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Columbia MSOR Columbia MSOR or Fordham MSQF


New Member
I need help with a decision. I was accepted to Fordham's MSQF and I have two weeks to decide if I want to attend. I was recently rejected and redirected to Columbia's MSOR. Unfortunately, I suspect that by the time CU reaches a decision, my deadline for Fordham will pass.

My question I guess is, what should I do. Should I sign up for FU's MSQF, or risk it on CU's MSOR program. I am a math major and have a year's worth of C++ experience. My concern is that Fordham does not teach the more advanced aspects of C++/Java/Python, which is vital for a quant trading career. The program is, however, strong with mathematics and finance.

So please let me know your thoughts.


Ask Columbia if they can hurry up with the decision making process. Tell them you have deadlines you have to meet and kind ask to if possible to evaluate your profile sooner. I have no persona experience so far with this request but people on the forum say it does not hurt your chances. Good Luck ;)

Richard Phu

New Member
I'm currently in the Fordham MSQF program so I can answer your question. If you're looking for more advanced aspects of C++/Java/Python then Fordham is not the place for you. There is only one C++ course and it is really only an introductory object-oriented programming course. It gives an intro to C++ (data types, variables, expressions, functions, array, pointers, strings, inheritance, polymorphism, file I/O), then it covers financial applications (binomial trees, simulation, option pricing using objects) with some MySQL thrown in at the end. There are no courses on Java or Python. You get one class on VBA, one class on SAS, one class on an econometrics package like EViews, and a whole lot of work in MATLAB.

You are correct that Fordham is very heavily concentrated on math and finance. I would equate Fordham's program as teaching you how to hit singles and not how to swing for the fences. If you've read http://www.quantnet.com/the-coming-glut-of-financial-engineers/ you know that there are more MFE students than ever and that because of Frank-Dodd and the Volcker Rule the major banks are getting rid of or spinning off their prop-trading desks. The other impact of the financial regulations is that the job growth is going to be in Risk and Operations which the Fordham curriculum prepares you for.

So if you're looking for a job in an area that will be growing for quants then I'd take the Fordham admission. If you're still looking to swing for the fences then I would turn down Fordham and go pretty much anywhere else. I wish you good luck either way and just remember, even mighty Casey struck out.


New Member

I will definitely try to get into contact with Columbia about it. Hopefully they are not so back logged with emails that they will give me a response a week later.

Richard Phu,

Thank you for the insightful response. Have you been able to get many interviews for the jobs that you mentioned? Meaning, do employer's find Fordham's program attractive?


Quant Headhunter
My opinions on Fordham are on record, and since they've never responded to my (surprisingly polite) requests for information, I have to assume that they've not fully addressed the issues they've had with the MSQF.
That being said, relatively few MFE entry level people reach basic competence in programming.

Richard raises an interesting point about the game theory about aiming high/ low as a risk management problem.

Let's assume that supply & demand for masters level financial engineers moves against those with that skill.

Who will survive in that environment ?
I agree that Risk is currently growing, and maybe more will be needed in ops but as they the 'singles' that Richard cites, it is reasonable to expect them to be more crowded.
If you aim high and hit then you can get to place that fewer other people can reach, which is both more secure and lucrative.

Thus our normal intuition that risk increases monotonically with returns doesn't work here.

I don't yet have a coherent model of the new normal in trading, except to observe that if prop desks are spun off then presumably they will need at least as many staff as when they were part of larger firms. This balanced by the fact that costs both direct and indirect are going up, so there will be less cash in this industry.

That may mean more aggressive outsourcing which will hit mid office quite hard.

Richard Phu

New Member
It's only in its fourth year so other than what I'll call the "first year debacle" as witnessed on the Wilmott forums the program is still trying to build a reputation for itself. There are relationships with employers and alumni to help with internship placement and the program does keep track of alumni to help them with job placement.

We've also gotten help from the quant community that is encouraging. We were proud to be able to host the "How I Became a Quant" panel held by the IAFE in the New York area. We've had a guest lecture series for this spring semester. I would hope that if the IAFE and our guest lecturers didn't see any redeeming value in Fordham that they wouldn't associate their name with us or spend an hour or two out of their day to come speak to us.

That doesn't mean that everything is perfect. There are annoyances I have about the program and of course I'm sure you'll run into a professor or two that you're not fond of. It is still evolving and changing year by year. Curriculum has changed due to student feedback and there may or may not be separate tracks in the future. Personally I'm pushing for different tracks so that someone with a finance background like myself can skip the finance classes in order to spend more time focusing on the mathematics and programming where they are not as skilled.

As for internships my experience has been that you won't get a response just sending your resume out into oblivion. It is best to network and leverage the faculty. They are selective in sending out only the students that are the best fit for a position, so out of say 30 students they'll only send out 4. Everyone that gets sent out makes it to a phone interview at the least. How far you get after that depends on you.

Dominic, I can't speak for the Fordham MSQF in any official capacity but I can give you insight into the program from a student perspective. Spring break is coming up so I intend to post another blog on Fordham but if you have any specific questions please let me know.