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MSc Finance -Illinois Tech (IIT)

Joy Pathak

So....I have heard all kinds of stories about this program. On the old threads here and other forums. Well good and bad. Good from american students at the uni and bad from international students.

I went around doing some research to gain enough facts. What I have found is...they admit 100ish students from around 300ish applicants. They do not have the toughest admission criteria but they donot literally admit "everyone". They get alot of applicants because of their location, but they do admit alot.

They admit so many students because of the different concentrations. It's like getting Masters in Corporate finance, Financial economics, trading, financial programming in itself. The students get split significantly so you arent competiting for similar jobs. You can choose half the curriculum how you want. Extremely flexible. The curriculum is also a requirement for their PhD Finance program at IIT so it is also a great stepping stone for anyone who wants to prepare for a PhD Finance program in the future.

Another thing I noticed was almost 99% is International students. This causes an issue with placement. The career services can do only so much. I saw some previous Alumni who were mostly americans at UBS/investment banks and prop trading firms. There were some from top foreign universities who secured amazing placements also. Very few obviously.

There is a component in which a student can opt to do a Thesis/Research project with an advisor if he/she chooses too. There are few professors who are active researchers.

There are some famous names in the faculty, Gorham, Ong, Bilson...etc. Herbert Simon was a prof there before he went to Carnegie. They have a nobel prize winner on the physics faculty which is amazing. The university is obviously doing something right.

The downtown location is also amazing.

I think the reason the program has gotten such a bad wrap is because the international students could not get placements and are unhappy about that and are giving bad reviews. I think because they dont have strict admission requirements the students that come in are obviously not the greatest and then have a tough time getting placements. They have 2 huge career fairs through the year with several hedge funds, Ibanks, prop firms, etc that come to campus also.

I think IIT is discounted too much. It might be a great program. I would love to hear from some americans or possibly canadians in the program or anyone else who has any opinion on it.


Market Crises= Gray Hair
IIT has a very strong reputation in Chicago. Outside of Chicago, people believe that IIT is some knock-off designed to sound like the Indian IIT. (Sort of like "The Chicago Medical School" in North Chicago).

It depends on where you want to work and what you want to do. Within the city of Chicago, IIT will open the same doors that Chicago will at the firms that care more about practicality and competence than "prestige" (fortunately, most firms in Chicago seem to be like that.) Chicago is going to involve more exchange traded stuff than New York.

Joy Pathak

Well I want to work in Chicago for a year or so. But my main focus in PhD Finance. U-Chicago is my dream school for PhD so I want to be close enough to build some contacts there.

I wouldn't mind any Finance related job. Does not have to be quant. I am very open in that case. I just want to work for a year to pay off as much of my debt and get into PhD.

But if I can secure a really good job in Chicago with Msc Finance degree then I would be fine with working and growing.


Well-Known Member
I am planning to apply to IIT's Math Finance program for the fall. It's main draw is the location (downtown Chicago) and the fact that the U Chicago program is one year full time only. The IIT course structure seems fairly strong, with enough elective choices to help you specialize if you wanted to. I'll post more as I get further along in the process. I just moved here so I'm trying to figure everything out.

Joy Pathak

I will be attending the MSc Finance program in Fall 2010 with Financial Engineering and Econometrics concentration. I am going to fill my electives with math classes primarily.

Andy Nguyen

You just moved from NJ to IL? Is this for school or job purpose?

If this helps anyone, here is an email I received late last year from a grad of the IIT program
There’re two quant program provided by IIT. MS Finance and Mathematical Finance, aka MMF.
I’m in the MMF. I took 6 math subj, ranging from stochastic, fixed income, to credit default option pricing by tomasz bielecki.
Another 6 subj from MSF side, using matlab, python and c++ in optimization. And time series ( you cant really master time series in a short semester, UChicago teach them a whole year for this course ).

MSF is not so quantitative and math oriented while there’re a bunch of programming courses are quite helpful in career search.
MSF used to have a trading class by Russell wojcik, a good trader, but cancel that subj after early half this year when he’s gone back to trading world.
That’s most useful one if you want to be a trader, I took one and sit in 2 of his class.

Some class in MSF is not of my interest at all, either not to quantitative or not related to my interest of derivative.

Joy Pathak

They have a lots of companies that come to their Career Fairs twice a year. Financial firms and non-financial firms with finance positions of all kinds.

I will be calling the Career Service to get a list of the companies that came this past year tomorrow.

