MA/MS Statistics vs MFE


New Member
Hi, I hope to get some opinions of the relative value of an MFE vs a Master's in statistics for my background/interests. I found this forum through the Baruch MFE site and it is definately the most active and knowledgable I have come across. I understand that many people associated with the Baruch MFE are members of this forum, and will keep this in mind when receiving any advice so kindly given ;)

I have a computer science background and have been a software developer on the street for about 7 years. For roughly the last 3 years, I've worked on an equities stat arb desk implementing strategies, integrating trading systems and assisting in research (data processing, etc). However, I haven't done much in the way of actual modeling because the amount of math I remember from undergrad is somewhat limited. I'd like to be more productive in this area because the topics interest me, and also because it will make me more competitive and useful in front-office positions. However, I recognize that my technical ability will always be where I have a competitive advantage.

Given that, and that I would prefer to stay within equities/equity derivitivies, I have thinking that it might be a better idea to study statistics rather than pursue an MFE, which is sort of the default these days for front-office people. For instance, the Zicklin MS stats and Columbia MA Stats (not to be confused with MA math finance) are more focused on statistics, but include applications to financial modeling, and are open ended enough to allow electives in other things I see as being useful on equities quant desk, such as optimization. Technology wise, these programs tend to focus more on R/S+/SAS than C++, but I have many years of experience in C/C++, Perl, Java, Ksh etc in a unix environment, so I'm not concerned about that.

I guess I am asking, are there flaws in my analysis here? I am sure I would get more calculus/pde's in the MFE, and perhaps some better branding, but does it really mater if I want to stick with equities/stat arb? What do you think? I feel I can put together a reasonable application to either an MFE or Stats program with my experience and GRE (790Q/710V).


Generally a MS Stat degree could be considered "career enhancing", whereas MFE (similar to MBA) would be "career changing". In your case, since you already have a job on the street, a technical Stat degree would probably make sense.

For those individuals currently not working within the financial domain, the networking and placement opportunities that comes with a professional MFE degree are not only valuable but essential to break into the field.

In your case, a degree in stat (concentrating in time series analysis/econometrics) would help develop your career along the empirical finance and algo-trading path.

Andy Nguyen

I second John's suggestion. Since you are in the door and working right where you want it, MFE may not benefit you greatly. You can certainly learn technical skills on the job so a MS in stat can complement it nicely.
I sit across from the option stat arb desk guys and i think they process a whole range of technical skills. A stat degree would be a plus if you want to stay in that space.

In general, Stat MS admission is easier compared to MFE so you should have no problem getting in Baruch or Columbia.


New Member
In short, MFE is more attractive than MS in Statistics, unless it's an Ivy degree.

If you have strong C++ skills, then you may not need an MFE.