Columbia MS Financial Economics - Overview


New Member
Hello guys

I am a Columbia University's MS Financial Economics former student and have noticed that there is not much information about this program here. I've seen tons of posts about Columbia MAFN, Fin Engineering and operations research, but not Financial Economics.

So I've taken the time to post this thread with some information (from somebody that actually studied in the program) to help future applicants in their decision process.

Alright! So first of all, what is the difference between MSOR, MSFE (engineering) and MSFE (business school) ?

First of all,
- MSOR and MSFE (Eng) are programs held in the Engineering Department.
is a program held in the Mathematics (and Stats) Department
- MSFE (Econ)
is a program held at Columbia Business School

The fact that each program is held in a different department suggests lots of things. To start with, you have access to different faculty. Also, the focus of the programs are different; Finally, the classes you take have different objectives.

The MSFE (Econ) has a curriculum filled with 80%+ of PhD Classes. Actually, there is no difference at all between this program and the PhD program in terms of classes. The only difference is that PhDs do not pay tuition and have to establish a strong relationship to faculty because they'll be doing research together for the next 5 (at least) years. Therefore, PhDs may have a different routine. But the training is the same. In addition, there are several outstanding professors at GSB, including hedge fund managers, Nobel prize laureates, former Chief Investment Officers at major banks (e.g Goldman Sachs) etc.

Nevertheless, another advantage of the MS Financial Economics program is the fact that it is a two-year program. This enables you to point the program to whatever direction you want. The first year is composed of core (and pretty important) classes. The second year is where you can actually tailor the program to your needs: e.g. if you want to work in quantitative research/trading, you can take PhD-level stochastic modeling, stats, machine learning etc; if you want to work in more generalist roles (IB, PE etc), you can get more MBA classes rather than PhD; If you want to continue your studies in a PhD program in a Top School, you may do research etc.

However, the downside of FinEcon is that the career advisory is not good. Students usually secure very good placement, but on their own. The program does not have a machinery around it (like the Financial Engineering program does) to get students in jobs: it is all about the PhD training. The rest is on you.

Other programs do not have a PhD-Level training. They have a masters-level training - which is fine, exactly because they are more focused on the job market rather than the actual theoretical foundation. To illustrate that, I can highlight that in the first semester of financial engineering, students are taught techniques that are commonly asked in interviews, which help them to excel in these interviews. FinEcon doesn't do that: instead, you learn concepts which are at first very distant from what people ask in interviews. But once you connect the dots (which happens in your 2nd semester), you get an awesome understanding of how everything correlates in finance.

With relation to other universities, the main difference between MS financial economics and other uni's programs (such as MIT MFin, LBS MFA/MiF, Imperial etc) is that these universities usually hold undergraduate-level classes for masters students (sometimes, you even take classes with undergrads!). So if you want to work in investment banking, PE, classic trading etc they may be a better option. If you want to work as quant, data science or any other highly technical/quantitative role, a program with PhD training is definitely a better option.

My final advice is: if you want to use a masters program as a bridge just to move to and work in New York/US, shorter programs with a good career mgmt machinery might be a better option (FinEng, MAFN, MSOR). If you want to become a specialist in a quantitative field with a good networking opportunity and excellent faculty, finecon might be a better choice.

Hope it helps!
Do you mind if I ask a few questions?

Do you mind sharing what texts you use for:
-Financial econometrics, and
-Time series econometrics?

I do not see it on the website, but did you guys cover DSGE and CGE in the program?

Thank you