Joy Pathak

Here are some bits and pieces of an email I received from a current student. I have taken few things out to preserve his anonymity.


What made you choose this program?

The courses offered, professors that currently work in the industry, the only program of its kind near Chicago, flexibility of the program, course content.

What is the quality of teaching? are the professors helpful, with
after-hours help, TA's etc?

Some professors are more responsive than others. As at any graduate program, they expect you to dig in and research to find the answers to your questions yourself. Most work full time at IBs or funds so it may take some time for them to respond. Overall, I give the response rate a B.

How strong of a component is programming? What programming languages
are taught/used?

So far I have used VB.NET, C++, VBA, Excel, MATLAB, R, S+. There is an entire concentration on financial programming taught by an auther of two books on the subject (Ben VanVliet).

Are there alot of projects used in courses or its basically
midterm/final exam kind of set up?

It varies widely by professor.

With the current economy it is hard to find jobs..How has this
affected IIT placements? What about internships?

I've had a job since I have started the program so I have no idea. Remember though, Chicago is the derivatives capital of the world.

How expensive is it to live in Chicago? Is it
possible to get TA/RA positions? If so, how easy is it to get them?

Chicago is pretty expensive. Google "cost of living comparison" to see. Again, I can't comment on positions.

What is the total number of students in the program? How many applications do they usually receive?

Direct that question to admissions.

Any additional material will also help me significantly. I am strongly
considering IIT program.

The program is amazing. The professors are traders, fund managers, quants, etc. and are extremely passionate about what they do.

Check out markjoshi.com. There is a kind of guide for those that want to be a quant.


I took out a few questions so I wouldn't give away anything about him. He had a job before he started the program at a top bank so he could not tell me much about placements/etc.

I sent a few emails out...I will put them here as I receive.

Joy Pathak

lol So starting in Summer now instead of Fall.

Any ideas on where to live? The Business school is right near Sears Tower.

Anyone attending the program right now or lives in Chicago and has a room to spare or wants to get an apartment toghether near downtown?

Andy Nguyen

A grad of IIT MS Finance (FE track) just emailed me this

The best part of the program is value for money. The other major benefit is the location. Chicago has so many proprietary trading firms and many people manage to get internships and jobs in the trading industry. Chicago has no big I-Banks and so rarely people get into IBanks. Some get into trading, some as VBA modlers and some as C++ programmers. The program is highly customizable and people take very diversified courses. It is not too mathematical like most other MFE programs. So, I think it has a decent blend of theoretical and practical stuff. It is very easy to get admission, typically almost everyone gets admitted. The number of students intake is close to 150+ every year and is increasing every year. Most of the students are Chinese and majority of students have limited or no professional experience. Brand value for this program i pretty low. Recognition of IIT MSF is limited to Chicago. People who are more interested in mathematical finance have a different program called Mathematical Finance, which is more intensive. Most of the faculty are adjunct and they are people working in the Financial Industry. At least half of the faculty are good. The program also has a decent blend of various aspects of Finance from trading and risk management, data modelling, Investment Science and programming. The program is of moderate difficulty.

Joy Pathak

Sounds about similar to what most of the local students have told me. Some international mentioned that too. a large chunk of international students are dead against the program due to lack of placement.

I called the career management service there and they basically re-iterated similar things that bunch of prop shops come to campus and several other companies post jobs onto their database but might not come to campus. Many non-financial firms also come to campus.


Active Member

I am a current student in the MSFE program at IIT and want to add my tow cents to this discussion. Just like any other program this program has good and bad points.

I have tried to summarize these points below-

1) It is in Chicago where there are a lot of prop trading firms and other financial institutions. Yes Location does play a major role and being in the heart of downtown is def a plus point.

2) We have a huge number of people who have graduated from this program who are working in good companies in or outside Chicago. But we don't seem to have any specific Alumni connections meaning that certain companies would only hire from IIT every year. People here get hired from all over the place.

3) There are about 7 concentrations in this program. It offers courses which are very quantitative as well as courses like investment banking and financial theory for more "non coding and math based book learning" (for the lack of a better term).

4) The professors have good connections in the industry and they have worked out there and know the latest trends of the market. So there is no lack of experiences teachers.

5) It is also one of the most affordable MSFE programs in the United States. Personally I cannot afford to live in NYC or any other place with their sky high tuition rates. But I want to live in a city which has a huge presence of the financial industry and that I am able to do over here.

