CMU MSCF CMU MSCF Q&A (ask a current student)

Ivan Nikolenko

Member
C++ Student
Hi everyone! My name is Ivan, I am a current second-year CMU MSCF student. I will be glad to answer any questions you have about the program.

Personally, I think this program fully deserves its 1st rank on QuantNet. About myself: I am an international student, I am studying in Pittsburgh and I have recently completed an S&T summer internship in NYC. I joined MSCF immediately after I completed my undergrad studies.

So, if you have any questions about MSCF, feel free to reach out here or via PM. I will make sure you will get an answer ASAP.
 

Peter Chen

New Member
Hi everyone! My name is Ivan, I am a current second-year CMU MSCF student. I will be glad to answer any questions you have about the program.

Personally, I think this program fully deserves its 1st rank on QuantNet. About myself: I am an international student, I am studying in Pittsburgh and I have recently completed an S&T summer internship in NYC. I joined MSCF immediately after I completed my undergrad studies.

So, if you have any questions about MSCF, feel free to reach out here or via PM. I will make sure you will get an answer ASAP.
Hi Ivan! I'm a Chinese graduate now and gonna apply for MFE programs next year. CMU is always my dream school. Yet I don't have much idea about the career path in finance for an MFE graduate.

While taking internship in the modeling group of a global company, I learned that on such pure "quant" positions, a guy with master degree doesn't have much chance to enter the management level, which is dominated by Phds. It's the truth even for an MFE from an extremely outstanding program like CMU. So I wonder if MFEs can get a better potential development on other positions, like S&T, risk or structuring (in which I really take interest, but I've no idea which group it should be in)? Are those areas also dominated by Phds?

One more question. The MSCF program lasts for 1.5 years right? As long as you get a job on the graduating date (which is in spring I suppose), do you immediately get onto the position and paid as a full-time stuff?

Thank you!
 

Ivan Nikolenko

Member
C++ Student
Hi Peter! Yes, having a PhD helps a lot to develop a pure quant's career. Fortunately, an MFE degree (MSCF in particular) opens a door to many other career path (less heavily oriented on research): sell-side sales and trading, buy-side trading, quantitative asset management, structuring and strategy, risk management, modeling etc. These areas require different skills (both quantitative and soft) than pure quantitative positions, and MFE students are taught how to develop these skills. After graduating from an MFE program you will have solid knowledge of several areas of subjects (Programming, Finance, Maths, Statistics) which is necessary to start delivering value to the firm from the very beginning. And firms like that.

Your growth on these positions will depend on how much experience you have, what value you deliver and whether you have the necessary soft skills, and not just whether you have a PhD or not.

So, the answer is: no, PhDs do not "dominate" these areas, and MFE graduates can successfully develop their careers (you can see that if you take a look at our alumni network). Having said that, I have a couple of friends who successfully started their careers in front-desk quantitative research as well, and they feel confident about their future.

The MSCF program indeed lasts for 1.5 years, students graduate in December. Over the last five years, 86 % of MSCF students accepted full-time positions within three months of graduation. Your full-time offer will indicate your starting date: some firms give you some flexibility (say, at any time within 2 months), others will fix the date themselves (it might be in half a year; although note that international students have special OPT requirements regarding the starting date, and the firms take that into account, so you will probably start by March if you graduate in December). And yes, you are paid as a full-time employee as soon as you start working full-time.=)

Hope that helps. Feel free to reach out with more questions. Also, MSCF webpage has a lot of useful stuff, so you should check it out. Good luck!
 

Derp_LA

New Member
Hi Ivan! What are the alternate career options available to the MSCF/MFE graduates ?
 

Ivan Nikolenko

Member
C++ Student
Hi! MSCF students pursue careers in sales and trading (mostly derivatives), risk management, structured products, financial analytics and quantitative portfolio management. The list of recruiters includes investment banks (e.g. Goldman Sachs, J.P.Morgan, BNP Paribas, Citigroup), asset managers (e.g. PIMCO, BlackRock), hedge funds (e.g. Optiver, SIG, State Street), prop trading firms (e.g. CTC, TransMarket Group, Wolverine) as well as commercial banks and other financial services companies.
 

Monicade

New Member
Hey,
I'm doing my UG in electrical engineering and am in my second year. Quant fascinates me and am pretty good with the Math mentioned for MFE, we also have C and C++ in our curriculum. I'm planning to apply for the FE programme in my final year. Now that I have a solid two-three years to prepare for my application, Can you suggest me what sort of profile would enhance my chances? Also, I need help with the internships that'd be perfect to apply for the course.
Thanks :)
 

Ivan Nikolenko

Member
C++ Student
Hi! First of all, it's great that you show such passion for quant finance at this stage, you have a lot of time to become a very strong candidate. Make sure you have solid understanding of the career paths available to MFE graduates. And make sure you like what you will actually be doing. Now, some profile-enhancing tips from me:

