While it may not be a household name across the globe, New York’s Baruch College has quietly been a major feeder for Wall Street firms for decades. But over the last few years in particular, one of Baruch’s master’s degree programs has become a bit of a golden ticket for students who want some of the hottest jobs in finance: quants, data scientists, algo traders and other high-level engineering positions.
Launched in 2002, Baruch’s master’s in financial engineering program is small and extremely selective; only 48 of the 622 applicants were admitted in the fall of 2018, despite the fact that the program is committed to not capping the number of seats available, according to director Dan Stefanica. “No other program I know of offers unlimited seats,” he said. Stefanica and his staff interviewed more than 300 applicants, but only four dozen were admitted.
Candidates have good reason to want to earn a coveted spot. QuantNet just ranked Baruch as the top financial engineering and quantitative finance program in the country, ahead of the likes of MIT, UC Berkley, Columbia and Princeton. Tuition is around $40k, less than half of that for MIT’s master’s in finance program. One of the reasons for the program’s success is its willingness to evolve alongside recent changes in technology and the new demands of Wall Street, said Stefanica. They’ve introduced 25 new courses since 2010, including a class on blockchain launched just this year.
The program also allows students to use 24 of their 36 credits on elective courses, while offering many half-semester classes as well. Course subject matter ranges from machine learning, big data in finance, commodities and futures trading, and derivatives hedging and valuation, among other topics. Technical workshops on popular banking programing languages like C++, VBA, Python, R and Matlab are interweaved.
Stefanica also points to some unique career training offerings available to students, 80% of whom are international (Baruch is one of the most diverse colleges in the country). While students must be fluent in English to be accepted, Baruch holds a speech seminar to help with enunciation, along with a variety of career-focused talks from subject matter experts on topics like interview preparation.
But what truly sets the program apart is its alumni network and the relationships it has with top employers, according to Stefanica. “If [previous graduates] weren’t successful, we wouldn’t be able to put students in front of the right people,” he said. “Alumni know first-hand that if they help one of our students get hired, they’ll look good” [with their employer].
Indeed, the numbers back up the talk. The placement rate at graduation over the last three years was 96%, with average first-year compensation of $126k – a particularly impressive number considering graduates over that stretch had a medium of only 1.5 years of previous full-time employment. The high was $210k while the low was $85k.
Recent graduates found positions as quants, credit strats, index flow traders, trade management application developers and software engineers, among other titles. Employers include Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Point72 Asset Management, Citadel and AQR Capital Management.
Of course, you’ll need a strong resume to be considered. The average undergraduate GPA is 3.68 with a GRE quant score of 169, tied for the highest among master’s programs ranked by QuantNet. More than a third (34%) of students already have a master’s degree or PhD. The most well-represented undergrad majors are finance, mathematics, engineering, economics and computer science.
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