6) IIT Career management center is not a very competitive department and they are not at keeping placement records because they do not do a very good job in helping students get internships and jobs. I guess that is why when the students get a job or internship they do not feel necessary to report back and tell the Career Management center about it.

7) As far as the jobs are concerned, this school has had very good (I think I can say about 90%) placements until 2008. I cannot provide you with any documentation for this but I have talked to seniors and I know people who have graduated from this program who have jobs now. The problem began in Fall 2008. I am sure everyone knows why (recession). Jobs suddenly got really hard to come by, internships were non- existent. The conditions were bad all over. I have friends who graduated in 2008 from Wharton and Harvard who told me that 30% - 35% of their class was still un- employed in early 2009 after graduating in May 2008. So you can imagine what the condition must be like at other schools. I am not saying that this is the condition everywhere but one should take this into account when looking at statistics and such.

8) The school does take in a large amount of people but I guess that is what their business plan is. It is a private school and therefore wants to make money. That does not have anything to do with the quality of most of the students who enter these programs. The lack of placements should not reflect poorly on the students who attend this program. Most of the people who enter this program are either engineers or mathematicians and have a very good grasp on mathematical and programming concepts. Courses here are not easy and it is extremely difficult to get an ‘A’ in the course. Consider yourself extremely qualified if you can earn a ‘B’ in most of the derivatives modeling and trading strategies development courses here.

9) Yes most of the students here in the MS Financial Engineering Program are international but so is the case in most of the Quant , Phd and other math based Programs. There are a lot of people India, China, Europe etc.
<o:p> </o:p>
Yes, it is hard for international students to get a job but it is not impossible. People who are good at what they do will get hired no matter what and I have seen it happen here. You have to reach out and make an effort to get in touch with Alumni and they do help. I have experienced that first hand. At the end of the day it’s really your effort that counts and it definitely pays off. The school is good and the instructors are sincere. The courses are very informative and you will learn a lot in this program if you go through it sincerely. It is a reputed program in Chicago and is fairly known all over the US and the world too.
Please feel free to ask any questions about anything that I might have missed or offer suggestions.<cite><o:p></o:p></cite>

Joy Pathak

I am going to be attending the program starting in Summer semester.

I really like the program.

But...regarding the most affordable program... It is 47K for 33 credits for the whole program. If you get scholarships then yes, it is cheaper, but that is the price tag.

50K for a good MFE program is a good deal.

Cost of living is low...even for a big city though. 15K total for 3 semesters is legit.

Joy Pathak


I was talking to the director yesterday and they are changing the curriculum a bit. It mostly affects the concentrations. They switched from a quarter system to a semester system so some courses will be combined into one.

Joy Pathak

I was going through some of the courses I will be taking in summer and fall and came across one of the professors at Stuart - IIT

Dr. Geoffrey R. Harris

He has a PhD in Physics from U Chicago (30 Physics Nobel prize winners out of that department including Alumni and faculty)

He was the Vice President/Director of Quant Research for JP Morgan.He does quite a bit of credit risk modelling research as he focused on it quite a bit during his time at JP Morgan. He teaches the fixed income and derivatives modelling courses mostly.

---------- Post added at 10:18 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:06 PM ----------

This is what one of the other profs who has a PhD in stats did 20 years ago... Made me Laugh Out Loud... I don't know if it's true..but he runs a huge prop firm out of Chicago now.

developed one system that made several million dollars on racetrack lottery pools and another that wins at Pai-Gow dominoes.

Joy Pathak

New Concentrations

For the 2010–11 academic year, the M.S. Finance Program will offer the following concentrations:

• Corporate finance

• Financial economics

Financial econometrics

• Financial engineering

• Financial markets

• Financial programming

High-frequency finance

• Investment management

• Risk management

Alternative investments

• Trading

Entrepreneurial finance

• Research in finance

The bolded ones are new.

The new HF Finance concentration looks interesting. There isn't anything online of what the courses will be. I will post as soon as I find out.

I am assuming Ben Van Vliet will be a strong part of it. ( http://www.hftleadersforum.com/ , Amazon.com: Benjamin Van Vliet: Books )

Joy Pathak

Got some additional information for the High Frequency Finance concentration.

It will be an extension of the financial programming concentration. The concentration will involve doing a course in Algorithmic Trading Systems Development and one in High Frequency Trading Models. Lots of programming will be involved.