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Columbia MFE for "non-quant"?

Hi guys,

I'm an Economics graduate with a decent knowledge of R and some very basic Java knowledge after taking one class. I feel that I need to surrender to the fact that I probably won't ever become a great quant of the calibre of those with computer science/software engineering/mathematics background. Just reading the first few pages of "Teach yourself C++ in.." makes my head go in circles. I think I might have to realize that my strengths lie elsewhere.

Okay... So why the heck did I apply to the Columbia Master in Financial Engineering program?? Well, I really want to work in the USA and I saw the program as a nice stepping stone. Plus, the classes looked absolutely doable: I've already taken two Econometrics courses, Linear Algebra and Probability & Statistics with STEM students, graduate level courses on Quantitative Finance (Ito calculus, binomial models, Black Scholes, Greeks etc..) and Time Series Analysis (ARMA, ARCH, GARCH etc). Soooo I guess I'm not TOTALLY screwed! And I like math, I like derivatives, I even like R.. But I just know that I'm at a huge disadvantage against stronger programmers. I think I'll never be the guy who can write codes all day, I just don't have what it takes, even if I might become an OKAY programmer.

This brings me to my question, as I already got an interview at Columbia. IF I get accepted, should I accept it? More to the point, even though I could get through the program without much programming, would anyone hire me?? What kind of a job could I get? Wouldn't everyone just laugh me off compared to much better "quant" candidates? Finally, should I suck it up, put down "The Intelligent Investor" and use all my free time to self-learn C++ (am I screwed without it)? (I'm aware of the QN/Baruch class, would maybe try that)

TLDR: I'm good at plenty of things but not programming. Would I be an a-hole by joining an MFE program?

Thanks a lot!
 
This brings me to my question, as I already got an interview at Columbia. IF I get accepted, should I accept it?

In my opinion you should not accept it ... so that if I get waitlisted I may take your spot. Hahaha. Just kidding m8.

But in all seriousness, that defeatist attitude is not going to take you anywhere. You may not be a good programmer yet, but if you are willing to work hard to improve you will be. Now, if you don't like to program and you don't think you ever will, that's a different story. But just feeling sorry for yourself because there may be people better than you is not helpful at all. And believe me this WILL BE THE CASE if you go to any elite school. There is always going to be someone better at you at something. But this should instead motivate you to be better, to learn more, not stop you from trying.

I understand being apprehensive, specially if you have to go into debt to pay tuition, but to put it bluntly, it seems that you trust in your education and you abilities; you just need more balls to take the risk.

Also, perhaps some people with experience may shed more light to this, but I imagine that some quant jobs are more programming intensive that others. Hence, you can try to apply to the ones that are less intensive. And if the problem is C++ specifically, NYU (one of the top programs according to the ranking) apparently prefers Java to C++ at leas according to one of these reviews.

Okay... So why the heck did I apply to the Columbia Master in Financial Engineering program?? Well, I really want to work in the USA and I saw the program as a nice stepping stone.

I imagine there are other ways to land a job in the US. Maybe more traditional finance jobs? According to this site, H1B visas in occupations other than Software, IT and finance include: Accountants And Auditors, Mechanical Engineers, Market Research Analysts And Marketing Specialists, Operations Research Analysts among other. Or maybe getting a PhD in Economics, and being open to opportunities? If you get a job you don't enjoy just to go to a different country, eventually you are going to be miserable.
 
Thanks Charles for a very honest response. Btw, I did get an "InterviewStream" interview, I guess everyone did.

I like what you're saying. I guess I feel like I don't have a defeatist attitude, I'm always ready to accept that some will be better than me, I'm thinking it more in terms of Economics and "comparative advantage", the simple fact that my strengths might like elsewhere and perhaps I should put my focus there.

I think I'll never really ENJOY programming all day, just writing codes, but I'm more than happy to use the beauty of programming to make complicated tasks more simple, e.g. by using R or Matlab, going through vast amounts of data. But what I'm wondering is, whether that's not enough for me to get a job. Like I said, I definitely think I could go through the MFE program without being an amazing programmer, but I'm just not sure about the job prospects afterwards.

I did also apply for M.Fin. programs and tbh, I'm probably more likely to accept those. But if there are in fact some "quant" jobs for people who aren't excellent programmers, that could be interesting too.
 
Java and C++ are hard programming languages for beginners. Begin with something easier, try some python series on youtube for ex, very very basic things, so that you start to like programming. Understand the logic first, the basic things you can do with it.

Little tasks like playing with strings and lists, printing out stuff fancily etc will make you "get the thing" about programming and understand what's that all about. Then, you'll be able to move on and get more difficult tasks.

No hurry, one step at a time. Move to C++ later on, after having this logic foundation.

My advice then: get to know programming better.Judge yourself as 'bad at programming' only after that. You have not really tried it so far actually, you just don't know it yet
 
I go to columbia and unlike Baruch (good MFE program to go into risk, developer, etc. positions, but with a shitty overall school name brand), if you go to a well known school such as Columbia, you have access to S&T and other non quant industries. Not sure what the numbers are, but a big chunk of students go into S&T, albeit in HK. you'll be fine. also Matlab and VBA are enough for the MFE program.
 
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