for four years. During that period, I earned the CFA Charter. In 2005, I moved into our Investment Bank as a Market Risk Manager on our rates derivatives desk.

The two options I am considering for expanding my education are the Carnegie Mellon program, and the Certificate in Quantitative Finance program. I have got to open houses for both in the past month. My thoughts so far are this:

1) CMU - I would most likely pursue their Math Certificate in Computational Finance if I chose CMU. The cost is about $25k and the program last 18 months. The advantages to this
path are that my company may pay for all of it (they have been a very large supporter of the program in the past), which would make this decision quite easy, and that if I decided I needed the full masters, either during or after the program, I could switch into the full MSCF program. My understanding is that the Math Certificate essentially covers the 6 hardest modules from the full masters program, so essentially, by passing it, you are on a comparable level to someone that has received the full masters.

The disadvantage is that my impression is that the Certificate program is being slowly phased out, though they deny that. 90% of their students are in the full masters program and there are several distinct advantages given to the MS students over the certificate (lower cost per class, job placement, etc.). I don't want to spend 18 months and potentially a lot of my own money on something that may be phased out and thus lose it's prestige.

2) CQF - The advantage of this program is that it is less expensive ($16k) and crammed into a 6 intensive months of study. It seems to cover almost the same material as the CMU Math Certificate. The disadvantage is that the program is fairly knew, there are only just over 500 CQF's, and I don't think it has the reputation here in New York, that maybe it has in London where it originated. If it grows, getting in early would seem very advantageous, however if it fades away like so many other financial designations have, it would become worthless, not having even the backing of a major University to fall back on.

Thanks for your help.

Andy Nguyen

Hi there,
I would suggest you look at either the CMU master program or the CQF program. The CMU certificate program has lot of uncertainty surrounded it from what you said.
1) CMU full program: if your employer pays for it, then go for it by all means. Now you have to figure out how to get in.
2) the CQF certificate: only time can tell if it will end up like many other certificate programs. For the time being, they are doing heavy marketing pitches in NYC and London. As a matter of fact, they had an OPENING NIGHT in NYC last night with Paul Wilmott. A friend of mine sent me the info yesterday because he was going to go there.

So if your employer agrees to pay for either program, then it's up to you to decide what's best career and time-wise. I'm aware that both programs are very intense time-wise. Even with all the convinience of studying on line, I don't think CQF has the benefit of interaction and support from the teaching faculty as a real MFE program. If you join the CMU program, most likely you will be in the NYC campus and study though a big screen, no matter how fancy they put it.

Nothing beats studying with your classmates everyday, having direct access to the professors and networking.
Best of luck.


MFE Alum
I think I can add a couple of things, since I have the above mentioned Certificate in Math from CMU. I can only talk about CMU, not familiar with CQF.
I am not sure if the Math Certificate is the hardest of all but it definitely gives you the core of the Computational Finance.
Also, I don't think that watching lectures from Pittsburgh has only negative sides. First, when I was at CMU, most professors used to come to NYC 2 out of 6 times, so it was not all "watching". Second, even if you are watching professor on the big screen, professor can see you and you can ask questions just like in the regular classroom. The biggest advantage is that they tape lectures and you can watch them from home, something I wish would be implemented at Baruch.
Another huge plus of CMU is teaching assistants. In almost all courses there are weekend TA sessions where you can ask questions about anything you like, clarify homework, and other things. TA's also answer e-mail very quickly. So, for example, if you are not sure what formula to use for RMS difference (Andy knows what I'm talking about), they will tell you.
And it is hard, Professor Shreve teaches about a chapter per week from his book (second volume).