- Study well. High GPA in the relevant subjects and overall is useful.
- Try to find an internship in the financial industry (i.e. it should be relevant). The name of a company matters, so I would suggest large and well-known financial firms. Obviously, the more your internship is related to the key MFE areas (trading, structuring, risk management, asset management, quant research), the better.
- Follow the markets. Wall Street Journal is my advice #1, but you can choose what you like (Bloomberg, Seeking Alpha, etc.). Just try to build some understanding of how things work and what the main trends are.
- If possible, start trading (either with your own capital or just using a paper trading account). Obviously, try to be consistent and responsible (even in case of paper trading), try to come up with a strategy (it can be a quantitative strategy - preferred - or a fundamental strategy). It might be challenging, but a little bit of research will help you.
- I did some research (including my thesis) on option pricing models during my undergrad studies and it turned out to be very useful. Try to enhance your curriculum with relevant courses and try to deepen your knowledge in relevant subjects (if you are good at Maths, try Stochastic Calculus at some point=)). I don't know which courses are available to you, so I don't think I can be more specific at this point.
- If possible, start building your professional network. It might be early at this point, but if you have access to anyone working in the industry, use your opportunity to talk to them.

Remember that for MFE programs a strong candidate is someone who 1) won't fail the curriculum and 2) will get a good job after graduation. These tips cover both (more or less). I hope that helps. Let me know if you have questions on that. Good luck!
 

Nelson Zhou

New Member
Hi, Ivan. First thanks for being here to answer question for us, I really appreciate it.

My question is about the content you learn in your program.

What is the proportion of the knowledge you learn for buy side and sell side quant, respectively. Specifically, how big a proportion of your time is devoted to learn asset pricing, to be a Q quant, and how big a proportion of your time is devoted to learn machine learning, statistics, and so on, to be a P quant. I know sometimes there is overlap, but I just want to have a feeling about the program. I am asking this because I really feel the future of quant is not introduce more complex derivatives, but there will be more opportunities for us to be P quants.
 

Ivan Nikolenko

Member
C++ Student
Hi Nelson! I would say that every mini (half of a semester) we have something from both sides.

The Q quant side includes Maths courses (a course on discrete-time Stochastic Calculus, two courses on continuous-time Stochastic Calculus). In the third semester you have an option to choose Advanced Derivatives Modeling, aka Stochastic Calculus III which explores more advanced derivatives pricing models. Steve Shreve (hopefully you have heard of him=)) teaches StoCal II. Also, there is a course on simulation methods for pricing derivatives which is very interesting. Finally, there is a course on numerical methods in Mini 6.

The P quant side is represented by a variety of Statistics courses (Statistical Inference, Statistical and Machine Learning - covers basic and advanced regression and ML techniques - as well as Time Series Analysis). These courses are more focused on practical applications of the techniques. In the third semester you can study Statistical Arbitrage, Portfolio Optimization and two Risk Management courses. Finally, a new course, Asset Management, has been introduced recently.

So, the main idea here is that the curriculum is well-balanced between the two areas, in my opinion. To conclude, our graduates are frequently recruited for positions in quantitative portfolio management and risk management (the P-quant side). Let me know if you want further details or if you have questions.
 

Nelson Zhou

New Member
Thanks for your detailed reply. Getting a well balanced program between P and Q is something I really want. I am a senior and regard MSCF as my first option.
 

Stefan Du

Member
C++ Student
Hi, Ivan! Thanks for your patience and kind reply to above questions.

I am going to apply for MSCF program this year and I have some questions related to my career path. I have little exposure to the advanced financial industry since I am from China. Namely, positions here are quite different from those in America and my internship is in PwC consulting, not closely related to a quant's career. So when it comes to the essay A, to describe my plan for career path, I could only say that I want to do work related to quantitative finance like risk management and I have no idea about the specific position I want to take or the path I plan for myself.

So could you please give me some advice? Is there anything I can do, like reading some materials to catching the background or going through QuantNet forum to find information?

Thanks!
 

Peter Chen

New Member
Thank you Ivan! It's a really comprehensive answer, and I'm sure it helps a lot.

Just one more question, do you think a MS stats program makes a more competitive candidate for P-quant jobs? Seriously I'm considering both stats and MFE right now. I'm just loving the strategy developing jobs.
 

Andy Nguyen

Member
Hi @Ivan Nikolenko
Love what you are doing. Thanks for giving back to the QuantNet community.

Just a personal question since I know you completed our C++ online certificate prior joining the CMU MSCF program. I know a lot of other people completed our C++ certificate in CMU and other MFE programs as well.
From your experience, did what you learn in our C++ program better prepare you for the programming aspect in your CMU MSCF study? Did it give you an edge compared to other students who may not taken it? Is there anything that you suggest that can make the C++ certificate more useful?

Thanks for your feedback.
 

Monicade

New Member
@Ivan Nikolenko Thankyou so much for the detailed post. That was helpful .
Can you suggest a few good reads that would help me with the basic fundamentals of finance.
 

