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minimum for undergrad coursework

The web sites of most MFE programs mention the usual suspects: multivariable calculus, linear algebra, statistics and probability, ODE and PDE, numerical analysis and programming, and a course or two in finance as the prerequisites for their program. But what kind of coursework do most competitive and successful applicants have - is it essentially the same as those mentioned above, or do those students take other classes that distinguish them from people with otherwise similar profiles that only have the prerequisites?
 
Consider looking at the Tracker on this site and asking admitted candidates of programs that interest you.

First advice is to study subjects that interest you. Secondly, double majoring in computer science and math is commonly advised.

But I think as more programs crop up and potential students become better informed/prepared, it will become harder to distinguish oneself through coursework alone. You can only get so many majors and minors. First, just meeting the prerequisites isn't really enough to be competitive. Yes you could still get accepted but to increase your chances you need to cover the prerequisites and go beyond. You don't necessarily need to go beyond the prerequisites in everything, but once you have them covered consider going deeper into an area that interests you.

Secondly, you need to differentiate yourself outside of the classroom (of course getting great grades is still important). Most important would be to get good internships that are relevant to your ultimate career goals. You could try working on quant research with a professor at your university, or doing other extra-circulars that interest you and are different. Playing poker, travel, etc. You want to create an image of yourself that is confident, qualified, and interesting to sell to the admissions board and future employers.
 

Yike Lu

Finder of biased coins.
The coursework varies. I barely had any extra math relative to the minimum - my extra courses were Complex Analysis and a class in Group Theory for physicists. The rest of my classes were all physics.

For usefulness in MFE, the two math classes I would add to your standard list are Real and Complex Analysis.

Everything else? If you are still an undergrad with lots of time left, you might consider just looking at the courses MFEs offer and taking those, then trying to get into finance straight out of undergrad. Also, there are several broad fields that can help.

Here's a list of subjects I think would be useful but are not explicitly finance. Note the list is neither exhaustive nor are the elements in it disjoint::
stochastic processes, signal processing, software engineering, stochastic control, time series analysis, econometrics, basic economics (micro+macro), game theory, auction theory, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, database architecture, variational calculus, functional analysis
 

Yike Lu

Finder of biased coins.
It's not that relevant, but the field is full of people who have taken and understand it, so my recommendation for Complex is more of a social thing than anything else. It's far more universal than say Quantum Mechanics or Topology, as it is common between Physics, Math, Applied Math, and Engineering. Also, a year-long course is not necessary either, as a semester would be sufficient.
 
If you are still an undergrad with lots of time left, you might consider just looking at the courses MFEs offer and taking those, then trying to get into finance straight out of undergrad

Would that I had considered this before, but I'm a junior with quite a few requirements in my major (economics) to finish. Thankfully, the econ program at my school is fairly quant-oriented, but I don't have a lot of room to take classes on top of my requirements. I have calc through multivariable and linear algebra under my belt, and I'll probably be taking numerical analysis and introductory real analysis in addition to advanced stats, probability theory and theory of ODE/PDE. On top of those classes, I don't have any room this year but will have space in my senior year for 2-3 extra math/compsci classes. Which classes would be most helpful?
 

Yike Lu

Finder of biased coins.
If you don't know much programming, probably the most bang for your buck is to do some computer stuff. I am hesitant to recommend flat-out CS, but you need to know how to "get things done" with computers and quickly; you do not need a lot of deep high level theory, although a basic knowledge of theory is helpful.

Probably the most useful thing is to know how to do tedious/mundane/repetitive tasks quickly using computers. Unfortunately, I doubt there is any particular course on this.

The other stuff is really icing, with time series analysis and signal processing higher on the list as far as usefulness.
 
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