Columbia MFE Dear Columbia MSFE alumni/students, please get out of your caves and tell us about you experience!

santino

New Member
I found remarkably few reviews for a program that has been taking ~80 students each year for +10 years [1], [2]. I wonder why they don't stop by. I thought we may change this. Reviews from alumni are very helpful to future candidates that need to make a choice.

I have been admitted for fall 2017, and it seems like a no brainer but I have some misgivings. The few reviews extant seem to agree that the career services are lackluster, although paradoxically the placement statistics seem ok. I guess that the take away is that you will get some help but that you need to hustle your way into the interviews? I’m definitely ready to start sending out resumes on day 1. I don’t expect to be handed anything on a platter. But it is still a little scary. I got into Berkeley too and having someone like Linda (the exec. director) behind your could really make a difference --if nothing else I imagine it must be comforting.

I am also a bit concerned about the large number of programs inside CU that seem to directly compete with FE for jobs: MSOR, MathFin, Financial economics. Is the job hunt really so difficult?

Finally, how do senior professionals (meaning the people that will be hiring you) rate this program?

I cold-called a bunch of people on linkedin. Some guy from Morgan Stanley answered (I guess some solidarity because we went to the same school in undergrad) who attended NYU MathFin, and he said that he thought that Columbia’s program “wasn’t very good”. Some other guy from Berkeley said the same, with almost the same words. I know it’s just two data points, hardly significant, but striking nonetheless. (Maybe some rivalry still going on? Or were they being honest?)
 

Fink

New Member
I'll be attending Columbia's MSFE next year and here's just some info I've gathered.

UCB markets their program significantly better than Columbia does. That being said, I was admitted to Columbia's program and went to visit on Tuesday. I spoke to a current MSOR student and he said that the Financial Engineering program has its own dedicated career person, which I confirmed online here. Their job placement numbers are good. 87% for those that graduated in February 2017 (I believe they mean of those that graduated in December 2016, 87% had jobs by/in February). Columbia's 2015 average salary is $93,000 and UCB's 2016 average salary is $106,874 (but with a median of $100,000).

I think a big difference is where you'll be getting a job. UCB only placed 28% in the Tri-state area (essentially NYC and NJ) versus Columbia's 79%. UCB was 21% international versus Columbia's 12%. I could have sworn I read that Columbia also brings in professors from industry for the second semester, but I can't find a source on that. Both seem to be great programs. If you use the stats here, Columbia is a 99 versus UCB's 100. Career placement is 92 vs 94 (of course, these numbers are kind of ambiguous and don't really tell us much). If you look at TFETime's rankings, UCB is #1 and Columbia is #2.

One last thing. Speaking to the MSOR student, we spoke about a number of professors. He spoke pretty highly of them and seemed to be enjoying the program. At Columbia, which I don't know if you can do at UCB, you can take courses outside of the IEOR department. So, if you want to take a course in the Computer Science department, the student told me it was possible (it's on the bottom of the main MSFE page) Both, to my knowledge, are amazing programs. I'd love to hear from current students, I feel like Columbia doesn't really maintain an online presence which is why there's such a disparity in reviews and information.
 

Rafael F

Member
I've seen plenty of linkedin profiles of people from columbia financial engineering working in companies like goldman, jp, and other BBs, as well as MBB. I guess if you rely entirely on your university's brand, this won't get you far.. you have to be truly good, try hard to get in and convince these companies you can work there which require interpersonal skills
 

santino

New Member
I'll be attending Columbia's MSFE next year and here's just some info I've gathered.

UCB markets their program significantly better than Columbia does. That being said, I was admitted to Columbia's program and went to visit on Tuesday. I spoke to a current MSOR student and he said that the Financial Engineering program has its own dedicated career person, which I confirmed online here. Their job placement numbers are good. 87% for those that graduated in February 2017 (I believe they mean of those that graduated in December 2016, 87% had jobs by/in February). Columbia's 2015 average salary is $93,000 and UCB's 2016 average salary is $106,874 (but with a median of $100,000).

I think a big difference is where you'll be getting a job. UCB only placed 28% in the Tri-state area (essentially NYC and NJ) versus Columbia's 79%. UCB was 21% international versus Columbia's 12%. I could have sworn I read that Columbia also brings in professors from industry for the second semester, but I can't find a source on that. Both seem to be great programs. If you use the stats here, Columbia is a 99 versus UCB's 100. Career placement is 92 vs 94 (of course, these numbers are kind of ambiguous and don't really tell us much). If you look at TFETime's rankings, UCB is #1 and Columbia is #2.

One last thing. Speaking to the MSOR student, we spoke about a number of professors. He spoke pretty highly of them and seemed to be enjoying the program. At Columbia, which I don't know if you can do at UCB, you can take courses outside of the IEOR department. So, if you want to take a course in the Computer Science department, the student told me it was possible (it's on the bottom of the main MSFE page) Both, to my knowledge, are amazing programs. I'd love to hear from current students, I feel like Columbia doesn't really maintain an online presence which is why there's such a disparity in reviews and information.
Do you mind sharing what other offers you had and why did you choose Columbia?

Do you know if UCB's higher numbers are because they usually take ~15% PhD and also people with a lot more experience (which would command higher wages) or because there is an inherent Berkeley premium that employers are ready to pay?

Likewise, any ideas on why Columbia's numbers is relatively low? The range starts at 65k, which frankly sounds too low. They don't publish de median though, but since people would normaly publish stuff that would benefit them, should we assume that it is less than the average? That's pretty worrying.
 

financeguy

Active Member
I wouldn't be concerned with the lowest base salary a graduate got. Average base salary of 93k seems fine. Also, these are base salaries, not all-in figures and there will always be a range around the average. I doubt Columbia is trying to pull a fast one on you by not reporting the median as they've published the full range instead. If you're really all that concerned, email them and ask for the median.

Regarding why one program has a higher reported average base salary versus another. Who knows. They are placing students on opposite ends of the country and have different people surveying and reporting the data. You'll never have the 'right' answer. We're talking about 13k here.

I've never thought comparing sample statistics on base salary between programs is at all useful given all the biases in the data. When large employers hire at the entry level, they don't adjust salaries higher because one student went to a particular program. There are a few big hedge funds that try to attract the best of the best and pay a premium for those few jobs, and maybe they only recruit at certain programs, but that effect isn't at play here given the graduates of UCB didn't all go to work where those funds are located. Even if this effect were at play here, it's more about the student than the program. You know if you're a math olympiad regardless of whether you go to UCB or Columbia. What the sample statistics are useful for is to make sure big name employers are hiring out of that program, which they are.
 
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IntoDarkness

Well-Known Member
if you wana do mfe at columbia, you should do it now before every quant finance faculty in ieor switches their interest completely to data science. they lost some people during the past several years. both students' and faculties' interests have shifted away from traditional derivative pricing oriented subjects. their student qualities also declined, as they had to put up a math boot camp in summer before the program officially starts.
 
I’m definitely ready to start sending out resumes on day 1. I don’t expect to be handed anything on a platter. But it is still a little scary.
That is exactly all that is needed.
I don't think it really matters so much which top Finance program you get into. Learning wise you should have an idea about what you want to pick up and then there will be plenty of chance here to pick up the desired skills.
Most of these programs are geared towards sell side. Not sure how they can orient more for the buy side though - since usually you need either prior experience or great research skills to get into it.
With all of them you get plenty of interviews with top firms. Don't expect a lot of hand holding though.

Professors here are great, academics are good, my peers are absolutely outstanding. Columbia is a very good and friendly environment as well.
 
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