Ivan Nikolenko

Member
C++ Student
Hi @Stefan Du !

It is important to show that you understand what positions are available to you and what career path you want to take after graduation. It does not mean that you will then not be able to change your mind - choosing the best available career path is part of the MSCF program. But you should at least 1) choose a specific area (or two) in the financial industry, 2) explain why this area attracts you, why you think this area is important for the financial system and the economy, show some understanding of what people do in this area and what the future of this area is, 3) show how you can use your past experience (academic or professional) to succeed in this area. Try to make your answer detailed.

Regarding point 1, here is an approximate list of areas: trading (market-making or proprietary trading) - also includes algorithmic trading and high frequency trading, quantitative research and analytics (comes in many flavors), structuring, portfolio management, risk management. It is also important to understand the distinction between the buy and the sell side. Regarding point 2, I would suggest looking for information on these areas on the web (QuantNet is very useful for that purpose) and asking questions if something is not clear. Finally, for point 3, even though your professional experience was not in quantitative finance, you can still relate it to your future career (e.g. your experience in consulting might help you in client-oriented businesses, like structuring or S&T - just an example). And don't forget to mention how your academic experience will help.

Hope that was useful. Good luck!
 

Ivan Nikolenko

Member
C++ Student
@Peter Chen ,

To be honest with you, I do not have much information on MS Statistics programs, so my opinion might be biased. When I was trying to figure out where to get my Masters degree, I was considering MS in Statistics from Stanford (a great program), but I chose MSCF and MFE in general because 1) it links everything to the world of finance and you are taught how to apply the techniques you learn in practice, 2) it provides you with access to the alumni network and career services (both are extremely useful in the process of job search). MS Statistics will definitely give you more in-depth knowledge of Statistics, but it will not be fine-tuned for the financial industry.

So, my answer to your question will be "no". Unfortunately, I don't have any employment numbers on MS Stats graduates, so this is just my opinion. Also, another factor that you should be very careful about is your background. Your chances to find a job do not depend solely on your Masters, they depend on the combination of your graduate and undergraduate degrees as well as your work experience.
 

Ivan Nikolenko

Member
C++ Student
Hi @Andy Nguyen !

I think the C++ online certificate is a great course, and I would recommend it to anyone with the lack of programming experience. It helped me a lot during the first semester of the MSCF studies, and yes, I would say it gave me an edge compared to other students without CS background. I don't have specific suggestions right now, but I will definitely let you know if I come up with something.
 

Ivan Nikolenko

Member
C++ Student
@Monicade ,

My top-3 textbooks would be:
- "Corporate Finance" by J. Berk and P. DeMarzo (basic concepts and corporate finance);
- "The Complete Guide to Capital Markets for Quantitative Professionals" by A. Kuznetsov (overview of financial markets and products);
- "Options, Futures and Other Derivatives" by J. Hull (a great book on derivatives).

These books are not very easy to read, but they cover most of the essential concepts. Also, I would suggest reading some of these http://www.businessinsider.com/the-most-important-finance-books-2013-12?op=1 in your free time when you feel more comfortable with financial concepts.
 

Stefan Du

Member
C++ Student
@Ivan Nikolenko

Thanks for your detailed advice and kind reply! I have some additional questions and I hope they would not bother you.

I am interested in quantitative research and I have attended the Researcher Contest hold by WorldQuant(not sure whether you have heard about this company). I have learnt a general view of how quantitative researchers do, like finding ideas through academic papers and applying them to the practical strategy. But I am not sure whether my understanding is correct. So when it comes to the quantitative researching area, do you have some specific advice or way to catch the background?

I guess that the majority of people who work in the quantitative researching area have PhD degree, so would I in great disadvantage if I want to land in this area while taking a master degree? Or would it be an inappropriate career goal to apply for master program like MSCF?

Besides, I am going to take the C++ course. Does it suit for people who have nearly no programming background(1 month with Python and several projects using MATLAB)? And will the course be available all the time? Namely, does it have the fixed time to open or could I register it anytime I want?

Thanks!:)
 

Ivan Nikolenko

Member
C++ Student
@Stefan Du

Yes, quantitative researchers use theory they learned at school or from academic papers in practical problems of modeling, pricing and building strategies. Depending on a specific role, Stochastic Calculus and Numerical Methods or Statistics (and related subjects) are very important. But this is a very general view, and I would suggest reaching out to people who actually work on this position. Also, as Andy mentioned in another thread, do some research on the web, including quantnet.com/guide.

The quant research area has a lot of PhD graduates, but as I mentioned before, a top MFE degree will also allow you to succeed. I have several friends from MSCF who are now involved in quant research and feel confident on their positions.

I didn't have much programming experience when I joined the online C++ course, so yes, I would say it is suitable for people who have nearly no programming background. Regarding the other questions, please contact the staff members.
 
Top